Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Twas' Nuttin Luck 'bout it

“Good Luck”, “That was Fortunate”, “You sure were lucky” These are common phrase to us, even those of us who are Christians. I trust that in most cases the use of these phrases is based more on social convention rather than paying homage to some mysterious secretive force that pulls the strings behind the scenes in the affairs of our lives. As Christians we believe that God has and exercises a limitless dominion over all that He has created. One aspect of which is the foreordaining of the events of our lives. This is different than luck or fortune because it is the activity of a living, thinking and feeling God. God’s providence is the effect of his sovereign arrangement of all the affairs of our lives. Stated plainly for the Christian, or any person for that matter nothing ever happens by chance, luck or fortune. Our lives are the experience of providence.
God’s providence is one of the most comforting works of God. We are reminded that for believers he works all things together for God to those who love Him. This is a Christian specific promise that we can rely upon as we travel the road of life. Good, as well as bad, is assumed in the statement of “all things for good”. Therefore in all circumstance we can trust that the events in our lives transpire with the expressed intent and goal of our good. Therefore, we are to remain steadfast, joyful and worshipful.
Our little Noah was born at 7:30pm on June 14, 2007. He was the second blessing added to our growing family in two years and we are glad to welcome him into our family. His story is already full of the fingerprints of Gods providence. A little more than three hours earlier Amy and I were at home playing with Jonah and his grandparents. I had just come home from work and was expecting to spend an evening at home with family. As I built little stacks of wooden blocks for Jonah to knock over Amy gasped and announced that her water had broken. It was a little past 5:15pm, which is about the earliest I get home if I leave work ‘on time’. Within 15 minutes the car was loaded and we shuttled off ta Glendale Adventist. You can put two and two together- The 101 freeway is the heavenliest traveled corridor in the San Fernando Valley and we got on it for a 25 mile drive during L.A. rush hour traffic. We raced to the freeway where we screeched to a halt and took our place in a line of cars that stretched endlessly before us.
Amy was in hard labor as soon as her water broke and the only thing moving quickly on that baking asphalt was her delivery. As we crept mile by mile I had visions of honking my horn and yelling out the window, “Outta the way morons! Pregnant woman coming through! If you don’t want to help me deliver this baby then get out of the way!” All fingers were kept on the steering wheel and the only words I spoke were spoken to comfort my wife as we crept along making it to the hospital nearly an hour after we left home.
Amy was quickly triaged. Everything was looking good. It was just a before 6:30pm and with another round of check ups it was discovered that she was very far progresased in her delivery. There was not enough time to receive an Epidural and our doctor was paged to immediately come to labor and delivery. Contractions intensified, the baby was coming. At about 7:25 our doctor arrived and with just a couple pushes Noah made his entrance into this world. By 7:40pm we were holding our little boy.
From the time her water broke to the time we were holding Noah was less than three hours. Providence is realized in the following events and circumstances.

1) Had I not left work early and were I to have arrived home at my normal time, in all likelihood I would have been delivering my second born at the confluence of the 101 and 134 freeway during rush hour traffic. ‘A breaking news event sure to make the evening news as we snarled traffic on two of busiest freeways in the Southland’, is all I could imagine.
2) We made it to the hospital on time, without breaking any traffic laws on the way and while navigating over 20 miles of rush hour gridlock. We had no control over the speed of the traffic, we only had control over how we would perceive the situation and we committed to seeing the situation as in the hands of God who loves and cares for us.
3) Amy arrived at the hospital too far progressed for an epidural but I was there to help Amy instead of in New Zealand were I had been just a week before. God provided for Amy a help mate and encourager that help her through labor pains not eased by any medication.
4) Our doctor arrive mere minutes before the birth of Noah in part because he had been caught in traffic as he rushed from his office to our room. We know him and know that if he could have done anything to get here sooner he would have but as it was he arrived at just the right time to perform all the tasks required of him. Again the providence of God displayed, as our doctor arrived not one minute too late, nor a moment to soon.
5) Because we knew the time was near for Amy and contractions made chasing our 16 month old around the house difficult, Amy asked her parents to come down to our home to help out for a few days. Everyone anticipated a couple of days working around the house before Amy would be in the hospital. But again the providence of God is demonstrated in that God knew that that very evening our parents help would be necessary even though at the beginning of the day we had no notion that Noah would be born that evening.
6) The hospital we stayed out has been extremely busy for a couple of weeks, sometime to the point of not having any rooms available for labor and delivery which means some moms have been giving birth in surgical suites or other venues. We arrived just as one of these tides ebbed so we got right into a labor and delivery room and a recovery room without waiting one minute.
7) When we arrived at the hospital there was only one parking spot left open near the entrance to labor and delivery. Additionally as we were pulling up a nurse was helping another new mother out of a wheel chair and into a car. We were able to get the attention of the nurse who allowed us to use the wheel chair to move Amy into the hospital. Without this we would have had to walk 400 feet between the contractions that were so strong now she could hardly stand.

