This week Gary has again invited Nellie Taumate to reflect, this time on the Transformers Camp she attended as a mentor.
Greetings to you all in the precious name of our Lord Saviour, Jesus Christ. A big ‘Thank You’ to Reverend Gary and Suliana Mauga, our Saint Andrew’s church family, Kid’s Friendly team and Faith Builders team for your support, words of encouragement, transportations and continuous prayers for our safety and wellbeing. A special ‘Thank You’ to the Parish Council for its tremendous support in agreeing to cover the camp costs at such short notice which enabled us to attend and be transformed to a new level of experience over the past weekend. All things were and are possible through Christ, therefore it is right to say, all glory to God the Father in Heaven for His enduring love and care upon us.
Looking back to last weekend, I am still overwhelmed and believe Rebecca and Jahrome felt the same. As a mentor, working and spending one and a half days together with the young people was priceless and worth every minute. Seeing everyone worshipping together as a family of Christ, losing ourselves in our own individual ways of praising God was an incredible sight and experience that we would never forget.
The group activities involved facilitating teamwork and quick thinking on the spot was one of the highlights of the weekend. Friday night after unpacking, we walked the ‘Burma trail’ which was by far the scariest thing I have ever done – one thing was to follow a rope in the dark but in the middle of ten children was another. However, it turned out to be one of the funniest and the best experience of the weekend. One of the highlights was learning and exploring the five (5) codes of being transformed through activities, short video clips and role plays. These codes are as follow:
· I will Follow Jesus
· I will put Other’s NEEDs First
· I will set GOOD example in all I Do
· I will Respect Myself and Others
· I will Trust GOD so others can Trust me
On a personal note, I felt blessed seeing the youngsters transformed to train to be leaders. Rebecca and Jahrome enjoyed their time and I was very proud to be their mentor.
I believe if we stay focussed on nurturing this age group and investing in our young children by supporting and sending them to these types of Christian activities, then I say, the PCANZ and Kid’s Friendly are raising amazing talented future leaders.
I strongly encourage the parents and our Church family to send more young teenagers for upcoming Transformers camps and I would love to see more people involve as mentors. I know for a fact you will enjoy it and you will have heaps of fun as I did. I trust that Rebecca and Jahrome will continue to go out and transform others and become great leaders with the help and support of all of us.
Thank You and GOD BLESS
(This week Gary has invited Nellie Taumate to reflect on her CWM experience)
Foremost, I give thanks to our God Almighty for His continuous blessings upon us. I would also like to thank the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Council of World Mission for the opportunity to be part of the round the table discussion last month. To the Minister Rev. Gary and his good lady Suliana, to my church family and my whanau I cannot thank-you all enough for your prayers and continuous support. Fa’afetai lava.
Where do I start? I could write a book about my experience but for now, I can only say, “Wooow!” CWM took me on a journey of HOPE from day one till we said our goodbyes. Things which I only see on the movies were and are happening in the Pacific which was an eye opener for me personally. There were many depressing issues discussed but Human Trafficking and Violence in Society were the hardest for me to accept with mixed emotion. Seeing the numbers of children at the victim support centre House of Hope in Samoa and hearing their stories about the scars and unbearable pain broke my heart. I sat through their performances speechless, balling my eyes out with the realisation of how fortunate we are to have been brought up in loving and caring families with the support network from our church families. As an individual, I questioned why this is happening and where is God in all of these? CWM round the table gave me an insight, that in our lives, Babylon is never far away and it will always somehow be an obstacle in the way. BUT we should always remember, John 16:33 “God has already overcome the world” so let us be HOPEFUL, continue on dancing to conquer all the Babylonians because God has a plan for each one of us Jeremiah 29:11. This journey has allowed me to think again about the simplest things that I get upset or worried about is nothing compared to the pain and shame those children live with. On our last day we were asked a question “Whose BEAT are we dancing to?” I guess we all have our own answers but for me we should dance to God’s beat and be His instruments playing His rhythm, giving hope to others because HOPE needs something to StAND on.
All Glory to God. Fa’amanuia le Atua ia te outou uma. Faafetai Lava.
