Category: worship


2014 brett pool duncs

so today we fly back to americaland and i leave a changed man.

but maybe not in the way you would expect… i don’t feel like i have grown so much as i have regressed, but in a good way though. as in ‘returned to former state’ – or returning at least.

in some Christian senses i guess we have been living the dream – 19 months at the Simple Way [you know, the mecca of christian intentional community… will write something about that sometime], attending Wild Goose Festivals, CCDA conferences and involved in two non-profits… you know, changing the world. or something.

i was having lunch with my new mate Bill yesterday and i heard him say the words… he was talking about living an actively following Jesus life and really taking this stuff seriously and he threw in the line, “But of course you know all this, you’re living it”, which is great to hear of course, but my heart thudded a little bit when i heard it, because i feel i still have so far to go.

AMERICALAND: land of the free… king confused.

oh Africa, who looks jealously across the ocean at Americaland

land of hope, land of plenty

land of money and opportunity and adventure 

land of blockbuster movies and high speed internet and space tourism programs

and really bad mayonnaise. no seriously, i’m talking that stuff needs a new name cos that is NOT mayonnaise.

what the raiSIN-infested-custard were you thinking?

and i will be speaking in generalisations here so please don’t see it through a one-size-fits-all lens, and remember that Americaland is a huge country and our experience of it is largely Philadelphia and Oakland, and the church tribes we have encountered there and online…

but we have noticed that as advanced as Americaland is in many areas [and it is, or maybe developed is a better word because being more developed does not mean more advanced – i remember a glorious time when telephones were not able to be carried around with us and people at restaurants actually looked at and spoke to each other] there are some where it seems completely backward or in need of catchup. mayonnaise is one such area [throw all of yours out and start again] and another is banking systems [so much of backward in many areas of that] and public toilet doors [mind the gap!] and so on.

and your church. while there are incredible church congregations doing incredible things and while we have met some truly amazing and brilliant people and also been super privileged to find a congregation we enjoy being a part of in Re:Generation, your church as a whole [or in large pockets within the whole] feels very confused and in need of a bit of a shake up [and not because it’s not new or post-post-modern or ‘with it’ enough].

the church of Americaland has for a long time seen itself as the Saviour of the rest of the world in many ways – must. save. Africa. [wait, where is Africa? oh, there it is… must.save.Africa] but you seem to largely [remember the generalisations, if this is not you, let it go and move on] be taking your lead from the world and not from Scripture or the Holy Spirit [or the glorious combination of them both].

tolerance has become the big deal where the definition of tolerance has become ‘whatever you want to do or be is fine, anyone who tells you you cannot do or be what you are doing or being is intolerant and judgemental and Jesus who loved and embraced and welcomed all people is sad with those people for not just accepting everyone, however they choose to be. ‘

the church was always meant to be modeling the love of Jesus and the worship of God the Father and the power, love and discipline of the Holy Spirit to the world in a ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me’ kind of way which feels like it has been largely been replaced by a ‘this feels good’ or ‘this will keep people happy’ mentality which is just not evidenced all that much in the Bible.

there is also a strong sense of 1 Corinthians 1 dejavu going on…

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Except that we have replaced Paul and Apollos and Cephas with John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans and Shane Claiborne… being influenced by people is great [follow my example as i follow the example of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11] but when you start following people, that is when it gets dangerous and the cross of Christ starts to be emptied of its power.

church of Americaland – the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing… once our message starts to make sense and be completely acceptable to all those around us, we need to be checking if it is still the same message of God.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

and so, church of Americaland, there is so much good in you and so many passionate and committed people doing some incredible and amazingly creative things, but as a whole, you do seem quite confused and really in need of plugging back into your source and being led by Him. also it wouldn’t hurt for you to take some time in Africa [and beyond] just simply looking and listening and learning… you might be surprised at the work God has been doing there and what they might have to offer you.