I’m sure there are more items that could be listed here but I hope the picture has been painted and image indelibly imprinted on your mind- we do not serve a god of hope and change, of fortune of luck- we serve a God of providence, foreordination and predestination. We worship a God who is in control and who works all things for good to those who love Him. If you are part of a religious system that at the end of the day does not leave you with the trusting hope that your god is in control or with the confidence that your god cares enough about the details of your life to offer the promise of working all things together for good- please stop and consider from these few examples that the God of the Bible has not simply told us that He is love- other deities have done this, but our God has told us He is love but His actions. From these lesser examples from our little Noah, to the greatest expression of love and provision – Jesus Christ. The God of the Bible is alive, does care and gives the exclusive promise to his Children alone of working all things together for our good. You can partake of this hope is you will confess your sin and trust in Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your soul.

Friday, June 15, 2007

24.....Hours that is

It's just a few minutes to a quarter past 8pm right now which means we are into little Noah's second day of life. The first 24 hours were quite busy with eating, pooping, sleeping, pooping, eating, sleeping, eating, pooping, heal pricks, weight measurements, pooping, eating and sleeping . He's developed the ability to create excrement in greater volume than his intake of food, he weighed in at 8lbs and 14 ounces today down from yesterdays 9 lbs 5 ounces. But he's also developed the ability to reduce us to blubbering mounds of parental admiration as we gwake and awe at out little guy. Pretty pathetic eh?
Noah also met Grandpa and Grandma Staley today. He also met his roommate for the next 18 years also. Their meeting began cordially enough with Jonah initially showing limited interest in this 'baby Noah.' But as time wore on Jonah developed quite a strong affection for the little guy, even going as far as tickling Noah's feet and patting him on the back.
Amy is doing well and is tired but excited about everything that has been going on. Visits from friends and family have been a real encouragement. We finished the day off with a pizza dinner and like our little guys we find that after eating and pooping... it's time for sleep.
Below are some highlight picture from today please enjoy.

We've Been Babied.....Again!

Sorry about not getting this up soon, the hospital internet was down for a few hours last night. But here they are, hot off the digital camera, pictures of Noah James Bird, our 9 lbs 5oz baby boy. This fine specimen of juvenile masculinity measures in at 22 inches long with a head circumference of 13 inches. Everybody is doing well physically. Scott is still recovering from frazzled nerves since he nearly got to deliver the baby on the side of the road. Amy's water broke at 5:15pm we were in the car at 5:30pm inching agonizingly slowly down the 101 fwy in rush hour traffic. It took us a little over an hour to travel the 25 miles to Glendale Adventist where we arrived just past 6:30pm. We were holding our new little (well- LONG) guy at 7:40pm. For all you ladies, this meant no epidural! According to the somewhat obscure scripture passage about women being saved through childbirth, I think this means Amy is now verifiably one of the elect.
Please enjoy the pictures and feel free to contact us at anytime. We would enjoy sharing our blessing and joy to all who care to join with us.There will be more pictures to follow so all of you wanting to see Amy, just wait a bit an check back later.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We've been Skyped!!!

A dangerous and mysterious disease? Some viral toxin brought home from New Zealand? Or is this something that Jonah has done to us? None of the preceding are correct. No, it's much more benign, much less insidious, much more...friendly! We've joined to the 5 million plus strong herd of Skypers. Not calling the rest of you Skype users sheep, justus and I guess way of implication. Nevertheless look for us in the vast kingdom of Skypedom, and a hearty Baa-Ram-Ewe to you.

Friday, June 08, 2007

New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND may be a little island nation located next door to antartica but my visit their yielded big opportunities and even larger adventures. I departed from LAX on Thursday May 24th and arrive in Auckland on Saturday May 26th. You lose a day traveling west over the international date line so even though my flight only lasted 12 hours it still took two ‘days’ to get there.
Auckland is New Zealand’s largest and most metropolitan city where over a quarter the nations population lives. I had an eight hour lay over in Auckland so after checking my bags for the next flight I hit the town for breakfast and a look around. Besides being very reminiscent of San Francisco Auckland also held another attraction, the Sky Tower. I paid the fare for a ride to the top of the three hundred foot tall building. From the observation deck unimpeded panoramic views were available of the whole city. As an added adventure you could pay $50- and they would throw you off the top of the building for a free fall of over 200 feet! I didn’t have the money on me for that but spent a bit of time there watching people plunge to earth. (I should mention that these people were hooked up to harnesses and a arrest system so their free fall didn’t end in a sudden stop.
AFTER a morning in Auckland a returned to the airport to board a DeHaviland Dash twin turbo prop for the hour long flight to Napier airport. These little airplanes offer quite a contrast to a wide body airliner like a 747. We bounced an jostled over beautiful country side and mountain scenery and with a 20 knot wide blowing, made an very steep and dramatic cross wind landing.
I was met at the airport by Denys and Elvira Tomeselli who would be my hosts during my stay in New Zealand.

I met Denys through the bookstore where he buys large quantities of books to stock his own store in New Zealand. Denys and Elvira originally came to New Zealand from South Africa looking to make a new start after growing up, marring and raising a family in South Africa. In due time Denys became the director of Grace To You New Zealand and an elder at Hastings Bible Church. Both of my hosts were great people and made me feel right at home.