Nellie Vineta Letia Taumate
I remember one Christmas in the 80’s sitting with my brother and sisters, on our Otara home driveway. It was almost customary that on Christmas morning each year, in this small dead-end street, all the kids would come out on the road and play with their newly-opened Christmas presents. It was fun. It was a chance for kids to boast about what they got from under the tree that year and, naturally, an opportunity to compare whose toys were most expensive! Nairn Place, Otara, was a multicultural street. We had Maori, Cook Island and European families as neighbours. It was good when I think about now. We were the only Samoan family there.
Anyway, that Christmas in the 80’s, the Maori kid next door to us, Brian, came out on the road on his brand new BMX bike. It was mean as! He looked at us as we discreetly tucked our little toys behind our backs. With a real cheeky tone he asked, “What did you fullas get this year?” as he whizzed past us – not even waiting for our reply. The nerve. Next door to Brian’s house, Craig, and his European nieces and nephews also rode down their driveway with their new bikes. Was there a massive bike sale our Dad had missed? Next to Craig’s, the Grace family, we already knew had bikes. We had seen Michael and Elton riding around the street before. It became clear that we were the only family in the street that didn’t have bikes. That morning, my siblings and I sat on the driveway watching our neighbours riding their bikes. We knew exactly what we were going to ask for next Christmas!
We were sure to mention “bikes” throughout that following year. Dad got the hint. As Christmas drew near that year, Dad didn’t disappoint us. It was Saturday morning and we were helping Dad put out the heavy rubbish for collection. Once we were done, Dad said, “Let’s go and get your bikes.” We were so excited! We all jumped in the car and off we went. I remember looking back as we exited Nairn Place and saying in my head, “Wait until we get back neighbours. Then, we can ride altogether.” I was so happy. My brother and sisters’ faces were too.
We drove for ages and we all knew that the further we went the bigger the shopping centre. And the bigger the shopping centre the flasher the bikes! In fact, the drive was so long that we kind of fell asleep. We turned down a street and finally the car stopped. Dad’s voice woke us up. “Okay, go and choose a bike.” Slowly waking up I remember coming to my senses and remembering why I was in the car. We were here! Yippee! “Okay, Dad, I’ll choose a bike.” As the car door opened I noticed that we were not at a shopping centre. There was no big bike store. It looked like an ordinary house. Well, a flash as house. A flash as house in Howick. In front of the house was a pile of neatly stacked rubbish. My face changed. So did my brother’s and sister’s. “Come on. Choose a bike,” Dad repeated. In the pile of rubbish were two bike frames. One was bright green with no wheels. The other was a maroon-coloured bike with rims but no tyres. “These aren’t new bikes, Dad!” said my inner tantrum. Dad assured us he would fix them. These were bikes to my Dad. We ended up taking both back home. It was a quiet ride home.
Our father fixed the bright green bike. It wasn’t brand new – but it was ride-able - even though the front wheel was much smaller than the larger rear wheel. I let my sister have that one… It always looked like she would fall forward every time. I kept the maroon-coloured bike as it looked more complete than the green one. My father oiled up the rusted chain but we never did find tyres for the rims. When we heard our neighbours on the street with their bikes, we would roll down our driveway with our bikes and join them. I had the loudest bike on the street – no tyres – sounding like a derailed train was coming down the road. And even though, my neighbours teased me – I enjoyed it. I loved my bike. My sister loved her bike too. For us, our Dad knew what we wanted – even though we couldn’t understand that he couldn’t afford it at the time – he made it happen. He got us our bikes. That’s our Dad.
Jesus, born in a manger, did not make him less a king (Luke 2:2). That Jesus spent much of his time with the poor and oppressed did not lessen his identity as royalty. Yes, in the sight of many, he wasn’t a king. He didn’t possess the traits of a “normal” king. Riding around on a donkey? Refusing to overthrow the Roman authorities? Humbly and obediently walking to the cross without resistance? What kind of king was this? Nevertheless, he was a king – a humble one at that. Like the old bikes our Dad got us that Christmas, to others, these were not bikes. These were parts of bikes. But for a young kid, who had never owned a bike before – it was a bike – a humble one at that.
Not having a bike before made me appreciate the bike that I had. I have not had a king before Jesus came. I appreciate this king who laid down his life for me (John 3:16). My friends in Christ, Jesus taught that we should not worry about what we don’t have (Matthew 6:31). “Your Father in heaven knows the things you need…” And such things, GOD will provide. It may not look like what we expected – but God knows we need it. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (v. 31), and everything that you require will be provided for you.
