David – Authentic and real

 

A few weeks ago Andrew talked about superheroes and the person I want to talk about today would be considered a super hero of the faith.

He is someone about whom people like to preach. Preachers can take his life and apply it to almost anything they like but I have always had a bit of a problem with this guy – or maybe what preachers don’t say about him.

He always gets two pages in toddler bibles. He was a shoe-in for the flannel-graph at Sunday school. He looked after sheep, had big brothers who didn’t pay him any attention.  He was a king, eventually and made mistakes but the most common sermon preached about this man is his heart for worship. Someone should have guessed who the subject of our time together is this morning especially Mr Jourdain.

But I don’t want to talk about the commonly preached topics around David’s life. The Musa’s can talk about his love of worship and I’m certainly not going to focus on his moral failure – far too dangerous for the first sermon you get to preach at a church.

When it comes to superheroes I am not a fan. The goodies are always too good so to speak. They are virtuous, kind and 6ft 3 with blond hair – much like myself.

I have always been attracted to the villain, the bad guy – not because of some unmet need or desire to rebel  but because they are often the most interesting character in a movie. Their lives are complex, broken and in desperate need for a chance at redemption.

Hollywood for years have made millions/billions of dollars playing out this dualistic story of good vs evil. For so long the evil characters had to be super-evil and the good characters super good to make sure the audience knew who to support. In later more recent times, those lines have begun to blur as heroes have become more flawed and I would like to suggest more real.

Like everyone they struggle along in life, wrestling with thoughts of both good and evil.

You see the thing about David is he too struggled. We tend to skip over his affair with Bathsheba, his organised killing of her husband and the numerous lies and deceit he engaged in, moving on as quickly as we can or turning it into a talk about his great and honest friendship with Jonathan who pulled him up on it.

We talk about his great military victories, his dancing before the Lord  as a model for our worship – though I would counsel you not to follow his example too closely but I think we can learn much from his relationship with God as a model of how we can approach God ourselves.

It is necessary for us to do a quick trip through his life to understand much of how David relates to God so bear with me on the next few slides.

POWERPOINT x 3 David anointed king

POWERPOINT x 4 David and Goliath

POWERPOINT x 2 David chased by Saul

POWERPOINT x 1 David becomes King

POWERPOINT x 3 David and Bathsheba

POWERPOINT x 1 Solomon King

POWERPOINT (David’s Story)

We could read about David’s story in 1 and 2 Samuel, and a couple of chapters in 1 kings and 1 chronicles but where we really get to know David is in the psalms. David wrote over half of the psalms – well most scholars think so though it has become popular of late to suggest that all he did was compile them from other writers

–Nevertheless the Psalms show us his heart, his inner thoughts, his turmoil and most of all they show us an authentic, real relationship with a God who accepts us how we are. They show us what he was thinking as the events of his life unfolded.

 

The Psalms tend to be our default devotions don’t they? If we are honest with ourselves when we sit down to read our bible reading for the day and we find it is in Leviticus we are tempted to skip to the psalms. There is something about the psalms that make them more accessible, easy just to dive in and identify with. Plus aside from Psalm 119 they are shorter.

I want to suggest that our attraction to the Psalms is because they are real , David doesn’t mince words, he comes before God in his anger, in his disappointment, in his sorrow as well as his joy and love.

He says what we are sometimes thinking but hesitant to put words or indeed prayer to. Ursula called them David prayers – such an apt name.

Quite a few years ago there was a spectacularly stupid movie called what woman want starring George Clooney – who had the ability to be able to read women’s minds and know what they were thinking. Now don’t get me wrong that would be handy sometimes wouldn’t it.

But imagine if that was actually a possibility – I don’t know about you but I don’t think it would be pretty – especially when our line of thinking turned nasty or inappropriate but wait God has that ‘superpower’ – he is omniscient – the flash word for all –knowing. So we may as well tell him how we are feeling instead of stewing inside.

There is something refreshing about hearing David’s heart.

I really struggle with fake – it has the potential to annoy me almost more than anything else. I hate game-players, I’d rather that people were straight with me. But that doesn’t give you permission to come and tell me my preaching was terrible after the service!

Kidding – you can if you want.

Last year we spent a short time in the Netherlands and Germany among other places. And one of the things I appreciated was the candour of the people – they just say it how it is. Now obviously there is a line between just plain rude and real  but I think in New Zealand we are a long way from being real let alone being rude.

