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Entering A New Season

Sunday 27 January 2019 was our farewell service at Following Jesus, the Vineyard church we have led for just over six years. Many have asked us: what now? Where will we be going? What will I be doing?

I decided to give a more detailed answer than a simple one-liner. The purpose is for awareness among all who know of our journey with Jesus and ministry, with his church and world. And especially to ask for prayer in our new season with God – God knows we need his grace!

Just to say, if you would like to hear what we shared with Following Jesus – our farewell address and responding words of thanks to us – then click

I was sent into full-time paid ministry on 20 January 1975. Ever since that time I’ve been planting and pastoring churches. For the past few years I’ve known the time was coming for me to change gear and focus on what I believe God has prepared me for over the past  44 years. Simply put: to be available to the broader church to consult with and mentor leaders, to help churches with teaching and training – generally doing spiritual formation. I have been doing this for years while pastoring the local church, but now it’s time… !  Biblically speaking, I’m being released into apostolic work on a full time basis, sharing my years of spiritual-theological formation and ministry experience with those who may want to receive it.

However, to be more precise, the way I understand this new and further journey – the heart of it – is to live a slower more contemplative life. I have sensed a strong call, for the remaining years God gives me on earth, to a deepening solitude of intimacy with Jesus, to literally “echo silence” (Thomas Merton’s phrase) in all I write, say and do. I am called to write more books – as Morton Kelsey said, “I am pregnant with a number of books!” But, I want to write from inner solitude and silence, in which I hear God more clearly – the still small voice that Elijah heard – that my life and ministry may echo God’s thoughts, desires, words and deeds. To this end I would appreciate your prayers, that I may live this reality for the glory of God and fulfilment of his purposes.

Practically it means Gill and I are locating ourselves with another team and congregation not far from where we reside (I do not believe in ‘a dislocated travelling ministry’ – we will always be grounded in a local church). Gary Bradshaw, the team leader, has invited us to worship with them, to teach and lead spiritual retreats, and use it as a base for travel.

However, Gill and I are aiming to relocate to the Kwa-Zulu Natal north coast – Ballito Bay/Salt Rock area – north of Durban. We hope to do that early 2020, locating ourselves near an airport for ministry trips, and especially to base ourselves in a vibrant church that is welcoming us a teaching/mentoring/apostolic presence.

So that’s the story! Thanks to all who have supported us in one way or another, not least in prayer – especially now as we ‘walk on water’, trusting God step by step in this next phase of our lives. And P.S. my book, Doing Spirituality: The Journey of Character Formation Toward Christlikeness, is with the editors and I’m itching (waiting very impatiently!) for the final comeback, so that I can do the corrections and get the book into print. God bless!

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Living the Life God Intended – Talk 5 – Being Salt & Light

To listen to the audio teaching of this fifth talk on Living the Life God Intended, click on:

Being The Salt and Light, Matt 5:13-16

To recap: Jesus began a revolution of the Kingdom of Heaven (KOH). Matthew shows Jesus giving his inaugural teaching in Matt 5 – 7: Living life in the KOH, God’s new covenant with his people. His “blessed be’s” describe those receiving the KOH (those blessed with comfort, fulfillment, inheritance, mercy, seeing God, declared God’s children, etc) rather than prescribing virtues to be attained in order to be God’s Kingdom people. Jesus ends the beatitudes with those who suffer persecution as the prophets did (Matt 5:11-12); i.e. he saw his KOH movement as fulfilling the prophetic tradition, being the “salt & light” to Israel and the nations.

The repeated “you” in v13 and v14 is emphatic: YOU and only YOU are the salt and light! But, Jesus’ main point in this text is simple: if we do NOT actually live like disciples of the KOH (true followers and apprentices of Jesus), if we do NOT live like the true Israel God intended, then we are worth about as much as tasteless salt and hidden light.

