Z Is For Ω

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First 
and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
Revelation 22:13

Like the English Z, Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet and a fitting way to sign off from this year's A to Z Blogging Challenge.

It's been a lot of fun for me and good to give the blog some long overdue attention.

Hope you've enjoyed it too!

Y Is For Youth

If you're of the praying persuasion please pray for us at Tree of Life as we have a great set of young adults and kids who join us faithfully every Sunday.

Sadly because we're still quite small and lacking in resources we're not able to offer them much. In fact we pretty much ignore the young adults amongst us. Not because we want to, far from it!  We did ask a couple to lead our youth work but sadly personal issues have prevented them from getting involved and we're a bit stuck as a church.

So please pray for good solid folk who could take a lead in this for us.

We don't have a xylophone at Tree of Life.

In fact we have nothing that resembles a worship band in any way shape or form and yet we have some of the most liberating and meaningful worship I've ever experienced.

I remember several years ago when Matt Redman brought out his brilliant song The Heart of Worship and many churches responding by stripping their worship back to basics. Sadly the fad didn't last long and pretty soon we were making it about ourselves once again.  But these words stuck with me: "I'll bring You more than a song For a song in itself Is not what You have required". I'm still struck by these words and love how Matt grasped what true worship was about.
*Updated* Tree Of Life has had a website.

It's not a very good one but it's a start.

We're not very good at keeping it up to date but it's still a good starting point for finding out a bit more about the church and for contacting us.

Feel free to take a look.

V Is For Verse

I've posted before on my favourite verse and it remains my favourite.

John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world".

I love the simplicity and the matter of factness about this verse. In this world you will have trouble. Not you might have trouble but you will have trouble. I always think of the verse when the age old discussion about why bad things happen to good people debate. Quite simply it's not about bad things happening to good people but rather just the simple fact that in this world you/we/me will have trouble. End of.

U Is For Unity

Unity is a word so often bounded around but with seemingly little meaning, and yet in the church context it's incredibly important.

One of my joys in church life is marvelling at how seemingly disparate groups of people can be brought together through genuine love.

I'm not aware of any other aspect of life that can bring the unlikliest people together for the good of themselves and their communities. Local church is amazing!

At Tree of Life we have South Africans, Angolan and Brits amongst us which makes for a great sense of diversity and I believe this reflects the nature of heaven.

Being part of Tree of Life is truly a privilege and a blessing. To be a part of the leadership team doubles that privilege and blessing!

I'm not going to repeat last year's post on Tree of Life but rather talk about the joys of the leadership team.

We're very blessed to serve alongside Gerrit & Sharon and Chris & Veronica, two quality couples with huge hearts for Jesus and the community.

Tree of Life just wouldn't be the same without these guys and we love them dearly. We're so grateful to God for blessing us with a quality leadership team!

I love Sundays!

When I first became a Christian many moons ago I loved church. The church I was involved with was a new plant so things were exciting and we were on the cutting edge of things.

Since then my love of church has waned to the absolute low of 2010.

Between 2004 and 2010 I used to joke that we lived in the most beautiful place on earth and had the worst church life possible. I guess it's true, for every action there's an equal and opposite re-action.

Our faith rests on this one fact; Jesus' resurrection from the dead. So much so that even Paul acknowledged in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith".

So are we wasting our time?

I would argue that no we're not wasting our time.

John's gospel account of Jesus death is quite clear that when the Romans pierced Jesus' side blood and water flowed out. Anyone with a modicum of medical knowledge knows that in death blood and water separate. So we know that Jesus was dead. Also, he's been brutally attacked in his run up to the actual Crucifixion which would have helped to hasten his death.

This is totally unconnected to my theme but I was a bit stumped for this one and I really didn't want to steal yet another post from last year!

So Q is for Queen Size, as in bed.

Being a Brit I fully understand why a king size bed is smaller than a queen size bed and the reason makes a lot of sense. Traditionally the king's bed was a place of business, it had a perfunctory role. The queen's bed however was used by her for luxuriating in and being pampered, hence the size difference.

I thought this was universally known and understood but anyone who's ever lived in another country will know it's far from the case. It seems that some nations don't understand the nuances of monarchy and have switched it around so the king size is bigger than the queen size. I'm not sure why this would be the case. Maybe it has to do with hanging on to outdated notions of the king being more important than the queen? Just a thought.

I really enjoy the Coffee With Jesus cartoons from Radio Free Babylon and I especially like this one about Pontius Pilate.

I've always felt that Pilate got a bit of an unnecessarily unfair press for his role in Jesus' crucufiction. He was between a rock and a hard place thanks to the religious leaders of the day and they manipulated the situation to get the outcome they wanted.

