Against All Odds

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Hi again. Many of you will have watched or read of the recent 100 year commemoration that honoured the 800 Australian and New Zealand Light Horse men who charged and captured Beersheba (and it’s desperately needed wells) thus paving the way for the restoration of Israel and a significant change of course for the 1st world war. It was a courageous, ‘against all odds’ assault with far reaching consequences.

The Bible also has ‘city taking’ stories. Joshua took Jericho, David through Joab captured the Jebusite city that then became known as Jerusalem, city of peace. Nehemiah restored the broken down walls of Jerusalem. Jonah was God’s reluctant change agent for the city of Nineveh. Jesus spoke to and rebuked cities. He sent disciples two by two into cities and towns expecting that they would hear and welcome the good news of God’s kingdom. Today N.T. theologians are telling us that the early church had a definite Holy Spirit given strategy for reaching cities.

Today in so many places Christians are heeding the call, standing together, to be ‘against all odds’, agents of change in their city or town. Their commitment and zeal may not be comparable to that of the ANZAC light horse men but it is noteworthy nevertheless. As the exiled Jews in Babylon, so long ago, were instructed to seek the well being of that city so it is for us in our God appointed location.

Recently leaders came to Whakatane from different parts of the North Island N.Z. to encourage and pray with leaders in Eastern Bay of Plenty for another City by City gathering. Nearly all those who were present are on the frontline of an ‘against all odds – city reaching’ network in their city or town. Hearing the stories and praying for one another was special. See photo.

I like this Jack Hayford (former senior pastor of The Church On The Way) brief exhortation given some years ago but even more relevant today:
“Something is happening among God’s people with cities and towns. It’s happening right now. Two kingdoms are wrestling for the city’s soul. It isn’t too late to win if we will rise up early. Cities deserve a tomorrow too. They are unable to possess it for themselves. All children of Joshua – arise!”

Until next time. God bless. Colin

 

The Big Picture

Hi Again. Some books have a lasting effect. Devern Fromke’s book Ultimate Intention read over forty years ago was for me one of those books. In it he encourages us to keep the big picture in view, God’s eternal purpose in Christ. One illustration has remained firmly implanted.

‘A father helps his small son get ready for his first visit to the big city – the son is not excited about seeing the big city, preferring to dirty himself sailing his toy yacht in a puddle outside the house.’ The thought here is that as Christians we can fail to align ourselves with God’s big picture. Rather than be captured by the wonder of God’s overall plan for the cosmos we settle for something close at hand that demands our attention and restricts our vision.

We can easily reduce things to fit into our world view. One example of this is the disciples post resurrection conversation with Jesus. ‘Will you at this time save Israel?’ Jesus had already made it clear that the nations were now to hear the good news. The disciples seem to be struggling to grasp the big picture.

Keeping the big picture in view is so important. Many Israelites died in the wilderness because they failed to keep the big picture in view. They lost sight of that which had been promised by God. The Scriptures have plenty of big picture promises. We need the big picture so that we can be encouraged to go on in the midst of our day to day challenges. Psalm 22:27,28 (below) is one of many portions of the Bible that help me keep the big picture in view. What is your Scripture/big picture that keeps you going?

Until next time. God bless. Colin

 Psalm 22:27-28 ‘All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.’

 

A Brief Encounter

Hi again… Beginnings… It’s good to look back, reflect and give thanks. After living in Australia, Philippines and Canada, for a total of 25 years our reconnection with New Zealand, our birth-place, began in1995. It was mainly due to one of those amazing ‘encounters’.

It all began when a World Vision worker in Auckland, Lleon Downes had a very short conversation with a complete stranger in an Auckland car park. The person that Lleon chanced to meet was Peter Aspin a good friend of ours, a fellow Kiwi and formerly a pastor from Toowoomba, Australia. We were living in Toowoomba at that time. Peter was now living and working in Auckland. During this brief conversation they quickly discovered their common interest and desire for church unity. Peter told Lleon how Pastors Prayer Summits – three days of prayer and worship gatherings with a good representation of church pastors in one city or town were having positive outcomes. He mentioned that I would be a good person to communicate with because of my involvement. A brief conversation that was to have far reaching consequences.