Salt was used to flavor food. It was also a preservative and purifying agent – to stop meat from decaying, to cleanse a wound. When impure salt, taken from the Dead Sea for example, lost its saltiness, then it was added to soil as manure. Real salt did not lose its properties – it’s flavor and sting. But what did Jesus mean by “being the salt” in society?

In teaching the new covenant, the Messianic Torah, rabbi Jesus probably alluded to salt as the sign of the covenant as referred to in Lev 2:13, Num 18:19, 2Chron 13:5. If so, Jesus saw his followers as the salt of the new covenant promised by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34, God’s word is written on our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit, enabling us to do God’s will). This means that our presence in society, as followers of Jesus, positively flavors it, making the nation acceptable and palatable to God. Godly convictions, values and behavior, restrain and prevent the rot from taking over – “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2Pet 1:4). I.e. we stand for God’s Rule of truth, righteousness, justice, mercy. THAT stings the conscience of society and ‘the powers’ that be – as did the Hebrew prophets, and Jesus, who all suffered and died for their witness to God’s government. We model the future KOH now, showing society and earthly and spiritual powers God’s intended way of living, challenging wrongdoing, speaking truth to power.

However, Jesus’ point is that real salt does not lose its saltiness, otherwise it is spurious! BUT, if we don’t live out our true nature and calling as Jesus’ disciples, we’re “thrown out and trodden under foot.” Is Jesus saying we become ‘manure’? No! More likely, as a typical Rabbi, he is quoting Isaiah 5:5, 10:6, 26:6, 28:3,18, 63:3, warning of judgement. I.e. the godly remnant in Israel made the nation palatable to God. But as they lost their sting and the stench of Israel’s sin rose to heaven, God judged Israel. She was overrun by warfare, trodden under foot and exiled. Jesus is saying: if WE don’t fulfill our prophetic role and witness, corruption spreads to the point where society is no longer palatable to God (even Jesus speaks of spitting out a church! Rev 3:16). Then the nation comes under God’s judgement, the church included, suffering civil unrest and even violent revolution under “the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor” (Isaiah 26:6).

Jesus saw himself and his community of followers as fulfilling Israel’s call to be “the light of the world” (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6 cf. Matt 4:16, Jn 8:12, Eph 5:8-9). Like salt, it has a positive and negative role: God’s light of life and truth shows society the way to live under God’s government, the KOH. At the same time the light exposes and drives back the moral darkness of evil deception and corruption. His point is simple: the light is NOT to be hidden! It must shine for all to see! If we don’t live out our true nature and calling as the light of God’s saving rule and reign – by hiding it, keeping it to ourselves – we lose our reason for existence and live in the dark.

The light is our “good deeds” in society: living God’s love in actual works of mercy, righteousness, justice, peace-making. Therefore, “let your light shine…!” Jesus’ reference to the light as “a city on a hill” was readily understood, because most towns were built on hills and could be seen at night from far away. This was especially true of Jerusalem, God’s city of peace & justice, where he was understood to reside and to rule from his Holy Temple. The light of Jerusalem was thus not only literal – the biggest and brightest city in Israel – but was meant to be the light of God’s government over Israel, for all the nations of the world to see. If Jesus was alluding to this, then he saw his disciples as the new Jerusalem in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies in this regard; see Isaiah 2:2-5 cf. Isaiah 42:6, 49:6.

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Fishing the World – The Practice of Occupation and Vocation

To listen to the audio teaching of these notes, click on:

I introduced our third core value in being and becoming God’s Beloved: fishing the world for God. We live this value by doing four priorities and practices: Occupation & Vocation, Evangelism, Social Transformation, and Church Planting/Missions. Jesus’ generic call to all people, “Follow me and I will form you into fishers of people” (Mk 1:17), was first to fisher-men. If he were calling builders he would form them into builders of people for God’s Kingdom; if mothers, then mothers for the Kingdom, and so on. I.e. Jesus’ call embodies the three core values (follow, form and fish) AND establishes the first priority and practice to fish people: to live our Kingdom vocation (calling) via our daily occupation (work).

