Personal stories from Ian’s life that are included in Gems and available to read and search as stand-alone stories here.
This is the Moment Most Would Choose Christ - But I am not Going to!
Isn't that exactly what the writer to the Hebrews is explaining in this passage? There is indeed an indefinite definiteness to when God sets the day for you and me and anyone else He chooses. Don't spurn your day of hearing God's voice. I can think of times when my heart was beating fast and my ears were ringing. My body was advising me that God was speaking to me but to my shame I chose to ignore it and claim that I would respond another day. I imagine that we have all done that. I did it when I had opportunities to accept God a couple of times before August 19th 1973, but I passed them by. I even said to George Curle on Sunday night August 19th 1973, "No George, I am not a faith person. I operate on the facts, not faith." He said, "Ian, everyone is a faith person. God will never give you all the answers. He will always leave you a faith-gap short." I am convinced God brings us to the point of us knowing we have to make a decision. The moment is left hanging for us to decide if we will respond or not. What will you do? This is your moment to choose to follow Jesus. You know it, He knows it, but the issue still remains what will you do?
I can think of many times I have known people or heard of people who have come to the brink of decision only to turn away and say something like that Iranian man I told you about in Gem 1855. Don't leave yourself being almost persuaded and pass the moment by. I know a person we had been talking to over months about Christianity with many late night sessions into the wee small hours. A number of times she seemed close to the point of decision. Then one day she told us she had been sky-diving and her main chute had not opened. She desperately tried to reach her reserve chute but couldn't get to the toggle which was stuck out of reach up her back. She told us. "I thought: this is the moment that most people would become a Christian but I am not going to." At that moment the main chute toggle came into her hand again. She pulled it and her main chute opened on that pull. There are times we can wilfully resist God's moments of decision. We have all done it it to one degree or another but perhaps never that defiantly.
Why Did God Choose The Jews?
When God Squashed Me Into the Carpet
I have known times of God's glory coming upon me and squashing me into the carpet. It happened the first time in my house in Matamata around 1977. I had been wokened by the LORD in the early hours of the morning, about 2.00 am and had the sense that I should go into the lounge and sit in His Presence. I sat for about a half hour talking to the Lord and reading my Bible. As I recall, I read the passage in Exodus 33 about Moses in the Lord's presence and his face glowing. I was worshipping the Lord and then put on the John Michael Talbot album The Lord's Supper. After listening for a while I felt to get on to my knees and bowed down with my face to the carpet. Suddenly I felt like there was a weight came on me pressing me into the carpet. I felt I was pinned to the carpet and couldn't move. It was both scary and glorious at the same time, but left me shaken. When I could finally move, I sat on the floor wondering what to make of it all. I was filled with questions and a little fearful at the strangeness of the experience and so I phoned our Pastor, Dick Hemmings.
Bless his heart, he responded to my call in the wee small hours and came over with Weston Finlay, after which I explained to them what had happened to me. They reassured me that this wasn't as kooky as I thought. That this was one of the ways that God's glory can come upon us. The feeling is like being squashed down or held down by a heavy weight and being unable to move because of the Presence of the LORD. That was the first time I learned that the Hebrew word for 'glory', [kabod] (pronounced kavod) means weight.
Eating the Same Food for a Month
Reading this text reminds me of living in the village of Lena in the Rongkong (Saddang) River valley. We arrived in this village to stay for a month to learn the language and to conduct a survey of the language use across the area. We brought with us a sack of rice and cans of mackerel to supplement the food supplies for the family with whom we would live. However we soon learned that their rice crop had failed and all they had to eat was poggalu, powdered sago. The head of the district in whose house we lived for the month suggested we keep the rice and mackerel for ourselves. So we did and mixed it with boiled pumpkin leaves. We had rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner with mackerel and pumpkin leaves and occasionally bush mushrooms which grew as a fungus on the trees. I can tell you first-hand, as can Tania, my wife and our daughters that having the same food day after day gets old very quickly. I can still recall the conversation I had with my eldest daughter, Marissa, before lunchtime one day in the village.
"Dad, what time is it?"
"Oh no, that means we have to eat [rice and mackerel again] soon." Accompanied with the look of dread on her face.
The Reed Sea
It is the story I heard of the young man who had just become a Christian and was taking an interstate bus journey in the US and reading the Bible for the first time. He was reading through Exodus and got to the part where the Israelites were crossing the Red Sea. He got excited and exclaimed loudly, "Oh Wow Awesome! That's incredibly cool!" There was a man sitting behind him who asked him what he was reading. He said "I have just become a Christian and I'm reading the Bible. I am reading about Moses and how he brought the Israelites out of Egypt. God has just parted the Red
The man said "I am a theological seminary professor. Look son, I need to tell you how to read the Bible. You can’t take everything at face value. There are things that are written in the Bible that you can't read as though they were a factual account. A lot of the Bible has to be interpreted. For example son, the idea of Yam Suph, that is translated as the Red Sea is not the Red sea at all. The literal Hebrew means “Reed Sea”. It was likely it was just a small area of swamp; a few papyrus plants growing in 10 cm of water.” The young guy nods and settles back in his seat but amazingly he keeps reading a bit more. A few minutes later he gets excited again "Oh that is so Cool“. The man behind him taps him on the shoulder and says "I thought I explained it all to you". “Yes, you did", the young man said, “But it is amazing, the whole Egyptian army just got drowned in 10 cm of water".