We are the masters of the euphemism. Most of us do it everyday – most of us have probably done it as we walked into church this morning. If I wasn’t preaching about it I would have done it too.

How are you doing?

Good.

What does that mean? For most of us it means – I’m not telling you how I really am.

And to some extent that is fine  – we shouldn’t really be going around spilling everything to everybody but what about people you have relationship with?

What about God?

What can’t you tell him this morning?

POWERPOINT (Some Questions)

At the church we were in before Elim or LBE – Life Before Elim – there was one person who you wouldn’t answer that question with good – because he would respond with really?

It’s a bit harder to lie twice to someone’s face

The difference is that I knew he actually wanted to know.

There might be many who don’t want to know what is going on in your life right now but there is at least one who wants to hear your heart – and that is God

Can I share with you a pet hate? Of course I can I have the microphone – ah ah ha.

Shop assistants – especially checkout operators – sorry Holly – I know this is related to your area of work but really if you ask me how I am at least pretend that you are listening.

Now maybe Wanganui isn’t as bad as Hamilton where we used to live  – and actually to be honest so far people seem much more inclined to engage here.

It is said that when you move towns there is a period of time where you can walk in to shops and no one recognises you but there comes a point where facial recognition occurs and you will be met with a knowing smile. I suspect that it happened fairly quickly for us and I put that all down to this.

POWERPOINT (Amelia)

But before she came along I managed to pick up first-hand experience of the not engage phenomena.

For me the pinnacle of this came when Harrison was born. Long time to hold on to bitterness 7 and a half years!

On March 25th 2008 I drove home from the hospital at about 9.30pm at night and stopped in at the supermarket having not really eaten for who knows how long.

Making my way through the checkout – usual routine. In my somewhat comatose state I made the mistake of responding to the ‘how was your day?’ question honestly.

“Our first child was born today – I’ve just come from the hospital.”

“that’s nice – that will be $12 thanks.”

I have spent some time framing this in a negative sense this morning but let’s flip it on its head for a moment.

How are you?

I’m really good – I’ve had a great week. God has been doing such and such in my life. Oh did that feel awkward? It does to most of us because as hard as it is to say I’m not good it is sometimes just as hard to say something positive.

You see the other side of David is the number of times God came through for him and we have that testimony in the Psalms as well.  Can I encourage you to share the good as well as the bad. One of the things that we have come to appreciate here at Elim is family time where as simple as it may be people can share about something they have achieved. It is about celebrating the good . And all Good is from God. I’m just saving up all my certificates so when I come up I can have the whole basket.

I guess I’d better get to the Bible

Let’s turn to Psalm 140

POWERPOINT (Psalm 140 spread over two slides) I’ll read it out

1-5 God, get me out of here, away from this evil;
protect me from these vicious people.
All they do is think up new ways to be bad;
they spend their days plotting war games.
They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt,
speak venomous words that maim and kill.
God, keep me out of the clutch of these wicked ones,
protect me from these vicious people;
Stuffed with self-importance, they plot ways to trip me up,
determined to bring me down.
These crooks invent traps to catch me
and do their best to incriminate me.

6-8 I prayed, “God, you’re my God!
Listen, God! Mercy!
God, my Lord, Strong Savior,
protect me when the fighting breaks out!
Don’t let the wicked have their way, God,
don’t give them an inch!”

9-11 These troublemakers all around me—
let them drown in their own verbal poison.
Let God pile hellfire on them,
let him bury them alive in crevasses!
These loudmouths—
don’t let them be taken seriously;
These savages—
let the Devil hunt them down!

12-13 I know that you, God, are on the side of victims,
that you care for the rights of the poor.
And I know that the righteous personally thank you,
that good people are secure in your presence.

Commentators believe that David wrote this Psalm during the time that King Saul was pursuing him. So it gives us some context for David’s complaints. David was chased by Saul for four years. That’s a long time to be without a permanent home, always looking over your shoulder to see if a mad king is tailing you. It is understandable that after this time you’d be a bit ticked off. Remember that David had been anointed as King seven years previous.

Often we know that we have been called to something be that full-time ministry in a church or indeed another profession but it takes an awful long time for the promise to come to fruition. In fact what often happens is that things actually turn against us and the dream seems even further away than it did when we first got it. We can feel like God has forgotten us, left us and put us out to pasture.

POWERPOINT (Some Questions #2)

Don’t give up on it, like Joseph and David sometimes the opposition is preparation for what God has in store for us. It’s really easy to become a bit confused and depressed about our situation. What David does is tell God all about his feelings, he doesn’t internalise his anger, he expresses it.