A few days later Lleon and his wife Mary began a holiday in Queensland. He phoned me, introduced himself, said what he was about and asked ‘Can I come to your office and talk about these Pastors Prayer Summits?’ Again, this was quite amazing because I had stopped over in N.Z. only a few days earlier on my way back from attending three Pastors Prayer Summits in the U.S.A. In Auckland I had tried to sow the idea of Prayer Summits with Kiwi pastors but there was not much buy-in. I did have a sense at the time however that God was going to undertake one way or another.

Through Lleon’s initiative and World Vision NZ’s subsequent funding of three different travel itineraries, Lleon and myself were able to promote Pastors Prayer Summits throughout N.Z. As a result thirty, mostly three day, Pastors Prayer Summits were held from the far north to the far south. These were wonderful times where leaders from different churches in one town or city were able to connect, worship, pray and fellowship together. It was a privilege to witness God at work as leaders took time to seek His face and spend time in His presence together.

While there have been few of these Prayer Summits of recent days here in N.Z. the ones that were held laid a good foundation for all that has happened since. This includes strategic regional roundtable gatherings for those leading pastors networks and one day City by City gatherings where leaders from different cities and towns gather in another city to support, encourage and pray with leaders there. (See photo below of our last City by City gathering held in Napier.)

Through these and other initiatives it has been great to see relationships grow stronger as love for His church, the whole body of Christ increases and the desire to reach our cities and towns jointly, gains momentum. We have been greatly blessed …. and are truly thankful to have been part of the journey with all its other ‘encounters’ along the way!

Until next time. Colin

Napier

Loving Your City

Hi again. Last week leaders from cities/towns in the North Island came to this city, Whanganui, to encourage and pray with pastors and leaders there. What a joy to meet and pray with people who come together to ‘seek the welfare’ of their city. Jeremiah 29:7.

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What a blessing to see churches working together to reach their city and the progress that has been made. What we saw happening in this city is happening in many places. Christians from different churches combining to effectively pray, share with and serve their wider community. For some church leaders, this might be a challenge, even a threat to running their own church programme. One pastor was heard to say, “if I get too involved in combined church, city focused initiatives, we will not be able to fulfil our vision for our church”.

As a way of addressing this issue let me share the testimony of a pastor we heard from. He shared how God had given him a great love for his city, Whanganui. He then made what to some might seem a radical statement. ”When God called me to this place He called me to serve this city, with that as my primary call, He then called me to serve in the church I now pastor”. While this may seem a radical shift from the long held view that ministers/pastors have an all-embracing call to pastor a congregation, it is nevertheless a paradigm shift that is taking place in the hearts and minds of many pastors.

This pastor is doing a great job, both in his church and in praying and working with other pastors of like mind to bring kingdom blessing into their city. Does this mean that their congregations are deprived or hindered in terms of spiritual and numerical growth? Not really. A balanced, outward, purposeful city vision encourages growth as congregations believe and commit to God’s agenda for their city. It also exposes them to the benefits of receiving from other ministries and the rich resources God has placed in the Body of Christ in that city.p70223-154738-copy-1

Praying blessings over the city.

Until next time, God bless. Colin

Praying for The Church.

 

Hi again. At the start of this year, 2017, I found myself praying for the church, the church world wide, the church located in nations and in cities. I guess I was getting a small insight into the passion Jesus has for his church. Jesus loved and gave himself for the church – his body, his temple made from living stones,

I remember when a young Christian, newly arrived from mainland China to a nearby town was asking ‘where is the church?’ He was offered the choice of different churches in town, Baptist, A.O.G. and others but after hearing this he became confused and bewildered. ‘No’ he replied, I am looking for the church! To him there was only ‘the church’. Understanding and honouring one another as members of the one body of Christ in China has been a vital key to ongoing growth of the church in that nation… “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”. 1Cor. 12:13.

According to Scripture, it is by the church that the wisdom of God will be made known – not one particular part of it. Eph. 3:10. It is by the church in one accord that the world will know who Jesus is. John 17:23. No wonder Jesus’ passionate prayer during his last hours on earth was ‘Father make them one, even as we are one’. John 17 verses 11,21,22. .. It seems Jesus’ uppermost request for all who would believe was that they experience a oneness that would reflect the oneness that he had always had with his Father and Holy Spirit.

