restorying faith and values

Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Monday, August 14, 2017

Paying it (The Golden Rule) forward


A couple of months ago, while reversing out of a tight carpark, I backed into a car. The rubber of my turned tyre rubbed his mag wheel. He took photos. Got quotes. The first was over $300 to remove a smudge! Finally, after weeks, I paid $165 to remove the smudge from his wheel.

Just a few minutes ago, I got to remove the smudge from my conscience. In the same carpark, coming around the same bend, I was backed into by a lady in a small car as she reversed out. I saw her coming and came to a stop before she t-boned her boot into my side door. It happened fast, but slow (you know what I mean!)

We both stopped. She was as shocked as I had been two months ago when I backed into a car that wasn't there moments before.

"I am sooo sorry!" she nearly cried as we emerged from our cars to survey the damage. I looked at the smudge on the driver door. I looked into her eyes and remembered the way I had hoped a member of my neighbourhood would have treated me not so long ago. And I was overwhelmed with compassion.

"I've got three teenagers learning to drive," I said. "I'm expecting more just like this one! Don't worry about it."

The lady's face changed from dread to disbelief. "REALLY?!"

"Yup," I said, "Forget about it!"

"Oh my," she said crossing her hands over her heart, "You're a dear!"

How good does it feel to "Pay the GOLDEN RULE forward?"
Do unto others what you WISH would happen to you!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The BIG Story - Wordless Flipboard Craft Project

This is a storytelling aide for teaching The BIG Story of God's interaction with humankind. From Creation to Redemption and into Eternity!

Show the colored side to the audience while you read the script on the back. The audience only sees a solid color and things about the words as you read them aloud. This also allows the teacher to change the words for the needs of the audience.


Use this craft project to create story flipboards your students can use to tell the Bible's entire BIG Story from Kingdom to Kingdom. From before Creation until after Redemption - we are living in an epic story - why not tell the whole thing!?!?

Instructions
Colors: Gold, Black, Red, White, Blue, Green
Design: Flipboard. Rings at the top. Pages are turned by flipping front to back, over the top of the rings. This allows the students to only see the front and the teacher to see the back.
Content: On the front (facing the student) of each page is a solid color. On the back (written on the same background color as the student is seeing) are the words the teacher uses as their cues for the story. They can either read it directly or paraphrase what they read to meet the needs of the audience. To tell the entire story, the teacher flips through the book twice. The story begins and ends with the Gold Cover page. This means while every other color has two readings, Gold has three.

Supplies:
Construction Paper: Gold, Black, Red, White, Blue, Green
Cut to size. Hole punch.
Script: Cut to size
Rings: 2 per Flipboard
Print Script: Cut/Paste into Word.
     Font: Calibri
     Font size (body): 18
     Font size (titles): 22
     Print "4 pages per sheet" and entire script fits on one page.


Script:


Gold

God’s Kingdom: Heaven is a perfect place where God lives. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in Heaven with the angels. They watch over us because they love us very much. This book is the story of how much God loves us. (flip to the next page)

A Day with the King: On the seventh day of Creation Week, God rested. He called the day of rest Sabbath. God, the King of the universe, promised to visit His people every Sabbath. God asked us to rest from our work on Sabbath and spend the day with Him. Every Sabbath is a reminder that God loves us and created us to live for Him. (flip to the next page)

God’s Eternal Kingdom: All Jesus’ disciples are excited about a promise He made. Before He went to Heaven, Jesus promised to come back. When Jesus comes back, the dead will return to life and all who love Him will meet Jesus in the air! He will be our King forever and ever. Jesus says, after we spend 1000 years in Heaven, He will put a great city here on Earth and will live with us from one Sabbath to the next forever and ever!


Black

Creation: When God decided to create you and me, the Bible says it was very dark on Earth. There was no light! The earth had no form. It was completely empty. But God had a plan! (flip to the next page)

Sin: Unfortunately, Adam and Eve choose to go against God. They left the Creator to live life selfishly. They chose Sin. Because of Sin and selfishness, humans are now born in darkness. God saw this and formed a plan – a perfect plan! (flip to the next page)


Red

God’s Spirit: Even in complete darkness, God was nearby. The Bible says, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” which covered the dark, formless, empty earth. And God was about to do something wonderful! (flip to the next page)

God’s Gift: Even in our darkest times, God has not forgotten us. He sent His Son Jesus to live with us, to be one of us. Jesus came, lived and died as the perfect gift from God to His special creation – humans; you and me. Even though we were lost in the darkness of sin, God did something wonderful for us! (flip to the next page)


White 

Light: God spoke out of the darkness. “Let there be… LIGHT!” And there was light! And it was Good. God was beginning something new for me and you. He was creating a place for us to live. (flip to the next page)

Forgiveness: When we say yes to Jesus, we open the gift He gave us on the cross. God’s forgiveness washes away all the darkness of sin and we are made new. The Bible says our hearts become as white as snow! This is so wonderful that it causes us to celebrate! (flip to the next page)


Blue

Out of the Water: With light shining on the watery earth, everything was blue. God pulled some of the water up and put it into the sky. The rest He left below to become the lakes, rivers and oceans. (flip to the next page)

Baptism: Every time one of us is baptised, God says, “This is my child whom I love very much!” The way we celebrate God’s perfect love shown in Jesus’ gift on the cross is by being baptised. We show everyone that we are new. We don’t want to live in darkness anymore. We are washed clean! (flip to the next page)


Green

Life: For the rest of Creation Week, God created land, trees, fish, birds, animals and more. Then God created something special. God created Adam and Eve – the first humans. He took special time creating them. When they were ready, God breathed His Spirit into them and they were filled with life! God showed Adam and Eve everything He had created. He told them how much He loved His Creation. Then, God asked His people to take care of His Creation. (flip to the next page)

Growth: Like a baby, we are born again. We grow to become more like our Heavenly Father. We follow the teachings of Jesus in the Bible so we can grow. When our faith is grown-up we teach other people about Jesus and help them to come out of the darkness of sin, into the light of Jesus, be baptised and grow. We become disciple-makers! (flip to the next page)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reaching Maasai for Jesus

Janet (by Courtney Tyler)
While in Kenya with ECPK, I was moved by the sincere nature of the Adventists in Maasai land. One of the most regal and inspiring people there was the local church treasurer, a woman named Janet.

Question time in our meetings often lasted longer than the sermon. After the other people had asked a few questions, Janet would ask a question in a way that lead to a time of myself and the translator (Joseph) teaching alongside her. Janet is a brilliant leader.

During one question time, Janet asked if dressing like Maasai was a good thing. I told her it was a beautiful thing! She then invited the matriarch of the village - Mary, Joseph's mother - to tell a story. She told of when she was young and the story of Jesus came to their valley.

