Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What to Do With a Stranger (Gordon MacDonald)

This is a very interesting and insightful article by Gordon MacDonald.

What to Do With a Stranger
What's the invitation here: "Pray this prayer" or "Follow me"?
Gordon MacDonald | posted 7/26/2010

He came to our church one Sunday morning accompanied by his wife and children. A friend had recommended us, and they'd come for a visit. Since I'd never seen him before, I moved quickly to introduce myself and make sure they met several other people who could make them comfortable. 
• First impression: late thirties, a bit reserved, comfortable in his own skin, at ease when meeting new people. • Over the next few weeks, our paths crossed several times. He and his wife not only came to worship services, but they lingered in the Commons where people drank coffee and enjoyed extended conversation. It was clear that they were soon making friends. • Where were they in terms of faith? I had no idea, so I decided to find out by inviting him to breakfast at the Egg Shell Restaurant, my usual meeting place.

When we met there, I started with my favorite question. "Would you tell me the main events in your life story in three minutes?" The crazy question always elicits laughter, but is followed by a serious attempt to do just that: summarize life's highs and lows.

In this case, the lows involved a horrific childhood only barely survived. Highs: a wise decision in finding a good wife and a business that was doing quite well.

Spiritually, the present moment was one where there were questions about life's future direction. Thus the decision to try church for the first time.

Then he turned the question on me. "So what's your life story … in three minutes?" I swallowed my own medicine and offered it. He asked me about my job, and I described what was important to me and why I liked what I did. He appeared interested in everything I was saying, and I felt that he was measuring everything I said to see if it could fit into his experience.

There were one or two further breakfasts. I came to see him as a Nicodemus: a good man looking for a better grasp of what it means to have God in his life.

My early training in evangelism—had I applied it—would have led me to immediately ask my new friend "to accept Christ." As a college student, I had been one of those many who often fanned out across the campus using clever methods to pull people into a conversation intended to culminate in their saying a prayer that led to the promise of eternal life.

In those early days, I'd seen many pray the prayer, but I'd not seen many people stick with the implications of the prayer. When told afterwards that some form of church might be involved, that Bible study might come into play, that relationships of one kind or another might be expected, they tended to drift away. Free pass to heaven, no strings attached, was one thing; this version of eternal life with all its fine print was too costly. They said, in effect, you should have told me that stuff before.

For the rest of the article, go HERE

Jeremiah 1: Jeremiah’s call (Part two) - Pastor's Notes

Just posted up my Pastor's Notes. To read click HERE

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Overcoming Our Mood Swings (Nouwen)

A challenge from Nouwen!

Overcoming Our Mood Swings
Are we condemned to be passive victims of our moods? Must we simply say: "I feel great today" or "I feel awful today," and require others to live with our moods?

Although it is very hard to control our moods, we can gradually overcome them by living a well-disciplined spiritual life. This can prevent us from acting out of our moods. We might not "feel" like getting up in the morning because we "feel" that life is not worth living, that nobody loves us, and that our work is boring. But if we get up anyhow, to spend some time reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and thanking God for a new day, our moods may lose their power over us.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Random pix from Takeo, Cambodia

The T-I-P class with Sok Lan. I had the pleasure of teaching them for  four days.
And later special classes for 3 days as well with a select few. 
Just realized I still had some pictures in my camera not transfered and deleted to my team member's PC for collation.
Brownie the bunny the chewed the wires that caused my electrocution
Photo with some of the English class students one ... morning I think

Dinner one night at the stalls with some of the local workers.
Significant to me that two of them were people I got to know years ago.
One of them, whom I taught a few classes when he was doing his Bible and ministry training
eight years ago (or longer) is now the local pastor at Takeo.
Mixed vegetables. I know it has meat and lotus plant in it ....
soups are popular - tasty and sourish - lots of lemon grass too.
On the right is a favourite - salt fish, which interestingly is also a little sweet.
Another soup dish. Delicious
Steven and Nilesh did a lot of handy work around the centre.
Creative work without proper tools and limited materials.
Placed my mobile next to the gecko so the size is clearer. Really beautiful polka dotted colourful skin.
Thought it was pretty big but was later told by a local that it was of average size only.
Later caught this fellow in my luggage bag!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bridging the Gap Between People (Henri Nouwen) - and a rambling

Another much needed gem from Nouwen. We certainly need to cross the street more often and look into people's eyes. 

