Hidden Power

13 October 2016

(The idea of "expiatory suffering" is controversial.  Nevertheless it
is traditionally an important part of contemplative prayer and living
.  This is the fourth additional chapter for "The Abbot's Shoes -
Seeking a Contemplative Life" which is to be found at

A Trappist monk who chooses to hide the fact that he is ill and in
pain might well have developed a neurotic love of suffering.  However,
it is much more likely that he sanely and sincerely believes he is
sharing in Christ's Passion.

Viewed from the outside the sacrificial strand of  the contemplative
life appears nonsensical, even contrarious.  Why a meatless diet?  Why
the disappearance of certain meals during Lent?  Why an abbot's total
power to command?  Why the ban on speaking from sunset 'til dawn?  Why
suffer in silence?

A Christian monk's self-denial should not be confused with the
ascetical practices of other religions.  His goal is not enlightenment
through the demolition of ego and self, but concern for others, their
welfare and salvation.  It has everything to do with the belief and
custom of the early Church that prayer and self-denial go
hand-in-hand.(1)  Thomas Merton's first abbot, Frederic Dunne, taught
his community that "prayer with sacrifice is infallibly answered".(2)

The Irish-ness of the monastery on Kopua Road meant that this vital
part of its life was not shouted from the roof-tops.  Their easygoing
modesty and self-deprecating humour made sure of that.  One morning as
I walked through the orchard and back to my shed I was greeted by the
Guest Master, Father Declan, who seemed full of "the joys of spring"
even although it was autumn.

"The truck is down by the river," he said.  "Would you like to have a
look?"  Well why not, I thought, failing to register anything special
about the truck being "down by the river"!  To cut a long story short,
whilst he had been opening a gate, the large ex-army lorry Father
Declan had been driving took off by itself.  It shot past the startled
priest, hurtled down a steep hill, cut a spectacular swath through
head-high blackberry bushes, finally coming to a steaming, shuddering
halt with half of its engine submerged in the Manawatu River.  No
shouting or yelling.  No banner headlines.  Leave the drama to others.
And so it was in all of our life together ... especially when it came
to dying to oneself for the sake of others.

Many today might scoff at the story of the Celtic soldier-turned-monk,
Cuthbert of Lindisfarne(3), being helped by wild otters during his
frequent all-night prayer vigils.  To "fast" one's comfort and sleep
by standing in freezing sea water to keep awake, doesn't put too much
of a strain on my imagination.  Cuthbert's determination to pray for
others more effectively for longer periods of time, and his modus
operandi are comfortably biblical and contemplative so far as I am
concerned.  And as for the otters warming his frozen feet with their
breath and drying them with their fur?  Well, why not?  I certainly
observed in the monastery that as the veil between Heaven and earth
grew diaphanous, all creatures - domestic and wild - seemed more at
ease about us.

What might appear to be showy acts in obedience to our Lord's demand
that anyone who would come after Him "must deny himself and take up
his cross daily and follow me"(4) were in fact something other ...
hidden, profound, powerful.  The Trappists of Takapau didn't flash it
about.  But it was going on all of the time like an underground stream
of pellucid purity and beauty.  And you could only "learn" it by
osmosis.  Perhaps by just watching the way a monk rested for a moment
on his fencing shovel, and then later the same day held aloft the
chalice containing the Blood of his King.  His bearing and air
communicated everything; more than a complete library of mystical
theology ever could.

Edith Stein simply called it "helping Christ carry his cross".  It's a
way of life which in no way questions or denies "that the work of
salvation has been accomplished".  Writing in the shadows of Nazi
Germany's death camps which ultimately claimed her life too, she said,
"Only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ's cross.
Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on
expiatory power."(5)

The monastery is such a long way away from Jerusalem and Calvary;
separated by thousands of miles and years.  And yet because the
Crucified cleaves to the poor men of that place, and they to him, the
meaning of their sufferings is transformed.  Their constant, silent
homily and hymn of praise is "the sufferings of Christ flow over into
our lives ... indeed we share in his sufferings ... for the sake of
his body which is the church".(6)

1)   Acts 13.3, 14.23  Mark 9.29  Some manuscripts read: "This kind
can come out only by prayer and fasting."
2)   "The Less Travelled Road" Rev. M. Raymond (The Bruce Publishing
Company, Milwaukee 1953)
3)   634-687 AD
4)   Luke 9.23
5)   "Love of the Cross" (ICS Publications, Washington DC)
6)   2 Corinthians 1.5  Romans 8.17
Colossians 1.24 "It is now my happiness to suffer for you.  This is my
way of helping to complete, in my poor human flesh, the full tale of
Christ's afflictions still to be endured, for the sake of his body
which is the church." (NEB)
"Our union with (the Lord Jesus) transforms the meaning of our
sufferings.  The suffering of the Christian is part of Calvary."
"Thoughts About the Holy Spirit" James K. Baxter (Futuna Press,
Wellington NZ 1973)

Utter Simplicity

19 September 2016

('Utter Simplicity' is a new chapter for the ebook "The Abbot's Shoes
- Seeking a Contemplative Life".  It reiterates the absolutely
foundational place praying the Psalms has always had in living a life
of prayer.)