The Adventist Evangelist converted a small group and asked them to draw more Maasai into the meetings. He told them they must not dress like natives. So, they dressed like him - walked into the field and waved and called to people passing by. The neighbouring Maasai were concerned and confused by their oddly dressed Maasai friends and gave them a wide berth.

Understanding her own culture better than the evangelist did, Mary told the new Adventists, "Let us go put on our best Maasai clothing and jewelry." They all did and when they came back they called to the people and everyone came. The entire village became Adventist.

"To reach Maasai for Jesus," Mary said, "we must first be Maasai."

Mary (by Courtney Tyler)

Friday, July 14, 2017

What must I do to be saved?

“The Unity of the Gospel”

Sabbath School Helps – Lesson 3 – 14 July 2017


Icebreaker: 

Invite group members to tell the story of a time when they said one thing and did another.


Introduction:

Q. What is a hypocrite? (take a few answers)

Q. How is religious hypocrisy worse than general dishonesty? (It misrepresents God)

Q. When have you seen hypocrisy in yourself? (Tell one yourself! Then ask for more.)


Read Galatians 2:1-10

Why did Paul, Barnabas and Titus go to Jerusalem? See Acts 15:1-2 (To discuss circumcision)

Why did Paul bring Titus to Jerusalem? (living test case: Behold, an uncircumcised follower!)

To whom had they been preaching this law-free Gospel? Galatians 2:2 (gentiles)

How had word of this law-free Gospel got back to Jerusalem? Galatians 2:4 (false brothers)

Why call them false? Galatians 4:5 (the Gospel must be taught a preserved for others)

To whom did they present their views in Jerusalem? Galatians 2:2 (privately, leaders)

Why privately? What does this teach us about dealing with differences among us? (True believers seek to iron out differences within leadership circles. False brothers spread dissention among the young in the faith. This unsettles the community rather than leading from a united front with a clear gospel.)

After the leadership discussions were finished, who made the decision? Galatians 4:9 (Jesus’ inner three: Peter, James and John)

They concluded that circumcision was a dividing line not between disciples but between disciple-makers. All were sent out with the Gospel. Some to the circumcised, some to the uncircumcised.
How might this wisdom be useful in church today?

What was the non-negotiable requirement for church leaders? Why? Galatians 2:10


Read Galatians 2:11-14

Based on the decision above, was Paul justified in calling Peter (Cephas) out for being a hypocrite? Why? (Peter had taken the decision into his lifestyle but not his character!)

Where do we see this kind of two-sided living in our church? (examples of legalism)

Which side should we be living and defending? (law-free gospel!)


Naaman’s Request

In 2 Kings 5 a story is told with a very similar ending to this New Testament circumcision discussion. Naaman, An unbelieving army general of Israel’s enemy Aram, is healed by acting in faith – dipping in the dirty waters of the Jordan River – at the prophet Elisha’s promise from God of healing. Coming up healed, Naaman returns and declares he will only ever worship Israel’s God (2 Kings 5:17) – even asking for dirt from the prophet’s front yard to build an altar upon. Naaman is a new believer! Cleansed! Committed!

Read 2 Kings 5:17-18

Naaman requests permission to enter the house of the false God Rimmon, to bow alongside the king. He asks for pardon for this false worship – prior to doing it. Planning to participate in false worship, Naaman asks for pardon. What is Elisha’s answer?

Read 2 Kings 5:19 (Go in peace)

How is this act of false worship not hypocrisy? (God knows Naaman’s heart)


Local Case Study:

Open communion is practiced in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The church manual states: “All who have committed their lives to the Saviour may participate” (SDA Church Manual, p122). Who do we stop? Why? What does this say about us? Jesus?

The Church manual continues: “Children learn the significance of the service by observing others participate. After receiving formal instruction in baptismal classes and making their commitment to Jesus in baptism, they are thereby prepared to partake in the service themselves” (SDA Church Manual, p122).

Is this truly open communion?

What does it say about our view of a child’s faith?

What did it say about our view of Salvation?

What does your church do? Why?


Big Question:

A Mormon friend invites you to lunch.
As you sit across the table, they open the discussion with a heart-felt question.

You’re an Adventist, I’m a Mormon. Will I be saved?

Having Jesus as you teacher, you answer with a question. What is your question?


Conclusion:

Why did some early Christians first try to make someone a Jew before making them a Christian? (Some Jewish Christians believed non-Jews needed to understand the Jewish history, doctrine and practice to have Jesus.)

What did Paul think about this?

How do we do this to new believers? (Some adults believe young believers need to understand the Adventist history, doctrine and practice before they can truly believe in Jesus.)

What might Paul say to us?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

So Many Stories

Carole and Courtney - Sunrise at Mara West
This trip to Kenya, a year in the planning, provided me with more stories in three weeks of experience and listening than I had in the previous ten years.

After spending nearly a week in Eldoret, visiting Hands of Hope Academy each day, we headed into Safari country. I was very excited! I have always loved Africa’s animals and longed to see them in the wild. We were heading to Masai Mara - the national park that becomes the Serengeti when it crosses the Tanzania border.

Driving to Mara West, where we would be staying in Narok county, took a full day. Even though it was less that 300 kilometres, the many bends in the road and various people walking along it’s sides - or in the middle, if they wished! - slowed us down. And that was only the first 200 kms. The final 80 took nearly half the day as it was a dirt road with potholes the size of small cars. Weaving around them or navigating through their depths was a constant choice that slowed us down to just a few kilometres an hour.

We arrived just before dark and were shown to our beautiful tents. The camp host generously upgraded us to tent-cabins. They were luxurious with running water, power and hot showers! The water was heated by a fire under a boiler shared between two cabins.

As we slept, Zebras, Baboons and Giraffes wandered through our camp. The next morning we got up early and boarded our Safari vehicle - a four-wheel-drive setup with seats rising up out of the back and a tarped roof over our heads. It was brilliant! Courtney and I spent the next two days taking pictures and posting them online. It was a once in a lifetime experience!

On those two days of safari, we saw all of the big five - lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. We also saw giraffe, cheetah, meerkat, baboon, crocodile, hyena and more.

One adventure turned into a deep and meaningful conversation. After we watched as a young  male lion stalked and failed to catch a topi, we followed him to a distant waterhole. The guide realised a herd of wildebeest were coming to drink and parked in a prime viewing spot.

“You are going to see a kill!” Our guide said, “I promise you!”

But as we watched the lion hunker down above the waterhole and the wildebeest approach from the other side, a belligerent water buffalo stormed out of the water and drove the lion away.

Moments later, the dejected lion walked right past our safari vehicle, just a few metres away from us - a lion that nearly killed twice.


