Sunday, 30 October 2016

Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty...

"Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty...", the Apostle Paul writes in Corinthians. The gospel music artist Kirk Franklin found the words so sweet he made a song out of it, but I must question how such words could not be music to the ears of all who hear, and realise that the answer is rooted, as it has always been, in human greed, bigotry and desire for power.  It also leaves me questioning what do I do with a church in which liberty and freedom to be whom God created us to be does not exist?  Can the spirit of God truly dwell in such an environment?Perhaps a deeper examination of 2nd Corinthians chapter 3 passage is necessary to truly understand. 

In his second epistle to the church in Corinth Paul addresses a number of issues, among them his authority as an apostle being questioned and the New Covenant. 

 "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us." 2 Co 2:15-17. In these verses Paul is answering those that question his calling stating that those whom he has criticised in his first epistle to the community in Corinth, and are refusing to heed his advice, will find his message doom and gloom; but those that heed it and embrace it will find their life enhanced. Paul's defence of his ministry thus rests on these simple principles:

1) His integrity. By stating his ministry has not been for personal profit, as was common in many religions and preachers at the time, Paul is distinguishing his ministry and the aim of it from all others. 

2) His call to preach the Gospel that was given to him by Christ on the road to Damascus. 

3) God is watching him, so God can and will judge him. 

Paul presents no theological arguments, he presents not the fact that he is from a long lineage of Pharisees, instead the authority he wields comes directly from the calling that was placed on this life.  Such was Paul's desire to make this point clear to the believers in Corinth he writes, "It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant..." 2 Cor 3:5-6

And this new covenant that Paul speaks of, what is it? 2 Cor 3:7-18 Paul speaks in details about what it is as well as what it isn't.  What it is not is a strict adherence to a list of rules. What it is not is condemnation. What it is not is death, literal or metaphorical.   What the new covenant is, is glorious. It is life. It is freedom. It is enlightening. 

Consider if you will Paul's account in chapter 3 when he relates what would happen during the reading of the old covenant and the results of it. Verse 14 says that the minds of the people were hardened, and that Christ is the only thing that can lift the veil, or in modern vernacular open their eyes; enlighten them if you will. However this veil is not restricted to only their minds, verse 15 says that this veil, this failure to understand is not solely limited to a mental capacity, but as it also covers their heart it blinds also emotionally, reducing the ability to empathise.  Acceptance of Christ should also thus shed the veil of a callous heart.

Acceptance of Christ is freedom of the mind and of the spirit of a person, and upon accepting Christ it is our commission to share the gospel with others. Thus this new covenant is liberty not just for oneself but liberty for all.  This new covenant is one in which we no longer need to be hidden behind a veil, but one in which we are to show the glory of God, for "We are not like Moses...".  

If the spirit of God is liberty, and if we are to show his Glory; if we are no longer to live under condemnation, and if the Spirit of God enlightens both hearts and minds, how then does a church vote for the wolf of uniformity dressed in the sheep's clothing of unity?   Where is the freedom of the Spirit to remove the veil from hearts and minds if we legislate that we must all be the same?   To legislate does not allow for true conversion, but rather serves to isolate and divide.  Furthermore, even in his epistle Paul notes the difference of opinions regarding him as a leader, but at no point does he call for sanctions or expulsion of those that do not hold his views (2 Cor 2:15-16).  

Liberty, is defined as "the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's behaviour or political views."  Liberty can also be defined as "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved".

Liberty is to have the freedom to choose what to think, feel, believe and how to act, and where choice exists so will diversity; they are two sides of the same coin.  

Does the Spirit of God dwell within my church? In a church that spans the globe with over 20 million members, it would be hard to argue against the Holy Spirit finding a safe dwelling place anywhere.  Does he exist within the recent vote on 'Uniformity Unity in the Church", perhaps not so much.  

Paul writes, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is..."

Friday, 14 October 2016

Civil War by Guest Blogger TCStorm

I am a christian, in particular I belong to a denomination known as Seventh-Day Adventists or SDA for short.  I am also married to a pastor. I am a black man.  Great.  My biases are out of the way.

Within the Seventh-Day Adventist church there is a massive debate regarding the ordination of women to Pastoral Ministry that at times verges on the brink of a civil war.  For those that may read this and are not SDA, for a matter of clarity I need to briefly explain the basic global structure of this denomination.  At the highest level is the General Conference (GC), who are supposed to govern general working policies, and fundamental beliefs.  Beneath the GC are Divisions, which govern territories as defined by the General Conference and who make sure that the Unions, which are the level below them, are working in harmony with the GC’s working policy. Now to complicate matters, Unions have their own charters and bye laws thus giving them a certain amount of flexibility and autonomy, so as to act as a buffer and prevent a top down leadership style.

In 2015 the General Conference of SDA voted not to allow Division’s of the SDA Church to ordain women, which would have been to grant to them a power that they did not have before, as ordination was a responsibility that was carried out at Union level.  Confused?  You are not alone, as since the fated vote in 2015 many Seventh Day Adventist believers are mistakenly under the impression that the vote was about the ordination of women to pastoral ministry in its entirety.

As mentioned before, the SDA church to all intents and purposes is bubbling along nicely to what would amount as a civil war.  The pro and anti women’s ordination camps have drawn the lines, and sadly they are both showing a scary and insidious nature of bigotry that runs throughout the denomination I have belonged to for many a year now.  

