From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Genesis 14: 18-20, Psalm 24, John 10: 10-18, Hebrews 5: 1-10

Is Bigger better? If it is better, then who is it better for? How does Bigger affect the personhood of the one eking out an existence trying to keep their family alive and hoping that something will change in the near future so that at least those who come after them will also have a piece of the Bigger pie? How does Bigger affect the dignity of those who do not share in the fiscal side of the business; Big business, Big church, Big portions, Big political ideologies (Socialism, Capitalism, Communism, any ism by any other name), Big profit (for someone, not for everyone – it can never be for everyone).

How does Bigger affect the relationships that are meant to exist amongst the people of God – it may draw us together as we complain about how expensive everything is getting; but then we only create a Bigger darkness than the darkness that already exists. It is when we are pitted against an enemy we cannot defeat (because they are Big) that we either give up or we fight against the system in ways that we can. It is normally those who are coming into this system just out of the idealism of youth who fight (because they still have the energy to fight). We fight against each other, we steal from each other and in small ways we emulate the methods of those who do it in the name of provision for all; we do Big business on a small scale.

A farming conglomerate who would mass produce a vegetable and flood the market with their goods destroys the little farmers who were a part of the community and helping the community be subsistent; who were helping ensure that there is dignity for all because everyone still has a name and that name is not Consumer. Big business prevents people from being producers and converts them all into users; and then baptises them all with the name Consumer in the name of the market and of the coin and of the cheque (the promise). This system stops us from being useful and helpful and caring because we are too busy surviving. In a village, we do not survive; we live. Bigger turns the villages into a part of the whole in order to milk the whole.

Any system that turns us from a person into an unknown entity, from a people into the masses is a system that is bigger than us and any system that is bigger than us and has control over our thoughts and our natural instinct to care for each other is a system we have turned into a god.

God came to decentralise the market. He came to restore dignity to each individual, because every single person who has been born and will be born, every single individual who makes up the masses is worthy of a name. Every single person who takes a breath is worthy of making a significant difference with that breath. Jesus has experienced our life and has experienced the struggle between comfort and love, He has experienced the conflict between the community and the institution; He has experienced the pain between the ordained of God and the self-ordained. This is how we know that He helps us in our struggle as we wrestle with what is truly important (friendship) and what is only self-importance.

God is BIG, but God does not get lost in the Big. God is about each one of us. One at a time. God is outside of time and so He does not have to teach many at one time because He can afford to help each one of us learn how to love and care and be useful. One at a time. God is about each one of us because Godly community can only be build by God’s people. Thank you Jesus for interceding on our behalf.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

Readings: Hebrews 4: 1-16, Psalm 95, Matthew 11: 1-6, 28-30

What does rest mean for you? Does rest mean that you spend an extra couple of hours in bed after you have turned off the alarm clock? Does rest mean that you vegetate out in front of the TV? Does rest mean that you get to spend a whole lot of time in the garden, either enjoying nature or helping God clean it up a little (many people enjoy garden work – some enjoy doing it and others enjoy watching it being done)? Does rest mean that you have to go away from your house and either take a drive or sit on the beach or climb a mountain? Does rest mean that you surround yourself with many people or does it mean that you shut yourself off to the outside world so that you can immerse yourself in a little bit of silence? Does rest mean that you get to do your work without interruptions or do you find the interruptions help you to rest from your work? What would your ideal form of rest be in this moment (because it may change at different times of our lives)?

When you rest in the way that you imagine resting should be done, do you feel refreshed after your rest, ready to take on the world of challenges that awaits us like a lion prowling at the door or do you feel tired but happy? Rest may not always leave us feeling refreshed. We may feel motivated or encouraged or inspired but sometimes we can be inspired and tired. A change might be as good as a holiday, but that doesn’t mean that we are no longer tired and in need of some time to allow our body to recover and heal from the way that we abuse it. It also doesn’t mean that we have had an opportunity to de-clutter our minds by spending some quality time with our thoughts as we reflect deeply on the issues we have bouncing around in our heads and never actually thinking through.

