Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Night of Grace: Two legends re-unite for the benefit of others.

I couldn't honestly be sure if it was the Spirit's prompting or just nostalgia. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two! But last, year I kept on thinking about a night of grace 15 years ago that left an indelible imprint on my soul. 

It was 2002 and I was a pastor at New Covenant Church Bryanston, in Johannesburg, South Africa. I'd traveled as a band member with Matt Redman around South Africa on a previous tour, so was looking forward to reconnecting with the prolific British worship leader whose songs were becoming worship standards in churches around the world. I'd heard of Terry Virgo, the elder-statesman and founder of New Frontiers, but had never met him, so I was intrigued by the idea of their 'Amazing Grace Tour,'  because I'd never seen a worship leader and preacher tour together with such intention. 

The night turned out to be unforgettable. To a packed house, Matt led worship and Terry preached around the theme of 'Amazing Grace.' I remember being offended one moment, liberated another moment, brought to tears the next, by the scandalous gift of grace that Terry preached from Galatians. I'd not heard it preached with such purity before, but it was the spark that began a fiery awakening to the gospel of God's grace in me. Matt's songs were powerful amplifiers of what was preached. The only response to theology on fire is doxology as John Stott once said.  It was a night of conviction, of liberation and celebration. Biblical Nitro met Holy Spirit Gylcerine in an explosion of gospel joy! It was basically Church as it should be!   

So, knowing that these two humble legends of the faith would be in Southern California around the same time in February, I took my courage in my hand and asked them consider re-uniting one more time for a Night of Grace. This wouldn't just  be getting the band back together for old-times sake though. I envisaged this gathering would be both a celebration and extension of the amazing grace we've received to others who are in a place of need. This would be specifically about extending grace in the area of orphan care, which is so close to God's heart and to our heart as a church. 

This will take the form of a short video and offering taken up  for the benefit of  the Rancho Hermosa Orphanage in Baja, Mexico. Southlands has been working with One Generation for the past few years to build the orphanage and get it up to meeting government standards. We are just a few months from it's official opening and we wanted to extend the grace that we have received to others in need through this offering. Matt and Terry and Southlands are willing to absorb the cost of the evening in order to pass on the proceeds to Rancho Hermosa. 

So, join us on the 15th of February as we celebrate and extend the amazing grace of God in Christ.  Tickets, although free, do need to be registered for at
But hurry, because space is limited. Look forward to seeing you there. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Cup of Quietness: What I learned about my wife from the Enneagram

One of the highlights of our Sabbatical last summer was being walked through our Enneagram profiles with our friends, Nick and Kim Bogardus. The Enneagram is a personality profile that has a particular interest in how people function relationally. Enneagram is quite the thing at the moment.  But I think it's a thing for a reason. It doesn't just analyze your personality. It shows you how you relate to people when you're under stress versus when you're not under stress. 

Nick and Kim use the Enneagram course with Cross Point, which focuses on how Christ can transform us to relate with health towards others within our unique personality design. They're close friends of ours, but they're also trained to coach married couples to be a more effective team through the Enneagram. We so appreciated their insight and skill as they coached us to understand ourselves and each other better. 

Now I don't want to bore you with our complex Enneagram profiles, but Rynelle is a high 9, which stands for The Peaceful Person. A high value for this person is maintaining an environment of peace. Among others, I am a high 3, which stands for The Effective Person.  A high value for this person is getting things done. We are both high 4's, which means we connect through a love for beauty and aesthetics. The problem is though, that my high 3 means that I don't savor beauty at the same place as my peaceful wife. For instance, we both love going to a beautiful restaurant to eat beautifully prepared food, but because I'm a 3, I'll gobble mine down in order to get on to the next course. Rynelle, rightfully so, will want to savor the ambience and every mouthful slowly,  repeatedly telling me to, 'Slow down, we've got nothing to rush to.' 

And as if that weren't bad enough, my high 3 generally has a bit of a  honey-do-list, especially when it comes to pastoral matters. "Have you called this person, love? Have you managed to see that person? How are things going for the ladies retreat? Would you mind doing the devotional at staff meeting tomorrow?" I also tend to invite people over spontaneously quite a bit, which means Rynelle has to scramble into hospitality mode at short notice. Because we are both 4's, we never want to host with paper plates and plastic cutlery either. It must be aesthetic. I didn't understand why my gracious and gentle wife was starting to dig in her heels. 

What I didn't realize was that in the quest to try and make her more effective, I was robbing her of the  thing she craved most: peace.  Nick and Kim's counsel to me was profound. "You take care of the environment of your home, making sure it's a place of peace, and Rynelle will be more effective than ever." This was one of my pledges to her coming back from sabbatical, and honestly it's proven to be true. Plus, we feel like we've found us again, not just functioning side -by-side, but connecting face-to-face. So thankful for wise friends and for Jesus who continues to renew us.  

So, on our 24th anniversary this week, I wrote her a short poem about my pledge to celebrate and honor her as an Enneagram 9.

                  A Cup of Quietness

A cup of quietness, is better than two cups full of toil,
Your hands of kindness, lifting me up from the thorn-choked soil, 
Poured the water over, when I got burned by the midnight oil,
A cup of quietness, is better than two cups full of toil. 