REFUSE THIS THING

so for me, this trip has been so good, and two things stand out:

[1] connecting with people who are passionate about following Jesus – i have been leaning towards staying in Americaland for longer because i love the Re:Gen community we are part of and the opportunities to preach and work with young and older people there. God is doing some good stuff there and it has been great to be a part of it and i definitely feel like i have a lot to offer and hopefully learn from them… but it was one night in Hillbrow [my first, back in South Africa] that changed everything for me and reminded me how African my blood is. and i’m not so sure it was Hillbrow. it was spending time with Nigel Branken and his family, who in the messiest of ways, are trying to re-imagine their faith in Jesus and live where they feel He has called them, as well as meeting some other great people in that community that night. it was reconnecting with my buddy Rob and his wife Nicky who are in the midst of planting a church with some friends. it was breakfast with Bruce and Bex and hearing how they are wanting to have an impact in the community where they are. it was listening to my old youth mate Fezile and how he is wanting to create a program to clean up the township where he lives. and it was lunch with Bill, listening to how he is wrestling with really wanting to follow Jesus completely and how that feels like it looks so different from the regular Sunday church meeting he has been attending and how that affects finances and hospitality and work ethics and beyond. and it was sitting with a bunch of people over a meal discussing how we could give away the pot of money we had all contributed to, to meet the needs of other people we know. and more. conversations, people, ideas, passion for kingdom things and transformation of the world as we know it – seeing the kingdom come on earth and not waiting for the big escape from this messed up world

[2] getting hijacked with worship music – we had an amazing gift from an old youth friend Kerstin and her husband Carl in being gifted the use of their car which has been an incredible present to tbV and me while we have been here. but it took us a while to realise there was more than one cd in the car and until we did, there was this worship compilation that i would just play over and over and two songs in particular stood out for me, the one being by a guy called Ben Howard titled ‘I will be blessed’ [anyone who knows me well knows that that is a unlikely title for a song that would be liked by me] – just a completely haunting song that just overwhelmed me in some ways and the lyrics don’t do it justice at all without hearing it so head off to Uncl Google, but here is the chorus:

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

but just the gift of worship and having it around me every time i have been in the car has been so great for me and an even bigger gift than the car itself. it feels like my very soul [the whoness of who i am] has been bathed in this river of just holiness and love and grace and brought me so much closer to God and helped me focus on Him. a reminder of Who and what this is all about.

i have a plane to go and get ready for although i feel like there is a whole lot more to say, but the focus of this post is that for me this trip has helped me to become a little more unsettled than i’ve been – hence the regression [which is usually seen as a negative thing but can also be describing something that returns to a former state] – one of the biggest dangers of life as a follower of Jesus is that we settle – with the way things are, with the routine of life, with the squeezing down of our passion and belief that God and His church can actually make a difference in the world and actually just kind of semi-give up and start to resemble everyone else, in a kind of boring and bland and grey kind of way…

that is NOT what we have been called to – we have been called to live and thrive and be agents of transformation in a world that is desperately in need of God… i am so glad this trip has rekindled some of the fire in me and so expectant [and nervous] about what lies ahead… we have been in Americaland for a reason – it has been both great and hard and amazing and difficult and frustrating and exhilarating and angrifying and more… but it has been good…

and i’m not sure what is next or how it looks or anything like that [we are committed to church and non-profit work til August] but i want to continue to fan into flame the things that God is starting to work in my life.

if you’re a praying person, i can definitely use a lot of that. we both can.

my nickname is FISH which stands for Faithful In Serving Him – i am definitely not worthy at all of carrying that as a description of who i am, but as a path i try to follow and live out and aim towards, that is something i hold strongly to.

i love Jesus. i love His church. and i believe that when the church starts being the church, every one of us, then the world will be completely turned upside down.

which, ironically, is right side up.

i refer to John 15.4 all the time:

 ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.’

and i also love o use Psalm 46.10 which talks about being still and knowing that I [God] am God:

‘He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”’

and lately i’ve been hearing myself speak [write] them and then being hit mid sentence by the fact that i’m not really living them. i mean i kinda am, but not really. i’ve been distracted by the IPL fantasy dream league cricket which has happily coincided with my waking up times [finished today – hooray!] and then the day hits and carries on until bed time. and i steal moments away for God, and take time to remember important people and situations in prayer [as there have been a lot of them lately] and somehow use that to justify or get me through the day. but i know better.