The anti ordination group, well its quite apparent that they are seeking to dress up their misogyny in religious beliefs and theological understanding.  There is no hiding their contempt for gender equality, and where one form of discrimination is found, there is usually at least another one or two lurking around for good measure.  For a large portion of the anti women’s ordination brigade comes the claim that the church is following a worldly agenda regarding gender equality, whilst ignoring the objectification, devaluation, abuse, and trade in women.  In truth a vote for the equality of genders is rather in opposition to how women are treated globally.

But these are not the people I am concerned about, as I said, their bigotry is clear and apparent, instead my fear and concerns are born out of the group that I belong to; those in favour of the ordination of women and gender equality.

In the debates I have seen, heard and participated in since the 2015 San Antonio vote by the GC, I have heard it claimed that the unions and divisions that are in the southern hemisphere are holding back gender equality.  I have heard these aforementioned territories described as ‘third world’.  I have heard them generalised and labelled as sexist, bigoted, and ignorant, so what territories are being referenced and why is it a problem.

Well lets look at the continents that are widely regarded as lying in the southern hemisphere; South America, Africa, part of Asia and Australasia.  Yet only one of these is not regarded as a ‘third world’, any cares to guess which one?  Yes.  The one with white people. (For clarity’s sake I use the term ‘third world’ as a quote, more enlightened people now say ‘developing’).  So now lets re-examine what people are actually saying in light of the fact that they have now clarified what they mean by blaming it on third world countries: “People of colour are holding back the ordination of women.  They are ignorant, sexist, and have no respect for women”.

Whoa!  Hold up, they couldn’t possibly have meant that.

Well my northern hemisphere brothers and sisters, if sexism exists within the Seventh Day Adventist church, why can other forms of discrimination not exist.  In fact, let us consider in North America that black and white regional conference’s exist.  Lets not forget that the birth of these conferences began in the 1940’s and recognise that there are a great many people still living that can remember the birth of these conferences.   However please don’t feel that this discrimination is something peculiar to the USA, in Europe, I can tell you from personal experience, that twenty years ago I was met at the church door with the welcome “Your church is down the road.”  I can hear the protests now; the objections that that was a long time ago, or that we have come so far, but when you can find a Facebook group titled ‘Adventists for Trump’, is it really that long ago?  Have we really come so far?

Northern hemispheric society does not value black lives, that is why #blacklivesmatter.  (And for those of you reading this that still say #alllivesmatter I hope the irony of claiming this whilst not fighting for all ordinations, both male and female, is not lost on you).  And despite what a number of people in the pro women’s ordination camp may try to claim, it does not value female life either.  Donald Trump, from his own words is a sexual predator, and is demeaning to women, yet he is not sufficiently repugnant enough not to be considered for president of the USA. On the 12th of October 2016 a new hashtag began to trend on twitter #Repealthe19th.  The 19th in question here is the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution that gave women the right to vote. Women are trafficked for sex work, with large numbers being kidnapped from the Southern Hemisphere, and guess where they end up my Northern Hemisphere brothers and sisters?  Yes, right here in the Northern Hemisphere; right where the demand is. 

In the USA, the NNEDV reports that every day three women are killed as a result of domestic violence, and in Europe the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reported in 2014 that one in three women have reported some form of sexual abuse since the age 15.  

And what of Ted Wilson, the president of the General Conference?  Was he born in the southern hemisphere?  It seems to me that he is very much a white, northern hemisphere, heterosexual male with all the privileges that accompany that.  Nor is he isolated in this regard; Doug Batchelor. 

It seems to me that there is a whole oak tree that the Northern Hemisphere needs to remove from its proverbial eye, before it starts to examine the splinter in others. 

I think it is clear to see that the oppression of women is not one that is solely limited to the southern hemisphere, but it is also clear that sexism is not the only form of prejudice living within the SDA church.  Whether overt or whether it is intentional or not, racism also exists, so I am calling to my fellow supporters of women’s ordination, to examine yourselves, and ask where you can do better.  I sincerely believe that the fight for the ordination of women, or the equality of race cannot be fought in isolation, for where we develop spaces for one prejudice to exist, another will become its room mate.  We cannot win the fight for equality for one group whilst ignoring the inequity for another.  The fight for justice must be fought on all fronts, not just some.

“Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.  Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.  Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps.  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.”  Amos 5:22-24

Monday, 5 September 2016

Wandering the Desert

The other day I came across this passage in the bible.  I am sure I have heard it or read it before, but this time it made me stop and think.

I am a christian.  I belong to a particular denomination; the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.  Like all churches, and any other institution where people are involved, it does somethings good, and many things bad, and sadly it was the bad that I saw being reflected back to me in this passage.

In this passage, Joshua, Caleb and some other Israelite spies have just returned from scouting Canaan and the news that they relay strikes fear into the people, and they decided to rebel.  In fact, they are so scared that they forget that God has brought them out of slavery, that he has won so many battles for them, that he has fed and sustained them and provided their every need, that they go as far as to say "Wouldn't it be better for us to return to Egypt?" (vs3).  In their mind it would have been better to go back across the desert, face all those dangers again, and willingly return themselves back to slavery than to push forward into the refuge that God's freedom provides.

Fast forward a few hundred years, a few progressions of theological ideas and understanding, and I still see the Children of Israel reflected amongst Christians, including the denomination to which I belong; the SDA church.

Let me explain.  