God invites us into a different kind of rest. It is a rest that can be experienced in whatever way we experience rest. It is a rest that can be experienced in whatever we are doing. It is a rest that will give us peace of heart and clarity of mind. It is a rest that will help us discern when to start and when to stop, when to rise and when to sleep, when to listen to our bodies and when to listen to the cries for compassion; when to be busy and when to be still. It is a rest that comes as a consequence of opening our hearts to receive the conviction of the Spirit that we are loved by God and the discernment that is a part of our being led by the Spirit. This rest comes when we sit in the presence of God and allow ourselves to be embraced by His beauty and wonder and glory, It is a rest that comes from opening our imaginations up to the big picture that is found in Christ because that helps us work out what is important and what is not, what is necessary and what is not, what is a priority and what is not. It is a rest that helps us work out what to take up and what to leave. It is the rest that comes from becoming a partner with God in His work of redemption and re-creation. It is a rest that comes from being still before God and allowing Him to gently speak His peace into our lives and allowing Him to clearly sound the call to justice and mercy. It is a rest that comes from being still before God and knowing that He is God.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

A person is in trouble. One friend says they must be guilty of something because the trouble wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t done something wrong to deserve it. Another friend says that they will stand by them when the trouble comes. A third friend says that they will help them through this troubled time.  A fourth friend says that they will call in a few favours so that the trouble will go away.

Which of these friends are right and true and good; which of these friends would you consider the friend you would like to have and the friend you would like to be? There is no right or wrong answer – they are all right and all wrong because even though we don’t know what the trouble is, we recognise that we allow one friend closer to our hearts than another friend – on a scale of friends and acquaintances each one will do and say what they have been given the right to do or say in the person’s life. There are those we feel safe with and those we don’t feel safe with. There are those who we will allow to speak into our lives to a significant degree and there are those who we will listen to without taking to heart what is being said. It may be that the better friend would tell us to live with the consequences of a stupid action because we have not learned from previous experience or the better friend could be the one who will do all they can do to help us deal with a situation that is outside of our ability to deal with, but either way they will only be able to say and do what we give them the right to say or do.

The truest friend though is the one that will do whatever they need to do because they know that this is how God has called them to respond to this particular need in this particular moment. The truest friend is the one who walks closely with God and will help us to walk intimately with God. The truest friend is the one who can speak honestly about our faults and our failures because we trust them enough with ourselves to allow them into our hidden bits without fear that they want to hold us ransom in our moment of weakness or exert power over us.

James has a beautiful way of calling us all to be true friends; to be brothers and sisters born of God and brought together in the family of Christ. In all areas of life we are called to allow those we are in a relationship of trust with to be a part of our troubles because we need their wisdom and the wisdom of God; to be a part of our celebrations because we need them to help us appreciate the value of the celebration and to help us give expression to that; to be a part of our weakness because we need them to surround us with the love that brings healing, the love that flows from the healing love of God. We are to be that friend because that is what it means to be righteous, and with God’s help we can.

Gavin  

From Gavin’s Desk

Who can give you peace? Where do you find peace? What is peace? Does it come from within ourselves? Does it come from something that is outside of ourselves? Does it come from something I do or does it come from something I receive? Does it come from not disagreeing with others even when we are not confident that they are right? Does it come from an acceptance that it will not always be easy and that relationships will always be hard and so I must resign myself to that fact? Does it come when we are being passive or does it come from being active?

Peace comes as a consequence of wisdom and understanding; wisdom and understanding that comes from God – I fear God (I am in awe of God and I am in love with God and I am not God) and I long for His Kingdom to be fully revealed and at work in the world I live in not because I am afraid that I will suffer but because I am afraid that the world will not know the beauty and wonder of perfect love; that the world will never really live before they die. “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9: 10, NIV).

