After the ruins…

…Something will be planted in its place. “A place where vines will be planted”. In place of the ruins of sin, prosperity? In place of the wastelands of sin, life? In place of the lifelessness of sin, the Spirit? A whole country sinned and a whole city. So, the country is ruined. But something will be planted in its place. Based on Micah chapter 1 verses 5-7.

Meditations

Although Jesus’ disciples were journeying with him, his disciples left him. But Jesus was not bitter. Although being abandoned is not sweet. Perhaps the experience of the disciples leaving him was, as we say, “bitter sweet”, as at the time of this trial Jesus was not alone because he had his heavenly Father for closeness and friendship. Jesus had his heavenly Father to bond with rather than giving up. If we go through trial, we also need the lifeline that sustains us. Jesus showed his humanity by needing the closeness and intimacy of his Father in heaven when all others abandoned him. Powerful, strong stuff. Jesus indeed can be our strength and sustainer when we go through trials of various sorts as he has been through trials as well and his Spirit can help us.

Meditation 2. The disciples needed courage on their journey with Jesus. Jesus tells them to be brave. They will have to journey more with him to learn the ways of being his disciple. This despite the disciples abandoning Jesus once. They would have to gain their courage and go forward with Jesus. Take courage, therefore, his disciples. He knows your weaknesses and identifies with them yet can help you become more like him in love and in action.

Security

It is a powerless thing to truly understand that one is not qualified to judge when you do the same things you judge them on. But such a realization does not strip one fully of the need to judge. One still flirts with the idea.

Non-judgmentalism can feel disempowering and weak, but can one make something else in the place of judging others? Can one replace the need to judge with changing one’s mind? So, one is fair and consistent with the reality that one does the things one judges others on, but even goes further: in seeing the good rather than what’s flawed and wrong. Of course there will be flaws and wrongs, but love always believes the best.

Where from? Where to?

It is bound to come up in discussion — in some circles academic and theological (theology being the study of the divine, in case you did not know) — the discussion being that of the origin of Jesus’ teaching 2000 years ago. It seems Jesus is recorded as saying his teaching came from his heavenly Father (the gospel of John 17:6-8, in the Bible).

Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 

– John 17:7

What does Jesus mean by saying, “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you”?

The ‘you” Jesus is referring to is his Father. Jesus is addressing his Father in a prayer. I see from this prayer, in John chapter 17, verses six to eight, that Jesus got his teaching from his heavenly Father. Therefore, the disciples have the teaching from the Father Jesus passed on.

The disciples accepted the teaching from Jesus which came from the Father. Jesus said:

For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.

– John 17:8

The disciples knew Jesus’ teaching and not only knew his teaching but accepted it.

Later, they followed what Jesus said to do in his teaching.

The disciples would go from acceptance of Jesus’ teaching to applying Jesus’ teaching.

They were initially invited by Jesus to follow him and followed through to the end. The pattern of following the Lord Jesus has produced many more disciples.

The pattern, again, is hearing his teaching, accepting it, applying it, and to make more disciples.

Discipleship can be a lifelong process for believers as they and God work together on becoming true disciples of the Lord. And his teaching is good, of benefit.

Good teacher

That Jesus was just (just the main word here) a good teacher is quoted with suspicion by preachers, who are quoting the culture and not themselves or the Bible. But I have never heard, as far as I can recall, someone saying to me personally, that is to me personally, that Jesus was just a good teacher. Though I somewhat took on board the preacher’s words that people have used this description of Jesus, that he is being called ‘just a good teacher‘.

In the gospel of John (John 16:25a to be exact) I see evidence that Jesus was a good teacher (not just a good teacher) and of course he was more.

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Get real

The question I ask myself is why don’t I do just one version of a review and leave it at that. The thing is that I may dislike a film but see its worth in themes. The traditional way of dealing with this from a Christian perspective is to praise the themes and forget that you disliked the thing. But I don’t forget. I didn’t like the thing! I wouldn’t buy it. Really! But, since I am conscious of the God thing as well, I want to bring something of that out, too, such as in a theme.

The solution was simple: Don’t downplay the so-called God thing in some work I dislike, turn the ‘God-thing’ over in another format of writing.

Therefore: spirit of life category should provide the thematic stuff in movies and music only and related themes. Although some of my earlier film and music writings that are now posted in the spirit of life category do contain some reviewy elements. This reviewy stuff might have been a critique of a theme. My entertainment review category on this blog should provide straight reviews only.