My church has like every other religion or denomination, the belief that they are right, and thus a special people, not because there is anything inherently special about us as people, but rather in the beliefs and knowledge that we have.  This knowledge that we have, we are supposed to share with those around us, to try and bring them into an understanding of a loving God, which is what the Israelites were chosen to do, hence the 'chosen people' tag.

We also believe that we are called out of the world (John 15:19), similarly the Israelites were called out of Egypt, which being the most powerful nation at the time was the centre of the world.

We believe in the advent (return) of Christ, and being led into a promised land; "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth..." (Rev 21:1), much like the Israelites did.  

And like the Israelites we are on a journey to reach that promised land, and so it disturbs me when I hear people within my denomination cry out that they want to return to the 'old days' in a myopic nostalgia that things were somehow better a few decades ago.  What generation has never heard the term "In my day...", followed by regaling of all the things that were better when their elders were younger?  Like the Children of Israel, there are people who wait at the border of the promised land and are scared of what we believe awaits us.   And just what is it that they are believing awaits them?

Equality.  Justice.  Mercy.  Compassion.

These are the giants that scare too many within all branches of Christianity, and I say that it is this fear that will keep us wondering around the wilderness of this world for another forty years.  Equality for women, Justice for the oppressed, Mercy for the repentant, and compassion for all are not the giants that wander the land, but the milk and honey with which the promised land is over flowing.

In churches all over the world people plot against female ministers and leaders, just like the Israelites did (Num 14:4).  If they have reformative leaders and theologians who have theologically spied the promised land, then they line up to stone them just as they did Joshua and Caleb.  And they do all these things whilst all the while ignoring the presence of The Lord on the ministry, testimony and calling of these people (Num 14;10-11).

The Israelites condemned themselves to wander the desert for 40 years, because they failed to trust God to deliver them where he said he would.  They condemned themselves to wander the desert, because they were under the mistaken belief that they were fighting with their own abilities, and not the ones God had given them.  They condemned themselves to wander the desert for another 40 years, because they had still not shed off their beliefs, their habits and their desires that they had acquired in Egypt.

In the time that we have had since Christ promised to return, have we shed our habits, desires and beliefs?  Or are we still holding on to cultural beliefs, and concepts of superiority based on our gender, our race, and yes, our sexuality?  Have we forgotten entrance into the promised land occurs not by our own power, but through the saving grace of Jesus Christ and as such the obstacles we face are not ours to be afraid of?  Or are we so scared we are focussed on looking back where God has brought us from, that we cannot see the goodness in where he is leading us to?

Like the Israelites, I want to walk into the promised land.  I don't have all the answers to all the obstacles I may face on the journey into it, but just as Caleb did, I will trust in my God to supply them. 

Even if it means I am forced to wander for another forty years.
Guest blogger @TCStorm 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

You Don't Know my Name

In the Bible, the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke recall the story of a woman who suffered from a period that had lasted twelve years.  No author provides us with any personal details about this woman other than what she had been afflicted with, but what they do record is the intent of this woman to reach out and touch the divine.  So intent was this woman on reaching out and touching God, that she broke Jewish laws and customs that forbade any 'unclean' woman from having contact and being around people. In fact she risked her life to be near Christ and achieve that which she desired.  

This reminds me of another story in bible, about another woman that reached out to touch the divine; Eve. 

The Genesis account of creation tells of the creation of humanity and the subsequent fall of man, and it is in the fall of man that we see the two stories begin to link.  In Genesis 3:4-5 we see the Serpent say to Eve that if she ate the fruit she would become like God, not in a sense that she would become omnipotent but because her "eyes would be opened"; she would gain new knowledge. Verse 6 of the same chapter goes on to explain Eve's thought process; the food was good to see eat, good to look at and was "desirable for GAINING WISDOM".  These things would seem to be worthy things to strive for, King Solomon for example was rewarded for asking God for wisdom above all other things. (1 Kings 3:10-15).  Food is necessary to our survival, and who doesn't like their food to look attractive?  Similarly this woman we encounter in Mark, Luke and John, was what she sought after not also desirable?  Every person desires good health, and those unfortunate enough not to have been blessed with it desire healing.  What this woman sought after was good.  

In both these stories the women both reach and take what they desire, but it is here that the similarities in the women end, but not necessarily where the link between the stories. In this case the differences in the narratives are just as critical. 

Beginning with Eve, she was working from a point of perfection, she had a direct face to face communication with God but she failed to trust him to supply her needs. If Eve desired wisdom she was free to ask for it, and if Solomon is an example to be judged by, God would have granted it to her, but perhaps in a less harmful way than how she acquired her knowledge, but she didn't. Instead, along with the man who was with her (Gen 3:6) she trusted her own knowledge and her own ability to gain what she desired.   The woman in the New Testament however, is in an imperfect world, she cannot seek God directly but requires an intermediary in the form of the priest, and yet her affliction keeps her isolated from her community. 

The original states of these two women are important for they are reversed, and the outcomes are also reversals.  As I stated before, both women reached out for what they wanted, but the way in which they reached is the critical difference. The woman in the New Testament in her desire for healing reached out to touch God in the belief that true healing came from Him.  Eve by contrast reached out for wisdom not through God but upon her own endeavours and abilities; she had not yet come to understand that true Wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6-8).  For the woman in the New Testament God was the source and conduit for healing, for Eve she herself was capable of achieving wisdom. 