Be thankful for what you have. Humility is a tasty fruit.
Dedicated to my Dad, Seuala Soa’a Mauga, who was a great picture of humility.
Rev Gary Mauga
The Beheading of the Church: the Jesus CrISIS
If there is one word that has unexpectedly been added to our everyday vocabulary in recent times, it is the word “beheading.” The word sends shudders to my core. The thought of the act of beheading is so graphic and inhumane that it nauseates me.
In the Collins dictionary, the definition of “behead” means to “remove the head from.”
This barbaric form of execution is nothing new. Throughout history beheadings have been deemed an honourable and less painful way to die. This form of capital punishment was common among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and embedded in the cultural traditions and histories of peoples all around the world. Such decapitation also became a ritual in Japan from 15th-19th centuries. New Zealand has its own stories involving decapitation. I was ten and living in Otara, when a shocked community mourned and struggled to comprehend the attempted beheading of a young Tongan man by a group of Samoans in 1988. Fear and disbelief permeated the streets of Otara following that day. Unfortunately, for beautiful Otara and her people, the incident would echo in generations ahead and threaten to define the once close-knit community. It is great to see that Otara have stood courageous since then. A well-known beheading is recorded in the Bible. Herod’s step-daughter took her mother’s advice (Herodias) and demanded that John the Baptist’s head be presented to her on a platter. Herod promised his step-daughter she could have anything for her birthday. John had disapproved of Herod and Herodias’ relationship (Herodias was Herod’s brother’s former wife). John was beheaded and presented to Herod’s step-daughter, Salome.
This word, beheading, I thought, was slowly disappearing and left behind where it belonged in history. Recently, the world has witnessed the emergence of an extremist Islamic group known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). With its extremist views, this terrorist group has publicly performed beheadings to make a statement about who they are and what they represent. To date this group have executed close to 200 (reported) hostages by decapitation. This is horrific.
It can be quite overwhelming and discouraging when thinking of what “I” as a Christian or “We” as the church are supposed to do with this. As we grieve and perhaps deal with an element of fear we can get so caught up in thinking about ourselves. Our own safety and security. It’s not happening to me so I won’t get involved. That’s a Middle East issue. I’ll turn a blind eye and pretend nothing is happening.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, when we allow fear and insecurity and ignorance to creep into our living out of faith and hope, in the message of Jesus Christ, we fail to acknowledge, that we, the church, and as Christians have a Head. We can be easily distracted from the One who calls us to Himself. Are we distracted so much by the violence that we have decapitated ourselves? The apostle Paul reminds us that: “Christ is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life” (Colossians 1:18). “Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Saviour of the church, his body” (Ephesians 5:23).
When our faith is shaken and our grief forces a shift in focus we can easily forget that we, the church, have a Head. The truth is, we need the Head. Every body needs a head. We need Christ to talk us through what we can do: how we can pray, how we can speak, sing, and dance into situations where our fellow humans are being inhumanely treated. The body, the church, should remain as close and as attached as possible to the Head – Jesus Christ, who says, “Come to me… and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We continue to pray and hope for those facing persecution around the world.
Blessings and Peace
Rev. Gary Mauga
Michelle Williams, one third of the multiplatinum record-selling R’n’B/soul/pop group “Destiny’s Child” has recently recorded and released a track named “Say Yes.” Since the track’s release on June 2nd of this year, it has rapidly grown in popularity. Like many others, I certainly found it quite infectious as the catchy tune, sampled from a traditional Nigerian gospel chant, is one very hard to forget after listening to it the first time! You can listen to it here:
In addition to its dance-style beat, this gospel/pop genre hit has quite affirming lyrics. “When Jesus Say ‘Yes’ Nobody Can Say ‘No’” provides this repetitive chorus. With such lyrics, listeners are encouraged “not to worry about a thing” for the Lord is “guiding me.” The track easily draws the ears and hearts of the vulnerable. It really is an affirmation for the insecure, the confused, the unsure as well as the praiseful. A feel good song when you need one. There is also plenty of truth in this song: in Jesus there are no longer boundaries or limitations (i.e Philippians 4:13 - “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”; Isaiah 41:10 – “Do not fear, for I am with you”; Romans 6:18 – “You have been set free from sin.”). This song will be a great encouragement for many in years to come!