Courtney and Carole started discussing the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit is just like that water buffalo!” Courtney said, “He sees the Devil stalking us and drives evil away, sometimes before we even see it coming.”

“And He knew I didn’t want to see anything die!” Carole added.

And that got me thinking, brooding silently, about all we had seen in Kenya. What about when it doesn’t happen this way?

We had seen a lot of this in Kenya - bad stuff happening to good people. Happening to children. Joseph and Nestor reach into the darkness where these children live and offer them a pathway that leads to the Light. But what about the others.

I heard story after story. Girls, as young as 9 years old, taken away from the village and forced to undergo circumcision in preparation for marriage. Illegal in Africa, this is an age-old tradition that has now moved underground in many communities.

I heard stories of boys who were unwanted, beaten by their fathers, grandfathers and other men in their lives and fled. Boys who were driven by desperation into a life of crime and gang activity.

I heard so many stories. More than I can recount in this book. There are some that I haven’t told in detail because the content is too shocking. Others I haven’t told because their story is yet another retelling of one already told in these pages. Rael, Christine, Dorcas, Duncan, Grace, Mary - these are but a few of the stories that I learned but have not told.

Hearing the stories of others empowers us to make a difference. By hearing we are called to care. By caring we are called to action. And in action, based on the story of need we have heard, we begin to change lives.

But, facing these stories can leave you soul-numb. Overwhelmed, by the cast of broken characters a million children deep, we begin to wonder, “Can I really make a difference?” Like the old man walking along a beach covered in thousands of stranded starfish, throwing one starfish at a time back into the sea, we lift our eyes to the horizon and see an impossible eternity of broken children in need of rescue. And like the young man who says, “What are you doing? There’s thousands! You can’t make a difference!” we challenge our own sanity and effort.

Yet wisdom’s answer calls us to act on behalf of the one, rather than in some misguided belief that we can change the many. “It mattered to that one!” we say as we pick up one more starfish and launch it into the water of life.

Each act of kindness matters in many ways. It matters to the one we help - changing their life. It matters to us - reinforcing our own nature within our heart. And it matters to those who hear our story - inviting them to become a person who cares enough to join people who make a difference, people who save the world one child at a time.

There is something that happens to your heart when you recognise yourself in those you are saving. Hear your own name in the life of another and you are humbled. One day in Kapune, Carole, Courney and I were having lunch when there was a knock on the door. It was Joseph. “Lekini and his uncle are here to see Carole.” You can read the rest of Lekini’s story in January 3’s journal entry. There is just one bit I left out until now because it has been a redefining story in my life.

We listened to the story of seven men hacking Lekini and his brother to death, and Lekini living despite the odds. We saw the scars. A huge cut across his forearm. Angry scars across the top, side and back of his skull. Lekini had lived through hell. And now he was going to a Christian school to become, he hoped, a lawyer.

“You need to choose an English name,” Carole said to the uncle through Joseph’s interpretation skills. “The school requires it.” Lekini and his uncle had been present for the morning meeting. I had talked about God’s love for us. Lekini’s uncle looked at me and his eyes filled with tears.

“David.” Joseph said, “He wishes that Lekini be called David so that one day he may speak of God as you did today.” Joseph paused as my eyes filled with tears. “This is a great honour,” Joseph said. I nodded my head and said, “I’m happy for Lekini to have my name.”

It mattered to that one. Every orphan in Africa - each child saved by Joseph and Nestor - is another Lekini. Another David. Another me. It matters to this one.

The conversation about the waterhole continued a couple days later. We were in the car. The Safari finished. On our way to Nairobi, we had a long drive and plenty of time to talk.

Carole voiced what we had all thought many times over the past few weeks. “If the Devil is defeated at the cross, why are there still such horrible things happening?”

We were riding in the back of the land-cruiser, Carole and I, able to have a deep conversation. “God’s followers have a habit of getting things wrong.” I said, “Jesus’ disciples misread the prophets and were looking for a deliverer who would rule with an iron rod, a warrior king. Today, we’ve been sold a wrong idea about God, and we tell it to our children. We tell them that God’s defining attribute is power. If this is true, the all that happens on Earth is ultimately God’s fault - because God is in control - he controls everything with His divine power. This is not God’s wish - not the way he wants to be seen, or the way he actually is.”

“God is love.” Carole said, “Love. I know that is God’s main characteristic. But, doesn’t love save those who suffer?”

“Within the bounds of God’s perfect love, His power lives.” I said, “But the ultimate revelation of God’s love is freedom. The perfect love of God allows choices to be made and then honors those choices. But ultimately, Love will win.”

God’s love is perfect. It is patient. Long-suffering.

Jesus said, “God is Love.” The apostles, empowered by Jesus, repeated, “God is Love.” It is the love of God that compels the heart and mind of true believers in every generation. And that love is seen most clearly in the death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s how God demonstrates His love and frames His power.

Jesus came to this earth to demonstrate the Love of God. He came to our waterhole, so to speak. Before Jesus took the cross of Calvary upon Himself, his disciples had the wrong idea about Jesus.

When the disciples came to the waterhole with Jesus, they knew him well. And they knew the powers that stood against him. They knew about the Devil and his angels. They knew about the lion and the crocodiles. But they thought Jesus’ power would dominate. They thought the Messiah, the warrior-king, would walk unscathed through this world. Like an elephant at the waterhole, Jesus would be unable to be touched and he would set up his Kingdom.

And so, they looked for power in the life of Jesus. And they saw it! But what they didn’t realise is that Jesus’ power is confined within a greater reality - God’s Love. They watched what they thought was an elephant walking through the streets of Jerusalem and wondered how anyone could miss it! And they asked, “When? When will Jesus demonstrate his power?”

They were looking for the wrong animal at the waterhole. Jesus hadn’t come to show power but love. He hadn’t come to fulfill the wishes of the disciples but to reveal the nature of His Father.

He hadn’t come to the waterhole as an elephant, stomping his way to victory.

He hadn’t come as a buffalo, sniffing out evil and driving it away.

Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” He hadn’t come to show God’s power but God’s love.

Jesus showed God’s love by entering the waterhole as a wildebeest.

Like many others before Him, Jesus was lifted up and nailed to a cross. Rome had crucified thousands. Even on that day, there were three.

Jesus entered our waterhole like any of the millions before him.

The roaring lion, looking for someone to devour, leapt upon Jesus – driving his clawed nails into hands and feet.

The crocodile, leviathan, roused from despairs depths - took hold of his side – and beginning the death roll, pulled Jesus under - into murky darkness.

And Jesus died.

“If you’ve seen me,” Jesus said, “you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

“I give you a new command:” Jesus said, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

After a long drive and discussion on the nature of God and the world, Carole said, “So we just love these kids – and that’s enough?”