What might happen if Jesus’ prayer became our uppermost prayer? What might happen if we as leaders, after praying this prayer, led the way and gave ourselves wholeheartedly to getting to know, love and stay connected to other Christian leaders in our city? What might happen if every local church in our town/city prioritised fervent prayer for oneness of the whole church of that place? (We would be praying for a oneness of heart and mind – not structure.) … If Christians cannot be the church locally how can we expect it to be the church widespread?

If the need for oneness of the Church was uppermost in Jesus mind during his last hours on earth would that not signify the need for a similar cry to rise from his people today? What would happen if Christians everywhere prioritised prayer for oneness in the Church – the church in cities, in the nations and in the world – as Jesus did?

Scripture says if we ask anything according to his will he hears us – we know its his will – Jesus prayed it!

Until next time. God bless. Colin

 

The Reason Why

 

Hi again. This week digging through past notes and quotes I came across material from two well known authors and conference speakers, Frank Damazio and Francis Frangipane.

 First from Damazio – “why is evangelism so difficult in our twenty-first century church? Because we are not in the city and the city is not in us. We have removed the candlestick from the city, removed the light, the oil, the ministry of Christ in and to the city. Our first calling is not to the one congregation we preach to, but to the whole city God has placed us in. He sent you to prepare a way for His presence and power to be released in your city.” … ‘Crossing Rivers & Taking Cities’.

 Second from Frangipane – “we as Christ’s church are in ruins. Yet not only have we failed to mourn our situation, we have not even grasped that we are in ruins… building the house of God, the born-again, praying, loving, city-wide church, is still Christ’s highest priority.” … ‘The House of the Lord’

 If these quotes ring true, why is it that ‘we are not in the city and the city is not in us’ and why is it that we are slow to prioritise the ‘city-wide church’? Having a biblical understanding of cities is a good starting point.

 To quote Damazio again:

  • “Each city has it’s own unique personality and city destiny (see Rev. 1-3)
  • Each city has it’s own cry that ascends to Heaven – God hears that cry (see Gen. 18:21; Isa. 14:3)
  • God measures, limits and judges the integrity of each city (see Matt. 11:20-24; 23:35-38)
  • God uses various means to speak to each city (see Prov. 1:20-21; 8:1-7; Micah 6:9)
  • God prepares, anoints and sends specific ministries to specific cities (see Jonah 1:2; Luke 9:1-56)
  • God has a master key for each individual city (see John 4; Acts 14:27; 2 Cor. 2:12)
  • God sets the church to stand in the gap and intercede for the city (see Gen. 18,19; Ezek. 9:1-7; 22:30,37)
  • God deals with the church about how it relates to the city (see Rev. 1-3)
  • God holds the elders (could we say church leaders) of the city responsible for its spiritual state (see Deut. 19:11-12; 21:1-9; Ezek. 3:17-21; 33:1-9)
  • God weeps over the city’s spiritual destiny (see Luke 19:41)”.

Until next time. God bless. Colin

Our Glasses

Hi again. Some thoughts to share. We all have our way of looking at things – we all have our own worldview or even our own biblical worldview. Our worldview is often determined by what we have been taught, our own spiritual journey, our own calling and makeup that draws us into things we are passionate about. These things cause us to have our own set of ‘glasses’.

Because we have set our hearts to follow Jesus, to serve and honour Him we need to have confidence that our ‘glasses’ are OK. When we need a new set He will be there to supply new ones! The main thing is to be in fellowship with Him and with others who may see things a little differently. None of us see the full picture.

Our forty plus years of ministry has been marked by a consistent association with leaders who have had vision and zeal for THE church. Big picture people with nation, city ‘glasses’ and a passion to see the body of Christ united and built up, effective in each place. God used both their teaching and example to lay the necessary foundations for what was to come. When men of God began to prophesy things like ‘you will have a Barnabas ministry, you will go from city to city encouraging unity and prayer,’ it was only a natural outcome of God’s preparatory work in our lives over the years.

These recent years of ministry have been above and beyond anything we could have dreamed of. Grace and I have been able to travel, connect with and encourage so many who likewise have a passion to see God’s people united, prayerful, reaching their town, city and nation together. We are deeply grateful for the many who have enlightened and enriched us along the way.

What do we see ahead? Despite the obstacles, we see God’s people in each place, with His enabling, becoming more and more united, caring, prayerful – becoming salt and light – fixing our eyes on Jesus – looking expectantly through ‘faith-glasses’ … until …
‘we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.’ From The Message Eph. 4:13

Until next time. God bless. Colin