As those who trust in God, peace is a consequence of being aware of God’s word for us and following through on that word. If I seek to be obedient to God and I do not have peace it either means I have not responded to God’s call or I have not heard God’s word clearly. How can we know peace when God’s word is being used to subject one person to the will of another? How can we know peace when one person is condemned to a life of poverty because we believe them to be cursed in accordance with God’s word? How can we have peace when God’s word is used to ensure some stay out of the Kingdom of God instead of God’s word being a call to open up the Kingdom of God for all people? How can I know peace when the Holy Spirit is aggrieved at all the abuses we perpetrate in the name of God (gender, race, age, sexuality, social standing)?

There is no peace that can exist when it stems from a wisdom of arrogance or insecurity because that can only bring jealousy and bitterness. That wisdom is not from God but it is foolishness that the world considers to be wisdom. That foolishness says that the fear of not being the fittest is the beginning of wisdom and a working knowledge of how to survive in this world is understanding. Survival does not bring peace.

Ensuring equality and justice for all is what brings peace. Making God’s love known is difficult because it is bringing the light into a darkness that does not want to be illuminated even though it needs to be illuminated. The most peaceful thing to do is not always the easiest thing to do, but unless we do it, we will not know the peace that stems from the call of the creator who offers us the privilege of restoring His Kingdom in the world, a Kingdom that belongs to all and is open for all.

Gavin  

From Gavin’s Desk

How many wars have been won or lost before they have even begun because of the words exchanged between the opponents? How many relationships have flourished or been doomed because of the words spoken between two people? It is in the words that are used (as well as the way in which they are used) that there is either encouragement or defeat. It is in the things that are said, either verbally or non-verbally that there is building up or breaking down. As powerless as we are over the world, we have all wrapped up within our mouth the power to change the course of history. How many speeches have led the masses to repentance and to reconciliation? How many speeches have incited the masses to hate and murder? How many speeches have been missed because the words that were used seemed to hold no significance or power for the people listening? The power of speech lies in the ability of the one speaking to articulate what they need to say clearly enough and it lies in those who listen to the words to the extent that they give authority to the one speaking to speak into their lives.

It would be great if we were all able to say what we wanted to say without any chance of being misunderstood but that is unfortunately not the realty we live with. Obviously we all receive and interpret the conversations we have differently and we are capable of receiving something positive out of a negative statement as well as receiving something negative out of a positive statement. I guess that has to do with what we expect to come from the person we are speaking to (whether it is justified or not because our expectations are not often based in reality – we often hear what we want to hear). When words are spoken; we hang on to the negative, in our insecurity, out of fear that the words may be true or we hold on to the positive because we have learned to trust that we are not who we fear we are.

While we do have the power of speaking life or death into the lives of those around us it is incredible how we can seek to do both at different times in the lives of the same people. This is not because of who they are but because of how we imagine they see us. Those who dwell in the misery of their insecurities are normally those who are in the habit of speaking negatively into most situations. Those who have received the peace of God are normally those who are in the habit of speaking positively. The way we speak is not fixed, but it is the habit we choose to form through practice. We can only consistently speak life when we experience the life that comes from a close walk with Christ and we desire that life for others. We can only consistently speak life when we discover the freedom from fear that we find in the perfect love of God. We can only consistently speak life when we are not afraid of what others may think because we have seen ourselves through the eyes of the God who loves us even to death on the cross. We can only consistently speak life when we love as God has taught us how to love. May the love in our hearts be evident in the words of our mouths.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

The sun comes up a little earlier, the days hold the promise of being a little warmer, the new shoots come through even though it is still cold; the possibility of a fresh start, of a reawakening and revitalising of the world and of our spirits has become a reality. Spring is such a wonderful promise of a milder cool from winter past and a milder warm of summer to come. In very few places will the weather change from the cold of winter to the warm of spring in the roll-over of the month on a calendar; in the space of the night between August and September, yet the promise of newness does seem to come in the space of that one evening.  Even though it remains cold, the cold has become bearable because it now holds the promise of warmth bound up within it. It has grown warmer after winter every year, as it has grown colder after summer every year and so spring brings the promise of a heat that will come because the heat has always come and there is not much you can do to stop it from coming.

