Saturday, February 27, 2010

The gift of hearing

It’s so great to be able to hear! For about two weeks I have had a bit of a cold which blocked up my ears and affected my hearing. Initially it was very annoying but it is surprising how quickly one starts to adapt. There are certain people (those who voices are soft or quiet) that I started to avoid because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hear them. I started to avoid certain situations because I knew the background noise would make it even more difficult to hear. I smiled and nodded a lot because I got tired of saying, “pardon”.

On Thursday a nurse successful syringe my ears and suddenly I could hear again. It was amazing I didn’t realize what I had been missing. My voice even sounded different. When I drove down the street I couldn’t believe all the noises my car was making!

It is easy to take things for granted but this week I’ve become very grateful for the gift of hearing.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review : Joyce Meyer

I received a copy of Joyce Meyer : a life of redemption and destiny by Richard Young (Whitaker House, 2009) as a Christmas present. Having heard a number of Joyce Meyer messages, I was already familiar with Joyce’s background as she often uses stories from her own life to illustrate her points. However it was interesting to read her life story chronologically and from a third party perspective.

Joyce’s transformation from a single mother to Bible teacher is remarkable whatever you may think of her theology. Her background gives no clue that she would become such a popular speaker and it is her honesty about these struggles that seems to attract people to her ministry.

One part of her ministry I was less familiar with was Hand of Hope. This is a ministry to the poor and needy all over the world. The statistics are impressive with 82% of the income from Joyce Meyer Ministries being used to help others.

Towards the end of the book Richard Young gives an account of the newspaper reports which aimed to discredit her ministry by focusing on her lifestyle. Being a prominent Christian figure it is natural she is going to attract criticism and Young does a good job of writing a balanced view. Finally he discusses the amazing reconciliation that took place between Joyce and the father who abused her so much as a child.

Overall it is a remarkable account on what God can do with a life committed to him.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Devotional Thought : James 4:9-10

Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:9-10

These verses come somewhat as a surprise—grieving, mourning and wailing doesn’t sound like a victorious Christian life, especially as elsewhere in the Bible we are told to rejoice. I was reading Thrive by Matthew Jacoby and he explains it this way: "Lament is the gateway to joy. This is a basic biblical principle. If we want to 'reap with shouts of joy' we must 'sow in tears'. There is no other way."

To lament is not something we are familiar with in our culture. The dictionary defines it as: to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for. Many of the Psalms are laments where David or others express their sorrow over their failures or the failure of God’s people. Yet often by the end of the psalm they are remembering God’s mercy and his unfailing love to his people. This is very different to the murmurings of God’s people in the wilderness. They murmured because they felt God was treating them poorly as if they were entitled to be blessed. In the wilderness they became arrogant, expecting God to be focused on their needs and quickly forgetting that he had rescued them from slavery in Egypt.

James says: Humble yourselves before the Lord. This is the natural outcome of lamenting. We realize our own shortcomings and our inability to fix all that is wrong in our world. We look to God as the all-sufficient One. Whatever is wrong with the world; whatever is wrong with my life, God can fix. Lamenting leads us to put our hope in God and his promise to us is that he will lift us up.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

American TV

While we were in Hawaii we watched some late night TV. There were two things that surprised me. One was the adverts. In Australia it is illegal to advertise prescription drugs, not so in the US. However it must be obligatory to state the side effects. After listening to all the possible side effects I’m surprised they find the adverts effective!

The other thing that surprised me was what Americans laugh at. Some months ago an American celebratory was in Australia and was offended by some Australian humor which didn’t bother me. So I expected American humor to be very politically correct but I was surprised to find this was not so. Or perhaps it was just late at night… My conclusion was that what we laugh at is very much governed by culture.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review : Dream Releasers

While I was at the Conference I bought one of Wayne Corderio's books:

Wayne Corderio has written, The dream releasers (Life Essentials, 2002) in two parts. Firstly there is our own God given dream that God has planned in our lives. This dream will be unique to us. It will involve using our gifts and abilities to bring about outcomes that will bless others. Often our dreams face setbacks and detours yet despite delays and disappointments. God’s intention is for our dreams to be fulfilled. Our responsibility is to find those things God has particularly placed on our hearts and to actively seek to fulfill all that God has in mind for us. Wayne writes about the sadness of people dying without achieving their potential.

In part two which is the longer part of the book, Wayne encourages his readers to help others to find their dreams and to support them through discouragement and obstacles. Interestingly enough often in the process of helping others we find our own dream realized. Wayne lists many dream killers, like pride, ingratitude, and impatience but also some keys to release dreams.

Wayne makes use of stories and events from his own life to illustrate his points. This is a short book that is easy to read.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DCAT Conference - part 3

A couple of final things Wayne Corderio shared that I think are worth mentioning. He spoke a lot about the importance of using your gift and finding your place to serve. He emphasized the point, “Simple acts done with a genuine heart will get heaven’s attention.” So it is not the size of your gift or the size of your act of serve that gets heaven’s attention but rather a heart attitude that wants to serve.