Sometimes the church have convinced people that you aren’t allowed to be angry with God, so they become more and more disillusioned with God and unfortunately end up walking away.

I had this situation in just the last few weeks with a friend who was on staff with me at Gateway.

She has been through some disappointments in her life, she has stopped attending church and told me she isn’t sure she even trusts God’s character anymore. That is a tragic comment to make but her next comment was what saddened me most.

“There’s not a heck of a lot of people who can sympathise with my position it seems. And Christians are loathe to offer their opinion because they know it won’t help”

 

We need to be real with people as well as God. Ursula spoke so insightfully about this a few weeks back when she spoke about understanding people who have been through the same things as you, so I won’t stay here except to say that sometimes our so-called wisdom is just mere platitude and people who are hurting see right through it.

What I like about David is that there’s no sugar coating here, no tip toeing around God lest he offends him. Some of what he says is the equivalent of Christian swearing. Telling God he wants people to go to the hot place so to speak.

It might just be me but I can’t see this Psalm ever making it to song from like so many other psalms do.  It would be really interesting to hear the worship team singing

These loudmouths—
don’t let them be taken seriously;
These savages—
let the Devil hunt them down!

Maybe Zoe could write an arrangement for us.

The other thing about this psalm is there are No thus sayeth the Lord’s. – though that could be down to the fact that we read from the message version!

I want to say something about language here and now I am going to plead ignorance here – so if I offend someone with what I say next  I am just going to use the ‘I didn’t know ‘ card after all I haven’t heard how most of you pray yet.  Growing up I went to a church where occasionally we had a time of open prayer where anyone could pray.

One guy had a particular way of praying that just felt terribly unnatural and to be honest with you terribly distracting. He was a serial user of God’s name.

Father we come to you Father and Father this morning Father we ask you Father to bless us Father.

Now this was made worse by my mother who would sit counting the number of fathers that were uttered but the point is, do we talk like this normally??

It just reminds me of salespeople who cold call and having found out what your name is, proceed to insert it as often as they can.

Shannon, I’m calling to day to offer you a special price Shannon on our superb range of pens Shannon. Would you be interested in that Shannon. At which point I hang up but you get what I mean.

Now I must say if this is how you normally talk then your expression of relationship with God is just as valid as anyone else but if this morning it is something that we feel we need to put on to be accepted I want to give you permission to come before God without the trappings of religiosity.

God truly does accept us as we are – we don’t need special words or clothes.

POWERPOINT (Angry Psalms The Start)

We won’t go through these this morning and in fact I’m nearly done but if you are interested in having a look at some examples – they are on the screen for you to furiously scribble down . Not all of these are David but they follow the same pattern. Blatant raw honesty.

I do want us to note one thing here though is how each Psalm finishes.

POWERPOINT (Angry Psalms The End)

Each Psalm apart from Psalm 44 ends making some statement about God’s nature. It’s my guess that the writer probably didn’t really feel the truth of those words right there and then but nevertheless the words are true. There is a danger in drowning in our own anger and frustration and like my friend I mentioned earlier my counsel is to make sure you are talking to someone about it. Sometimes we do need to remove ourselves from the situation but not for too long. The longer we avoid the easier it is to never come back. And likewise sometimes we don’t come back because we don’t trust in the truth about God’s nature, fearing that somehow he might not forgive us or be happy with us. We read the end of the psalm but struggle to accept that it could possibly apply to our situation.

 

POWERPOINT (David inspires us to…)

It is then that we need to go back to the grand narrative of our faith. When Jesus died for us on the cross the curtain was ripped, granting us authority to step in to the holy of holies.  The Old Testament way of sacrifice was done away with. He desires us to come to him as little children.

Have you wondered what that means – it means without pretence, without the sophistication that we as adults adopt. We are really good at complicating things, making excuses why we can’t come to him.

The story of David lets us in on the good news that we can never be good enough or indeed bad enough for God.