i am the vine you are the branchesthis isn’t a new thing. i feel like i have a distractionary personality or tendency, which does not mean i am blaming how i am for how i have been – and it doesn’t have to be a specific distraction either, which maybe makes it harder cos it’s not about getting a handle on Words with Friends or Mousehunt or Poker or whatever the next thing is, cos it seems like there will always be a next thing… it is more about being aware of what the tendency is and putting in the hard work [and more importantly discipline, and schedule often helps for me] to avoid getting into those spaces. and also to remind myself daily what the priorities are: God, my beautiful wife Valerie, my family and friends, kingdom things…

i feel like it is so important to live the preach before i preach the preach cos the definition of a hypocrite is pretty much the opposite of that. the word hypocrite incidentally came from the word they used for actor [a person pretending to be something they are not] and so it is very apt.

i certainly don’t believe that i need to have it all together before i speak or write or challenge, but i need to be at least walking that road.

and today was a bit of an injection of that for me today – i don’t think it was a case of a whole bunch of time with God and so now i’m okay – more like a Red Bull sip of God and so i have the energy to get me to the place where i need to be to put in the work to get things back to being good with God. but it was a great start. some good worship vibes. some inspiration to film a couple of the next walk through Mark videos i’m doing and suddenly it started to all come alive again. i always find when i’m speaking out Truth it becomes or feels the most Truthful to me. so that was great.

it’s a start. a getting back on the road. a little bit of dusting off. and it’s good. looking forward to this week ahead.

tbV and i have not really been in regular consistent church services for the last two years now and so it’s been really refreshing to find one called Re:Generation that we both enjoy and love going to. in particular being a part of corporate worship has been so refreshing and since we haven’t been around for a little while there are a bunch of new songs to discover which is great.

one song in paricular connected with where i was at last nite and so i hastily scribbled down the words of the chorus and i think the bridge, as these were the two verses that particularly moved me:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

i have been feeling quite distant from God and detached of late and i know a bunch of that is me needing to put more time and energy into my relationship with Him and also dive more into the Bible which really does fill me, but also is related to me not being involved in much hands on ministry vibe outside of work and online stuff and just really drawn to this call to move beyond what is safe and comfortable and to really be able to just trust God and jump. knowing that He has me.

quick Uncle Google ask and turns out the song is called ‘Oceans’ and it is by Hillsong United and so i sourced the rest of the lyrics which are here:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
[x6]

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

tim hughes

i have not met Tim Hughes personally, but i was once in a room with him [and quite a large room at that]

it was on a trip to visit my sister Sue and her family in a town called Rancho Cucamonga near LA which must have been 2006 or 2008 and i organised my ticket so i could stop over in London long enough to take the bus to visit some friends in Holland before continuing on to Americaland.

when i lived in London for about 6 months in 2000 i had attended and really enjoyed a church called Holy Trinity Brompton or HTB [where i had inadvertently ended up with some screen time on the filmed for ITV Alpha Course that church and its pastor Nicky Gumbel is known for – i also helped inspire at least one third of a relationships preach with my ‘is sex better than chocolate?’ question i popped into one of their panel discussions which they decided to answer as if it was a serious question, but that’s another blog post] and so on the way back from Holland i had made a plan to go and visit a service before my flight to Americaland.

something happened with the bus or my directions and i ended up being quite late for the service and i walked in as this youngish, decent looking dude started to preach and it was a really great preach, littered with references to “my friend Matt” which i didn’t quite get until afterwards when i discovered he was Tim Hughes [a worship leader whose songs i really enjoy] and ‘my friend Matt’ was of course Matt Redman [who i have met and interviewed on radio and asked stupid questions like ‘if you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?’ true story, i was young]. it was really cool for me that i got to hear the preach and evaluate it on its merits [as i had no idea who he was the whole time he was preaching] as opposed to listening to it through the filter of  ‘ooh, that’s Tim Hughes’ and i learnt that he is a really good preacher as well.