A cup of quietness, early in the morning through the porch window,
That’s the way I love you, sitting in the light of heaven’s glow,
A steadied beauty, ready with grace for the high and low,
Your cup of quietness, I’m fighting for the day that it overflows. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Stronger: milestones, running repairs and finding our stride in 2018

For our church, 2017 was a year of some significant milestones. For starters, we celebrated our 50th birthday with a grateful gathering of friends from across the miles and the decades. What a memorable weekend celebrating the faithfulness of God! Our birthday was marked most notably by the adoption of Park Christian Fellowship into our family, and the subsequent re-launch of Southlands Chino in September. I still smile when I think about the ways in which our Father orchestrated this adoption. He is so kind, and the good people of Park have been one of His best gifts to us as an integral part of this thriving community. 

The Southlands Chino launch crowned an intense season of multiplication during which we were able to achieve our 3 in 3 vision of multiplying 3 times in 3 years. This vision was strongly supported by a capital campaign called the Jubilee Campaign, aimed at getting rid of our debt and building a church planting war chest. Yet again, God moved powerfully and the church responded with massive faith and generosity, enabling us to complete the campaign with a surplus. God's hand has been so clearly on this multiplication journey that 3 in 3, is in actual fact 4 in 4. From being one church in one location four years ago, we now exist as one church in four communities, as well as having planted One Light Church in Chiang Rai, Thailand, which is flourishing. These milestones are cause for great celebration. Heartfelt gratitude to our great God! He is so good.

The thing is though, that whether you're running, driving or journeying as a church,  milestones mean you've done some mileage, which means you have some wear and tear. Milestones are therefore not just cause for celebration. They're also cause for some running repairs. They're cause to catch your breath and ask, what needs to be strengthened for the next leg of the journey? 

Our team of elders took some time out in the Fall of '17 to pray and plan for the coming year and sensed the Lord speak to us about a season of strengthening from this well worn passage in Isaiah 40.

 “Do you not know, have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." 

The everlasting God never faints, but rather gives power to those who are fainting, renewing their strength. The prophet Isaiah points to at least 4 ways in which God wants to make  His people stronger  and this is what we will give ourselves to in 2018.

1.  Biblical Devotion “The grass withers and flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord will stand forever.” V 8

Amidst the withering fads of our post-truth worldwe want to build a people who confide in God's forever Word. We want to strengthen our knowledge of the Word, but most of all we want to encounter Jesus, the Living Word, in the pages of God's written Word. This is the heart of biblical devotion. There's been an overwhelming response to the launch of our CBRjournal groups across the church to strengthen our community Bible reading. So far, we've sold almost 700 journals and launched around 50 CBR online communities.  Of course the numbers are encouraging, but we are trusting God for a growing culture of faith and obedience to His Word. 

2.   Evangelistic Boldness “Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news, lift up your voice with strength.” v 9

Isaiah was foretelling the bold ministry of John the Baptist who would prepare the way of the Lord by preaching repentance. There is a call to all God's people to lift up our voices with strength as heralds of the good news. God saves, but how will people know unless they have heard? Over the past few years we've strengthened our missional muscle - that is, our practice of hospitality, mercy and justice initiatives and  relational rhythms with those who are not yet believers. This has borne significant fruit. However, we've realized that building missional bridges still requires us to open our mouths at some point and speak about the gospel. We are not as strong in evangelistic boldness and practicing spiritual gifts outside the church walls as we are at missional rhythms. We want to give ourselves to the former this year without neglecting the latter. We've made a point of inviting evangelists in from outside Southlands this year to equip us for evangelistic boldness and skill. We'll also continue with our Alpha course, trusting the Spirit for his empowering on this proven evangelism forum.

3. Pastoral Care “He will tend his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are young.” V 11

By its nature, multiplication is disruptive to a family. Have you ever met any parents who've had 4 children in 4 years? Their family may have grown wonderfully, but it'll never be the same! We're not trying to return to what we were, but we do want to give ourselves to strengthen our culture of pastoral care through training new leaders, launching new life groups, and investing in the quality of our pastoral forums. We want to draw people into community in both formal and informal ways. We want our community to challenge the comfortable and comfort the challenged. 

4.   Reverent Worship “To whom then will you liken God, or what will you compare to Him? An idol!...But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength they will rise up on wings as eagles. v 18

Worshipping a transcendent God who sits enthroned above the nations strengthens us in a time of turbulence and uncertainty. It also calls us to repent of worshipping idols, reminding ourselves that we are in the world but not of it. I believe we are in for a season of reverence in worship, where we recognize again the incomparable goodness of our God and gaze upon His holiness. Reverence is not hiding in fear. It is humble intimacy with the Creator, exchanging our strength for His, repenting of self-reliance. It is waiting for the updrafts of His Spirit's as we mount on wings like eagles. It's learning to fly without too much flapping!  

These are four areas in which we are asking, "Lord, Please renew our strength so that we can run and not grow weary." Let's trust Him to help us find our stride after a year of great milestones. 

Tonight we will gather for Community Prayer at Southlands Brea to pray along these lines. Join us at 6:30pm in the Loft.