Oom Paul is a great man!

At 86 there's not much in life he hasn't seen and having been married to Molly for a little over 60 years with loads of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren there isn't much he hasn't done.

I've had the privilege of sitting with Oom Paul on a few occassions and consider him to be my very own Nelson Mandela.  I've never met Madiba and am highly unlikely to ever have the chance to, but sitting with someone like Oom Paul is just as great a privilege!

In our modern throw away age it's all too easy to underestimate the value of people like Oom Paul when we should really be taking time out to sit at the feet of such people and soak up their knowledge.

Like Mandela, Oom Paul won't be around for much longer but I intend to sit at his feet as much as I can and just soak up what he has to offer.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

You can choose which name of God you like the most, for me I like Father.

I had a dream through my childhood that one day I would live with my dad but I was robbed of this dream at 18.

Thankfully shortly after my dad died I was introduced to my heavenly father and now my dream has been fulfilled more than I could ever have hoped for.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

M is for Macassar

I wrote a post on Macassar last year and rather than steal yet another post from last year's challenge I thought I'd have a go at writing something a bit different.

We still serve Tree of Life church in Macassar and spend a lot of our time in the community and we still love it! So in that regard nothing has changed and as a church we are still passionate about winning the community for Christ.

Tree of Life meets on Sundays at Macassar High school so it seems appropriate to focus on education in Macassar.

Education is generally a bit of a hot potato in South Africa and nowhere are the difficulties more pronounced than in Macassar.

L Is For Life

L is for life and abundant life at that! John 10:10 "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly"

L could also be for the person I'm blogging about and it could also be for Lady because she is a remarkable lady. I guess I should also count this post as part of my Heroes Of The Faith series.

L is an amazing lady! She has two sons, both at high school, she's a hairdresser and lives with her mother. all quite unremarkable, but that's one of the things I love about the true heroes in life.

But L has some complexities in her life that would make many of us want to give up. Firstly, her oldes son was recently diagnosed as being bi-polar and he's recently been talking about taking his own life. not words that any mother wants to hear. He's a bright boy who was doing really well at school but that's all come to an end. L lives with her sons in a two room wooden shack in the garden of her mother's house, which turns out not to be her mother's house at all! L's mother is a seriously addicted gambler and has all the attendant problems associated with her addiction which just piles on a load of uncertainty that L really doesn't need.
To add to the problems, L decided to give up her salon business and go to college for three years to better herself and to give her sons a better life.

We all have a ton of rubbish to deal with in life, none of us have a nice straight path to walk, so what makes L so special?

Here's a question for all church leaders...

Are you kingdom building or empire building?

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God 116 times across the four gospels, so it was obviously an important part of his message. Much of what we do in church is about building and extending the kingdom for His glory. Sadly this sometimes goes awry.

Having been a Christian and a regular churchgoer for more years than I care to remember I've had many opportunities to observe church leaders and learn lessons from them. The good ones serve as role models and the bad ones serve as warnings on how not to do it.

J Is For Jesus

I make no apologies in stating that as far as I'm concerned it's all about Jesus.

Whilst there seems to be a growing fashion to remove Jesus from church as certain leaders gain celebrity status I have to say that for me and Tree of Life Church, Jesus is and will remain central to all that we do.

Lecture over!

I was looking for a serious picture to accompany this post but whilst searching google images I came across this selection of hideous images and had a chuckle to myself. Take a look at the picture and once you've spotted what's wrong leave a comment.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

I is for Indecision though arguably it should be for Déjà vu.

I couldn't come up with anything for I so I'll go away and hope that J might come along to rescue me.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.
I'm taking a break from my theme to look at a hot news topic.

I'm not going to rejoice or gloat in her death (I've probably already said too much on Facebook and will no doubt get into trouble for this post) but neither will I mourn her passing. She was a deeply divisive politician and depending on your political persuasion she's either the saviour of the UK or the devil incarnate.

History will have to decide how it wants to remember her but I remember her for a number of reasons.

Here are three of my clearest memories of her:
My first encounter with her policies was as Thatcher Milk Snatcher when she was the Education Secretary in 1971, though our school milk didn't stop until '76. I was 10 and had no real understanding of the who, why or what, all I knew was that loved the free milk at school and was sad when it stopped.

"There but for the grace of God go I" 

This is a quote attributed to John Bradford (1510-1555), an evangelical preacher and prebendery of St. Paul's cathedral. Though there is no actual evidence to support this attribution I'm sticking with it because it's so fitting given that he is said to spoken these words whilst he was in prison.