so yes, Tim Hughes, really enjoy his song writing and songs and this is one of my favourites [i really enjoy how real and rough and raw it is, just so honest] , but first the story of how he came to write it:

‘The song, ‘When The Tears Fall,’ was birthed out of a hard time I was going through. One evening I sat with my guitar and poured out my heart to God. I found great hope and strength being able to express my pain, and in the midst of the doubt singing, ‘I will praise You, I will praise You. When the tears fall still I will sing to You.’ Initially, I thought it wasn’t a song that could be sung in a Church context. We don’t seem to sing many songs of lament. However, as I read through the Psalms, I discovered many cries of worship that came from a place of brokenness. Life is full of pain and sorrow. Loved ones die, dreams fail, people get hurt – we are left with unanswered questions. That’s the reality of the world we line in. Yet in the midst of the pain, through the tears God is good. He is and always will be worthy of our praise.’ – Tim Hughes

WHEN THE TEARS FALL by Tim hughes

I’ve had questions, without answers
I’ve known sorrow, I have known pain
But there’s one thing, that I’ll cling to
You are faithful, Jesus You’re true

When hope is lost, I’ll call You Savior
When paid surrounds, I’ll call You healer
When silence falls, You’ll be the song within my heart

In the lone hour of my sorrow
Through the darkest night of my soul
You surround me and sustain me
My defender, forevermore

I will praise You, I will praise You
When the tears fall, still I will sing to You
I will praise You, Jesus praise You
Through the suffering still I will sing

Written by Tim Hughes. © 2003 Thankyou Music/ PRS/ Admin by worshiptogether.com Songs for the world excluding the UK and Europe which is admin by Kingsway Music

[You can listen to it here]

i feel like the previous few Easters have kind of passed me by with not too much impact – being the easily recognised dreadlock wearing Easter Bunny at the Simple Way is all i can remember and i’m not sure where i was the year before but in the middle of preparation to leave for the Simple Way and so life was a fair bit chaotic…

the last Easter that comes to mind was when my good buddy Mark Baker encouraged us to watch ‘The Passion of the Christ’ by Mel Gibson with our Sunday nite enGAGE congregation in Stellenbosch. i feel like i might have initially done it more to humour him than because i thought it was a good idea, but remember being powerfully affected again by the very violent depiction of Jesus’ flogging and death [i really feel like the cross can become this fluffy comfortable symbol we hold to but lose all meaning of if we forget the very violence and real sacrifice it depicts]

the stations of the cross

so as we started heading towards Easter in Oakland i really wanted it to be meaningful and so spent some time this week reading the end of John’s Gospel and some of Jesus’ last acts, words and prayers. last nite we jumped at the chance to join some new friends of ours to head to a church for a ‘stations of the cross’ experience where we walked around in small groups [we joined a family of five with three cool young kids] and then read scripture, reflected and did an action and a prayer connected to different aspects of Jesus last week leading up to His death.

i find it interesting that when the one station invited us to kiss the figure of Jesus on the cross [i chose not to] that it felt more weird for me than later when we were asked to spit at the figure of Jesus on the cross [i chose not to do that either, but more following the lead of Val] – as if the betrayal hidden behind a kiss seems somehow so much worse than the outwardly open betrayal of showing your true colours through spitting.

[i wonder if that is because i can’t think of any time in my life when i have outwardly or openly joined the crowd in being against Jesus in any way or form, but there are countless times where my innocent looking actions have shown a deeper betrayal in what has been going on in my heart or somewhere else behind the scenes. a subtle hypocritical betrayal somehow feels so much worse… and so time and time again i hear the cock crow and have that moment of looking up and seeing Jesus’ eyes pierce through me as i realise once again i have done that which i said i never would, and i end up behind a wall somewhere crying out as Jesus is lead once more to the cross by my actions]

Pilate washes his hands

Pilot’s washing of his hands affected me deeply as it did my wife Val [which you can, and should, read here] as i took it on myself to explain it to the children who were with us, specifically Kayla, the oldest daughter. the idea of “making no decision” because the decision you know you should make has consequences which just feel too extreme for you. being reminded that ‘making no decision’ is always making a decision.