“Yes,” I said. “But there is something else we give them. You talk about it all the time.”

“Hope.” Carole said, “We give hope to the children we save. Because we are teaching them about Jesus. That gives them a hope for a future beyond this world of pain and death.”

“Yes!”

Carole continued, a bit excited now, “And we are giving them an education which will provide a chance at a happier life than they would have had on this earth. I just wish we could help more. Save more. Change the lives of more children.”

“You are.” I said, “And you’re doing it God’s way.”

“We are?” Carole said.

“Yes.” I said, “God doesn’t see time like we do. When He rescued the children of Israel, He waited 400 years before mounting his rescue effort. And when he did rescue them, He took 40 years to complete it. When changing lives of many, God works on a generational time scale rather than performing quick fixes.”

“How is that like what we are doing?” Carole said.

“You are educating these kids.” I said, “When they are grown and married, they will teach their children what they have learned. You are taking entire families out of poverty. One child becomes one generation becomes - in time – one nation, Kenya. You are changing the world, Carole. God’s way.”

There are thousands of children - like wildebeest heading into the waterhole. It is a rare person who can live among them like Jesus, or Joseph or Nestor. This is a very special calling. Very few of us are Saviours. But all of us are disciples.

And like the disciple Peter, we are still alive because – now that we understand it – we have accepted the rescue Jesus offered on the cross and the eternal life He promised by conquering the grave. We have hope because we know the rest of the story. May we make this hope of a better life a reality for as many of God’s children as possible.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When the Lost are Found

** This is the concluding chapter to the book I am writing about my trip to Kenya with Education Care Projects Kenya **

When I returned home from the trip to Kenya, it took weeks to process what I had experienced. The true meaning of it all only became clear the second time I was asked to preach about my trip.

My first sermon at home was just a few days after my return. I told stories about the trip. Stories about the need. Stories about the culture. And I invited people to help.

In preparation for my second sermon a few weeks later, God reminded me about the first night’s worship in Kenya. We had arrived in Kapune in the late evening, greeted the children with a touch to the head and then eaten dinner as darkness overtook the rolling hills of Maasai land. As we finished, Leon told us the children would be arriving soon for worship.

Knowing it was late and because I would be speaking through a translator, I wanted to have a quick clear message. I had prepared a lot of talks, but seeing the environment and the kids - nothing seemed right.

Leon had been doing the evening worships with the kids, so I asked him what I should say. “What do they need to hear?”

Leon said, “I tell them the same thing every night. I tell them  God loves them very much. They haven’t heard this before they came here. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

I felt God’s Spirit rest upon my spirit and a message quickly formed in my mind. Luke 15 - When God finds someone He’s lost, he throws a party because God loves each of us. He loves you and you and you! That’s the point of all three stories in Luke 15.

The children filtered in through the entry of our mud hut. Soon the room was full with the 16 orphan children who’d come home for Christmas break, Joseph and Mercy, their five children and the four of us from Australia.

Leon led the children in singing a few songs, prayed and then handed over to me.

“Have you ever lost something?” I asked the kids. A few stories were told from the kids and then we moved into Jesus telling stories about finding lost things in Luke 15.

A Shepherd has a hundred sheep. When he looses one sheep, he puts the other 99 in a pen and goes searching. When he finds the lost one,he picks it up and puts it on his shoulders. He caries it home, puts it in the pen and then throws a party. He goes from house to house, friend to friend, and says, “I found my lost sheep. Come! Celebrate with me!”

A woman has ten coins. When she looses one of them, she searches the whole house. She sweeps everywhere and finally unearths the coin. She travels from house to house telling friends and neighbours the story: “I’ve found a coin that I lost, I’m so happy. I’m throwing a party! Come! Celebrate with me!”

Then Jesus tells a final story. There was once a man with two sons. In each story, the amount goes up of how much is lost. In the first story one in a hundred is lost. In the second story one in ten is lost. And now, in this final story, there are just two sons.

The listeners in Jesus’ day, hearing these three stories would have recognised this final story as the main point. This is the big one. It’s not a one percent loss or a ten percent loss. It is half; half of everything the Father has. The son takes his half, wastes it all and then, broken and in tears makes his way home.

The entire walk home, the son practices his speech: “Father, I’ve sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Let me be one of your servants!” Over and over he repeats this to himself until he nears the property of his Father.

As I told these stories to the children, that first night in the mud hut that would be our home for the next week, I repeated the son practicing his speech three times, “Father, I’ve sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Let me be one of your servants!”

I wanted the kids to feel the struggle the boy was feeling as he walked toward his father’s house. When I repeated it the third time, Joseph looked at me - pausing - as if to say, “Do you really want me to translate it all again?” I nodded.

“The father was standing in front of the house,” I said. “And he saw his son while he was still a long ways away. And guess what he did? He picked up his stick and ran toward the boy.”

Every Masai boy and men carries a stick. It has many purposes. It is a walking stick. It is a prodding stick for cattle. It is a weapon for defense against predators. The children went through their mental list of why the father might have picked up his stick. “The father ran toward his son with a stick!” I repeated. Joseph repeated my words in Maasai.

The kids silently stared at me wide-eyed.

The son saw his father coming. He saw the stick. And he began to yell the speech he had practiced so many times, “Father, I’ve sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But before he could finish, his father reached him. He threw his stick to the ground and wrapped his arms around the boy! And then he threw a party! He killed the best cow! And he invited everyone! “My Son is home! He was lost but now he is found! He was dead but now he is alive! Come! Celebrate with us! My son is alive!”

That’s where I finished the story with the kids in Kenya - both times I told it - that first night in Maasai land and 10 days later on Sabbath when I spoke to the students at Hands of Hope Academy.

“God loves you so much! When He finds you - He throws a party!” I told the kids, “There was a party in Heaven the day you were found!” Every child rescued by Joseph in Kapune and Nestor in Eldoret understands the heart of Jesus so much more than most of us who have never been rescued from torture, homelessness or desperation. “You once were lost, but now you’re found! God loves you so much!”

For the rest of us, more like the pharisees, Jesus saves the big reveal for the end. The father hasn’t lost just one son, he’s lost them both. One to the brokenness of those lost in the world. The other to disconnectedness of those lost in the church. Dead to each other and lost in themselves, neither son understands the love of their father.

While the heart of Luke 15 brings comfort and assurance to those lost and seeking salvation from oppression, the introduction and conclusion of the chapter make it clear that Jesus was aiming at the minds of rich people who were comfortable with their safe lives. They judged Jesus because he spent so much time caring for the poor, broken, sinful rabble of the world. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. So he told them this parable” (Luke 15:2-3). Notice Luke doesn’t say, “he told them these parables” even though there are three stories because it was Jesus’ intent to present one cohesive message from God to self-focused older brothers: “Celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32).