After reflecting on this song and its lyrics, it has highlighted for me, another important truth: Jesus also says “No.” Does He? Well, there are clear boundaries Jesus sets for himself – boundaries that are set as examples for us to follow. Despite being in the privileged yet very hectic position of ministering to large crowds, often for long periods throughout the day, Jesus identified the need to rest (Luke 5:16; Mark 6:45-46). For Jesus, his withdrawal from the busyness of ministry was in a sense saying, “No.” Jesus’ earthly ministry after all, meant that he too, would experience the physical and mental impact of the demands of work. Jesus was also clear to say “No” to the unsuccessful attempts of the Devil in the desert (Luke 4:1-13).
We can be misled to believe that Jesus enables a “YES” attitude in all aspects of life. Yes – Jesus brings renewal, forgiveness and reconciliation. Yes – Jesus enables eternal life to those who will believe. Yes – Jesus has provided the Way to the Father. Jesus says “Yes” we can do ANYTHING. But, Jesus also says, “No” we can’t do EVERYTHING. Yet, we still find it difficult to say “No.” Jesus says “No” to temptation. Yet, we still say “YES.” Personally, I know my schedule can sometimes look like a messy crossword - yet I still say, “YES” to people. Before I know it, I have let someone down – or failed to show - as a result of not learning from Jesus – and being able to say “No” where “Yes” is not needed.
And YOU? When Jesus says, “NO” – are you still saying “YES”? It’s not healthy. If Jesus set boundaries around his own well-being – what makes us think we don’t need to?
Rev. Gary Mauga
Greetings in Jesus’ name.
Last week, I was sitting in my barber’s seat having a conversation with the local barber. Since moving to West Auckland, I have become a regular at this barber shop. The young Fijian brothers who work there are very friendly. Over the past year we have become comfortable talking about our faith among other things and the differences and challenges within our cultural contexts. They both enjoy our conversations I can tell. Even when customers are queuing, awaiting a haircut – with me, they take their time. One reason being, that the younger of the two, has just married a Christian woman. So they have asked questions and where possible I have offered advice which they have appreciated. Jesus often walked in. He would sit on the long black leather seat alongside those awaiting their turn in the chair. His hair was shiny, and combed slickly back. He was very well-presented and had a trendy tanned-brown coat which he would always wear. He wasn’t there for a haircut though. He often walked in just to have a chat with the barbers whom he knew well. This was a regular occurrence and each time I sat in that barber’s chair, in the reflection of the huge mirror in front of me, Jesus would walk in smiling and chatting. I never said anything to Jesus – but we did exchange a smile one day. That day, I was the only customer in the shop and once again Jesus came in. He shared with the Fijian brothers how so much was going on in Henderson. He was concerned. I wanted to join the conversation but chose not to. Jesus went and came back a few minutes later. He left again – and he returned. I wanted to talk to Jesus, but I couldn’t bring myself round to it (strange for someone who enjoys meeting people). After a year and a half seeing Jesus – I couldn’t say anything to Jesus! The young brothers eventually shared with me that Jesus worked in the dairy right next door to them. I should’ve said something to Jesus.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, while Jesus was opening his dairy for business as usual, two teenagers attacked him and he was pronounced dead hours later. The grieving local community has shared of the friendly and funny nature of this young father who loved to meet people. And my friends at the barbershop who knew him well were in a state of numbness as I visit them yesterday.
My brothers and sisters in Christ: Life is short and can be cut even shorter unexpectedly. Health issues, accidents, and senseless acts of violence, can take away the most important people to you - in a single moment. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to say something important to someone e.g. “Nice to meet you; I forgive you; I love you.”
You may never get that opportunity again. What will your last words be?
In memory of Arun Kumar and the Kumar family.