The promise and the fulfilment are bound up in each other. If the promise had never been fulfilled, it would become nothing more than an empty promise that offers no hope. If the promise is always fulfilled, then the promise would hold great value because you can be sure of it; you can put your hope in it. The promise gives hope because we are sure of what we have not yet experienced in the present because we have experienced the fulfilment in another time and space. The fulfilment is the celebration of the promise because it is the fulfilment of the hope that was received in the promise.

Faith and works are bound up in each other. My faith in the work of Christ gives me hope that I will become more than I am now and it gives me hope that we will be more than we are now. That faith would be dead if I was not more now than I was before, if we were not more than we were before. The fulfilment of that hope convicts us that we can trust that this journey will continue to be a journey of becoming more than we are. God longs for us to grow into the image we were created in and part of that journey is the gift of helping each other on that journey, is the gift of caring for each other.

A life giving faith is a faith that has Christ at its centre; a life that is guided by the Holy Spirit. A life that is guided by the Holy Spirit results in us becoming the hands and feet of Christ. A life guided by the Holy Spirit is a life that gives life as the Holy Spirit gives life. The life of faith and the life of works are bound up in the Holy Spirit. Works that are not accompanied by our faith will die and faith that is not expressed through acts of mercy is dead.

Every day that we open ourselves up to be led by the Spirit of God is a day in which the hope of something better that is found in the promise will be fulfilled.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

Bible Readings: James 1: 1-27; Psalm 104: 24-35, Proverbs 8: 1-36

Why do we give gifts? There are many reasons for giving gifts, some righteous and some not so righteous but we know that ideally a gift that is given is a gift that should be given fully. When we give a gift, we give it because of who we are, not because of who the person is that we give the gift to. Whether they receive it or not, when we give a gift for a righteous reason, we give it because of our love for them or because we appreciate them or because we believe that this is the right thing to do (as an act of showing mercy or compassion); and it will always be because it is our way of expressing something about how we feel. We can encourage them to use it because we believe that it would make their life better, but if we hold them ransom to the gift; then we are not actually giving a gift, we are making a down payment on something we expect to be receiving in return. A gift that becomes payment for services we expect to be rendered can either be a bribe or it makes the recipient of the gift our puppet or prostitute. When we give out of fear, it is a bribe because we are hoping that this will sway the receiver to not be angry with us or hurt us or bring calamity upon our heads.

God gives good gifts. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17, NIV). When God gives us the gift of life, the gift of redemption, the gift of community, the gift of healing, the gift of salvation, the gift of peace with Him and every other good and perfect gift that He gives; He does not give it to us because of who we are, but He gives it because of who He is and He knows perfectly what we need. He gives it because as a perfect God and a perfect Father who is giving perfect gifts; the gifts will all make our lives better. They will all bring something beautiful out of every situation. They will bring life out of every death. God does not expect anything in return for His gifts except that we would use them because they make for a fulfilled life and they help us remain close to Him because God knows that remaining close to Him is the best place we could ever be. This is why He pours out His gifts of full life for all people and those who are willing to receive it will receive it.

Even though we hope that the gifts we give with a right heart will make the recipient’s life better, we are not always sure what they are going through or even what they really need and so more often than not, our gift giving becomes a case of best guess (even though some guesses are more educated than others). As if God was not the perfect gift giver; we so easily credit Him with bringing suffering and death as well as playing a divine lottery with His blessings, as we wait for Him to bring our ship in because that is what we ordered in the catalogue. If God does not delight in suffering or delight in death and if God does not tempt us, then how could this be from a good and perfect God? God does not bring suffering, death or temptation, but they are rather a consequence of our living apart from God, of disobedience to God’s guidance (not necessarily our own or even our generation’s disobedience) and so part of the gift that God gives us as we remain close to Him is that He draws us through death and is present with us in suffering and out of both, He brings life. Even though it is not from God; He will use it to help us onto maturity in our faith and maturity in our love because that is a part of God’s good and perfect gift.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