Update: This information in regards to the structure of the blog is no longer relevant. But in terms of reviews I am keeping to subjective reviews in the music category and more or less in the film category.

Appearances

The Elephant Man was released October 10, 1980. My first encounter with the film The Elephant Man was a striking black and white photo in a hardback book. Because of the photo, and the interesting caption, I was drawn into the sense of the film. There must be more to this film that, as they say, is substance. And there is.

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Journey

Note: I made a major error in this article although it was only the omission of a word. But it changed the meaning. I should have said that there was no deceit in the mouth of Jesus.

Here’s the post with that amendment:

Jesus gives as much as a disciple of his needs at a point in their lives. Based on John 16:12.

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Active, where?

In a post before I wrote about God being actively present and I am wondering where someone would find God’s presence and activity. After that post, I thought about how God could be present actively in music somehow, but whether God is present there is another matter, perhaps of human origin, or even Satanic origin. But God can be there in his activity, perhaps even using the unusual, the unknown, the rejected.

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Revealed or not

The other day I read a verse from the Bible. Just a verse. John 15:22 to be exact. It stirred up a reflection.

Do persecutors and sinners know what Jesus is saying? If so, they will be judged by the revealed light they are given. That is how I read John 15:22. The verse does not describe sinners and persecutors as passive, but actively going against the revealed light given to them. Jesus says they will not be held blameless.

If we are free from retribution for the revelation we are not given, John 15:22 may be a liberating word, but if we are given more light and revelation from God, can be an uncomfortable truth . Then we have a choice what to do with the revelation or light given by God. We will be made accountable for the choice.

It is the person who understands the revealed word or revealed light from God and what they do with it that God is holding to account.

This is my reading of John 15:22.

Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. — Jesus to his disciples.

– John 14:27

I do not know for sure what Jesus meant by this verse, but I trust there are scholars who have done their homework on it. As for me, here are my thoughts on this verse which are not definitive or claiming what Jesus actually meant, but I am convinced of a literal interpretation rather than a mythic one.

I do believe that Jesus can give us peace from his Spirit if we may ask him, but I would not like to put a parameter on how this happens to individuals, but it can happen and come from Jesus.

There is a more doctrinal angle one could read into this verse as well, such as Jesus bridging the gap between himself and his disciples thus making them right with him. Jesus is making people who believe in him right with himself and God which is a Christian theme in the New Testament.

Considering the above verse, what kind of peace is Jesus talking about here? To not let anything come between the disciples and Jesus as he has made his peace with them. So, do not allow yourselves to turn away from him unless you lose that relationship.

Could this verse be about inner peace? If Jesus gives them inner peace, why would they have to do something so their hearts would not be troubled? Unless this verse means to not let anything disturb the inner peace Jesus gives. This inner peace could come from his Spirit and dwells within them so do not let anything disturb that.

Finally, both of these interpretations are equally true as when someone believes in Jesus, they have made been at peace with him, and can receive his Spirit of peace in their hearts as evidence of this peace with Jesus. Just do not lose that relationship with him; let nothing overcome it.

A technique for a miracle?

When God performs a miracle, as recorded in the Bible, I may not know God’s mind in bringing about that miracle, but I know God is acting within integrity and that the miracle is not fraudulent or untrustworthy.

In terms of the reason for a miracle, I can learn to discover with confidence that in the case of Lazarus being raised from the dead, the method or technique of this miracle was to bring glory to God. I can therefore presume that any miracle that God does is to bring glory to God.

Glory is brilliance and radiance. Glory is a demonstration of God’s power. And glory points to evidence of God. Jesus demonstrated God’s glory when he performed a miracle in God’s name. Onlookers believed that Jesus’ words — that he and God were one — matched the evidence, the miracle. As a result of the miracle, to God’s glory, many people there and around believed in Jesus.

At the time, many Jews in Jerusalem had come to Bethany, where the sisters of Lazarus stayed, and sympathized over the untimely death of Lazarus. Lazarus was dead in a tomb for four days. This tomb I mean in the New Testament sense which has a different meaning to the modern sense, but it was indeed a sort of entombment relevant to the time.