Rev. Gary Mauga
Talofa lava and greetings in the name of Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
I met up with my friend Jesus on the road to Mangere one evening and I felt like some company so I invited him over, “Please come and join me for dinner and a chat. Tell me what you’ve been up to.” “Sure,” he replied. Jesus and I sat in the lounge just catching up. He shared about a situation he was currently in and how as a result, hostility was following him around – people were not happy with him. He was being accused falsely and no one believed his story. Jesus was a wreck. We talked and talked … and on a couple of occasions I disguised my looking at the clock ticking well into the night. I may have stopped listening for a bit. But I don’t think Jesus knew. I was nodding anyway despite my not really hearing him. My calendar for the next day suddenly sprang up in my mind. Hmm…what do I need to do tomorrow? All the while, I’m nodding “yes” but not hearing a thing. It was a relief when at 10pm, Jesus finally said, “It’s finished. It’s over. We’re done.” What? Who? Where? When? I remember asking myself, “Did I miss something?” Those words caught my attention. Turns out that Jesus was talking about his marriage. I had no idea. “Thanks my brother – I really needed this,” he said as he left in tears. I felt bad. I should’ve paid more attention. How could I invite Jesus into my home and not listen? I need to work on my listening.
As Easter passes us, it’s easy to stop listening to the promises of God – as for some of us, “it is finished” becomes the end of the story. In fact, Jesus’ use of the words “it is finished” (John 19:30), were in many a sense the beginning of God’s redemptive work – a gift to all humankind. A resurrection followed. New life followed. A life forgiven. There is much more of the story to listen to and hear. We, believers have a part to play in this story as it unfolds before our very eyes. Are we still paying attention? Are we just nodding in rhythm with the story of Jesus without really hearing it? Have we missed something? Don’t be one who invites Jesus into your life only to hear the parts you want to.
How much of a listener are you? I now ask myself this question every day!
Rev. Gary Mauga
Greetings in the name of our loving Saviour Jesus Christ.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife Suliana and I boarded a flight to Melbourne. We had planned a getaway for some time now, and the opportunity had finally arrived. We were excited and welcomed a brief time to rest from the busyness of ministry. We arranged to stay with family whom we had not seen in months and what made this trip special for me was (1) It was me and wife time (yay!) and (2) I was going to see JESUS! It had been almost two and a half years since I last saw him. When Jesus was born, as many are aware, the setting was a humbling one. As the boy Jesus grew in age, those who knew Jesus noticed that there was something special about him. Jesus was unlike many other children. He was very quiet – almost mute. When children his age were around, Jesus would quench his fascination for heights by finding a tree to climb. He also loved the dirt and spent most of his time either around the garden, pot plants, or sand pits. He loved the feel of it sifting through his hands, between his fingers. I grew very close to Jesus. However, one day, his parents decided to move their family across the ditch. I knew I would miss him. You could say that life for me was something else without Jesus around. So, I was excited! As the plane slowly descended over the Melbourne night sky, low enough to notice the spectacle that was the lit-up city below us, I was overwhelmingly filled with emotion. Coincidentally, the music track that I was listening to over the scratchy airline headphones, was John Legend’s love song “All of Me.” And as Legend sang the lyrics, “Cos’ all of me, loves all of you; loves your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…” a tear escaped my eye, as it dawned on me that somewhere beneath us, among those lights, was JESUS. I couldn’t wait to see him. (I quickly wiped my tear so to keep my “tough points” with my wife).
We loved our time together with Jesus. He had remembered me… He is now 6 years of age. He looks slightly bigger than when I last saw him, and he still loves to play with the dirt. One morning, I got to say goodbye to Jesus as he boarded his bus for school. I’ve always wondered what his daily routine looked like – and I caught a glimpse of it. Jesus was diagnosed with autism from a young age. Autism is defined as a disorder characterized by lack of response and limited ability to communicate. In today’s world, I’m not sure whether this definition refers to the diagnosed or to those undiagnosed and our inability to communicate with or respond to the Jesus in our society, communities, churches and homes. Paul’s letter to the Galatians (2:20) reminds us that Christ lives not only among us - but in us. It is a beautiful thing then, when the Christ in one person connects to the Christ in another (for me, this is when the unity of the Body of Christ becomes real). This understanding helps me to love all of Jesus; “all his curves and all his edges; and all his perfect imperfections.”
Does Christ in you see the Christ in others? It’s a beautiful thing when Christ in us loves the Christ in others. Go then, and do the same.
Inspired by and dedicated to my nephew Sammy.
