New Zealand National Anthem

In New Zealand we have two national anthems of equal status: God of Nations and God Save the Queen. God of Nations was written as a poem/prayer by Thomas Bracken of Dunedin in the 1870’s and was set to the music of John Joesph Woods of Lawrence in 1876. On Christmas Day that year it was first performed in Dunedin but did not become an official national anthem until 1977.  A Māori version was written in 1878 and today the first verses of both the English and Māori are commonly sung at events where as a nation we are stressing our national identity – ie before a sporting test. But I also like to sing it as a prayer.

Please consider it carefully and pray it. For those of us in the Wakatipu, especially as we seek God’s guidance in establishing the Wakatipu Global Community, this is a particularly appropriate prayer. These old words speak to our situation today. We seek to worship together, men and women from the nations, our responsibility before God is to call all people of every race to come and know God, to worship God and to grow in faith.

God of nations! at Thy feet
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our Free Land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star,
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand

Men of ev’ry creed and race
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our Free Land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our Free Land.
Lord of battles in thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our Free Land.
From dishonour and from shame
Guard our country’s spotless name
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom’s ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our Free Land.
Guide her in the nations’ van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy Glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

What do you make of Easter?

What do you make of Easter?

A much needed long weekend in which you can relax, catch up with friends, gather with family. An excuse to indulge: chocoholics delight!

These are not bad things – enjoy and be thankful.

easter-lily-Christ-risen

But please reserve your greatest thanks for God. Remember again the promise of an empty tomb. Hear the words again: ‘He is not here, he has been raised.’ Why are we surprised by such words? This is what Jesus always said would happen? And now that it has we’re invited to live in his resurrection.

And here’s the tragedy – too many of us fail to live as Easter people; resurrection people. We shuffle around – timid, barely raising a smile at the greatest news ever heard. Christ is Alive!!! Death is defeated!!! Our sin forgiven!!! We live again!!!

Let us celebrate with thanksgiving: as the hymn ‘We are an Easter People’ by Bill Wallace puts it “… our fears have died, we rise to dream, to love, to dance, to live”.

 

Holy Week Devotional

Holy Week begins on Sunday March 24 this year, Palm Sunday.

As a preparation for Easter and to help maximise the impact of the Easter weekend I believe it is helpful to use the week before it in prayer and bible study.

There are many ways to do this, but one good resource, and it’s free, I have discovered is a small book from John Piper, which will make the lead up to Easter more meaningful for you.

Love-to-the-Uttermost-copyAbout the Book

Love to the Uttermost: Devotional Readings for Holy Week is designed for Lent 2013. The readings begin on Palm Sunday (March 24), end on Easter Sunday (March 31), and aim to focus our attention on Jesus he displays his love to the uttermost (John 13:1). These meditations on the self-giving love of Christ are all excerpted from the preaching and writing ministry of John Piper.

Comprised of eight excerpts (plus one prologue reading) selected from John Piper’s extensive writing and preaching ministry, this new devotional was compiled and shaped for use in personal devotions or family and group settings.

As Pastor John explains, this one term — uttermost — is loaded with significance. When used of Jesus’s willing death for his friends, it means he endured unimaginable degrees of suffering to do so (John 13:1, NAS).

To love to the uttermost is to love freely, without reserve or limit, and without flaw or failure. As we watch his arrest and trial and death unfold for eight days, we gaze on a God-man who begrudges no pain or reproach on his pathway to redeem lost sinners. This is the man who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

“Fix your gaze steadily on him,” John Piper writes of Holy Week, “as he loves you to the uttermost.” To that end, you can download the free devotional — Love to the Uttermost — in three formats:

Note: To load the eBook on a mobile device it may be necessary to view this blog post from within your device, then to click the download option.

Table of Contents

Editor’s Preface
Prologue: A Vision for Holy Week
1. Palm Sunday: Seeing the King on Palm Sunday
2. Monday: He Set His Face for Jerusalem
3. Tuesday: Depth of Love for Us
4. Wednesday: Why Jesus Is All-Trustworthy
5. Maundy Thursday: Thursday of the Commandment
6. Good Friday: What Good Friday Is All About
7. Saturday: A Holy Week Volcano
8. Easter Sunday: Such Amazing Resurrection Love

Reviving the Flame at GA12

Recently I attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ). The biennial General Assembly gathered on the grounds of Te Maungarongo, our national marae, in Ohope for the opening ceremony and worship then continued at Rotorua Boys’ High School from October 4th to 7th.

In my experience Assembly is always a paradox – I enjoy attending, I value the sense of being God’s church, I appreciate conversations (albeit brief) with old friends and listening to contrary opinions, I rejoice in the times of worship – especially when we are stilled.

Yet Assembly is also a place of stress and distress: long days (8:30am to about 10pm), protracted debates, broken relationships, entrenched positions, too few voices, hurried decisions, apathy. This, and more, is the paradox of Assembly, the paradox of being human. We are inconsistent beings – capable of profound love, humility, and insight: and profanity.

We weep – God weeps.

We weep – God swoops to our side and loves us. Continue reading