The verse most often taken out of context…and that is okay

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18)

There is no scripture more taken out of context than this one. We often hear it as an encouragement to pray, to meet together, to gather. And there is truth in that. The idea that God is especially with us when we gather to pray is one I assent to and would want propagated.

However in context this verse is about speaking the truth to one another, even up to and including church discipline. I think Jesus understands that speaking the truth to one another is not easy. Correcting a brother or sister is not easy. Speaking up when someone has offended you is not easy.

But how else will growth come if we do not? How easy it is to store up offence if we never can pluck up the courage to say something. This is really the true power of this scripture.

When you need to speak the truth in love with the view to reconciliation, Jesus will be with you. Because He cares about church unity. He cares about growth, He cares about forgiveness. It may very well be the most sacred and holiest of ground when we care enough about each other to confront the offence.

A time for

I understand why so many of the analogies in the New Testament revolve around the seasons and farming. Yes they were a subsistent people Jesus was talking to. But they are also helpful for a contemporary society far removed from the agricultural one Jesus spoke into.

Reading the seasons of your life and your church is wisdom.

Is it time to focus on preparing, sowing, waiting or reaping?

All these stages may happen all at once. But I truly think there is a time to focus on one or the other. There is also a time to know what you are trying to harvest, and therefore what you should plant.

You don’t have because you don’t ask. Ask.

The First Sermon

Can you trace your lineage, your ancestral history? Did your predecessors come out on a boat, a plane? Do you suspect you had a criminal who stole a loaf of bread in your genealogy, or maybe there is royalty back there somewhere. Whatever land you have come from, whatever your background, you find yourself here right now, reading this.

I wonder if you have thought about your spiritual ancestry. If you believe in Jesus, and are part of the church, you have a spiritual heritage. For all of us who follow Jesus we can trace it back to Him. He shared the good news with someone, who shared it with someone, who shared it with someone, and fill in about 2000 years of the same line and it comes to you. Sitting here reading this.

For many of us we are going to go back to Peters first sermon. Peter the loudmouth, the outspoken fisherman. Who was empowered by the Holy Spirit, found his own voice working alongside the Spirits and preached the first sermon from the empowered church. (Acts 2) At one point in the NT narrative we find him cowering around a charcoal fire. Jesus leaves, the Holy Spirit comes and Peter is seemingly no longer afraid of the crowd who were trying to rope him into being crucified along with Jesus. Now he is telling them it is their fault, and they need to do something about it.

Fortunately about 3000 of them do, in one day. It may have been a long sermon, in fact Luke tells us it was, but none the less they believe. Don’t think it was the fisherman’s eloquence. It may have had something to do with the supernatural courage he had been given. It certainly had something to do with the Holy Spirits empowerment.

Either way out of that crowd of 3000, someone there shared their faith, who then shared their faith….and 2000 plus years later here you are. Knowing Jesus and having the same Holy Spirit.

Redemption in the form of a RX8

Back in my younger far more foolish days I purchased myself a Mazda RX4 Couple. I was the proud owner of a 13b Rotary powered car. I spent an inordinate amount of money on the stereo, exhaust system and whatever else it needed. The thing went fast. I knew that as did the police, many times.

When I decided to go to Bible College the car needed to be replaced by something more sensible. Anything would have been more sensible than that car to be honest! I was sad when I sold it, but not gutted because I didn’t know what it was worth, and if I had been asked would have said it was easily replaced.

The past few decades have been spent with different vehicles, one of which has featured on this blog, namely the Zook. Truth is I have always had a keen interest in cars and mechanics. If I had followed my own thoughts at a younger age, pre the Rx4, I would have been a mechanic. But the pressure was on to go to university. I went to Uni and dropped out.

Fast forward a few decades and I found myself car less again having moved to Melbourne and a self described ’empty nester’. Both kids are adults and Melinda has a sensible car.

I set about thinking about what I wanted and toyed with the idea of an Rx7. The earlier ones are out of my budget but not by a lot. However the idea of having an older car which would need expensive rebuilding to make it reliable wasn’t that palatable. The later model ones are pushing upwards of $60,000 now, as are the 1973 onward Rx4’s.

So I pondered the idea of an Rx8 with the Rotary Renesis Motor. The issue with the Rx8 is that you don’t know what you are going to get. A well maintained version will last the distance. A poorly maintained one will not. So I rang the local Rotary specialist and he found me one with a motor which will need some serious work. That means the car itself was inexpensive for what it is.

What I have is a very clean lovely Mazda Rx8 Coupe. Once finished I don’t plan to sell it. Part of me thinks it will increase in value. Not as much as my Rx4 did perhaps!

I have moved to Kew

So I have moved to Kew. It has been almost two months now and a lot has happened. I have left a city and community that I loved, and still do. Left behind life long friends, some of whom I wonder if I will ever see again. I chatted with a good friend on the phone the other day, someone I did life with for years, and we realised we don’t know when or if we will see each other again. That is grief for me. There are lives I will not be a close witness too as I thought I might.

Melinda and I set out on an adventure, and as we all know, an adventure is not comfortable, nor without pain and challenge. There have been moments where both of us have understood loss and grief. 

We have been welcomed into a church community and understood why we are here. A good friend shared some wisdom with me saying, Mark you need to go somewhere that is uniquely suited to your gift, talents and personality. Kew BC is that and more. A church with unique challenges, and a place I have found uniquely suited to my passion of what church can be.

There are many different types of churches, and all of them have their place. Helping Kew find its place is something I am excited about. I am growing to love this church and its people, not as merely a decision to love, but as a reality. I do wonder what Kew BC and what Mark and Melinda will look like in a decade. Will the changes I foresee take place, what will happen, and in what way. Some of that will be determined but my leadership and character, but much will be determined by the will of God and others.

My capacity for friendship, for people and for what God has for me has been enlarged. So while I have some new friends, I have not forgotten the ones I have left. 

If you are the praying type, I would love you to pray with me, that Gods will be done, His kingdom come, in Kew, as it is in heaven. May the Spirit breathe fresh wind, fresh fire, fresh understanding, fresh vibrancy, fresh community and most importantly fresh mission into Kew heart. 

Kew Baptist Church

I had a moment on Sunday night as I preached my first message at Kew Baptist Church. It is our intention under God to have a long term ministry here at Kew Baptist. Its an extraordinary and unique church. The evening service is full of young adults and the morning service holds great promise and hope that it will be a place for young families from the area to connect with each other and the Holy Spirit. I was speaking from Philippians 4 and I came back to verse 1 at the end of the message. “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”

The only way I can pastor this church is to love the people. People asked me if I would change football teams when I loved to Melbourne. Thats a rather naive question. You don’t change teams just because you move town. However you must change churches. My love which I had and have for my former church is still there. But the focus of my love is now with my new people. That is a emotional pull. But love is in some ways at least a decision. And my heart and love must now be here, and it is.