Let’s pray

 

 

 

 

Email Fatigue

It seems like email has become a bit passe of late. Have we become bored with email? Or i think more likely irritated by its frequency in our inbox? An email these days is as likely to elicit a response as the phone going at dinner time (which we all know is either a telemarketer or someone calling to tell us our computer has a problem).
Speaking of the humble phone – whatever happening to Hey-tel – it also seems to have become relegated to a thing of the past. It was perhaps the beginning of the end being a kind of halfway house between email and using the phone.
If we really want something done or require an instant response today then shock horror we may actually have to speak to someone in person.
I just hope that after so many years of facebooking and tweeting and emailing we haven’t forgot the art of conversation.
Check out the following quote – it seems that NZ are lagging behind…

“Americans are suffering from “email fatigue.” At least that’s the take away from a new study from marketing service provider Implix, which found that Americans are one of the least likely groups to open emails worldwide. ”

i wonder what the stats might show now?

Unfortunately for some of you – you have already stopped reading because you have what social media commentators are calling “blog Fatigue”

next week it’ll be back to writing telegrams!

28 days later (+ 2)

How time flies…i knew it had been a while since i last posted but where did that month go? The end of the financial year happened, which for me is a busy time with my involvement with our accounts, I preached on the 1st of April (no joke) and life just seemed to get crazy busy.

But the world goes on…or does it? Sometimes it just isn’t worth watching the news on T.V. What passes for being top news in NZ is pathetic. In general I think anything to do with Politics should be confined to the entertainment section of the news, news about the monarchy could be left out altogether, world news articles taken from NBC, CNN or any other American based broadcast or station with three letters except the BBC, should include subtitles that actually explain what is going on without all the spin and the weather should be visual with no irrelevant comedy acts from the weather presenters.

Which basically leaves local news and sport. By the time we take out any sports item involving Sonny-Bill or Dan Carter, sports would be reduced to five or six minutes and if we do the same with local news – that is remove any item involving cute animals or ACC then our entire news broadcast could be 10 minutes.

I could save the networks millions of dollars and I haven’t even started on the ‘pretend to be investigative journalism’ of Mark Sainsbury and John Campbell.

So do i watch the news? Yes I record it and watch it on fast forward – takes 15 or so minutes – give it a try!

Palm Sunday – our response

(A message I gave on April 1st – though having read it again this morning the live version was slightly different, so for those of you who heard it, this edition may not contain some asides, deviations, ad-libs, rabbit trails etc )

Opening slide with Genealogies title

Our response to Jesus.

Good morning

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Shannon. I am on staff here at Gateway and i look after the finances, internship programme and have just begun to look at our connect group area as well.

As you can see we are going to cover the most riveting of topics this morning.

Actually we aren’t – most of you will know that today is April Fools day so i thought i’d just give you all a little scare.

What I would like to explore with you this morning is the importance of days. We are in the midst of some important days in our calendar right now. Significant days.

Slide with real title – Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday. It is not something that is acknowledged in non-liturgical traditional churches that much but it is a significant day.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 21 where we find a description of what transpired on this day.

Powerpoint of below scripture

1-3When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

4-5This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

Tell Zion’s daughter,
“Look, your king’s on his way,
poised and ready, mounted
On a donkey, on a colt,
foal of a pack animal.”

6-9The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

10As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

11The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”

This act by Jesus was truly significant. For those who took part in the parade they knew exactly what was transpiring before them. This was Jesus again confirming that he was the promised Messiah, the king. For those in the crowd they realised that something important was happening but they did not know exactly what.

The authorities response was one of wanting to silence the parade

The challenge for each of the groups was the question “what next?”

Powerpoint slide- what next?

And the question remains the same for us today – what next?

There are a number of responses to a significant event.

The first is ‘so what?’

Powerpoint slide so what

The so what response can come from different angles.

The first angle is one of a lack of understanding. For some who looked on Palm Sunday they did not understand what was transpiring. All they saw was a strange man riding on a scruffy donkey.

They did not read the signs. Late last year Don did a series on semiotics , reading the signs.

Powerpoint slide below scripture

1 Chronicles 12:32 From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.

Ignorance is something we should not be accused of. As followers of Christ we are called to be aware of the times and signs that surround us. Not in a spooky, look for the end times Armageddon style of things but in a way that we are open to seeing significant moments in our lives.

Don and Karen are in LA right now taking a conference on ‘end times’. One of the reasons they asked Don to speak on that subject was because of the hysteria and mixed messages about the world ending this year on December 21st because of what can allegedly be derived from looking at the Mayan calendar. Whilst the contents of Revelation are indeed hard to understand and i certainly don’t claim to know what on earth it is all about, we are called to meditate on the word and try and discern with the help of the holy spirit what is means for us today – yep the question ‘what next?’

When we fail to understand something it is easy to have the same response as some of the crowd, so what?