This disconnect between the brothers is the reason for Jesus’ lost and found stories. Nothing gives God greater joy than a found child. Yet in the midst of celebrating the salvation of one, God leaves the party - walking out into the night where the drums and dancing aren’t so loud - to plead with the sibling of the saved. “Please son, love your brother.”

Poverty is, at the heart of it, broken relationships. When God sent his Son to the world, it was to reconnect fallen humanity with the Father in Heaven. Before Jesus returned home to His Father, he prayed for you and I, “Father make them one as we are one.” Paul clarified the primary purpose of followers of Jesus like this: making things right with others as God made things right with us.

The older son, standing outside the party, is in the place of the deepest human poverty. Alone, he refuses the will of the Father to unite the family of God.

Now returned from Kenya, the meaning of poverty is clearer to me. Poverty exists most where relationships are valued least.

The conflict within me about the meaning of poverty is resolved. It isn’t about money. It’s about relationships. If all was right between God and the world poverty would not exist.

I saw some of the richest people in the world while I was in Kenya. Joseph and Mercy, living in Kapune with their children, parents, orphans and neighbours - as one peaceful loving community - are truly rich. The compassionate love and generous forgiveness they have for each other is truly beautiful.

I also saw some of the poorest people in the world while I was in Kenya. From abandoned boys sniffing glue on the streets of Eldoret to eleven year-old girls circumcised and forced to marry; from children forced to run away because of the beatings of a grand father to the politician who “doesn’t even have a cow”, the poverty of Kenya is in her failing and ravaged relationships.

Because of the example of Jesus and the call to do likewise, His followers will be caught up in the work of saving God’s children for the Kingdom. This is done wherever Jesus’ followers are modeling Christlike relationships as they rescue the lost.

We can help by helping those who build relationships both on Earth and in Heaven. This is why I value the work of Education Care Projects Kenya. They are supporting two men - Joseph and Nestor - who are rescuing children from loveless poverty, embracing them with the protecting arms of Jesus and inviting them into the family of God.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Intro - ECPK book - Kenya 2017


Africa. One word. So many meanings.

People. Poverty. Resources. Dirt. Wealth. War. Safari. Starvation. Children. Genocide. Beauty. Abuse. Power. Orphans.

To one of every seven of earth’s people, Africa is home. Within her 54 countries nearly 2000 languages are spoken, each representing a unique people group and distinct culture.

Over the past few hundred years, these ancient cultures have been given a crash course in western thought and morality. Along with education and health, westerners brought culture and ideologies which changed Africa both for better and worse.

Today, Africa is a country of extremes. Spiritual darkness and emotional devastation is contrasted with the joy-filled resilience of rescued children. Open cut mines and rubbish strewn city streets deface the same land graced with beautiful green rolling hills and open Savannah covered with giraffe, lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo.

In Africa, the west is seen as the big brother who could swoop in and save the day, if only he would. Imported via Internet and mass media, a western pop-culture picture is painted of a reality that exists nowhere.

In the west, a starving African child serves as the proverbial picture in the dictionary next to the word poverty. “Eat your dinner,” western parents say, “there are children starving in Africa.” And yet, in reality, many African families live happy thriving lives.

Poverty. The definition written by a thousand charitable organizations parallels the misspelled emails from Nigeria in one word - Money. The Internet abounds with scams and legitimate claims coming out of Africa, each seeking the elixir of western life - money.

Having grown up in the west of the west, I am deeply embedded in this money mindset. In California - the land of Hollywood and Silicon Valley - I was raised believing “you can do anything you set your mind on.” Among my childhood peers “making your first million” was an all too common milestone on their way to maturity.

My first foray into the big world of poverty was a 10 day mission trip to Honduras. Departing my whitewashed private California boarding school with a collection of likewise Nike-clad classmates, we walked dusty roads lined with cardboard houses. The first week of our time was spent, faces covered in concrete dust, building an orphanage. The final few days were spent, eyes squinting through Nikon lenses, exploring the Copan ruins.

From that trip, two stories have remained with me. The first memory is holding a malnourished baby who died days after we returned home. A faded photo is imprinted in my mind cataloging the memory. In the photo, our trip leader holds the baby, smiling and crying at the same time.

The second memory is of a barefooted boy who helped us on the job site. Each day he approached me and said something in the local language while pointing at my work boots. I would offer him my shoes and he would shake his head and wave his hands back and forth. On our final day at the orphanage, a local pastor shared the need for light weight shoes. I returned to my room - as did most of my classmates - and retrieved my walking shoes. Later that day, as we were bundling into the bus, the boy approached and pointed to my boots once again. They were now the only shoes I had with me. I saw the translator and called him over. He explained the boy wanted the shoes I wore the day I arrived. “He’s never had shoes,” the translator said. Finally understanding his request, I had to tell the boy those shoes had been given away that morning. His little face fell. For a week he had tried so hard to get his message through and while willing, I didn’t understand the request.

All these years later, I barely remember the world famous archaeological ruins at Copan. I remember - like it was yesterday - however, the barefooted boy and the starving baby. The emotions I felt are still with me and bring tears to my eyes even now as I write these words.

In the three decades since, I’ve only had a few opportunities to enter places of poverty. While in university, I took a break and lived in the Marshal Islands where I served as an unqualified teacher. As an adult, I rode the train across Australia and drove to outback Western Australia where I told stories to aboriginal children.

On another mission trip during my university days, I met and married a local, thus becoming Australian myself. After that, I stayed in Australia where I studied Theology and worked for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for 15 years. During that time, my wife and I had three Australian babies who are now (mostly) grown up.

Over the past four years, I have spent my working days at Government primary schools where I serve as a chaplain to children, teachers and parents. They have helped me understand that poverty is bigger than just money. There’s something both nearby and nebulous to it. Poverty is to be without. But, without what?

It wasn’t until the trip to Africa recounted in this book that I was able to put my growing understanding of poverty into words. Like all words in a living language, “poverty” is developing in meaning within all of us.

Each of us drag a tale a thousand stories long. Like me, you are the sum total of the stories in your life - not of the stories themselves but of how you choose to tell them.

So, come with me on a journey through Kenya and perhaps you will discover new meaning in poverty, as I did.

-----

This is the opening chapter of my book about my trip with Education Care Projects Kenya to see their work with the children in Maasai Land and Eldoret.

Friday, June 30, 2017

God’s Honour – vs – Honouring God

Sabbath School Helps - Lesson 1 - 1 July 2017


Getting into the Story

Read Acts 9:1-9

Before meeting Jesus, who was Saul working for? Acts 9:1 (Himself!)