Rev. Gary Mauga.
Talofa lava and greetings in the name of Jesus.
The world we live in today continues to struggle to grasp the true nature of love – just as those who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry struggled to grasp Jesus, himself, God incarnate, who was and is LOVE (1 John 4:8). If the way I love is anything to go by, then, perhaps there are others who, like me, do not have LOVE sorted out either. For LOVE cannot be selective. LOVE should be all-inclusive, without boundary, unconditional. However, what I see in my own life, and in the people and world around me, are facets of LOVE rather than something complete and whole.
Here’s what I believe LOVE is today:
“Love is impatient and cruel; it is jealous and conceited and proud; love is ill-mannered and selfish and irritable; love keeps record of wrongs; love is happy with evil, but not happy with truth. Love gives up, and its faith, hope, and patience will always fail. Love never lasts.”
And here is what LOVE CAN BE:
“Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal (1 Cor. 13: 4-8).”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to be the light of LOVE in a dark and often unloving world. We are bearers of a message of LOVE in all its fullness. We are called to be the light of LOVE as a husband, a father, a mother, a spouse, a son, a daughter, a child. Will you be a light of LOVE, a light of Christ, to those around you? It may mean breaking the traditions of the way we have LOVED for so long.
Settle not for what LOVE is today – strive for what LOVE CAN BE.
Rev. Gary Mauga
Jesus Came to Church the Other Day…
Last Sunday, started off like every other Sunday morning. My irritating phone alarm buzzed at 7:15am and slightly annoyed, I slowly got up (I’ve been meaning to change my alarm tone for months! I’ve been thinking of a lullaby tone). As per daily routine, I made my way to the kitchen like a zombie still struggling to open my other eye. Once I had placed five weetbix (reduced from seven once my diet started) in my cereal bowl, and ignored the ratio of the only three milk drops left in the bottle to five weetbix, I sat down and enjoyed my extra crunchy dry breakfast. Fast forward. I was having a break from leading the service and so I found a comfortable spot to enjoy worship and to hear what God was saying to me that morning. With people still arriving, and the soft sound of the organ playing some meditative tunes I noticed in the corner of my eye a small figure coming towards me from the right hand side. I looked up and there he was – it was JESUS! I was in awe! Was I still asleep!? I greeted Jesus, “Good morning, Jesus.” He didn’t reply but he knew I was there so I just smiled. He sat about two chairs from me. I looked around and some of the congregation looked at us smiling. It was a great feeling: Jesus was at church – OUR church - sitting next to ME! The service started, and Jesus sung along with us to the first hymn. His voice was young and pure and it sounded like he was singing in a different language – maybe Hebrew or tongues. I kept glancing over at him to see if he was okay. As the preacher that morning led us in prayer I closed my eyes and slowly zoned into prayer mode. Suddenly, there was a ruffling sound. Reluctant to react, I quickly opened my eyes to check on Jesus – he was okay – but he was opening a small packet of chips and began eating from it. I closed my eyes again. “Crunch, crunch,” was the sound as he chewed quite noisily – similar to my breakfast sounds. At this point, I had totally disregarded the prayer as I was officially distracted. At “Amen” I looked over to where Jesus was sitting and he was gone! He was now walking around in between rows and leaving a trail of chips as he wandered. By now, the preacher had lost us as more and more added to the challenge of “hushing” Jesus. Jesus must’ve been terrified as people around him were saying, “Jesus, shhhh! Keep quiet!” As many people picked him up in an attempt to control him Jesus started crying. His mother, now embarrassed, decided to pick him up and take him out of church so not to disrupt the service – after all, we were about to hear a sermon on Jesus! As they left his cries became more and more distant. Jesus never came back that day. Jesus never came back.
“Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples scolded the people. When Jesus noticed this, he was angry and said to his disciples, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (Mark 10:13-14)
If JESUS comes to YOUR church this week – please tell Jesus we are sorry and ask him to forgive us. Perhaps YOU will welcome him/her better?