The result of Adam and Eve's actions, carried out in the light of day, was to isolate man from their creator, for after they had sinned they hid and eventually they were banished from Eden. However when we look at this woman's actions we see that she is already hiding not in trees and bushes, but the crowd, still she was so worried about being observed she touches Christ from behind (Luke 8:44). Unlike Eve her actions did not force her into even further hiding but rather Christ calls her out of hiding, and into the light.   

The story of the woman ends with Christ calling the woman 'Daughter', the only woman whom he ever addressed in such a way.  In calling her Daughter, was Christ affirming to her not only the restoration of her health, the restoration of her community, the restoration of her mental and emotional health, but also the restoration of her to being a woman in the fullness that God had created her to be.  Consider this, in Christ's entire ministry on earth we are filled with story after story of the Divine reaching out to man and connecting, but this is the only account that we have of man reaching out to God and touching him... And it's not even man that connects with God, it is woman. 

"But what about Thomas?", many people will say, but an actual closer look at the account of Thomas and Christ does not indicate clearly that Thomas actually touched Christ, but in fact it seems to suggest the exact opposite. The account is found in John 20:24-29.  In verse 28 after Christ tells Thomas to thrust his hand in his side and to touch the nail imprint in his hands, Thomas' response is to profess his belief but the text at no point says that Thomas touches Christ. This point is further reinforced by Christ saying in the verse 29 "Have you believed because you have seen me?".

In a church in which the large majority of the people are women, what does this say?  Are women constantly searching for the divine? Is there something innate in women that they seek a closeness with God, that perhaps is not so natural to man?   Or maybe man seeks that closeness in a different way?

These are perhaps questions for another day, and after the resurrection of Christ we are all now sons and daughters of God able to be brought into direct communion with Our Father.  But until the advent of Christ only one person has managed to reach out and touch God... 

And we don't even know her name. 

Thursday, 21 July 2016


Corinthians is the go to text for Christians who want to talk about teamwork, but the mandate was actually given by God from and even before he created man.  In fact teamwork was built into our very DNA. 

Genesis 1:26-27 states we are created in God's image, a thought to keep in mind as we look at some keywords for the purpose of this exercise. These words I want to consider are "Let us make God created..." 

So here we have God (one member of the trinity) talking to the others and he/she says "Let" (the proposal), in this form it is a suggestion or statement of intention. Next up is "us" (the who)  which is plural thus indicating more than one entity is present. We then progress to the words "make man" (aim/goal) which presents the desired result.  Finally we have the phrase "so God created" which indicates that the proposal was agreed upon by the who, whom then worked to achieve the outcome: Teamwork. 

Now let us refer back to the bible text and the details of the proposal; specifically the criteria that man was to be made in the image of God.   Now consider that the very creation of man was one which was a group task; how then can we function in the image of God if we fail to act as part of a loving team or community?  By acting as part of a respectful, loving team in harmonious pursuit of a goal, is in itself an act of honour to the creator for we are doing what we were created to do; to reflect his image. 

Now some may feel this is a tenuous idea, so let's examine the mandate given to man and woman by God after their creation.  Genesis 1:28 contains the command of God, and also the remit of man and woman that they are to be fruitful and multiply.  It is the multiply aspect that I am most interested in at this time. 

Simple biology tells us that we need more than one person in order to reproduce, and seeing as God considers free will a pretty big deal, I cannot envisage for a second that in his telling man and woman to reproduce he was encouraging or condoning one party forcing either their will or their body onto another.  We were to work in harmony by respecting, agreeing, and consenting; and by our doing so we would not only become one, but we would also be of one purpose. Thus his very command to multiply is implicit in saying teamwork was a requirement of our roles here on earth. 

It is also possible to make a case for the fall of man being a team effort, instead of what has historically and erroneously presented where the woman solely is to blame.  A reading of Genesis 3:6-7 presents us with the moment that the man and woman sin. In this we read that the woman eats the fruit, and then presents it to her husband who is with her. In this moment her husband has the ability to say no and refuse his consent in this course of action, but he does not; he and his wife remain of one mind, and it is upon the man eating the fruit that Verse 7 says "their eyes were opened".    Consider for a moment that nothing happened to the woman until the man ate the fruit, what are the implications of this?  

Now let's look at what happens after they have eaten the fruit. The text goes on to say that God came down looking for the man and the woman but they were hiding, and so God confronts them about what they had done, and what happens next is the first example of division and disunity between men and women in the bible. "It was the woman you gave me..." (Gen 3:12) and with one finely constructed sentence the man seeks to firstly distance himself from the woman and to blame God for the predicament that he finds himself in.   

Men and women were not created to be divided, we were created with a unified purpose and for a common goal. As Christians wishing to reflect the image of God to a fractious and broken world, we must find unity with one another and with our God. Back biting, sabotaging one another's efforts, gossiping, and causing problems within the church is not reflective of a loving God who with a clear mind and purpose set out to achieve a goal, but rather is an indicator of how far from God we really are. 


Friday, 15 July 2016

No justice, no peace: The Revelation of God through protest

Suicide bombings in Iraq. Mass kidnappings in Nigeria. Routine murder by police in the USA of black men with impunity. Corruption in every nation and at every levelled government.  As a Christian I struggle with this picture of the world I live in.  I see the images coming out of the USA and the U.K., I watch as the #blacklivesmatter movement face off against the police and with decades of repressed fear, pain, anger and sorrow chant with their entire being, "No justice, no peace".

"No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. "

And then I open my bible and I read, and I remember that chant, "No justice, no peace", and it dawns on me, they are right, but not in the conditional way in which they are warning police and politicians that they have had enough, but in a factual way for God is justice, and God is peace; know Justice, know Peace.

