Kia ora Papanui Baptist,
A highlight of the last month for us was the staff retreat. We have an amazing staff team here at Papanui who are talented and eager to follow Christ’s leading. We spent the day at the Papanui Youth Development Centre, talking about our vision to Belong, Grow, and Influence, and how each of our ministries are seeking to embody those words. We reflected on how each of us are leading, and what changes we would like to see in our leadership. Being new pastors, we are incredibly thankful for the team we have around us, and that we are on this journey together!
In the Samuel series a common theme coming through is that God makes his own way, and he does things that surprise us. We can become used to God, and feel familiar with how we think he works… So how do we stay open to Jesus revealing himself in new ways? In church history we read about the saints who let God have his own way in their lives, and were open to a fresh wave of his Spirit. For example, St Francis had his life turned upside down by being open to God… One day, while he was praying enthusiastically to the Lord, Francis received this response:
Francis, everything you loved carnally and desired to have, you must despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. Because once you begin doing this, what before seemed delightful and sweet will be unbearable and bitter; and what before made you shudder will offer you great sweetness and enormous delight.
He was overjoyed at this and was comforted by the Lord. One day he was riding his horse near Assisi, when he met a leper. And, even though he usually shuddered at lepers, he made himself dismount, and gave him a coin, kissing his hand as he did so. After he accepted a kiss of peace from him, Francis remounted and continued on his way. He then began to consider himself less and less, until, by God’s grace, he came to complete victory over himself…. With the help of God’s grace, he became such a servant and friend of the lepers, that, as he testified in his Testament, he stayed among them and served them with humility. (http://www.custodia.org/default.asp?id=1445)
St Francis came to follow the God who makes his own way in the world, and had his life transformed! As we take a break from the Samuel series for the next three weeks and go into Prayer & Self Denial, we are reminded we follow the same God as Samuel and the saints, and this God has a record of turning lives inside out, upside down. What new thing (or forgotten thing) about himself and his ways has he been bringing up with you lately?
In other news, we’re off to Indonesia and Cambodia on Monday, and will be away until Aug 20th. Please keep us in your prayers over these weeks as we meet and learn from people in both nations. Please especially be praying for Papanui Baptist as we begin exploring what it might look like to partner more intentionally with a community in Cambodia. (We’re at the very early stage of exploring this, so don’t worry – you haven’t missed anything! More information to come following our trip.)
Sarah and Elliot (Co-Pastors)