A miracle came together in a moment for the sisters. But in case we think miracles should always fall from the sky, a technique of a miracle is for a greater glory, in that the giver of the miracle is glorified, at the right time and the right place, and there is indeed a God-directed purpose for such a miracle.

Celebration at Martha’s

In days past, I have heard the saying “party at [insert name of person’s] place” but no one would have known to say that during the first century. Unless you were a visitor from the 21st century, like Bill and Ted would be, if it were a movie. Back then they seemed to have called it celebrations. In this day and age, we do not seem to need celebrations. There is so much death around, why would anyone celebrate. What is there to celebrate for many people? Is there still a reason to celebrate anything now?

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Alive

I have been reflecting on the Gospel of John. The read has been enjoyable and compelling. This week, I have been reading the chapter on Lazarus and I learnt why Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead. I now share my findings from the gospel itself.

Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha, who lived in the village of Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem, in the first century. Jesus at the time was staying on the far side of the Jordan and was told that Lazarus was unwell.

Two days later, Jesus said to his disciples that Lazarus was physically dead. Jesus explained to his disciples, who were with him, that he meant that Lazarus was resting–meaning his disembodied spirit was resting in Hades, the waiting place for judgment of the dead (as David Pawson explains in “The Road to Hell”). Lazarus was not in heaven or hell. He was resting, in a waiting place for the spirits of the dead.

Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters and was going to wake Lazarus up, so his spirit would come back to his body. Lazarus would come back to life. Jesus went to Bethany and met up with Mary and Martha. Lazarus had been in a tomb four days and Jesus prayed and Lazarus came out of the tomb, alive.

Why did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? Love. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters. They would have been grateful they got their brother back and Jesus delivered on this for them.

I discovered that Jesus’ love in raising Lazarus has a much wider application as well.

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More

I’ve been thinking…and there should be more writing and literature on this blog, in the future, than general writing and life talk although I will probably still include that. I would like to see more poetry and reflections and reviews of books, movies and music.

Back to earth

Part four of my interview with Tim Findlay.

After the conference.

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Interviewer: It would have to be more than experience would you say? You can have a spiritual experience but then there’s the week after or the month after. How would this conference or anything post-conference enhance the foundational aspect of Christian’s lives?

Tim: Well, this is only a one-off conference and we are hoping to add what’s already been done by ministers and other churches around the place and what’s going to be continually done by those ministers and churches. So, we are only adding to what’s already been done. This is not sort of seeking to be the whole answer.

But, certainly, during this conference we want to get keys, we want to help pick up some of the basics. Some of the things we will be speaking on are things that put out the fire of our love relationship with God, we’ve called them fire extinguishers, and the power of repentance, and how we live a life of repentance on an ongoing way. Repentance is not just a one-off event, but we need to repent constantly of our sins.

We’ll talk about Christian foundations, the power of faith, ‘stoking the fire’ is another heading for the conference, deepening our personal devotional life, hearing ad obeying the voice of God, walking in the Spirit of God and not grieve the Spirit. As we don’t grieve the Spirit of God we are just building, inviting, and evoking God’s presence to continue to minister to us.

(Pastor Chris Hayward talked about the Cleansing Streams ethos at the conference. Cleansing Streams is a healing ministry. Tim says Chris’s part was about how can a Christian actually move out of the cage of bondage and begin to walk in freedom and newness of life, so Christians can move out of the conference more equipped to live a life of following this day by day by day.)

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The thing is that, like Charles Finney (a Christian revivalist), he would walk into a place, and people would just realize that this guy is walking with God. There would at times be physical manifestations, people being convicted of their sin and Finney hadn’t even spoken a word. Where Finney went, God went. You know the glory of God because he lived a life set apart to God. On-going, day-by-day he walked in the Spirit of God. How do we live a holy life in order to impact the nations and that’s becoming a ‘flame thrower’ as we have called it?

We assume a lot of Christians understand these things.

So, not only are we saying we need God to minister to me, we need to outlive these things in our own lives, and how do we impact a nation? How do we become a flame thrower? So, when you are talking about those sorts of things, like how do we influence the daily world of those around us and how do we spread this fire? If I’m being revived how can I get back to my church and in a godly way influence those around me?

Interviewer: There has been a lot of these conferences. Has anything happened, you could ask yourself?