Rev. Gary Mauga
“Jesus came over the other day…”
One day, I was working in my office when there was a knock at the door. It was quite a firm knock. I approached the door wondering why this person had not noticed the door bell. It was most likely to have been someone who had never been here before. I opened the door and there he was: it was Jesus! He looked different. He was older than I expected. He had a balding head and had grayish stubble around his chin. He was medium to fat build and about 6 feet tall. He wore an old singlet exposing his heavily tattooed arms and black tattered jeans. He spoke, and my noticing he had rotting teeth distracted me from what it is he was saying. “I haven’t eaten for days,” he said. “Do you have any food?” he asked. “I’ve been out of jail for two weeks now and I have nothing.” I hesitated to respond and then said to Jesus, “just wait there, I‘ll go and see if there’s anything in the pantry.” I took a plastic bag and filled it with food that would last him about a week. I made sure to include a bottle of water so that I wouldn’t have to invite him in. This welcome (or unwelcome) was a huge contrast to what I had imagined. I believed I would fall at Jesus’ feet and praise him. Truth is, I couldn’t wait to get him out of my way so I could return to my sermon preparation. Jesus thanked me and went on his way. He only made it as far as my “welcome” mat outside the front door. I thought about it once Jesus left that day. I wished he would come back so I could welcome him better. (Matt. 25:35)
Has Jesus come to your door? He or she probably has. However, we walk past him when he is begging for money. We draw the curtains when he comes knocking. We act poor when she asks for money. You see, what we must remember is that “not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do what my Father wants them to do.” It’s not in our saying, it’s in our doing. (Matt. 7:21)
Unless we see Jesus Christ in others, bypassing all discrimination that may distract us, we will never love – we will never “do” what the Father wills: to love one another in our actions.
Rev. Gary Mauga
Advent greetings to you all in Jesus’ name!
My computer is soooo slow! It takes a good six minutes to heat up once I’ve powered it “ON.” And then, it takes another three minutes to remind me that I need to renew my subscription to an “anti-virus.” By the time I am presented with the option of “logging in” I have already counted how many spiders there are in each corner of my office ceiling! Loading... loading... loading... I can’t stand waiting too long – and I can’t wait standing too long either. I think I have what John Ortberg describes as “hurry sickness.”
The world we live in today, is a world where almost everything we want can be obtained with the click of a mouse. Dining, no longer requires sitting down around a table – we can now order at a window and eat in our cars while making our way to the next appointment. Such are clear symptoms of “hurry sickness.” We’re all in a rush! Shortcuts can be time-saving, but we often lose much experience and learning when we live with an “I want it NOW” attitude. What we need is to SLOW DOWN.
We are in the season of waiting and anticipating! Advent provides for the Christian communities worldwide a time to reflect and expect as we journey toward the day God came to live among us – incarnate in Jesus Christ. Christmas should be more than a shopping rush or a single Day of gifts and celebration. The story of Christmas begins with its anticipation toward the arrival of the greatest gift the world will ever receive – Jesus – our Salvation and our Messiah. The anticipation and waiting provides space to notice the particular detail. Waiting enables our eyes to be open to see things clearly. I never knew how many spiders I worked with!
Is Christmas going to be a rush for you? Just another day? There is much more to learn about Christmas when we rid ourselves of “hurry sickness.” The birth of Christ is a great example of the beauty of an “unhurried life” – there is a delicate process involved in bearing a child before birth inaugurates the gift of life. Good things take time. One of my favourite sayings inspired by Matthew 6:26-34 is this: “Nature never hurries; yet everything is accomplished.”
My friends, take your time this Christmas.
Rev. Gary Mauga.
Snap! Crackle! Pop! Bang! Boom!
Sounds like a box of cereal! In fact, such were the sounds that rang throughout West Auckland over several nights, with fireworks filling New Zealand skies with adorning lights and wondrous colour, as the annual Guy Fawkes celebrations took place.
I recall Guy Fawkes as a young kid in Otara. Dad would buy a bunch of fire crackers (loud ones at that), and the five of us (siblings), would have to share. It worked out to be 4 fire crackers per person with my older sister, for some reason, having fifteen to herself (I still can’t work that out?). Once we
had made our little noise, from our little pile of fire crackers, in our little corner of the street – we would sit on the driveway and marvel at our neighbours’ sky rockets screaming high into the air, followed by a loud bang, and culminating with the burst of a fountain of the most beautiful colours. I remember sitting and wishing these lights would never end. It was awesome. As kids, we knew the best thing was waking the next morning to scan the street for unlit fireworks – this was fun!