There are many ‘so what’ responses in the Bible to significant moments. Judas is one who though he was party to Jesus’ most intimate moments, responded with so what. Think about the things he saw and experienced being a close member of the pack. He saw Jesus heal hundreds of people, he saw Jesus turn water into wine yet when it came to his life his response was so what. His desire to serve himself overrode the significance of the time.

He consciously chose to shut them out of his sphere and mind. Was ignorance at play in Judas’ case? Maybe it was but i find it hard to believe that after spending so much time with Jesus that he just didn’t get it.

I guess this is what i am talking about when i said ‘so what’ can come from different angles. So what can be an ‘indifference’ choosing to ignore the implications of a situation, or it can be one of genuine lack of understanding.

I don’t think Jesus has a problem with us genuinely not understanding.

Powerpoint slide below scriptures

James 1.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Give me understanding, that I may keep Your law; yes, I will observe it with my whole heart. Psalm 119:34

Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart. Psalm 51:6

With the aged [you say] is wisdom, and with length of days comes understanding. But [only] with [God] are [perfect] wisdom and might; He [alone] has [true] counsel and understanding. Job 12: 12-13

So i think that’s fairly clear  – if you don’t know then ask.

Another response we can have to Jesus is what would you have me do?

The rich young ruler is the man who uttered this phrase as he came to Jesus asking what he must do to enter the kingdom of heaven. This was a significant moment for him but what was his real response to this event? That’s right his inner response was ‘that’s too hard’. The cost was too much. The actions required of him were more than he could comprehend. So the advice of Jesus fell to the ground heard but not acted upon.

I wonder how many people on Palm Sunday saw the parade, asked someone what it meant and asked the question what should i do? I wonder how many when they were told that they were to leave what they were doing and follow Jesus responded in their hearts, it’s too hard or it’s too much.

When it comes down to it cost is always a big factor in deciding just what out next course of action will be.

Let’s look at someone who had to risk paying a cost.

 

 

Esther, the cost of speaking to the King could very well have been her life. She had a choice to make, knowing the cost . her initial response was the same as the rich young ruler, it’s too much, it’s too hard. But over time, she began to weigh the cost and the cost of not acting became too much as well. If Esther had not acted then and there it would have most likely meant the extinction of her own race.

It got me thinking what if people in our history had said it’s too much or it’s too hard rather than choosing to pay the cost.

What if those men and women who went to war for us had said that? What if martin luther king jr had said that, what if joan of arc or nelson Mandela had said it’s all too hard or what if jesus of Nazareth had said it’s too much.

It doesn’t bear thinking about does it. I don’t want to sound like these are easy decisions because i don’t believe they are but i do think it is up to us to make the most of our significant moments.

The othe party in the mix on Palm Sunday were the rulers and authorities of the day.

And some of the Pharisees from the multitude said unto him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said, I tell you that, if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.

(Luk 19:39-40)

What was their response?

 

Powerpoint slide be quiet

 

The Pharisees did understand what was happening. They just didn’t want to accept it. If anyone should have known what was going on then it was them. They were well versed in the scriptures. So their response to Jesus was to try and minimise the effect he was having.

Before we get stuck into them it might pay us to examine our hearts when it comes to the noise that God can stir up. Sometimes when God is moving or let’s say entering into a situation we are involved in, it can be noisy, it can be messy , it can be like a parade and disrupt everything around it, drawing others attention. I think it is almost a human reaction for us to want to tone it down a little, not too much exuberance, not too much noise.

Our response can be not now God, or perhaps not in that way Jesus.

I have spent a bit of time talking about how not to respond so it’s only fair that we quickly look at how best to respond when God encounters us.

Ephesians 5 15-17 tells us to

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

 

So how do we make the most of every opportunity.

I think the first thing we can do is to remember our encounters – mark them in some way. It’s easy to have a ‘conference’ moment of ecstasy and then carry on like nothing has happened. You all know what i’m talking about don’t you. It’s the time when you go to a conference, get all fired up, have an experience with God, resolve to change or do something and then Monday comes and the conference mos’ well not have ever happened.

I want to show you three short video clips. Three events that if you were alive you will remember.

3 videos – moon/9/11/diana

Who remembers where they were on these days cue video. Moon landing (30 secs), 9/11 (45seconds) diana death
(42 seconds)(5 minutes total?)

When major events happen in our world strangely a large number of us can recall exactly where we were and or what we were doing. But how many of us can recall so many details about our encounters with God?

