May is New Zealand music month, radio and TV especially promotes new and more established Kiwi bands and artists. Sometimes it's controversial - people ask about why just music, why not performing arts, fine arts, craft, culture... I guess they are good questions, and should be raised but it would be a shame to lose this opportunity to hear Kiwi musicians and artists at their best (and worst!). May also marks the real beginning of winter in NZ - we've not really seen much evidence of it so far though. Today is the last day of the music month and the last day of the sun according to some of the weather forecasts. The tides are changing and the winter is coming, life is going to be fairly busy in the coming months - conferences galore are just around the corner.
One artists I've listened to a fair amount over this last month is Brooke Fraser, I've seen her live too at the Parachute festival in Feb, she's had a big impact on the music scene here and what makes her impact all the better is that she sings from an unapologetic, unhidden Christian joy and conviction. Her music drips with grace and gospel hope.
I'm not sure if she has made it into international musical circles but I think she deserves to. If you have a few minutes and fancy some inspiration, reflecting on the firm hope of the gospel in a world which changes quickly, listen/watch the youtube video below, if you have a lot more time, take the time head over to youtube and enjoy a lot more of Brooke's music.
Life changes, Jesus stays the same.
"I'll be found in you"
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Col 3.1-4
There are times when you are confronted with a reality you don't want to accept, or find it hard to get your head around. I struggle to understand where the last couple of months have gone. I don't have amnesia, difficultly in comprehending that time passes or a debilitating injury which has prevented me from blogging. I just haven't seemed to get round to it. Essentially - Sorry!
So a quick catch up:
Church - I've spoken a couple of times at Eastgate: once at 'the Zone' (Sunday evening youth service) and once on Easter Sunday morning. Both times struck by the hunger for God's Word in people's lives and by the privilege of being in New Zealand and of God placing us in this church community to learn more of what it is to know Him, belong to His people and to serve and love.
Overseas Christian Fellowship & AUT Christian Fellowship Easter camps - I taught Ephesians at OCF camp, the 4 days away were fun and intense. There were a number of non-Christians at the camp and though it felt uncomfortable to teach some of the text of Ephesians in that context "you were dead in your sin" it was also exciting to be able to teach the realities of the grace of God, "and this is not your own doing", revealed in Jesus.
AUT camp began excitingly - one of the CF locked her keys in her car twice within an hour. The first time was at the meeting point, the second time at the venue for the camp. It wouldn't have been so urgent but all the food for the camp was locked in the car along with her keys! The AA came to the rescue - the second time the AA man was a Christian AND a graduate of the technical college that has now become AUT. He shared dinner with us (after unlocking the car to get at the food) and told us of how he had come to faith in his student days. That was just the start of a great few days. Mark Grace (TSCF Staff, Palmerston North) spoke on "Letters from the End Time" - an overview of the doctrines concerning the return of Jesus. The students who came were challenged, encouraged and provoked. The outcome since has been a more serious minded, joyfully growing group. Praise GOD!
Hamilton ICF - the group in Hamilton has not had a TSCF staff worker for several years and has struggled along. At the end of 2006 it seemed the group was about to close, as the old leaders moved on. A couple of post grads stepped up to the plate and with remarkable commitment and sacrifice of time have kept the smouldering wick alive. More than that I've had regular emails informing me of the ones and two's coming to faith. All of those who have turned to Christ in these last few months have been from Asia. I'm their contact point and had hoped that I would be able to get down there once a month. This hasn't been possible but I did get down there in April.
Rather than a disgruntled group, who could so easily be (rightly) frustrated with little TSCF staff time given to them, I met a group of believers who were gracious and grateful for me being there. I was rebuked and humbled. They plied me with questions about the text we'd studied together (Daniel 1) and we prayed, sang and rejoiced in the Sovreignty of God.
Exile, Sovereignty, Dreams, Fire and Dangerous Animals - we've been working our way through the book of Daniel at AUT; I've been putting together a series of Bible studies to resource the group (and soon on beyond to the rest of TSCF groups) for this semester. The power and relevance of God's Word has struck me week after week. It's been fun discovering the details (bagpipes appear in Daniel 3!) and awe inspiring to see the hand of God at work in the life of Daniel, humbling kings and raising up a man of integrity: who ultimately serves God and encourages us in the recording of God's story in human history. We finished the studies this week at the end of Daniel 7, posing the question - what would be missing from Scripture if we didn't have Daniel? The answer is much of great importance - it's been a real pleasure doing the work of prep and being around to see students (new and old[er] in faith) uncovering the treasures of the text.
Te Reo Maori - I've started a beginner's course in Maori and I'm loving it. The 2 hours on Tue evenings is a highlight of the week. It's fun - we sing lots and seem to be laughing most of the time. It is a totally different educative model than one I've experienced before and is giving me plenty to ponder on in regards to training students but there is also plenty of spiritual content to grasp.
We pray at the beginning and end of each class (in Maori) - one of the many Brits in the class asked if I understood anything of what we were saying. I explained that it was a prayer from the Bible, asking for the love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus and the friendship/presence of the Holy Spirit to be with us until we met again. Her face told me that she wasn't really comfortable with that. But the week previous there had been an animated discussion about the presence of the Tupuna (ancestors) and inviting them to give us strength to learn Maori which seemed to cause little or no discomfort to anyone but me.
I'm not even scratching the surface of the culture, language or world view of Maori - but it is envigorating and challenging to begin engaging. One thing has shocked me though is the (mostly good natured joking) dismissal of the language and culture of some white Kiwis (Pakeha) when I've told them I'm doing a Te Reo (language) course. More shocking because it was from church friends.
Distance - one of my aunts is in the final stages of terminal cancer, two of my cousin's are divorcing their wives, my sister turned 40, friends are getting married, having children, going through tough times as well as celebrating joy and it is all 'beyond reach'. In the midst of the hectic schedule of home, TSCF life and ministry and church service, there is the reality that it is very easy to become distant, not only from the things 12,000 miles away but from God and those closest to me.
Some of the reasons for not blogging has been about getting 'on with it' in busy times, some of it has been about not doing that well and not really knowing how to write about that. What I'm confident about is that the firm footing of the gospel is the ground on which to stand and walk (and even dance!?!) in all of the circumstances of life.
In uncertain times, in business and in everyday, we simply need to watch our steps and keep on walking.
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." Col 2.6-7