apartheid. racism. violence towards women. rape culture. discrimination. abortion. being reminded that ‘making no decision’ is always making a decision.

there are so many aspects to this story. i hope that you will make time this Easter time in the busyness of it all to slow down and choose a moment, or moments, to meditate on. and then reflect against the daily living out of your life. has what Jesus did on the cross affected your day to day life in any way, shape or form?

the story of this week, two thousand years ago, affects me on a daily basis. it is so good to be reminded of that. and to live it out well.

one of the first things i want to do once i am settled in Americaland is buy a copy of this song ‘You won’t relent’ by Jesus Culture – i find the lyrics and the singing of it so powerfully haunting and it just resonates s completely with my soul in terms of catching a glimpse of how God sees me. i am reminded of this passage from 2 Corinthians 2.14-15 which says, ‘For Christ’s Love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.’ Especially the phrase, ‘Christ’s Love compels us’ which if you don’t understand the context seems to carry the message of ‘You have to do this thing’ but once you catch a glimpse of God’s great all-encompassing Love for you it quickly becomes something closer to, ‘I can’t not do this for God, everything in me just pulls towards this’…

You won’t relent – performed by Jesus Culture

You won’t relent until You have it all,
My heart is Yours [4x]

I’ll set You as a seal upon my heart
as a seal upon my arm
For there is love that is as strong as death
Jealousy, demanding as the grave
And many waters cannot quench this love

You won’t relent until You, have it all
My heart is Yours
You won’t relent until You, have it all
My heart is Yours
Come be the fire inside of me
Come be the flame upon my heart
Come be the fire inside of me
Until You and I are One [2x]

I don’t want to talk about You
Like You’re not in the room
I want to look right at You
I want to sing right to You [3x]

You won’t relent until You have it all,
My heart is Yours [4x]

I’ll set You as a seal upon my heart
as a seal upon my arm
For there is love that is as strong as death
Jealousy demanding as the grave
And many waters cannot quench this love

Come be the fire inside of me
Come be the flame upon my heart
Come be the fire inside of me
Until You and I are One [2x]

‘My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.’ (verse 1)

this psalm is billed as a wedding song and so that poetic opening feels like a suitable way to get things started – and a good reminder to those of us who get caught up in the lifeness of life to be reminded that we serve a stunningly imaginative and creative God [could YOU have envisaged the duck-billed platypus? or a giraffe?]

the whole psalm is quite a lyrically stunning one, but i just want to pull out one or two lines that jumped at me in a less than menacingly way:

‘In your majesty ride forth victoriously
    in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
    let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.’ (verse 4)

Truth. Humility. Justice. Good causes to have. Worth taking a moment to self reflect and ask myself, ‘What are the causes i ride forth towards?’

And if these are three that God takes seriously, then how seriously am i taking them? They would probably suffice as worthwhile pursuits for me as well.

Truth: It is interesting to note that you can say a lot of true things, but still not necessarily be speaking Truth

Humility: This is something that has to be called by others – the moment you realise you have achieved humility, you haven’t!

Justice: We are quick to rally on this one when the justice relates to us… but how quick when it speaks of ‘the least of these?’

‘You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
    by anointing you with the oil of joy.’ (verse 7)

is this true of me? do i absolutely LOVE righteousness [or simply think it’s a pretty okay thing?]

do i hate wickedness? or do i merely turn my nose down at it, while still allowing it to lurk inside or near me? do i hide it under the bed so no-one else can see, but so that it remains close, just in case…

have i been anointed with the oil of joy? for me, joy is different to happiness [which is situation dependent – you give me chocolate i am happy, you dent my car i am umhappy] and if the Holy Spirit of God lives in me and has been given free reign in my life through invitation, then i should naturally Love and be drawn towards righteousness and hate and be repelled by wickedness… and Joy should be a natural offshoot of that.

‘I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
    therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.’ (verse 17)

what a powerful image and lyric to finish with – i will perpetuate…

i will continue to tell the stories of how God has worked in me… through me… around me…

and the result will be the praise and awe of the people… and me… for ever!

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