We read time and time again in the old testament about how Moses built altars every time something happened, as did Saul and Joshua.

Obviously we are probably not going to go out the back of our property , gather some stones and construct an elaborate altar – although i am sure it could be fun.

So i am going to suggest something that i am a total failure at!

Journalling… yep – you’ve heard it before. Keep a journal. I think i have heard it at least a couple of dozen times and do you think i can do it.

Actually if i were to pile up all the journals i have started and never continued with i could make a pretty decent altar.

Only once have i kept what could be considered a successful journal but then i read back over it and found it so depressing that i have never really captured the motivation to do it again.

But for me this is a classic example of do as i say and not as i do.

Obviously writing something down is a good thing to do – whether it be in the traditional form of a journal or some other creative form like this polystyrene cone. We made these cones last year for interns. I was actually looking for polystyrene bricks  but hey we made do with cones. On this cone are words and phrases that represent significant days/ encounters in my life. Maybe that might work for you –

 

Once we have recorded /remembered then we must ask the question i posed a the very start of the message.

Powerpoint slide what next God?

What next God?

This is the hardest question because it requires us to listen not only with our ears but with our hearts also. The answer may be something we don’t wish to hear.

 

It might be like the answer that follows not long after Palm Sunday. An answer that outlined that jesus would die and be raised three days later. Jesus used the metaphor of the temple to explain it to his disciples but they did not catch on at all. It wasn’t until after the fact that it dawned on them that jesus was talking about himself. Maybe they didn’t want to know, maybe it was just too cryptic for them – who knows.

Whatever the answer may be our challenge is to do something with it – don’t just write it down and leave it for the silverfish to move in.

For some people palm Sunday happened and nothing changed for them – don’t let that happen for you.

Powerpoint slide KONY 2012.

A lot of you will know what kony 2012 is about  – you may have seen the video or heard about it.

Now i know that there are some questions and controversies surrounding the organisation and its founders but the issue does remain that there is injustice and we are responsible.

This video has had 86 million views as of Thursday last week. It has been shared on Facebook , written about on blogs, talked about on the news.

If Kony 2012 is a palm Sunday event for you then let it change you, don’t just share it on facebook, don’t just like it or watch it on youtube. Let the message change your heart, your behaviour, your attitude to injustice.

Today on this palm Sunday when we are encountered by God let our response be What next Lord?

 

Powerpoint slide what next god?

The power of Sport and the Simon Doull Mask

Over the past few days i have spent some time among those who gathered at Seddon Park to watch the second cricket test between South Africa and New Zealand.

Now i am not one to go to the cricket to socialise, i am far more inclined to sit with my headphones on and not talk to anyone but the friendliness of those who come to watch makes that a hard prospect.

For the three days that the test lasted i sat with a couple from Palmerston North who had travelled up the country to watch the sport they loved. Each day we met under the same tree, discussed the cricket, among other things and said goodbye at the end of each day.

We were joined by others, three older men, South Africans, who were probably much happier with the result than we were but nevertheless shared a commmon passion for Test Cricket. The second day we were joined by an englishman who readily identifies himself as a kiwi and a new conversation began. We found out his wife is due with their second child in early September, runs an early childhood centre and that he is a big fan of Doctor Who.

Sport has the power to break down social and nationalistic barriers. People are happy to acommodate others when you are all there for the same reason. It’s no problem to squeeze another chair under the tree when you all share a love for the game.

Over the three days only one incident stood out as incongruent to the general nature at the park. A groups of creative but seriously inebriated young men were escorted from the ground. Their Simon Doull masks were well-made, their way of smuggling alcohol into the ground was ingenious but the behaviour that followed drew the attention of the security and police and inevitably led to them leaving.

It becomes obvious to all around when someone or a group of someones is pulling in a direction that the majority aren’t. They make more noise, they draw attention to themselves, they are the one person not wearing green on St Patrick’s Day in an Irish pub.

That can be both good and bad. If it is the status Quo or an injustice that is being challenged then that’s all good but when that group are just plain misguided or wrong then sooner or later the inevitable will happen and the very arena in which they wished to have their voice heard will become off-limits to them.

Shame about the cricket.

The Power of Social Media

WARNING: A rant follows that aims to change the way you think. Beware the power of the blog – the pinnacle of social media!