I SPENT a day with Denys getting familiar with his operation. Christianity in New Zealand far and wide is very nominal. There is not a large healthy church in either island and so the believers that are in New Zealand usually congregate in small meetings, attend churches that are not very sound or if fortunate to live in one of the few cities were there is a strong church gather there for worshipping our Lord. That being the case the appetite for good books is small but growing. That appetite is fed primarily through the ministry that Denys oversees. It was amazing to walk in his smallish shop and realize that in his store there was probably not another like it around for thousands of miles. It is not an understatement to say that Deny’s bookshop has been individually responsible for introducing hundreds of people to good Christian literature and dozens of churches to valuable resources. It was a great privilage of mine to see this first hand.

I ALSO got to spend a day with Doug Whitfield, the Potato King as he’s known in New Zealand. Doug is an elder at Hastings Bible Church and also a third generation potato farmer with fields all over New Zealand. Denys, knowing I wanted to see the “real New Zealand” arranged for me to spend a day touring the countryside with Doug who proved to be a wealth of knowledge about the history of NZ, its people, culture and the Christian church. Over the course of my day with him I saw so much, the highlights include seeing thousands of sheep, some of which blocked the roads we were traveling as they were being herded about. I also spent about 2 hours crammed in the cab of John Deere tractor, helping Doug spray herbicide over his potato fields. I also had an opportunity to drive about 20 km on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. This day was truly a highlight to my trip since I not only had an extremely knowledgable guide but also a very wise Christian man to talk with. Doug turned 70 about 30 years ago (as he put it) and during his Christian life has managed to keep one foot in the world as a highly respected farmer and the other foot deeply in the church as a leader and elder. I pray that God would gift the church I serve someday with men capable of doing both. By way of example, we had dinner at a roadside truck top named ‘Stag Park’. When we walked into this dimly light truck slop house the conversations were full of coarse jesting and foul language. Doug’s presence in that room was enough to change the topics of conversation and I can witness that the language pretty much cleaned up. All of this without Doug casting a disapproving glance or speaking a word of rebuke. He was just plainly known as a Christian and a man of the book. His testimony was so powerful that his presence was light in the midst of darkness and salt in a world of decay.

AFTER these days of fun and touring it was time to get down to work. The Impact conference started on Friday and ran through Tuesday. This is 5 full days of sermons and workshops, compared to the 3 and a half days of the Shepherds’ Conference. This was an absolutely amazing time with Steve Lawson and Jerry Wragg leading the main sessions. Close to 400 people attended the conference and of this number were represented possibly the vast majority of bible believing and teaching pastors in New Zealand, indicative of the spiritual climate in NZ, there were probable not more than a two dozen pastors present at the conference. Lay leaders and people attending weak churches flock to the conference because it has become known as the event where great biblical preaching will be heard.
Steve Lawson gave 5 very powerful messages on the Beatitudes and the most powerful sermon on 1 Corinthians 15 and the return of the Lord. I do not feel it is an overstatement to say the Sunday morning message on Corinthians must have been what listening to George Whitfield would have been like. I am not charismatic by any stretch of the imagination but if you read about the responses that men and women responded with to the powerful preaching of the Word of God by Jonathan Edwards you would not be all too far from what was experienced that Sunday morning in New Zealand. If you would like a copy of the message please email me and I’ll get one forwarded to you.

AS THE conference winded down I learned that Steve Lawson, Denys and a few other guys would be playing 18 holes of golf the following day. I was tapped on the shoulder to caddy for Denys and on Wendsday I found myself standing at the tee off for the first hole of the golf course caddying for the team of Denys and Steve. Keep in mind now that I have never even set foot on a golf course, I didn’t know the first thing and anything but I was caddying for Steve Lawson who could probably pursue a career in amateure if not professional golfing and Denys who himself was a highly skilled golfer. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a seminarian to watch and listen as the men who played golf talked about ministry, grumbled about poor shots and dispensed sage advice like, “This is what it’s all about ministry and good golf.’ It was a great bookend to an amazing God orchestrated two weeks in New Zealand.

This is the introductory post in a series of posts I hope to publish in the next few weeks. I could go on for pages but instead will break up what follows this according to topics or subjects that are a little more detailed. It should be remembered that one of the primary purposes of my trip was to look for potential ministry opportunities for after seminary. I met lots of men and heard lots of opportunities but also saw into the very heart of the challenges that the church is facing in New Zealand. These will be the topics of following posts. If you have any questions please feel free to email me or respond to this post and I’ll answer back that way other people can see the questions and their answers. I intend to post 1 new article a week for the next several weeks. I will blog about the challenges facing the church in New Zealand, the sucess of the Hastings/Napier area churches, messages from the conference, the Shepherd's Bible College and contacts that I made while in NZ.
As you read these posts and look at the pictures the intent is to show you how the Lord is working in another part of the world so you can pray with understanding along with Amy and I as we consider future ministry in New Zealand. It is no understatement to say that the fields are white unto harvest but that the workers in that land are few. There are tremendous opportunities and significant challenges in pursuing a call to this land.

All the photos were taken during my time in New Zealand.