Who does he think he is working for? (God/Jews)

What does he ask the High Priest for? Why? (Authority, to imprison Christians)

What does Saul believe he is defending? (The name/nature of God)

Who is the ultimate defender of the nature of God? Acts 9:3,4 (God himself)

Who steps in and reveals the truth of God’s Character? Acts 9:4,5 (Jesus)

By attacking Christians, who is Saul actually persecuting? Acts 9:5 (God/Jesus)


The Danger of Defending God

Defending God’s honour puts Saul in a position of perceived power. How does this imbalance effect those around him? (Jews respected him, Christians feared him)

What effect did Saul’s misguided passion have on himself? (he was blinded by his own misguided zeal for God)

What ‘oldest teaching in the Book’ does this teach, once again? (Self is the root of Sin)

Some today believe they must defend the nature of God against fellow believers with differing views. What does Saul’s situation teach us? (LOTS! How to deal with our own zealotry. How to deal with zealots among us. How to deal with questions of God’s nature. Primarily: Leave your ego at the foot of the cross and verify you are seeing Jesus clearly!)


Taking the Story Seriously

Read Acts 9:10-20

What was Ananias’ first opinion of Saul? (fear, distrust)

Why did he go anyway? (Jesus told him to go)

What was the result? (Saul was healed and filled with the Holy Spirit)

What impact would it have on you to hear a Jesus hater proclaiming their love for Him?


Read Acts 9:21-25

How did Saul change? (preaching FOR Jesus)

How did Saul stay the same? (strongly proving his views)

Why were the Jews determined to kill Saul? (the power of his testimony and teaching)


Read Acts 9:26-30

Why is it so hard to trust someone who has hurt your friends and family?

How much convincing would you take to believe Saul?

Without Saul/Paul our understanding of Jesus and the Early church would be very different.
This being true, how important is Barnabas to the story of the Gospel? (very!)

Is there someone who has spoken in your defence? What difference did it make?


In the Early Church

Why was the story of Saul’s conversion effective in changing the hearts of Christians? (various reasons, all emanating out from the presence of Jesus in the heart of their story)

Why was Saul’s story unable to change the hearts of the Jews? (They did not believe in Jesus)


In your Local Church

In some parts of the world today, the Christian church is growing rapidly. In others, it is not. Why?


Read Acts 9:31

What was the secret to the growth and health of the early Christian Church? (Respect for Jesus and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit brought peace, strength and numbers)


In your local church, what receives more attention:  

Personal Testimonies – or – Doctrinal Teaching

What does this tell you?

What needs to happen?


When people present views differing from the majority, does your local church:

Listen and Respond – or – Debate and Divide

What does this tell you?

What needs to happen?


Is your church more like the 1st century Christians or the 1st century Jews?

What needs to happen next? (testimonies about Jesus!)


Conclusion

In Acts 9 we see three stories of humility which lead to a healthy thriving church. Saul humbles himself before Jesus after having the ‘self’ knocked out of him. Ananias humbles himself before Jesus’ will. The Disciples humble themselves after hearing the testimony of Barnabas.

If ‘Self is the root of sin,’ what is the antidote? (Love for others is the root of righteousness)

Where does this kind of Love come from? (only from Jesus)

Where is this love / selfless humility illustrated best? (in the love of Jesus for us, for His father, for all of Creation)

How can we become humble? (look to Jesus)

How can we become a church of humility? (look to Jesus and tell the story)

How can we become loving? (look to Jesus)

How can we become a loving church? (look to Jesus and tell the story)


Why is telling the story so important? (because it changes people!)

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Letter to Refugees: From Surviving to Thriving

Sabbath School Helps - Lesson 13 - 24 June 2017

Introduction

Ringwood Adventist Church, where I attend with my family, is as close to the Kingdom of God as you can get before the return of Christ. Why do I say this? 
Reason 1. A few weeks ago, during luncheon I noticed something about the people with whom I was eating. I commented that the five of us were from five different families, five different nationalities and five different cultures! That's Kingdom growth if I ever saw it!
Reason 2. At least half of our weekly attendees are refugees. Hearing their stories of suffering from around the world, I have learned so much more about the power of Salvation. The Kingdom of God is ever present due to their presence.

Peter's first letter is written to Refugees. He wrote it to give them courage and confidence in their struggles. Let's take a look.


Read 1 Peter 1:1-9

What blessings are declared about refugees (exiles) in these verses? 1 Pet 1:1,2 (chosen by God for the activity of God to be revealed in their lives)

What impact might the following statements have on a refugee:
“God has chosen you and sent you out.”
“God knows your future and His Spirit is with you now, working in you and through you.”
“You are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus!”
“May God’s grace and peace be yours!”

Why does Salvation mean more to those who are suffering?

What has happened to the family inheritance of most refugees? 
What does 1 Pet 1:4 say about the inheritance received by those exiled for Christ?
What would it mean to a refugee to hear of their unending inheritance in Heaven?

What trials do refugees endure today?
How might salvation mean more to them than those who are not exiles? (1 Pet 1:5)

How is suffering improving the eternal character of a refugee? (1 Pet 1:6-7)

Why is it important to realise we are all exiles? (1 Pet 1:3)

How does a refugee state of mind benefit us all? (1 Pet 1:8-9)

What did Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) wonder about our salvation story?
“Shall we be witnesses for the Lord of grace to myriads of worlds which will be wonderstruck when they hear of the incarnate God? Shall we be surrounded by pure intelligences enquiring and searching into the mysteries of God manifest in the flesh? Will the unfallen worlds desire to be instructed in the glorious gospel of the blessed God? And will each one of us have his tale to tell of our experience of infinite love? I think so, since the Lord has saved us “to that intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be known by the church of the manifold wisdom of God” (Greatest Fight in the World, April, 1891).

What do you think it will be like, into eternity, to tell of Christ's gift of Salvation for you?


Read: 1 Peter 1:10-17

What did both the prophets and the angels want to understand? (Salvation)

How does being a refugee make a new King and new Kingdom so much more exciting?

Having God as your new King and Lord, how are you called to live until He returns? (sober minded, hope in Christ, obedient, transformed, holy)


Read 1 Peter 5:1-5

What does this type of person look like in today's world?

STORM Co – In Australia we have a movement of Seventh-day Adventist youth from many different conferences who go into various communities and show: “Service To Others Really Matters”. For a week, these young people do community service projects and run daily worship programs. STORM Co started in1992 and is a regular part of the Adventist culture in Australia. 

What does STORM Co teach our youth? 
What does it teach the children who look up to our youth? 
What does it teach the communities STORM Co serves? 
What does it teach the churches these STORM Co groups come from?

What happens to a family where service to others isn’t modelled?
What happens to a country where service to others isn’t valued?
What happens to a church where service to others isn’t organised?
What happens to a Christian who doesn’t serve others?