No God, no peace;  No peace, no God.  It's a pretty simple equation that stands scrutiny not because it is expressed in that form in any verse that can be quoted but rather that it is woven into the fabric of the bible and implicit everywhere. In The Books of Law found in the Torah, justice is a governing principle and is to be given to all equally, whether they are rich or poor (Lev 19:15), foreign or domestic (Deu 24:17).  In fact God goes as far as to curse any who deny justice to foreigners, orphans or widows (Deu 27:19).

Justice is not only however a theme of the bible, it is also a fundamental characteristic of God and governs how he interacts with his creation.  The Psalmist writes:

"But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgement from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in the time of trouble." (Psalms 9:7-9)

Proverbs 16:12 is even more telling about rulership "A king detests wrong doing, for his rule is built on justice."   As Christians we proclaim Jesus Christ to be the King of Kings who will establish his kingdom that will last forever, well we need to recognise that one of the factors that underpins that kingdom, that makes him worthy of rulership, is justice.  

For a moment, I want you to imagine heaven.  Think of all the wonderful ways it's described in the bible, the ways it's been described in church or by your friends.  Think of all the wonders you imagine it contains, think of living with people from every tongue and every nation for eternity, think of how wonderful that must be.  And now take the justice out of your picture?  Not quite so idyllic is it?  Not quite so peaceful either.

No justice, no peace.

So how then can we claim to love Christ and desire to go to heaven, but be so indifferent about justice?  How can it be possible to yearn for peace, but be unconcerned about injustice?  How can we comfortably call ourselves Christians when we ignore the pain and suffering that injustice causes?  Matthew 25:31-46 provides an overview of some of the things Christ is concerned with, and although being murdered wasn't on the list and I think it's safe to say if he is concerned about people going hungry, he is concerned about people being killed over theological differences or the colour of their skin. I think it's also safe to say that if we are not committed to stamping out injustice and coming alongside people in their pain we are refusing to help the least of His brothers and sisters; we are refusing to help Him.

Amos writes:

"I hate all your show and pretense- the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I won't accept your burnt offerings or your grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps.  Instead I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." (Amos 5:21-24)

God doesn't care that you go to the most boring church imaginable, he isn't interested in your tithe and offerings, and that sweet sounding mass choir you have going on... He isn't even listening to it!  He is waiting for that mighty flood of justice from us; he is waiting for us to stand up and get involved. He is waiting for Christians to stand up and lead the world to the end of their search for peace and justice; he is waiting for us to lead the world to him.


"No justice,  No peace.  KNOW justice KNOW peace".


Monday, 13 June 2016

Equality and the Boss

I have a question I would love serious help with. Can there be genuine equality where one party is the head or boss of the other party. 

To help me I have some definitions. defines equality like this. 
the state or quality of beingequalcorrespondence inquantity, degree, value, rank, orability:
promoting equality of opportunityin the workplace. defines equal as 
as great as; the same as (oftenfollowed by to or with): 
The velocity of sound is not equalto that of light.
like or alike in quantity, degree,value, etc.; of the same rank,ability, merit, etc.:
two students of equal brilliance.
So now I will look up boss. defines boss in two ways 
a person who employs orsuperintends workers; manager
a politician who controls theparty organization, as in aparticular district

Maybe I need more definitions but I am struggling to see how you can have two parties and one is the head of the other and there be equality. I think this needs help in explaining this one to me. 

Hero = Man?

I might still be concerned about this topic. Let me set the scene for you so that you are not lost. 

I watched a video on YouTube of a woman rescuing a baby and the mother. As the video played the commentator added the statement some think she should be called a hero. I sensed the question in the statement and thought that's strange. She saves the baby why not call her hero. She is to that mother and child. So I innocently go to the dictionary for a definition of hero thinking this should solve the problem. This is what I found. 

"a person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities"

I was so surprised I thought maybe this is a mistake I will check another dictionary. Good we have Internet. 

  1. 1a  :  a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowedwith great strength or abilityb  :  an illustrious warriorc  :  a man admired for his achievements and noblequalitiesd  :  one who shows great courage

  2. 2a  :  the principal male character in a literary or dramatic workb  :  the central figure in an event, period, or movement

Seriously I was surprised and maybe a little annoyed that a 21st century definition includes the word man. So I thought check again. 

"a man of distinguished courageor ability, admired for his bravedeeds and noble qualities"

There it was again. No hiding it. Just plan and simple a hero is a man. Now I am lost for what to do with myself. I am being so serious. When did this happen how did this happen to me. I seriously thought that while sexism exists in the dictionary at least we wouldn't need sexism. I appreciate there is a historical element to the word but surely we have moved past this. But no. The woman who rescued the baby and mother still has to endure hesitation when referring to her as a hero. Why hesitation because by the dictionary heroes are men! What she did might be heroic but are we allowed to  call her a hero. 

I am still trying to figure out what to do with this new information. Hero a person who performs a heroic deed. As long as it's a man they are a hero. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

My prayer text.

Simply put. This is the text I am sharing that I am using to pray today. 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Exploring Christianity- Home

Exploring Christianity 

I have the opportunity to explore the world of Christianity at the International Christian Resource Exhibition. It's a few days when most Christian churches, businesses and charities get together and exchange ideas. I am excited not only for the course but because it bought me home. 

