29/09/11 11:00 View entire series at: Letters To A Young Leader
Letters to a young leader is a series of leadership mentoring advice. It is written by Vic Francis who is the Chairman of the VCANZ board. Vic and his wife, Fran, pastor Shore Vineyards in Auckland and have four children.
Some things you need to know about God: God is nice and he likes you
“Tony dear, you will only be able to love when you understand how much you are loved.
You are loved, dear with a limitless . . . fathomless . . . all-embracing love.”
Father Joe to Tony Hendra in the book Father Joe
As a young Christian in the 1980s, I loved the comical-yet-profound writings of an English Anglican named Adrian Plass.
I was a pretty serious twentysomething following Jesus with great fervency and more than a little legalism, and yet Plass’ gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle prods at Christians and the church amused me in an I-hope-God-doesn’t-send-a-lightning-bolt kind of way.
So, as a Christian journalist, I was delighted when Plass came to New Zealand and I had a chance to hear him speak and to interview him. I asked this “great big yeti of a man” (his words) whether, among all his topics and characters and messages, he had one over-arching, fundamental theme.
He said something that I have found profound ever since: ”God is nice and he likes you.”
When God looks at you, does he smile or frown? Is he facing you or is his shoulder turned? Are his arms outstretched or are his hands in his pockets?
The answers you, or others, give to these questions will tell you a lot about how you or they see God. For some, God is distant, disinterested, judgmental. For others, he’s something of a Santa Claus, an endless source of blessing and gifts. For yet others, he’s mystical and unknowable.
In my early Christian years, I was definitely in the I’ve-got-to-work-hard-to-please-a-somewhat-disapproving God brigade. But Adrian Plass and others have convinced me that God is, indeed, nice and he likes me. It’s the foundation of my relationship with him and one that carries me through good times and bad.
Oh, there are plenty of times he doesn’t do what I want him to do. He’s certainly not a Santa Claus. But neither is he distant, disinterested and judgmental. My God looks at me and smiles. My God faces me directly. My God’s arms are outstretched. And that’s the God I want to introduce to my congregation.
What is your God like?
Next entry: God will not fit in your box
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27/09/11 11:00 View entire series at: Jesus - a murder mystery | Theology
Jesus - a murder mystery is a series of strong theology and thinking for the resurrection of Christ. It is written by Tim Denne from Harbour Vineyard who in his spare time likes to read theology.
The Living God
The question of why Jesus died has exercised minds for two millennia, and by this I mean the underlying (theological) reasons, not the proximate causes (accusations of blasphemy and/or stirring up rebellion), although they have been controversial. In this series of posts I want to briefly explore the theories (as they are still the source of debate) and look at how Jesus himself explained it in the context of the history of Israel, re-lived through the Passover meal.
My starting point is the way we hear or present the gospel. Gospel itself is a loaded term but let’s leave it be for now. Reading the book of Acts, the main biblical source for evangelistic presentations of the gospel message, I am struck by how very different these messages are from how I am otherwise used to hearing it. Typically we hear some variation on: we are separated from God because of our sins; although deserving of punishment, Jesus died in our place so that we can be reconciled to God.
In Acts, in a series of sermons preached by Peter (2:22-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43), Stephen (7:1-58) and Paul (13:16-41; 17:22-31) it is very different; Jesus is placed into the story of Israel, and what is emphasised is his resurrection. His death is mentioned, but largely as a necessary first step towards resurrection. We hear preached: Jesus died, has risen and as a result has become Lord and Christ (see, eg especially Acts 2:36). These titles are laden with meaning; Lord appears to refer back to Psalms 110 (verse 1 of which is the most cited Old Testament scripture in the New) and implies that Jesus is greater than David and is the one who is now seated at the right hand side of God, ie he is equal with and one with God. Christ means Messiah or the anointed one, the one they believed would come to rescue Israel.
The preachers in Acts set out the clear message that, because he is risen, he is shown to be Lord and can forgive sins, has power to heal, is shown to be judge and is the source of unity for Jews and Gentiles. The message is: you are forgiven because Jesus is Lord; not because Jesus died. You are forgiven because Jesus is judge, and he will forgive those who appeal to him for mercy. The important thing appears to be not that he died but that he is alive. In a similar vein, Paul sets out in a number of places in Acts that the reason that he is imprisoned and on trial is because of his belief in resurrection. Recall also, Jesus’ own actions; he announced forgiveness of sins on the basis of his authority, not on the basis of appeal to his future death.
So have we got our emphasis on Jesus’ death wrong? You get the impression reading the first sermons that maybe we have. Their good news message was Jesus is the living God.
But the story doesn’t finish in Acts, and soon after Jesus’ resurrection Paul is writing and investing theological significance in Jesus’ death. In the next instalment, I will start to dig into some of the theories of what was achieved through his death.
Next entry: Jesus - a murder mystery: Theory. Subscribe via RSS Feed, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to not miss the next entry.
26/09/11 19:00 View entire series at: It's All In The Mind
It’s All In The Mind is a series of helping tools for doing pastoral care with people suffering from mental illness. It is written by Kirk Vette from Shore Vineyards Churches, who is a clinical worker for YouthLine NZ. Kirk and his wife, Caroline, live in Auckland with their three children and on his day's off you will find him sneaking off for a surf.
Depression - What is it?
Unfortunately depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness in New Zealand.
Most people experience low moods at some time in their life after a difficult situation such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job etc. As life moves on the low mood generally dissipates we experience pleasure and the low mood becomes a memory.
However if the low mood lasts for 2 weeks or more and a person generally feels down for most of that time and has no pleasure in the things that normally give them pleasure they may be experiencing what is called a depressive episode.
The web site www.depression.org.nz clearly outlines the signs that indicate a person may be experiencing depression;
- constantly feeling down or hopeless
- having little interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy
- irritability or restlessness feeling tired all the time, or general loss of energy
- feelings of emptiness or loneliness
- no longer interested in favorite activities
- sleep problems – too much, or too little
- weight loss or gain
- low self-esteem
- problems with concentration
- reduced sex drive
- thinking about death a lot
If you recognise any or all of these signs – particularly the key signs – you should take action sooner rather than later. Depression is far easier to deal with before it gets serious. (www.depression.org.nz)
Next entry: What action should a person take? Subscribe via RSS Feed, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to not miss the next entry.
22/09/11 11:07 View entire series at: Worship
One year ago on October 1st 2010, at Urban Vineyard, a group of young people from the various Auckland Vineyards gathered for a night of worship. We pressed record to capture what happened, and called it Invasion:Urban
. It’s raw and real, the sound is something fresh but the heart of worship is still the same.
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of recording Invasion:Urban
, we are going to release interviews with the key people involved to find out what the heart was behind this new generation of worshippers and what has happened since.
For now, if you haven’t got Invasion:Urban
in your iTunes, you can get it here
- and check back for the rest of this great series looking at the new breed of worshippers emerging in the Vineyard of New Zealand.