How much do you really know about yourself? Do you know your strength in the face of adversity? Do you know your ability to persevere under constant opposition? Do you know your weakness when faced with a vice? Do you know how well you can deceive yourself in the face of something you don’t want to believe is true of yourself or of something that affects you emotionally? Do you know the debilitating affect of your fears and your insecurities on your life? Do you know what your fears and insecurities are? Do you know the power of justice or of injustice that you bring with you when it is a part of a corporate push for justice or injustice? Do you know your potential for good? Do you know your potential for evil? Do you know the harmful effects of your stubbornness on your life and on the lives of others? Do you know the harmful effects of your apathy or feebleness on your life and on the lives of others?

Since theories of self-awareness started to raise their heads (before and after Freud), the common understanding has been that we are not aware of all that takes place within our psyche. We have been socialised to hold certain bias, we have been taught to respond in certain ways, we have internalised false truths that are maintained because they benefit us on some level even if it is unhealthy. We have been created with a rebellious nature that helps us to test our boundaries, discover our potential for greatness and helps us achieve it even in the face of evidence to the contrary; but the same rebellion becomes our obstacle to greatness when we fail to follow the wisdom set before us. We are created with certain defence mechanisms that are necessary for survival and growth but then they also become hindrances to the same. There is so much that we think we know, but clearly we don’t; which is why one theory after another finds its place in the sun – there is no ultimate theory devised by humans about our human condition that can claim to cover every base. The only theory that is inclusive is the one given by God Himself – in order to live fully into who we are created to be, we need the help of the One who created us. In all things, we respond “with God’s help I will” because there is so much about myself and the world that I do not understand. With God’s help I will not give up learning how to live in the fullness of the love of God. With God’s help I will not allow that which would distract me from my purpose to interfere with the fulfilment of my calling. With God’s help, I will continue to pay attention to the world and the work of God in it. With God’s help I will continue to be a part of “us” because it is when I am a part of “us” that I am able to become what I was meant to be because it is then that we become what we are meant to be.

Gavin

From Gavin’s Desk

There is a school of thought that says that we should say and do everything that we think and desire without guard because that is the healthiest thing for us to do as we are free to give expression to that which is within us. There is another school of thought (it is called the school of good sense through experience) that says that once we have said something, it cannot be unsaid, once we have done something it cannot be undone, once we have broken a trust, it cannot be unbroken; it can only be mended, but even in that, there will always be a scar or a mark that reminds us of the consequences of unguarded actions.

I believe that as we process any conversation, any setting, any action which we are a part of or which we are simply observing we have a multitude of thoughts and possible scenarios that run through our minds as we work out which one would be the best scenario for this given conversation, setting or action. Obviously since there are many possible scenarios that we process, we are unable to say or do all of them because they are often opposed and ultimately we would have to choose one scenario because we can’t simultaneously do or say all of them (once we have said or done something, the situation then changes and we need to process a different multitude of possible scenarios). The scenario that we select, the one that would often be the first one that comes to mind would be that which we spend most of our time considering, the one that we would consider most acceptable for us. We effectively train ourselves how to respond and react in any given situation.

We guard our thoughts (what we think about, what we listen to, what we watch) because our thoughts become our actions and our actions come to define us as they become the means by which we will be perceived by the people around us who will often bind us to that definition long enough for us to start believing that we are the person they think we are. It is often only when somebody comes along and offers us an alternative possibility as to who they can see us being that we begin to believe that about ourselves. We give others the power to influence our lives and our self-image, and often we give them too much power.

Paul calls the believers to allow God to influence their lives, he calls on them to allow God to be their first thought so that the first possible scenario that comes to mind in working out what to think or say or do would be one of building up instead of breaking down. With God as our first thought (and our last thought), we immerse ourselves in the love of God that is beyond understanding but is seen and testified to in the healing love of life that becomes a part of all we think and say and do. Think on the things of God and as you meditate on it day and night, allow it to become your first thought in everything.

Gavin