Our Kingdom vocation is the call to follow Jesus in relational intimacy, being spiritually (trans)formed into his image through his local community/family of followers, in order to fish people to follow Jesus, beginning where you live and work. How do we do THAT in and through our occupationdefined as that which occupies our daily time and energy, i.e. our work, job, trade, career, profession, etc? What is God’s view of occupation/work? Continue reading Fishing the World – The Practice of Occupation and Vocation

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How to Follow Jesus Very Closely in 2015

To listen to the audio teaching click

Call to a Lifestyle of Discipleship: Lectio in Psalm 84 

Exercise in Lectio Divina (‘divine’ or spiritual reading of scripture): Be still before God; invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the text; slowly read Psalm 84 out aloud and let God give you a word, or phrase, or thought, or picture, etc, through the text… then meditate on it and pray it through. Then record/journal what God has said to you.

Here’s my own lectio on Sat 3 January 2015, early morning, in my study.

As I began my time with God I noticed two little Cape Sparrows flying in and out of a bougainvillea bush beneath my study window. They were busy building a nest within one and half meters of my chair and prayer stool, in perfect view. What a beautiful sight! I wondered why they were doing it so close to me, to my place of daily prayer? And why was God allowing (or ordering) this? What was God saying to me through this? Then I recalled Psalm 84:3, “Even the sparrow has found a home for herself where she may have her young – a place near your altar O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.”

So I did lectio divina in Psalm 84 and here’s what came to me, what I journaled:

– As the sparrows were building their nest/home right near my altar of prayer, God is calling me afresh to make my home very close to him in 2015. Sparrows, remind me!

– God’s house is beautiful because he (his presence) literally dwells there.

– It makes me want to live there… such strong desire: my soul yearns, even faints, for your presence, my heart and my flesh cry out of the living God… I prayed Ps 27:4. Continue reading How to Follow Jesus Very Closely in 2015

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Following Jesus by Practicing The Word – Part One

Introduction to The Practice of The Word 

Our theme is “A Year (a Life) of Spiritual (Trans)Formation” – are you committed to this? How are you doing regarding Support & Accountability relationships? Are you praying… and linking up?
What is our highest value in being God’s Beloved? It is intimacy in relationship with Jesus (“Come, follow Me…”). And what is our highest priority & practice to grow this intimacy in following Jesus daily? It’s the discipline of The Word of God.

WHY the Word? WHAT is the Word of God? And HOW do we practice this discipline? These are the questions I will address in this teaching on our first priority and practice.

WHAT is “The Word of God”? WHY practice The Word?

Evangelicals think it’s the Bible, but it’s more than that.
The Word is essentially God’s self-revelation. And that self-revelation is Jesus. He is seen as the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God: Psalm 33:6, “By the word of YHWH the heavens were made, and the starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
God is revealed through creation – his Word to humanity – called general revelation.
God is revealed in history via Israel – the Old Testament – called specific revelation.
God is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth – the New Testament – called full-filled revelation. As John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God. And that Word became flesh and dwelt among us (in Jesus of Nazareth)… he who is the in bosom of the Father has revealed God to us” (John 1:1,14,18). Continue reading Following Jesus by Practicing The Word – Part One

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This is my 9th teaching in the series “Being the Beloved – A Year of Spiritual Formation”.

Being God’s Beloved: For three months I’ve taught on Being and Becoming God’s Beloved. To Be-Loved and to Love is our new nature and identity in Jesus Christ. We are “accepted in The Beloved” (God’s Son, Eph 1:6), thus “born again” by God’s Spirit/Life (John 3:3-5), with his nature in us as his beloved children – to imitate him and learn to live a life of love (Eph 5:1-2). I recap both the language and the overall Framework that I use, and then I introduce how God changes us into being Beloved.

The Language of VVPP: I use the language of vision, values, priorities and practices. But it starts with mission.