I have moved to a whole other country and now what I have taught about home becomes reality. Home isn't where your house is. Home is where your heart is. My heart is full. It is full of many loved ones. Some I carry with me physically my storms. Others who live in my heart till I can come home to them. So I am home. I will see friends and family and have time to cuddle and kiss and listen and talk to them all. I am excited to do that. As a Christian though I did wonder about my idea of home. 

As a Christian when I walk around do people find home with me. Can they say that I have given them shared with them a peace of Gods love. Can I share a piece of the home that we are all desperate to be. Can I share with them the home that God has for us. Where the centre of the home is love and it gives peace and joy unspeakable. 

I hope that people have that experience. I hope that their home is with God whose love knows no bounds. 

Exploring Christianity and the big WHY

Exploring Christianity 

So annoyed. How can people talk about being regionally accurate to where the bible is set then concern themselves with cups. Then show me amazing graphics with white people! Oh my annoying. Seriously vexed! 

So I sat and tried not to judge. I had to make a decision in my head. What do I do? I like what they produced. I love the passion. I really like the resources. Do I bring the negativity? Do I just say what's up with that? I really didn't want to be negative but I was so annoyed. 

I waited. It finished. I watched. Then I couldn't contain it any longer. I approached the creator and ask the question. Why did you want so much authenticity in cups and buildings but the people are not authentic?! Then my surprise. 

They didn't even think about it. But when it was bought to their attention they changed it in season 4 and 5. I was so pleasantly surprised. Relieved and now happy. What had so upset me was quickly resolved with a question. Not an accusation. Not anger but simply a question. Why? 

The lesson for me. Ask why? Not in anger or frustration or irritation but because you want to hear the answer. Reserve judgement until you have the asked why?! Why, just might save you and them! Ask why that's my lesson for today. 

Exploring Christianity and the musical score

Exploring Christianity 

Imaginative preaching. Today I went to a seminar on imaginative preaching. Surprisingly good workshop. The standout moment was when she challenged us to differentiate our sermons. 

This is why it stand out moment for me. I love the whole concept of imaginative preaching as you can imagine. Today I imagined a sermon as a musical score and for the first time in a long time someone said it was ok if not everyone gets everything. In someways it's like being told that the pressure is off. Everyone should get the melody of your sermon. But the harmonies well unless you sing one of them you might not get it. Guess what that is ok. 

Putting nuggets that not everyone understands in a sermon is a good thing. I need to remember this. It's ok that not everyone gets it as long as everyone gets the melody! 

Think of it like music score. The melody everyone has to get but the harmonies are for differentiation. Sermons can be like this too. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Sermon Notes - high high low low

The past 10 days I have been on a study trip in Israel. 

There is an English phrase 
What goes up must come down 

In Israel the saying changes:
What goes down must always go up! 

I was actually impressed by how the people got about seemingly so easily. We found it hard work! Maybe it's the Dutch beautiful flat landscape that gave us the extra challenge. 

One highlight for me was 

Sermon on the mount 
On the mount looking over the Sea of Galilee and the hills. 

This was a beautiful moment reading the words of Jesus looking at the places he could see. Then realizing a rabbi teaches from the world around. This was a high. 

High high

Traveling home however was a different story. When I arrived home I was to be confronted with the loss of a dear friend. Same age, same kids age, same married age. I cannot put into words how this affected me. It was such a low. 

Low lows 

God is with us through it all. Just when I was beginning to be overwhelmed God took me back to the mountain. He took me back to sitting on the side listening to his words being read. 
The words from the sermon on the mount came back to me. 

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 NLT

“"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 ESV

Never before had those words had so much power. Today I draw close to him. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Israel Studies Day 9

Our last full day of programme is complete. We went to the beautiful Caesarea. We took a historical tour and watched a film about the history. The thing that struck me is the destructive nature of people. Some people want to create but when someone creates instead of it inspiring us to go and do likewise we destroy. Empire after empire not only conquered but destroyed what went before. 

It's like that all over. We today are no better. We see people trying to create a better life for others and instead of helping we criticize until they are broken. It's like we are not satisfied until the world is filled with broken people just like us. 

I will be glad when Jesus takes us home because then the destructive nature of mankind will be at an end. I long for a day when instead of destroying the creativity of others we lift each other up and celebrate being created in the image of a creator. 

Now that I think about it, it's like we are trying to erase the image of God in one another. No matter how hard we try we cannot take away what God has created us to be. 

God the creator, the almighty, the great I am, the centre of love, you are worthy of all praise! 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Israel studies day 8

Take a deep breath and let's go. The whirlwind tour continues. Each day my little head filled with more and more information. Today however I put two thoughts together. 

On the mountain yesterday we were told how a rabbi would teach. One style of teaching was that the rabbi would sit and teach using what they saw around them. If you are sitting on the beautiful hills surrounded by lakes, green, desert and life then your examples will come from that. 

Today we went to a castle. With many levels of stone. Stone is a huge resource for Israel. Everything is made and carved from this beautiful sand colored stone. You get layers and layers of history in stone buildings that archeologists have managed to recover. 

When you put these two thoughts together I thought, is it any wonder the bible talks about the stones crying out! The stone is such a used resource it bears the burden of the nations who have lived here. It is the witness of all the destruction and devastation humanity has caused. So it's no wonder that the rocks and stones will cry out. They have seen too much. 

Maybe we need to stand witness better than the destructive power of humanity that has gone before. Maybe we should be striving to be a better witness of what God can do. Instead we conquer each other and destroy the land and al its inhabitants. What does it cost us to live in peace! 