Is service to others the fullest revelation of Jesus' character to today's world?
Why or why not?

What character strength is required to truly serve others? 1 Pet 5:5


Conclusion

As you closing prayer, read 1 Peter 5:6-11


Friday, June 16, 2017

Sabbath School Helps - Lesson 12 - 16 June 2017


Every TV show ends the season with a cliffhanger, making us wait until the next season for the resolution to some huge impending catastrophe. How is the Second Coming of Jesus similar? 

While you wait for the TV show to return, it slowly fades to the back of your mind. When the new season arrives, what do the show producers do to get you back into the story? How is our wait for the return of Jesus similar? 


Scoffer to Believer

Read 2 Peter 3:1-4

What does it mean to scoff at someone else?

How is being called a scoffer worse than being a person who scoffs? (Scoff refers to the nature of the act. Being called a scoffer refers to the nature of the person. A scoffer has made scoffing a way of life and is now defined by it.)

How do the scoffers in these verses reveal themselves? What do they say? (2 Peter 3:3,4)

What traits are evident in the personality and character of a scoffer? (following evil desires)

What is the opposite of scoff? (encourage, compliment, approve, admire, trust, praise)

What is the opposite of scoffer? (believer, optimist)

Do Christians, at times, scoff at unbelievers? How?

Is the Kingdom of God made up of scoffers or believers?

What actions can we take to ensure our temptation to scoff at others does not lead us to become scoffers? (2 Peter 3:1,2)


Wicked to Wise

Read Matthew 24:45-51

Compare/contrast the wise and wicked servant.

How were they the same? (Responsibilities - In charge of Master’s household. Waiting for Master’s return.)

How were they different? (Actions – Wise: feeding household faithfully. Wicked: Attacking household and eating/drinking elsewhere.)

What was the difference in character between the wise and wicked servant? (focus: others/self)

Do we see both wise and wicked servants in our local church today? Why?

In the parable, how did this difference develop? (Time / Delay. Wise: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Wicked: Absence makes the heart go yonder. Until bit by bit they two servants become opposites.)

What can we do to ensure we fall deeper in love with Jesus as we wait?


Destruction to Salvation

Read 2 Peter 3:14-18

Why do you think Peter puts this challenge to grow in Christlike character at the end of this letter?

What encouragement do you gain from these verses?

What challenges you the most in these verses?

A character formed according to the divine likeness is the only treasure that we can take from this world to the next. Those who are under the instruction of Christ in this world will take every divine attainment with them to the heavenly mansions. And in heaven we are continually to improve. (Maranatha, 224)

Read Hebrews 12:1-3

How can wicked scoffers be changed into wise believers and be taken from destruction to salvation? (only by fixing their eyes on Jesus)

How does looking at Jesus impact the person's character over time? (we become more like Him)

How long does this process take?


To be continued… 
(this is actually the end of this study, but your character development is never ending!)

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Sabbath School Helps - Lesson 11 - June 10 2017

Introduction

It is said that 10,000 hours makes a master. What have you mastered in life? How has the process of mastering this craft, instrument, pursuit shaped you? (We are mastered by that which we master)


Lesson

Read: 2 Peter 2:19
What does this verse teach us about the impact your pursuits have upon you?

Read 2 Peter 2:1-22
What different communities are considered in this passage? (OT times, Early church, Heaven, Noah’s community, Lot’s community, wild animals, Balaam’s community, natural forces, sinful world, sacred community) … Why so many? Can we all find at least one to relate with? Which one speaks most clearly to you?

T/F: Those who formed the Early Church were both mastering and being mastered by the church they were forming. Support your answer.
While Creating Community (Planting a church, growing a church):
What positive personal values in individuals can be developed?
What positive organisational values can be developed?
What negative personal values can be developed?
What negative organisational values can be developed?
What makes the difference?
What steps can be taken to ensure we develop positives and squash negatives?

Read John 8:34-36
What is this verse saying to you?
Who among us has sinned? (all) So we are all slaves to what? (sin)
Who among us has been released? (all) So we are all what? (free)
Free indeed!
From what? (the obvious answer is ‘sin’ but this is due to taking this passage – far too often – out of context)


The Context
Read John 8:30-32
To whom is Jesus speaking? (Jews who believe Him – disciples!)

Read John 8:33
Who did they say they were? (Abraham’s sons)

After Jesus pushed them a bit more, who did they decide they were? John 8:41 (God’s sons)
Who did Jesus tell them their father was? John 8:44 (Satan)
Just reminding ourselves: To whom is Jesus speaking? John 8:31 (Believers – disciples)
Do you believe in Jesus? Are you a follower of Jesus?
Are you uncomfortable, yet?

What makes the difference? John 8:42 (love for Jesus)
How important is it that our church community is founded on love for Jesus and love for others?
How can we ensure ‘love for Jesus’ is the primary focus of our community?

Any time our community claims God as our Father but does not love, we become the children of Satan. While this may seem extremely harsh, it is exactly what the context of John 8 is teaching us about being ‘set free by the Son.’
If we are ‘free indeed’ – John 8:36 – what have we been set free from? (loveless entitlement, believing we are the sons of God, heirs of the Kingdom, or any other such title without first recognising our places as slaves in need of freedom. We are not natural sons – only freed slaves - but amazingly we are adopted as children of God! We best remember our 'lost' heritage and 'found' story.)
What steps can be taken to ensure we develop love and squash entitlement?
What does discipleship look like in a place set free by the Son?
What does evangelism look like in a place set free by the Son?


Conclusion

If Jesus is truly our master, we will be mastered by Him.
Personally, what might this look like today? Tomorrow? In 30 years?
As a church, what might this look like today? Tomorrow? In 30 years?


Friday, June 02, 2017

Sabbath School Helps - Lesson 10 - June 3 2017

Icebreaker: Think back to the last time you spent time with a special friend. What was the situation? Why did you get together? What did you do? 

Lesson Discussion

Read the following bolded question and discuss briefly. Then read each of the three passages individually and ask some 5W & H questions (who, what, when, where, why, how) about each. Use the category (G-words) to wrap up each section before moving onto the next verse. 
Into what types of situations did Jesus take his “Inner circle” of three? 
His Grieving: Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46)
His Giftedness: Jairus’ Daughter (Luke 8:49-56)
His Glory: The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-6)

Grieving, Giftedness, Glory.
Which of these three situations are you most likely to take your friends? Why? 
Which of these three situations are you most likely to face alone? Why? 
Why do you think Jesus took his “inner circle” into all three settings? 
How did these three situations set them up as leaders in the Early Church?
How did these three situations set them up and disciple makers?
Do you think Peter, James and John made a conscious effort to teach and take their followers into their times of grieving, giftedness and glory? 