Mission is our sense of being, our identity and calling – answers WHO we are.
Vision is our sense of becoming, our future oriented goal – answers WHERE we’re going.
Values are our core beliefs, our non-negotiable guiding principles, measured in what we give our time, energy and money to – answers WHY we do what we do.
Priorities are the most important things we do first before (or prior to) doing other things – answers WHAT we do.
Practices are the HOW we do our priorities – also called disciplines, exercises, or skills.

See my diagram of the overall Framework, showing our vision and values. Continue reading TRANSFORMATION 1 – HOW GOD CHANGES US

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Being the Beloved: The Framework

Last week I introduced our year theme for Following Jesus: Being the Beloved – A Year of Spiritual Formation. We launched this theme with a week of fasting and prayer. Please feed back to our office or to me if you feel God is saying something to us – we want to hear and obey the Lord! Today I present the Big Picture, or the Overall Framework, of Being and Becoming God’s Beloved.

The Centrality and Heart of Love 

GOD is love, whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him/her” (1John 4:16). We dare not reverse it, “Love is God.” Then we make love (whatever we mean by it) god, as many do today in a popular postmodern “spirituality of love”. We love only because God first loved us (1John 4:19), enabling us to love as he loves. How so? God created us in his image in love for love. To love is godly. But our sin, our fallen nature, rejects the ultimate source of love, God. BUT God overcame sin in love. He came to save us in his Son Jesus, his enfleshed love, his sacrificial gift of Self. In Christ we receive and live in the Father’s love – which he knew so profoundly (John 17:23-26). Father confirmed Jesus’ identity as “Beloved” at his baptism, in the Spirit of Love: “You are my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). This is the center that centers us: God’s love, giving us our identity in Christ as “Beloved.” Paul says it so well: “Be imitators of God, as his beloved (born again) children: live a life of love, just as Jesus loved us” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Continue reading Being the Beloved: The Framework

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Prayer & Planning for the New Year – Part Two

Recap from last week:  Why prepare for 2014?

Because God is the God of second chances and new beginnings: “Don’t hold onto the former things… I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, don’t you perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Thus we must PRAY to “attune” to God, to work with him in dependence on his power in what he’s doing in our lives. But we must also PLAN – it’s your responsibility, or else others/life will set your agenda and make you overly busy! Live life, live 2014, intentionally from conviction. To do that we need a deeper planning framework

A Seven Step LIFE Planning Framework Continue reading Prayer & Planning for the New Year – Part Two

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Tribute to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – A Personal Anecdote

I’ve been watching Nelson Mandela’s memorial service today. Very moving. Almost 100 heads of state and dignitaries – some say the largest funeral in history! And it’s been pouring with rain since early morning. It’s still raining now at the end of the service – as if nature itself has been gently weeping, mirroring our mourning of Madiba, the father (‘Tata’) of our new democratic nation, South Africa. But in African (and Biblical) culture, rain is a sign of blessing, a promise of new life. May it be!

Tata Mandela will be sorely missed. We, this nation, and this world, will miss his reconciling presence, stately leadership and moral authority. God, in his sovereign design in our time of greatest historical need, raised up Madiba to bring about liberating reconciliation and justice – a shining light to all people and nations on planet earth. Extraordinary people like Mandela only come along once in a couple of centuries. Not that he was a saint; he himself freely admitted to his flaws and failures! (We must be careful of Mandela-worship as time passes) He’s known for saying “I’m a sinner. I’ve made many mistakes. I only pretend to be a saint when I’m among people!” As a South African, I feel so honoured and privileged to have lived in his life-time, to have lived through the miraculous change that we have experienced.

I never met Madiba – only saw him from a distance in a meeting – but there’s a story that lives with me, that has inspired me for years. Continue reading Tribute to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – A Personal Anecdote

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Men’s Conference: “Fire in the Belly”

A call to all the Men,

I’ve been invited to do an important day conference for men at New Creation Family Church (NCFC) in Robin Hills Randburg, South Africa), on Saturday, 24 August 2013.

A link for booking with event details is included in the attached flyerContinue reading Men’s Conference: “Fire in the Belly”