Wayne also spoke about how easy it is to get offended when you are part of a church. Your name gets accidentally left off an email list, a birthday list, an invitation list. People forget to show their appreciation, forget to tell you something that everyone else knows, or forget to acknowledge your significant event. You feel overlooked, ignored, or not in the “in group”. (Interestingly enough I don’t think anyone ever feels part of the “in group”. The “in group” is just an illusion—there are so many overlapping friendship networks, there is no real “in group”.) Wayne quoted Mark 6:1-5: In Jesus’ hometown the people took offense and he could not do any miracles there. If we want miracles to happen we can’t afford to take offense—regardless of how badly we are treated. It's tough not to get offended but fortunately we have a high priest, Jesus, and he knows what we go through because he's been there.

This photo is of the Hawaiian Convention Center in Honolulu where the conference was held. The view was amazing.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

DCAT Conference - part 2

As I said the conference is designed to express what is important to the leadership of New Hope, and also what is not important. Wayne Corderio made the comment that the church has been homeless for 16 years. So obviously having a building is not a priority for them. They do own offices and a chapel on Sand Island in Honolulu but mostly their services are held in rented premises—in a place like Honolulu there would be no shortage of places to rent. However while they don’t spend money on buildings they do spend money on technology in the belief that they need to be relevant.

I like chocolate but there is no point using chocolate as bait for fish. If you want to catch fish you have to use the bait that fish like. Likewise as fishers of men we have to present the gospel in ways that are relevant to the current generation and that’s what they do at New Hope. The lights, screens and special effects were impressive. Yet, it is not just about the visual appeal, it is also about teaching young people technological skills that are useful not only in church but also in the world.

The photo is one I took as I was arriving for the 11am service. I was early and the 9am service was just finishing. On the left of the photo you can see the overflow tent with Wayne Corderio being broadcast onto a big screen.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

DCAT Conference - part 1

I had a safe trip home and I have been processing the information I gained at the conference.

The reason why New Hope Christian Fellowship holds an annual Doing Church as a Team (DCAT) Conference is so to teach people who are new to New Hope their understanding of church. It is the fastest growing church in the US so there are lots of people who are new to the church. For people like me it was an opportunity to gain an insight into what makes the church ‘tick’. Over the course of the conference I heard a lot about the importance of people using their gifts to serve but the thing that really impacted me was that I saw it happening. I was in Honolulu the Sunday before the conference as well as the Sunday after the conference so I went to the New Hope services held at Farrington High School. The number of volunteers required to set up and pack up at this site would be significant. However this wasn’t a burden to them but rather seen as an opportunity to serve. Also during the services a large number of people were involved. It was very much a team effort.

Wayne Cordeiro, the senior pastor of New Hope, spoke about Matthew 23:11, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” Wayne made the observation that to be a servant requires that you are good are forgiving. Servanthood also requires lots of grace and love because when you serve people the potential to be overlooked, slighted, and not appreciated is great. This is why Jesus held servanthood in high regard because it requires spiritual maturity to be a servant.

I must have heard hundreds of sermons about servanthood but I gain a new understanding of what it really means to be a servant as a result of attending this conference.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Leaving Honolulu

Accessing the internet from our hotel is quite expensive ($20 an hour) so I'm typing as fast as I can! The conference was great but I'll write more about it when I get home.

The cruise on Tuesday night was very pleasant. It had been a bit windy so it was a little choppy but not too bad. Wednesday we went to the pre-conference session in the morning and to the opening sessions in the evening. Thursday morning we caught a trolley (like a tram on wheels) into Waikiki and checked out the beach and shops before going to the conference later in the day. Friday morning we caught a couple of local buses around the south-east corner of the island. It was very scenic. Afternoon and evening we were at the final sessions of the conference. Saturday we went on an organized tour of Pearl Harbour, Punchbowl and down town Honolulu. They have been doing some improvements to the harbour area and the memorial had been closed during the week. Consequently it was extremely busy and what should have been a morning tour ended up being a 3pm tour. Nevertheless it was a fascinating insight into history.

This morning (Sunday) we again went to New Hope Church. We head home tomorrow morning.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Arriving in Honolulu

We arrived in Honolulu at 6:30am on Saturday feeling rather exhausted as we left home at 5:30am also on Saturday, though it was 22 hours earlier. Anyway we managed to find our hotel and get our bearings. We went for a walk which was somewhat dangerous - being jet lagged and looking in the wrong direction every time we crossed a road! We also managed to find the shopping centre and something to eat.

Sunday morning we went to New Hope Church which was great. It just so happened they were having some baptisms that afternoon so we went to that too. Probably over 100 people* were baptised.

Monday we went on a tour of the island. The guide was very informative and we saw many sights and learnt a lot about Hawaii. The tour went as far as the north shore and we saw some pretty impressive waves.

I have figured out the bus system in Honolulu. It is very cheap ($2.25 anywhere) and very efficient so today we caught a bus up the Manoa Valley. Unfortunately it rained most of the morning but we found a nice place to have lunch and the rain had mostly cleared by the time we had finished.

If we were at home it would now be our wedding anniversary so tonight we are going on a dinner cruise.

The conference starts tomorrow.

*The actual number was 167 people. I have also found out that they have a baptismal service every six weeks

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