The story goes that one day as he was looking out of a window in the Tower of London he saw another poor soul being lead to his execution and uttered this now immortal phrase which has subsequently been used and abused to the point that it has entered the common vernacular of many cultures and languages around the world.

Whether John Bradford actually spoke these words or not he was living on borrowed time and was burnt at the stake on the 1st of July 1555 for refusing to recant his protestant beliefs.

I've always found fellowship to be a bit of an odd word, preferring instead to talk about friendship. However in church circles it doesn't always work.

Fellowship is about sharing similar interests, ideals, or experiences which is pretty much what we do when we're with fellow Christians.

Friendship on the other hand can, and normally does go deeper than that. It's possible to be friends but not in fellowship with folk and it's also possible to be in fellowship with folk but not be friends with them. The church is a good example of this, we fellowship with many many different people in church but don't consider them all to be friends. And yet fellowship is deeper than mere acquaintence.

I'm in danger of confusing myself here.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

Ooh, that's a big word!

One of the joys we've had in our many years in mission and leadership is that we've never really behaved as we should have. I'm not saying we were naughty or doing things we shouldn't have but rather I'm referring to the fact that we've never really gone to the churches we were expected to.

In 1998 we were in Tanzania and the expectation was that we would go to the church in the village which was overseen by an American mission organisation. In fact we ended up going to the Catholic seminary 20k's down the road. These guys radically changed my views on Catholics (it's a whole other story).

By the time we went to Zimbabwe in 2000 we'd been with a predominantly Anglican mission society for a year and the expectation on arrival was that we would join one of the large Anglican churches in Harare. We plumped instead for River Of Life, a non-denominational church and loved it.

We remained with the organisation for 12 years and in all that time we never worshipped where they or most folk would have expected us to.

One of my biggest passions is discipleship in the local church. In a secular sense we're talking about mentoring which basically means getting alongside folk and helping them to make positive choices in their lives and walking the walk with them through those choices. In the local church context it means doing just this but also helping them to know Jesus better by helping them grow in their faith and getting to know and understand the bible. 

Discipleship doesn't always mean having the answers but rather helping folk to find the answer/s for themselves whilst also supporting them along the journey.

One of my biggest thrills has been to see my dear friend Michael in Chris Nissen getting alongside a young lad and discipling him. To see someone modelling in others what was modeled for them is so rewarding!

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

Good Friday saw Tree of Life getting together with our family of Church of Love & Grace and Simon's Bay Christian Church for our first ever conference.

The theme was The Master's Plan which was highly appropriate for the Easter weekend.

I've never spoken at a conference before so was very excited by this opportunity but also a little nervous, especially about speaking in front of around 100 people.

The conference seems to have been a great success if the feedback we're getting is anything to go by and now we're looking to make this an annual event.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

B Is For Bible

I have to be honest and say I love this book!

The bible underpins our faith and is the building block for church life at Tree of Life.

This is our personal collection of bibles (there are a few missing scattered around the house and car) in the office just above my desk. We have goodness knows how many versions in at least 6 languages. Some are used a lot more than others, though increasingly I use e-Sword which is a brilliant bit of bible study software!

To the neo-atheists who dismiss the bible as nothing more than a fairy tale I have to say you need to get on and read it. It's anything but a fairy tale.

Also, if it were simply a fairy tale then it's highly unlikely that it would still be circulating and in print a few thousand years later. And let's not forget the central character has gone further in shaping our culture in the modern world than anyone else in all of human history!

As for the contradictions in the bible, anyone playing bible bingo will find a heap of contradictions. Bible bingo is a game played by atheists and others who like to take two random, out of context verses, normally one from the Old Testament and one from the New and use them to contradict or disprove the other.

Personally I've never found any contradictions despite having read the whole thing several times but I'm always open to being shown any providing they're in context.

I'm interested to know your thoughts on it.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.

I'm cheating today and using the A for 'A To Z'

Hopefully this will be the end of my cheating but I'll let you know if it isn't.

Last year I chose to blog about things that are dear to me. This year my theme is Pastoring a Church.

I've been involved in church leadership for most of the last 20 years in one way or another but it's only been in the last 18 months that I've actually taken on the full responsibility of leading a church as we were planted out of Mitchell's Plain into Macassar here in the Western Cape.

Someone recently commented on something I put on Facebook saying they hadn't realised what I had posted was true because my humour can be a little off the wall. Hopefully I'll be able to keep some of these posts a little off the wall and maybe even delve into stuff not normally discussed by church leaders.

Let me know on the 30th whether I failed or succeeded.

This post is part of a series in the Blogging From A To Z Challenge, April 2013.