Israel day 7

We walked the route of Dan. The tribe maybe lost but the lush fertile land they lived on is not. Walking over stoned routes crossing the Jordan was an amazing experience. Each stone took us higher. Each stone led us on. I wish I had slowed down and taken it in. 

The lesson I learnt today with our hurry hurry quick quick tour of learning is it is important to go slow and take it in. There is a saying that says you need to stop and smell the roses. I think this is so true. You will not get to smell the roses at your funeral so stop and smell them when there is still life in you. God did not create a machine he created humanity. Love live and be at peace. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Israel Studies day 6

5 shekels. The price of doing anything is 5 shekels. Look after my bag, 5 shekels. Hold this while I take a photo, 5 shekels. Save me a seat, 5 shekels. So it's a common language between all the many cultures of pastors I currently share a learning space with. We giggle we smile and we say 5 shekels. 

Today we went to a place with a common language. Fun! A nature reserve where you will see Jews, Muslims, Christians spending time with their friends and family side by side with one another. You forget for a moment that outside of this place there are huge divides. You forget that outside of this place there is no love for one another. Yet when they come into this place it doesn't matter the love they share with friends and family moves them beyond the fight to peace. 

It makes me wonder what should our churches be like. Should people come in and have the same paradise experience. It doesn't matter where you are from or where you are going. What matters is the love we share for God. So when people come in they see what they do not see in the world. They see people who are different but who love and accept one another regardless! 

Accept the love of God. Then love God and love one another that is our mandate! 

Israel Studies Day 5

Sabbath worship. 

How do you spend your sabbath? I had the privilege of spending it with 35 pastors sharing communion in the garden at Golgotha. What an awesome experience to receive communion with pastors who normally do not get a chance to relax. 

What I learnt today was that God is interested in all aspects of your life. God wants to be a part of your journey. God wants to share in the highs and lows of your story. Not as a bystander mourning the loss of a relationship but as an active participant. Will you share you life with Christ. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

A visit to Bethlehem

I am not sure I knew what to expect coming here. Our guide told us that the Christians here are very poor and need our support. She said it so many times it was like a drill you recited. Of course I am not oblivious to the news and politics surrounding the region and the terrible treatment of Palestinians. What to expect when visiting Bethlehem. 

The first thing was the the cultural difference between western minds and African minds. I think had we gone to Thailand and there was haggling and selling it would have been more accepted than here. In this place I noticed people not thinking kindly about those people who sell for their living. I think we have so moved in our culture that we forget this is how people make their money. If they don't sell they don't eat. Because our payments go through our bank we forget. 

Anyway I digress the guide was the most surprising thing of our trip. He was a preacher. Well a disciple. Maybe a better description is that he was a Christian and sharing the message was second nature. As well as giving us history he gave us the true message of Jesus. That was his way of saying it. Love God and love one another. This was the nicest thing about our visit. 

It's a shame that politics changes everything. Power seeking people corrupt and cause harm. Imagine there was a point where Palestine and Israel worked together. Then along came the power hungry and then it all goes to smoke. Love God. Love one another. 

I am the Descendant of Slaves

I am the descendant of a slave. We are the survivors of slavery. I stand with my family who survived the death boats. I honour those we lost through years of beatings hangings lynchings. I remember those who were lost to humanity through the dehumanizations of my people. I am the descendant of slaves. 

I will live a life to remember those that fought to survive. Those that stood up and lay down their life so I might be free. I will remember those who were abused so I can be here. I will remember those whose lives are not recorded not mentioned not remembered by anyone. I am the descendant of slaves. 

To my fore-parents who were abused and raped and the price we paid was too great. To my fore-parents whose children were stolen and killed. To my fore-parents whose daughters were raped repeatedly. To my fore-parents whose sons were brutally murdered. I will not forget. I am the child of slaves. 

I will not be silenced I will not be ignored. I will not be made to accept another persons version of history to quiet my pain. I will remember always. I am the descendants of slaves. 

I stand free like so many before the time of slavery. Those who didn't know their family were being stolen and killed, raped and beaten. To those who as free men and women who had their choice removed and their lives torn apart. I will always remember that we were free. We are free. I am the descendant of slaves. 

The pain, the torture, the evil exacted upon my fore-parents will not be forgotten. I will remember. I am the descendant of slaves 

I may not look like you because they raped my fore-mother. I may not know my language because the stripped out fore-parents of their language. I may not know my country because they took me from my land. But I will never forget that I am the descendant of slaves. 

We who survive stand strong and remember. We who survive fight on for our rights. We who are alive. Remember always what was done. Honour those that went before us. Live a life remembering that our freedom came at their price. I am the descendant of slaves! 

Israel day 4

Before 10am in the morning I was inspired to write a piece about my own history. We visited the museum of the history of the holocaust. These past few days there has been so much said about remembering. Today that really hit home. We should remember. The lie of forgive and forget is not true. 

The bible is a gift not only for inspiration and living but also to remember. I have been fascinated that everywhere in the bible God instructs the people to have a remembrance service or day or celebration for those trials that have passed. In doing so it gives the people peace and healing from that. 

As a Christian I have the communion service to remember the pain of sacrifice. I have a moment when I can pause and reflect on the pain that has gone before.  I have something tangible to hold onto that is a symbol of hope. I am a whole person with personal experiences as well. 