This week we have witnessed just what power social media has, but I can’t help but wonder if it is really a ‘weapon of mass destruction’. I won’t even attempt to hazard a guess as to how many views the Kony 2012 campaign has managed by the time this post is published. But I can have a guess as to how many people will do anything aside from watch it and feel hatred for the man. – The answer, very few. You see social media does well at distribution but scores poorly when it comes to action.

Our culture thrives on the emotions evoked when we have a cause to ‘get involved in’ but the numbers that actually take any action betrays the general apathy and selfishness that pervades us. Many will say “well I shared the link, I’ve done my part” and for some that will constitue ‘getting involved’ but I ask you; this is not the first time Invisible Children have released a video to draw attention to the plight of Uganda, It hasn’t worked before and the odds of it working this time are equally as remote. Until social media can mobilise  – yes that means move (read action) people then all it will achieve is a groundswell of words and posts on facebook and the like. It will be like a WMD – seemingly threatening but with  no real power to change the status quo.

I watched as the inevitable counter-arguments surfaced after the inital honeymoon period for the video wore off. Out came the accusations of corruption in the very charity that is trying to put a stop to Kony, and from what I can ascertain, the accusations seem plausible; but that is not my point. If we can distance ourselves from having to take action then we will. Sometimes that will take the form of discrediting the most obvious path to action, sometimes it will look like the ol’ “well others are helping – they’ve got it sorted” or the perennial, “it’s just too big a task for me to be able to make a difference”

When something truly affects us, we will be moved to action. The corruption of our own hearts betrays us. In the end most of us are in it for ourselves.

Let’s try and remove all the hype, politicking and populist rhectoric and get real with ourselves. Let the plight of others and the social injustices of this world touch our hearts and instead of just sharing a link on facebook – find a path to action.

Ironically this very blog is a great example of what I am getting at. Many of you will agree with my thoughts, some won’t. Some of you will share it, others will read it and move on. I hope that maybe some will make a decision to embrace the thoughts and ideas and do something with them.

But I know me, so I know something of you, until it affect me personally i will remain blissfully unmoved – how about you?

The art of asking questions

The Art of Asking Questions.

For those of us who lead primarily discussion-based groups, the art of asking the right question is vitally important. We all know those awkward moments when the set of questions we have spent so much time crafting is met by a simple yes, no and the conversation is over in five minutes thirty seconds.

What can seem like great conversation starters often elicit ‘pat’ answers and don’t draw the attendee into the realm of sharing on a shallow basis let alone exposing their heart to the group. So how can we get people to feel comfortable about answering questions?

The following suggestions are taken from a site designed for student ministry www.XP3Students.org.nz. I have adapted them for our purposes.

  1. Think through the questions ahead of time (and I would add, think through the questions that your topic might cause others to ask). Try to eliminate questions that can easily be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.
  2. Ask questions that are easily understandable and use everyday language. How many times do we ask a question only to find that the next ten minutes are spent by people trying to clarify what we meant by the question?
  3. Use your imagination. Find ways to ask questions that stimulate people’s imagination. Something visual can open up new ways of looking at things and sometimes allow people to answer questions in different ways.
  4. Maintain eye contact. Looking down at your notes is unlikely to encourage others to jump in, they will instead wait for you to carry on with your notes.
  5. Don’t settle for the ‘correct’ answers. If someone does give you the ‘pat’ answer then press them for details. We all know the right answer but what do we actually mean by them or do we even believe them?
  6. Tension is good. Don’t be scared of disagreements or diverging opinions. Obviously it is important to manage these well. Some personalities will just argue for argument’s sake, however when pressed you may find that they don’t actually believe what they are saying.
  7. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”. If you don’t know the answer that’s fine. It is a great opportunity for others to jump in and give their opinion. It also avoids the trap of people becoming reliant on you as their “leader” with all the answers.
  8. Be focussed. Keep everyone on track. Rabbit trails can be fun but they are often mired in trivialities that whilst interesting, may just be a way of someone avoiding having to answer a pertinent question.
  9. Answer first. You set the bar for the level of sharing that will occur. Early in your discussion model what you want, hopefully others will follow your lead.
  10. Seek multiple answers. Even if the first person who answers covers the majority of the topic at hand, ask others for their response. This will stop one person dominating the group.

 

I hope you find these helpful. If you would like the original document, I am happy to scan it and email it to you. Let me know.

Shannon

Alpha and modern-day evangelism

Yesterday i spent my Saturday listening to Jonathan Hesp, the National Director Of Alpha. Alpha has been around for more than two decades. It is a course based on teaching the foundations of the christian faith to both those who believe and those who don’t.