A Principle Mr Vaughan Taught Me
When I was a young boy, probably 8 or 9 years of age, I was rather free to roam with my friends. We would often go down to the Wairau Creek, near my house and play on and in the stream. Fishing for eels and building tinnies (canoes made from corrugated iron, patched with tar). We also roamed on both banks of the stream; playing in the native bush on one side of the stream building huts and having wars while on the other side we had Mr Vaughan's orchard. Do I need to say more? I am sure you get the picture. It was rather an idyllic life. Lying on the forest floor eating a peach while the fantails were flitting around us.
One day I snuck into Trevor Vaughan's orchard to steal fruit but he caught me and gave me a right telling off. He knew full well what we did; that the local kids took fruit from his orchard. He explained to me that day the difference between stealing and gleaning. He asked if I knew what windfall fruit was and explained that he didn't mind if we came into the orchard and picked up the ripe fruit on the ground which the wind had blown off. That was fair game, that was gleaning. But to climb the tree to pick the big ripe peach at the end of the bough or to shake it off by jumping on the bough was not on. That was not only stealing but it also ruined the other fruit which prematurely fell off as well and then lay there to rot on the ground. He didn't like that practice of ours. I got the message and told the others. Some years later when I was older, he hired me to pick fruit in his orchard. Mr Vaughan was my rugby coach for one year until I changed to real football and he also taught me boxing for a brief period of time. Although he scared us all at first, I came to learn that he was a very fair-minded man and treated people with dignity. I didn't realise it back then, but before I knew anything about the Bible he was teaching me Bible principles.
Swept Away In Bali
Believe me, I know. I was swept away in Bali. We had to go through Bali on our way back to NZ from our place of assignment. So one day we went down to Kuta beach to have fun. I played with Tania and the girls on the beach for a while and then I went into the surf for a swim. I spent some time just playing in the breakers, swimming out a little way and then catching the breakers coming in to body surf back to the beach. I did that for a while until I felt I was in need of a rest. So I floated on my back from a while and relaxed looking up at the sky. When I looked back at the beach, I realised I had drifted out from the shore. It surprised me as I had thought the swell and breakers would have brought me back toward shore.
I started to swim toward the shore again but I was not making much progress with all my effort. I suddenly realised I was in an undercurrent or rip although there were no signs of the tell-tale flat water. I tried again with no success. So I started swimming across the current in parallel with the beach but was still being taken out to sea. I realised now I was in trouble. I put up my hand and waved toward the shore. But after a few minutes I had been taken more metres away from the beach. Now I put my arm up and just left it there while treading water.
Fortunately for me, Natalia, my daughter, had noticed that dad was going further and further out. She suspected I was in trouble and went to a surfer on the beach and said, "My dad is out there and I think he is in trouble." The surfer came out on his board and rescued me and brought me back to shore. Getting on his board and heading for shore I was exhausted from the ordeal. I realised that if I had not been brought back to shore again I would not have made it. The undercurrent would have taken me out to sea.
I have first-hand experience of drifting.
When we left our church in Matamata to work in Sulawesi we would write back home to everyone and tell them in graphic detail the nature of our lives in this strange and yet enchanting new world. People would then write to us expressing how much they felt a part of what we were doing in our new environment. We took the time to bring people into our world through letter writing. You and I both know that letter writing is both a medium and an art form which enables us to communicate with both those people who are close to us and other people whom we have only through the medium of letter writing. We called them pen pals. Now we refer to them as contacts, or social media links - via Facebook, What's App or Linked in. Most young people these days will never have written a letter, but will have sent many texts, messages or tweets. There is a big difference between the two, simply the length of the messages. These days we communicate in short clipped messages whereas in the past the messages / letters tended to be longer and more filled with information and personal feelings.
When we first started in our work overseas we sent out newsletters as well as gang letters. Back then we started with Sharp PC 5000. I little computer with a small amount of memory. One letter was stored on a bubble memory plug in which allow me to store a letter of a number of pages on the bubble. I could store a few letters amounting to 250 K on that bubble. Then we moved to a Toshiba 1100 and it was amazing what I could store on that computer. Anytime I wrote in detail about our new life to close friends back in Matamata or the rest of NZ or around the world, I could include the stories of what we had been doing or the fascinating encounters we had, duplicating them for anyone who wanted to know. The gang letters were printed out on fan fold paper which was concatenated, joined by perforated dots which enabled them to be torn off in sheets or kept together in a continuous string of pages. For a laugh I kept them in fan fold form and print out long letters of several joined pages. People would comment about getting looong letters from Ian and Tania. My best mate, Mike, (my friend at midnight) decided he was going to write a letter to me, longer than Ian's to him. So he typed on adding machine paper a letter indeed longer than mine.