Each year I remember my birthday. As my mother would say the day I tortured her to enter the world. I celebrate the gift of life I was given by her my unknown father and my God. I take great pleasure in celebrating the life of my children on their birthdays. Grateful that God has given them life through my husband and I. 

There is one part of my however that has been stifled by the world. I have been told I must not remember. I must move on. I have been told that it doesn't count. I have been silenced again and again. So I acknowledge today that I am the descendant of slaves. I live free where once they were bound. I need a land to go to. A museum to remember and honour. I want a day where we who survive can honour the lives lost before us. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Israel Studies Day 3

There is something about the third day.  When I went to language school to learn Dutch I was on a one week intensive. Each day we were out by 8am and back at 9pm. But on the third day the teachers told us that they shorten the day because students experience a dip in learning always on day 3. My fellow cohort was no different. Their idea of early however was one hour earlier than normal. 

Well today is the third day and unlike language school we finished two hours early. I cannot tell you how relieved we were as most of us slept on the coach! That's how tired we are. Tomorrow will be better. 

Today I had an overwhelming feeling that power clouds judgement. We want to be right so badly that we dig ourselves in and never let anyone else in. Three major religions. One God. Three and a lot more ways trying to control worship. Maybe if we stop trying to control worship then our experience with and of God would actually transform our lives 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Israel Studies 2

Silence. I come from a big city. A big busy loud bustling city. Silence is relative to where you are. When I was living in the city we sought silence in parks, in high places and we would enjoy our silence. 

When I moved to the countryside I lived in silence. The silence would keep me awake at night because it was still and quiet and all I could hear was the owl and it was so loud and busy. 

Then I moved to the suburbs and it was a nice quiet road to raise a family. The silence was beautiful. The neighbors were great. I also became a parent and so silence had a different meaning. 

In scripture the bible refers often to silence and quiet. Listening to Gods voice or meditating in prayer. So I got involved with making spaces for silent worship. I would create quiet places, silent worship, and  prayer gardens. All this was in an effort to hear silence. Today all that changed. 

Today I went to the desert. Today I went to the site of the Dead Sea scrolls and I listened to the most beautiful silence I have ever heard in my life. Silence took on a whole new meaning to my life. 

Imagine being there in that silent place where you can hear what is happening for miles. Then God appears to you and a voice from heaven says... 

This idea of being in that silent place and having God talk to you is the most amazing thing. Today I am struck by the awe of God. Yes God is my friend, my father, my savior, and my creator. But God is awesome. Be inspired. 

Israel day 1

Israel studies - Day 1 

Living in a place of worship. In my denomination we have many opportunities to worship together for a week or two at a time. The highlight for many is something we call camp meeting. A week of worship together. When you are there in that place everywhere you go everyone you see is from your denomination. The atmosphere is like nothing you have experienced. While it is an amazing week I have often thought how challenging it would be to live in that way all the time. Being in Jerusalem you really have a sense of living in a place of worship. 

Living in a place of worship shapes everything about you. It shapes the whole world and everything you say and do. It is such a different way of life and unless you have lived it I don't think it makes sense. It's so easy for us to look at this part of the world and tell them how they should get on but living it is so different. How can you truly separate politics from religion when everything about religion shapes everything about your world. 

You think about this. Where you walk. What you see. What you say in greeting. What happens is all based on the different places of worship. Someone is always praying. Worship is always happening. How you dress and speak affects the worship of others. Add to that the tight place packed with so many people all with their own version of what is holy what is right. When you live in that place no wonder there is tension. Not because of God but because of power. People want to control how everyone else is worshipping it. 

Power for humanity is everything. We want to control others. We live to do it. I here often from western minds that it is God who is the route of problems but really all problems start in the same way. Humanity have choice and because we want power and control over one another we do terrible things. Terrible things in the name of ourself in the name of religion in the name of government. There is no difference. I thank God I have hope not in man but in God that it will not always be this way. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Israel Study Tour - arrival

Well this has been eventful trip and it hasn't even begun. We were due to fly from Brussels but due to the terror attack everything had to change. So after much discussion and negotiation we had a new airport to travel from. 

I had a new experience on board. I was sick. Actually physically sick. I was so embarrassed but the staff were wonderful really caring. Because I was sick I sat at the back. At that moment I was joined by 10 Jewish men who needed to pray. I was quite astonished to watched this mixed group of men stand together to pray. 

It was impressive to watch Jews from different sectors of their faith stand together. Orthodox Jews, liberal, young and trendy. There was a father and son.twy were together sharing a book. Really tender moment.  There were 4 young guys. Three were very giggly and the fourth was stuck in that place between friends and belief. Trying his best to focus on what was happening. 

This really made me think. As Christians do we stand together in this way. Would we pray so publicly. Would we solicit others to join us no matter which denomination or spectrum they are on. Maybe we are missing a fundamental of our faith. It doesn't matter which part of the spectrum we are on. What matters is that we all pray to one God. 

As I left the plane with this thought ringing in my ears. I was met at border control with a different thought. The gentleman who was questioning me was confused I did not know who my father was. At my age I had to have a full conversation with a stranger about not knowing my biological father. This is seemed so foreign to me. I have come up against this time and again. It never stops surprising me though. I have the privilege of having a wonderful step dad and family. But because my biology is missing I am somehow looked on strangely. I took comfort that my Heavenly Father has never abandoned me. Draw close to him. Focus on him. Maybe that's the unifying thought. That God brings us together. It is in him we trust.