Read 2 Peter 1:16-20
What story is Peter referring to? 
Why is it important to Peter that his readers understand that this is not a myth but an actual occurrence?

Read 1 Peter 1:10-12
How does this passage reveal the way Jesus was involved past, present and future in revealing Himself to the people of Earth?
Where do you see grief, gifts and glory revealed in this passage? 
What does that tell you about the nature of the prophets and their message? 
What does it tell you about the messenger who gave the gospel to you? 
What does it tell you about yourself as a giver of the gospel to the next person? 
Are you the recipient of ‘cleverly contrived myths’ or something else? Is the salvation story of Jesus – past, present and future – a true occurrence? How do you know?

Read 2 Peter 1:19-21
How does this verse tie OT, NT and today together?
How does it make you feel to know the Morning Star (Jesus, Revelation 22:16) is shining in your heart?
What does it mean that the words of the prophets are ‘carried along by the Holy Spirit’? 
What does this look like in our day to day interpretation of the world?
Now that your heart is alight with Jesus’ shining nature, how are you seeing His light shining through you into the darkness of the world?

Read 2 Timothy 3:15-17
What is the purpose of the Holy Scriptures in us? (2 Tim 3:15)
What is the purpose of the Holy Scriptures in the church? (2 Tim 3:16)
What is the purpose of the Holy Scriptures in the world? (2 Tim 3:17)

How to each of these settings reveal our need to share our grieving, giftedness and glory with others?

Closing Prayer: Sing Together

Into my heart
Into my heart
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus

Come in today
Come in always
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus

Out of my heart
Out of my heart
Shine out of my heart, Lord Jesus

Shine out today
Shine out always
Shine out of my heart, Lord Jesus



Sunday, May 28, 2017

Christian Reconciliation – The process of ‘making things right’ before God


In the past few years,  I have been thinking, praying and studying a lot about reconciliation. And for good reason! I have received forgiveness beyond anything I deserve or can even understand. Every day for the past three and a half years I have been taken again to the foot of the cross - realising that in Jesus we have all been reconciled to the Father, our sin thrown into the deepest part of the sea.

God's gift of forgiveness has been truly opened up to each of us. This is reconciliation. And now, we have been given the work of reconciliation until Jesus returns to finalise the reconciliation of creation eternally.

Here's a brief outline of the process for participation in Godly reconciliation as demonstrated in the Bible. There is much much more that could be included.

Sinner: Confess (tell the whole truth), Repent (express sorrow for your sin), Ask forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). This is the process of reconciliation for the sinner who, having humbled himself, desires restitution of the relationship. If the sinner is not repentant, you'll need to turn to Matthew 18:15-20.

The Church: The system of response to a fallen believer is clearly laid out in scripture. Reconciliation is the primary work given to ‘anyone who is in Christ’ (2 Cor 5:16-21) and should therefore be something we are very good at as Christians. The process of reconciliation (Gal 6:1-5) is one of wariness toward sin, love toward the sinner and forgiveness as Christ forgave us (Eph 4:32).

The offended person: This is the hard part! Forgiveness is not something that comes naturally to us. I can’t count the number of women who have said to my wife and I that they would not be able to forgive their husbands – at least not until some dire consequences were dealt out. Rather than be seen to be speaking out of place, I offer a few texts: Eph 4:32, Heb 8:12, 2 Cor 5:18-19, 1 John 4:19-21, Ps 103:8-12.

One thing is very clear in scripture: God values reconciliation more than sacrifices and offerings. Why? Because God our Creator became our Re-creator through the ultimate act of Reconciliation on the Cross of Calvary. Every time followers of God participate in the reconciliation process it declares: The Lord He is good, His mercy endures forever.


The above assumes all parties are participating in the reconciliation process. On the cross, Jesus made forgiveness available to all. It is up to us to accept that gift. He forces forgiveness on no one. To do so would be unhealthy and ineffective. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Forgiving The Sinner - A Cultural Understanding

When the Prophet Nathan held King David to account for his actions before God (See 2 Samuel 12) he did it with a story about a father. The Prophet told the King a parable about a rich man who, to feed a visitor, took the only lamb of a poor man. The rich man had many animals but didn’t want to lessen his herd. The poor man raised the lamb inside his home. Nathan described the situation: “This lamb grew up with the man and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.” Nathan’s story focused on the relationship of the lamb to this poor family – a father and children – to show it was part of their community.

Nathan’s story pointed David to the impact of his actions on those around him rather than focusing on what his sin had done to his own character. Bathsheba was more than a sheep. She was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s wife. She slept in someone’s arms.

In collectivist cultures, the community is the way people identify themselves. They don't even think "We before I" they just live it because this is their deeply embedded reality - their shared public, private and self-culture. The collectivist is, first, a community.

We live in an individualistic culture. We think of ourselves long before we consider others. "That's not fair!" is our cry because we are first. When someone wrongs us, we think (and even say) "I'm going to punish that person by kicking them out or kicking them to pieces. PROBABLY BOTH!" And those around us laugh because, of course, that person deserves it for hurting 'me'.

My selfish response to treatment from others is my individualistic culture coming out (As an American, the force is strong with me!). While there is much to be learned from valuing the self, God spoke His reality into a collectivist culture. He said, "I am we. I am three. I am one." This only makes sense in a collectivist culture. And it makes PERFECT sense in that context!

"Love covers over a multitude of sins" is a collectivist ministry model. This is how loving families care for the fallen: embrace the sinner tightly as they confess and heal so they know they are loved, needed and cherished; and so they don’t wander off into the stormy night of their distress where they may be swallowed eternally by their self-loathing. Forgiveness in a collectivist culture is given for the community. We need us. To lose one is to lose all. As a community, when one is lost the 99 are never the same. For we are one hundred.

Holding a leader to account, as Nathan did, is God's way of rebuilding His collectivist Kingdom. Nathan’s story showed David his actions had taken him out of the community. Realising his severed ties to the culture and practices learned in childhood (feeding the traveller, caring for the neighbour) David wept.

When a church organisation deals with a sin against the community they apply collectivist leadership strategies in hopes of reshaping that community. This is not easy to accept by individualistic individuals, especially if we do not recognise the culture clash. For the wellbeing of the community, it is necessary – and healthy – that the leader be held to account.

What happens at home and in the close community of the local church often looks very different to the reparations made by corporate leadership. This is a good thing. The fallen leader needs to be both held to account and embraced tenaciously. They need a safe place to weep, pray and heal after being shown a story greater than themselves.

To hold the tension between these two realities can be difficult unless we recognise the holistic nature of God’s Kingdom: how important the ‘whole one hundred’ and how desperately loved ‘each one’ by our Heavenly Father.