Tim: If we look at the natural and we look at the externals we do have to ask that question. I think those of us organizing conferences need to ask ourselves, is this just another conference or do we feel that God has inspired this, because this catalyst or event can help us to spur the Body of Christ on, can help to minister. Having a conference does not mean that lives are going to be impacted.

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I think we have failed many time of having conferences, and they haven’t had a decisive focus, they have just been general conferences, that, perhaps, have been ‘born of man’ (re: he means not inspired by God but inspired by human reasoning).

Some conferences you look at and you say, really, what impact did they have? But a lot of it is underlying. God has injected ingredients for people to move on. There have been some keys that people have grasped that haven’t been immediately obvious in their lives, but over a period of time.

It’s like the old Japanese bamboo plant. You plant the root in the ground, you water and fertilise it for months and nothing happens at all. All of a sudden, I think over a period of three months, it grows something like thirty feet. So, that’s the principle of sowing into people’s lives with ‘fertilising’ words.

Often it seems like nothing is happening, there’s no change taken place, but all these things are necessary ingredients for when that growth spurt takes place. Every sermon that has had God’s anointing, has had some influence in people’s lives. Sometimes, we say, what’s the point, costs all this money, what influence have they had, but they are part of the answer, not all the answer.

Having conferences is not going to mean that we are going to have a big impact at the end of it, but we must be part of the answer. I think they are strategic conferences. If we get strategic and we can begin to hear what God is saying, we need to be strategic in conferences we are running. I think there are a lot that are not hitting the mark.

Interviewer: What do you hope to achieve? If you take all the conferences together, what is the desire?

Tim: It is really becoming more like Jesus and being useful in the hand of God. That’s the ultimate. To bring God more glory, to become more like Jesus, and for Christians to be mobilized to influence the world. That’s the bottom line.

At the meeting

Revival meetings are still going strong. I came across a flyer in my letterbox advertising a meeting where one can be healed and get their miracle from the Lord Jesus. Through the power of his Holy Spirit. And where people can get saved from sin by his power. That prompted me to post. Years ago, I was interviewing an evangelist involved in revival meetings and I thought to share the interview with my readers so they could get a taste of what revival things were about. at least in part. This was an interview fifteen years ago. The essence of revival might pretty much still be here, though. Here was the interview on revival, particularly how one is compelled to be a “God chaser”.

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In 2001, I spoke with evangelist Tim Findlay after he rang me about doing an article on an upcoming conference with featured evangelist/revivalist Tommy Tenny. I was swiftly down to the hall where the conference would take place, and later on, in a back room, I chatted and asked various questions to Tim, who was in Christian work for seventeen years at the time (‘in the ministry’ as it was).

Tim and Tommy had known one another for a year. Tim first heard Tommy speak in Nelson, in New Zealand. The conference in the Hutt Valley was brought about through their relationship.

Part one:

Tim: Tommy did a fleeting visit through New Zealand and I think he did some ministry in Auckland and a couple of other places. Nelson was especially well-attended. They had probably 2,000 people packed into the stadium. But I was really impressed by the guy’s humility and just his heart for God. A desire to really see people encounter the living God, but very impressed with his humility. I caught up with him also in New York and spent some time with him there. We have just been dialoguing through email so he will be ministering in Australia soon and he said, listen, since I’m in Australia how about just popping over to New Zealand. So, we said yes, sure. We will check it out and see what the interest is.

Interviewer: So, he suggested to come over to New Zealand?

Tim: Yes.

Interviewer: He likes it here.

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Now

Starting on a new exercise book of reflections from the gospel of John. Reading John is eye opening as new thoughts emerge thus far. Also printed out several files from a story project that had its genesis in 2002. Hope to recover these in some way shape and form. Printing the writings out helps me organize my thoughts around the emerging story. A random, fitting quote from the Bible has helped to focus the narrative.

Reflective again

I’ve been working on a book of reflections based on my readings of the Gospel of Mark. The gospel is from the Bible and I am aware of being accurate to the text and not saying something myself in my writings that was not intended by the writer of the gospel. But I am writing reflections and this genre is not explaining or expounding a text academically as one would when deeply examining what the author was saying. Reflections are simply hopefully effectively relaying my thoughts about what I read…meaning it is not a thesis on the text or a critique but a reflection on the text itself. I reflect from a devotional basis so it is not a reflective critique which has a soft edge.