The multi-coloured light spectacle that is Guy Fawkes, can act as a reminder for us in a spiritual sense. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12). Unlike fire crackers and sky rockets that showcase a flurry of light momentarily, Jesus claims that by following him, the “light of the world,” life no longer needs to be lived in darkness – it is not just a burst of light that returns to darkness. Rather, it is a light that never goes out – an Eternal Light. It is a promise of companionship all the days of our lives. And how about us?
Many of us have lost the spark and excitement of first following Jesus Christ. Some of us, who once needed the “light of the world,” are like fire crackers – we just make a loud bang – a loud noise. And we won’t make noise again until something ignites a new excitement inside us. Some of us, like sky rockets, scream high into the night skies, producing a spectacle of light, attractive to the eye, that lasts only seconds – but then we lose our fizzle. But, there are also those of us, who are like the next morning – just lying there unlit. If its unlit – well, it’s not a light is it?
In Jesus, there is no darkness. This light does not fizzle out. It’s not just noise. This Light will burn even in our most darkest of days. Will you accept the “Light of the World?”
Bless your week!
Rev. Gary Mauga
- a reflection on the concept of living once.
Greetings in Jesus’ name!
A popular saying has been circulating among the youth of today in recent times. YOLO is an acronym for “You Only Live Once.” Such a word has been used by all ages, and mentioned quite regularly on reality television shows such as “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” a show that follows the wealthy and dramatic lifestyle of the Kardashian family (well, so I’ve heard).
The term YOLO encourages a “make the most of life” attitude. As you and I know, such an attitude can both be a good thing and bad thing. For example, for many of us, we understand not to take life for granted and to make the most of the opportunities life presents us with. However, there is a fine line between making the most of life, and living so fast that our quality of life becomes a ticking off of bucket lists. If the latter is the case, are we really living? Are we even living at all?
For me, quality living begins when one receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though
they die.” Jesus claims to be life itself. It is then by receiving Jesus Christ that in doing so, our living begins. And, as we have just read, Jesus’ claim to be the resurrection tells us that He, alone, has conquered death (on the Cross). Christ died for us in order that we would be given life.
Have you accepted and received the life that comes in Jesus Christ? Are you alive and living? In Jesus we find life. Jesus continues on that, “Those who live and believe in me will never die (v. 26).”
So, in many a sense, we do only live once – but we need to be sure to make the decision to receive Christ as our life, in order to even begin living.
What are your thoughts?
Rev Gary Mauga
Talofa lava and greetings in Jesus’ name.
Last week, we heard the story of the “Lost Son” (Luke 15:11-24). The familiar story is about a father and his two sons and the day his youngest son demanded to have his share of the property – an entitlement that was due to the two brothers at a later time. It is not long before the young son leaves home with his share, sells his share, and uses the money on wasteful living. Meanwhile, at home, a father anguishes over his youngest son hoping one day he would return. After “coming to his senses” the young son, left with nothing but a prayer, returns from the wilderness with a heart full of repentance and regret. Overjoyed, his father greets him with a welcoming party fit for a king! The oldest son is not impressed. He had been home all along serving and working for his father but there was no party for him. He was bitter and angry and refused to join the homecoming celebrations. His father begged him to come in, but he refused.
There were 3 lost sons – not just one. The youngest son had been drawn to the freedom of independence but quickly lost his way – and lost everything. His brother had failed to recognize what was important here – it wasn’t about who was found – it was finding what was once lost (Luke 15:1-7). The father too, was lost in many a sense, one being, that he had failed to celebrate the faithfulness and obedience of his older son.
Many of us see ourselves in this story. Some of us have lost our way in life and need to come to our senses to get back on track – one that leads to God’s unconditional providence and love. For many, sibling rivalry and competition has been the cause of lost relationships throughout generations. For our parents, favouritism for one child is neglect for another. Neglect can potentially lead to rebellion, introversion, and even suicide.
It’s a great relief to know that when we are lost, in whatever sense, Jesus comes looking for us (Lk. 15:4). We just need to place ourselves where we can be found.
Rev. Gary Mauga
Rev. Gary Mauga
Thoughts and comments by our minister, Gary.
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Rev. Gary Mauga