Only statement I question is the last one that says "we are children of the same God". Everyone of us is certainly members of the same human family, wonderfully and fearfully created in God's own image. but I believe we are only become children of God through Christ. 

I know I probably am going against the flow of much contemporary thought but I think Christians and the Church are not really helping this fragmented world move towards a real solution if we downplay the essential message that is the core of our faith, that the whole world needs Christ. We cannot truly be family without Christ.

Listen and respect the views of others - of course! Care for others irrespective of race, sex, social status or creed - of course! 

But we cannot deny the centrality of Christ, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John 1:5-18:

 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.
 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--
 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
 15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"
 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

John 14:6:

 6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

1 Corinthians 15:1-15
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.

Bridging the Gap Between People
To become neighbours is to bridge the gap between people. As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look in each other's eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise. We give them names, make jokes about them, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact. We think of them as enemies. We forget that they love as we love, care for their children as we care for ours, become sick and die as we do. We forget that they are our brothers and sisters and treat them as objects that can be destroyed at will.

Only when we have the courage to cross the street and look in one another's eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who Is My Neighbour? (Henri Nouwen)

Who Is My Neighbour?

"Love your neighbour as yourself" the Gospel says (Matthew 22:38). But who is my neighbor? We often respond to that question by saying: "My neighbours are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need." But this is not what Jesus says. When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question "Who is my neighbour?" he ends the by asking: "Which, ... do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits' hands?" The neighbour, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man laying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, "bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, ... lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him." My neighbour is the one who crosses the road for me!

- Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's great to be back at work and some random photos

While I was back at work last week Thursday, it is only today that I seem to be getting back into work rhythm. And if feels great (despite my nose deciding to take up running this morning). Only drawback is that I feel cold today!

So far, worked on my Sunday presentation, done my pastor's notes (and worked out the seeds for the next few weeks), and did spadework for my sermon series on parables.

Unfortunately my guest preacher for 1 Aug is not able to make it so it will mean speaking 6 weeks out of 6 instead of 5 out of 6. Good news is that finished the first last Sunday and that response was very good! :-) But I am looking forward to preaching this series so that's a major part of the work done. Even had time for visitation earlier this afternoon and now only realized that I had no time for lunch! Having too much of a good time :-) And it is interesting that my stomach did not growl a reminder (for a change!). Looks like one of the side effects of my Malaysian "run" and subsequent "pain in the behind" might have been the slight shrinking of my stomach size! Some people have openly told me that I have lost weight! What?! In winter? "How can one ..." Tale of the scales confirm that I have indeed lost weight :-)

There's so much to do the next few weeks so it is great to feel up beat rather than stressed. May the good times continue to roll.

I suppose a lot has to do with feeling good to be alive! :-)

Looked at some of the photos in my camera ... first is at our home group's farewell party for Amos. Good memories of good food and fellowship and a group that cares for each other.

Then next is a photo of the courtesy room I stayed in while on transit (in KL) to Phnom Penh. The Pan Pacific Hotel. Crazy! The room and bathroom is at least 2/3 the size of my whole house in Auckland!

Then the next is a family we visited while in Cambodia.  As usual balloons come in super handy. :-)
And the fourth os a photo of some of Cambodian youth who came for the youth camp we organized. This is the pre-group photo shot - of everyone trying to organize themselves so we can take a group photo.

Why the poor quality shot? I am not the official camera man ... Still waiting for the official photo DVD. We all have been so busy since returning.

The last is a piece of craft / art work done by an extremely poor Cambodian girl. She recently (less than a month) became a Christian and made this as a gift to the church as an expression of her thanks and love for Christ. We visited her family and she is dirt poor. Family of six live in a one room hut built illegally but with permission on land owned by a temple. Fear is that if the temple authorities discover she is a Christian, they may no longer allow them to live there. Her mother (interested but not a Christian) is now reluctant to allow the missionary to do Bible study with her at her home. But what was so amazing is that they had so little but gave us longans (mata kuching) and rambutans they specially bought from the market for us. The fruits were clearly luxuries they could ill afford but such was their hospitality. Our hope is to be allowed to help her with her education. She is a bright and hardworking girl.