I don’t know if one can do reflections from any kind of text, but I think copyright issues are the barrier to a writer taking any printed text and writing a book of reflections on it, although I don’t know. I know that there is a whole genre of devotional writing that uses the Bible but does not copy it. I know I am not doing anything wrong in using the Bible as a basis for a book of reflections, unless everyone who was writing devotions from the Bible has got it wrong. It is only wrong if copying the Bible exactly as it is for a profit, without permission; and copying it even without wanting to make a profit or commercial gain.

Copying 1000 Bible verses as they are written is okay with some Bible publishers, without seeking permission. It just depends on each Bible publication policy which is at the front of each Bible. Always check copyright notices at the front of each book you may want to copy in some way. There it will explain what one can legally do or not do with that particular book. And get a grasp of copyright law. Books are legally well protected from people trying to illegally copy them, but the copyright notice at the front of the book will inform of any leniencies, if any, and what you can do if you want to use a portion of the book in some capacity.

So far, my reflections have taken up one small exercise book, which I completed this week. For the rest of the week in terms of reflective writing, I just felt to blob, as if I have done enough for a little while in that genre or until I get my reflective writing mojo back.

Hard

I really felt blah reading the Bible this morning. But I give it time and tonight get on top of it, if that is the right expression when one reads the Bible. The prophets are especially hard to read in the morning. But never give up is what I think.

Agenda

Writing while doing other things in life as you would normally do can be hectic. Keeping up to date with the stuff a writer does–that is, the writing–sometimes near impossible. If one is going well and the good days outnumber the bad ones, then keeping up to date is a reality. Getting through the writing agenda is not impossible. These days, getting through my agenda, is simply writing the ideas up, devotional ideas that get turned into short meditations or devotions or what’s also knows as reflections. Short and sweet.

Storm force

Motivation can be an issue for a writer if not on assignment. It’s possible for a writer not on assignment to be extremely motivated, but it’s also possible that a writer not on assignment is unmotivated to produce their own material. But the writer with a strong level of entitlement is a storm force.

A useful word

There are one or two useful things that came my way, but that does not mean the sender of such advice has got it together. I reckon there’s quite a few chinks there, but there’s that one piece of God-send that is going to be useful. So, it can help–in writing, and anything else where the cap fits.

What one can deliver

Little things I pick up along the way…as I was reading a book, I stumbled onto a nugget of wisdom. The book appraised films for this or that reason and a reason a critic gave was personally illuminating. The critic said a certain director wasn’t prepared to go the places a subject or premise would naturally go. It clicked. If I am to write stories, write stories I am prepared to deliver on. Go to the places the subject demands. If I can’t go there, don’t write it.

Exploring something new

While on the road of writing, if it’s full-time, part-time, casual, or as one can write in-between the necessities of life, sometimes there’s the urge to reach beyond the boundaries of one’s normal genres of writing. I’ve desired it and tried it, but tended to fall back on the predictable or the road well-traveled.

Distractions

I read a book about screenwriting by Oscar winning screenwriters and in that book there’s a bit of content I remember well. American Beauty’s Alan Ball said he put off his writing project because cleaning his fridge was easier. I know the feeling, but once I get into the project, and distraction becomes energy and activity, the challenge is getting it sounding right.

Is God interested in our lives?

Some philosophers have said that God has created the world and leaves the rest to our own devices. So, how can God be remotely interested in us? Yet if God hadn’t created the world, he wouldn’t be interested in us, but since God did create the world, he is interested in us. That’s one answer I have for the existentialist philosopher. God must be interested in people, since he first created human beings. It makes no sense to say that God created the world then having lovingly created human beings left us alone. God is very interested in our lives.

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Loving enemies

It is easier to do good deeds for people who love you. But I find in myself a sense of pride can creep in. I get a little bit proud of my good deeds. And I may think it will get a great reward from God. The good deeds I do for those who love me are for those who will always love me back, but loving my enemies is the ultimate challenge because I love someone who does not love me, someone who is not on my side. Most of the time, I am loving those who already love me. Do you get the same feeling? 

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Finished

There’s nothing like the feeling of relief when you know you’re done and dusted on something that had been following you around like an obsessive fan. But then you’re done with it–one can put that side of writing aside–and focus on what goes better. I just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that side of writing is not the way to go. So, out it goes, and in goes what’s going to work better. In fact, it’s so major that it’s sheer peace to know it’s over.