All that to set the scene for what developed. Because I could store the stories on computer, I could cut and paste them into different letters. So I could top and tail a letter with the personal stuff and then add relevant stories of interest which suited the specific context of a letter to an individual. Many in the church would write to us being encouraged to write to their missionaries overseas. People who we didn't know would write to us as well as those who near and dear. They would get details of our life generally through the stories, but would also receive honest, personal input. Strangers we had not met in person yet would receive both general interest anecdotes and personal feelings and interaction. Many new people in church back home who were actually strangers to us, very quickly became friends and confidants. They seemed to be emboldened with what we would share about ourselves to the point where they would share things of a similar nature. Often people would write and say, "I can't believe the kinds of things that I share with you two simply becauseI am have come to know you so well and feel I can share anything with you and it will stay just between us."
Faith Promise Giving Doesn't Work
There was a man in the church in Jakarta (JPCC) who was talking secretly with some of the cell group leaders and telling them that giving, specifically faith promise giving didn't work. He sent me an article from a Texan PhD which indicated tithing and giving offerings was a principle of the Old Testament and was not applicable in the New Testament. He asked me if it was true that not all people in Old Testament in Israel tithed. I said yes, that was true. The priests didn't tithe. those in the army didn't tithe. True. He assumed I thought like him and concluded it was a ploy of the church to get money. He then invited me to a lunchtime meeting with a number of the home group (DATE) leaders without checking the nature of my agreement. He told the leaders, "Pak Ian agrees that we don't have to tithe." I said strongly "Oh no I don't. While some in Israel didn't tithe, it is still a principle of God for us to give a portion of what He has given to us back to Him for His work.
He then claimed (on the basis of what the Texan PhD had claimed) that tithing is for the Old Testament times only. I disagreed and said, "Don't you understand, you have more two bank accounts."
He said, "I have more than two."
I said, "You may do but what I am meaning is that you have a bank account on earth and you have a bank account in heaven. How do you transfer money to heaven? Can Bank ANZ do it? Can Bank BCA do it? No! The only way you can get money into your heavenly bank account is by giving to the poor and looking after the widows etc. That is how you get money into your heavenly bank account."
Yes, But He is Always . . .
There is a couple we know who are dear friends, much like Paul's dear friends, who are ALWAYS positive. Even if they have something negative to say, they will find a way to balance what they have said in a positive light as well. If we are in a group conversation with them and some situation or person's name comes up and the tone of the conversation turns negative or critical, either he or she will turn the situation back to the positive. When someone in the group makes a comment about someone not included in the group talking at that moment but mentioned negatively, they will invariably say something like:
"That may be, but she is always thinking of others rather than herself."
"Yes, that could be true, but he does a lot of work behind the scenes with the needy people in town. No one sees that."
"Oh hang on a moment, I have never ever heard her criticise someone behind their back."
Most often when either one of this couple makes a point like one of the above, it will steer the conversation back to the positive. After a negative comment about someone else has been made, with an insertion of the likes of the above comments, the tone of conversation has been brought back to upbuilding and not denigration.
You're More Well Balanced Than I Am
Don't misunderstand, I can give as good as I got. I am a Kiwi with Aussie friends. Over a period of time when we were both leaders in Wycliffe, when we met the knocking would begin. Oh good natured of course and the repartee was meant in fun, but it would often surprise other Wycliffe leaders, especially those from America. My Aussie mate would often open the conversation with something like, "Oh here's my little kiwi mate, Ian". Then he would come out with a response that would put me or New Zealand down, like "How's the New Zealand Cricket Team doing? Still crying?" To which I would respond in kind. It was almost expected between us and others would laugh. It's how Aussies and Kiwis behave.
One day my Aussie mate said in the midst of a group of leaders from various places, "Here's my little Kiwi mate Ian, How are you guys doing in the Australian colony of New Zulund?"
I responded with something nice.
He looked at me like, 'What! You're supposed to insult me.' He had a look on face which said, You're not playing by the rules.
Then he made another barbed comment waiting for my repartee back at him.
I paused a moment and he said "What no response. You can't think of a suitable retort?"
To which I said, "No X, I have realised you are more balanced than I am."
He stood there non-plussed by what I had just said. The look on his face said, You're not playing the game. Stop that. You have to make a knocking comment back. It's what we do; you're making me look bad."
Then I said, "You have a chip on both shoulders."
He stood there silent. Everyone around started laughing because some knew the banter which took place between Aussies and Kiwis and they knew this man always had a response. That day no response came back.
Ian 1 : Opposition 0.