How can I not be upbeat and thankful to God for work (esp satisfying work) that gives me and my family, shelter,  food and clothing and so many other extras when I see how others have so little and yet are so thankful?

Reflections on the book of Jeremiah: Jeremiah 1: The Call of Jeremiah (Part One) (pastor's Notes)

Just posted up this Sunday's Pastor's Notes. To read, click HERE

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm back!!

Got back yesterday. It's good to be "home". Yeah, looks like NZ is now more "home" to me than Malaysia even when I remove the family factor out of the equation.

Am off today to rest and recover and take care of a pile of personal matters that need my attention. Then tomorrow it is back to the office - lots to do, especially writing out my sermon. Good thing I have done most of the preliminary work.

Will post more over the next few weeks on my trip to Cambodia and Malaysia. For now two major health related incidents. First was in Cambodia - I had a first hand experience of being electrocuted. Not the most pleasant experience. Felt as if I was shaking for   about10 seconds but from what I was told, I was thrown from across the room. What happened was that the pet rabbit living at the centre where we were staying sneaked into the office and chewed up a number of wires. I was helping reset the office PC and accidentally touched an exposed wire.

What was funny was that when I was electrocuted, a friend instinctively switched off the power switch - except that in Cambodia, the power point switches next to the power outlets are actually light switches. So the room light was switched off and the room was almost pitch black. When I had recovered from the shock and the pain due to a headache and twitching due to the knocks and muscles cramps etc, I opened my eyes (or at least in my mind I tried to). And my first thought as concerned people surrounded me and asked me "Are you okay?" was "oh - oh, this is bad, I can't see!" - I thought to myself - I didn't know electrocution caused blindness. Hehehehe - I was very thankful when I said "I can't see" only to have a friend turn the light on! From then on, I knew that it could only get better! Two days of aches on the left side of my body was cheerfully accepted as a small price to pay for not being blind. LOL. My only disappointment was that unlike the comic books I did not get super electricity based powers ... :-(

Second health related incident was in Malaysia. Warning - some details not too pleasant :-)

I had a wonderful time eating in Cambodia - both outside food as well as inside food (had a great cook on our team) - so good that despite the heat and the tiring pace we out ourselves through, I gained 2 kg! But when I was in Malaysia (arrived on a Friday evening) I had a serious diarrhoea problem on Monday morning.Not sure how I got it but I suspect it was a combination of things - being very tired and slowly unwinding from Cambodia but still busy ... (I even dozed off during the Sunday sermon! :-( )Sunday afternoon's char kueh teow with sea hum? And then a very long (2.5 hours) hospital visit in the afternoon - probably picked up some bugs there. Anyway on Monday morning straight after breakfast (2 mins!) the runs began. The kind that you get when you take laxatives to clear your system for a colonoscopy. Any liquid intake no matter how small - even half a glass of water would cause me to bloat up and go. For 2.5 days I did not even urinate. ... Saw a doctor but no medication helped until my "quack doctor" neighbour (PhD is in Chemistry, though his son is a qualified surgeon) gave me pepto bismol (unavailable in Malaysia) - only then did my runs start getting better. I had the runs for 5 days!! Going out was a nightmare - had to time myself and not take any liquids etc. Normally could last just over an hour and had to come back exhausted. Thank God that while I had the runs (first few days - more than 20 times a day - no exaggeration - I was bored so I counted!) I was able to do limited things on Thursday and Friday.

Then of course due to the constant runs - I now have an inflamed hemorrhoid that is bleeding. Miserable going out and while the runs thankfully stopped by Saturday, sitting and even walking was a pain (literally and metaphorically). Got so ridiculous that I ended up using "panty liners" due to the bleeding esp when I went out and had to walk and sit in not so comfortable places. Long flight back did not help much either .... lots of fresh blood this morning with my stool too, *sigh* Makes me feel so old.

But at least I am now back to the comforts of home!