Whilst the format has changed over the years from VCR to DVD, the message remains the same.There is much i could expand on regarding content and the influence and reach of the course but what perhaps struck me the most was that only 11 people were in attendance & of those 7 came from one church from outside of Hamilton.

For me the questions and thoughts go like this…are we not concerned about reaching the lost anymore? Are we too cynical about running programmes? Have we become so ‘post-modern’ that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and are afraid to ask people what they might think of Jesus in case they disagree with us?

Of course they will disagree with us…but that should be okay, at least we are engaging in conversation. Today people like to talk about what they believe in and contrary to what most of us christians think they are actually quite okay about us not sharing the same beliefs as they do.

One phrase that stayed with me from Saturday. is to not say no for people, this tied in closely with inviting people. It is so easy to say no for someone else, especially when that ‘no’ lets us off the hook.

The power of an invitation is unmeasurable and let’s face it, the worse case scenario is a ‘no’. Perhaps it is about time that we realised that we have something to offer people. Whether you want to call it hope or acceptance or grace it doesn’t really matter, the main thing is that we take the plunge and give people a chance to receive that which we already know.

A course like Alpha is a tool – it makes it easier for us to progress after the invitation but regardless of course or no course, relationship will always be the opener for conversation. Our challenge is to open our mouth and our hearts and let God do the rest.

 

…and the Apple.

600 pages later or approximately 12458 location points in Kindle language, the apple has finally been eaten. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs’ paints a fascinating picture of the classic tortured genius.

The book tells of a man who had extraordinary vision and could imagine what the world needed (according to him) yet had no people skills whatsoever. Steve Jobs lived in a world that not many others could even envisage or even desire to envisage. He possessed the ability to create his own reality, all be it distorted from truth. This reality determined how he lived, how he related, created and sadly how he eventually succumbed to cancer.

His version of reality ignored problems, sickness, unwanted press, in fact anything that Jobs did not want in his ideal world. His desire to control his world translated into the products we now use like the iPad and iPhone and consequently put him on a track that philosophically opposed that of the other great technology pioneer of his era, Bill Gates. Closed vs Open separated the two and led to their friendship ending acrimoniously.

The book is a great insight into the world of Apple, Pixar and even Disney and the impact of Jobs in making them successful companies. The way certainly wasn’t smooth for any of them but what creative enterprise ever is?

Possibly the most disturbing part of the book is how poorly Jobs treated his staff. There was certainly no encouragement and he had a nasty habit of stealing people’s ideas and making them his own. Add in his unrealistic expectations of how quickly things could be done and Apple sounds like it would be the last place someone would want to work. Obviously the pay rates must more than make up for the working environment.

So would i still buy an Apple after reading the book? Well i own an iPhone and an iPad but if anyone stuck their hand up and said that they wouldn’t touch Apple because of their ethical and philosophical viewpoints, i could understand.

So what does the future ‘post-Jobs’ hold for Apple? If the book is to be believed, and i see no reason to doubt it, then Jobs provided the drive and vision for the company – yes his staff had ideas but they would not have gone anywhere without him. Apple need another visionary leader to continue being the industry  leading company that they are, one with some people skills and some better ethics i dare say, otherwise companies like Google and microsoft will catch up …eventually.

signing off…(on my PC!)

The Firstborn

The firstborn advantage by Dr Kevin Leman ended up being of little advantage to me unfortunately. I discovered that whilst I am the oldest child in my family (so supposedly ‘first-born’), I do not exhibit the typical traits of a first-born. In fact i don’t fit into any of the boxes in particular.

Now either this is me rebelling against society and not wanting to be stereo-typed or i am just so unique that i have created another box just for myself. It is a bit like all those people who try to be different and then all the ‘different’ people hang out together and realise they have created a box called “different’.

But in all seriousness perfectionism, extreme confidence, high achiever, driven, self assured just aren’t me. Yes i have the highly analytical bit but that is about all.

Now the way to explain all this is apparently a dysfunctional childhood so i guess i am going to have to go for that. But doesn’t everyone have a dysfunctional childhood?

For me this book fits into the category of another one of those books that works for 50% of the population and thus its value lies in the land of the ‘just majority’. A lot of people will fit the descriptions but a lot of people won’t. For now i am happy being a ‘rogue’ personality with my own little box. But maybe that’s just a hidden trait of the closet first-born, who knows?