The weather perfectly reflected returning to Auckland from my first
visit to the monastery.  As the express train from Wellington jolted
its way through the Otahuhu junction at dawn, raindrops trickled
glumly down the windows of my third class carriage.  Yes, I had
discovered my spiritual "Promised Land" but the truth was, would I
ever make it back?  Could I finally break free from my home town's
gravitational pull?

The city's streets sounded and felt maniacal; my apartment was cold
and dark.  I went back to work in the newsroom at full-throttle,
smoking like a train, drinking like a fish, chasing fire engines,
ambulances and police cars.  Well-meaning colleagues placed
interesting women in my path.  And yet?

In the midst of all "that" I found my way across town to a Catholic
bookshop where I bought a silver Crucifix and paperback edition of the
Grail Psalter.(1)  I tacked the icon of Love up on the wall in the
bedroom that never ever saw sunshine and was just a few feet from a
busy, inner city arterial road.  Later in life a friend remembered my
then domestic arrangements as "squalid" or "sordid" ... or perhaps
both?  Nevertheless, this was where (irregularly) I did kneel down and
opened my little book of Psalms.  I tried haltingly and
self-consciously to imitate what I had just witnessed morning, noon
and night for the week I had spent with my Trappist family-to-be,
sequestered many miles south in gently rolling hills.

"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit," I
tunelessly intoned, scarcely able to hear anything above the roar and
screech of rush-hour traffic a mere arm's length away.

Why mention this at all?  Because somehow or other I had managed in a
few, discombobulated days to pluck out of this completely unfamiliar
world the essence of the contemplative life.  Night-and-day adoration
of the Son of God, couched in unbelievably ancient Songs of Praise.
They were not my own thoughts or words but belonged to Another.  And
yet, once floated out into the air I did "own" them, even more than
the dog-eared notebooks full of my strained and over-heated poetry.

"My days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers; I
forget to eat my food ... I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose
throne is in heaven.  As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their

History is replete with the names of women and men who have just
walked out of their own lives for God's sake.  They've wandered off
into wildernesses devoid of pathways and signposts, been ambushed by
bandits and demons, haunted by phantom voluptuaries.  They "went about
in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated ...
They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the

Some disappeared without trace and their stories will only ever be
heard in Heaven.  But many somehow survived, were joined by others and
became the founders of houses of prayer that have abided and borne
fruit for a thousand years.  How could that be?  In spite of many
dangers and the precariousness of their lives, the routine, relentless
chanting of the Psalms (so pitifully unspectacular and unsubstantial
in worldly eyes) was the unbreakable "golden string" that led them in
"at Heaven's gate".(4)

My time waiting to return was alternately stormy and becalmed.
Sometimes I seemed to be rushing at my desired destination; at others
completely motionless and going absolutely nowhere?  I cannot remember
how diligent I was praying the Hours then.  But I do still feel how
desperate I was to just get back on the overnight train and, via the
Manawatu Gorge, return to the monastery.

How did I ever make it?  Only by God clinging to me, and my clinging
to that "golden string".  Its utter simplicity and complete poverty of
spirit can evoke disbelief and even disdain from spiritual
connoisseurs.  But for all who have ever or will ever dare to "live to
pray", what appears to be inadequate and even disappointing will
always keep us safe and draw us home ... at last.

1)    A 1963 translation of the Psalms made from the Hebrew especially
for daily, sung prayer.
2)    Psalms 102.3-4, 123.1-2
3)    Hebrews 11.37-38
4)    "Jerusalem" William Blake. "The Oxford Book of Mystical Verse"
(Nicholson & Lee, eds, 1917)

Hazel Seeds

22 August 2016

('Hazel Seeds' is an additional chapter for 'The Abbot's Shoes -
Seeking a Contemplative Life' which can be obtained from  It addresses the "hot" topic of
mystical experience in a life of prayer.  In the final analysis it is
not an experience of
God that we should be seeking, but God Himself.  Often, in
His omnibenevolence, He kindly grants us glimpses of Himself and His
glory through the extraordinarily beautiful world He has created and
holds in existence, in all of its everyday ordinariness.)

Was it the absence of a radio or television?  I do not know.  But from
time-to-time my senses were inundated and almost completely
overwhelmed by the unremarkable and commonplace.  Were such moments
spiritual or mystical?  Who could tell?  Certainly not me, who was
nevertheless on the receiving end of such epiphanies.

Almost half a century later I still most clearly remember those times
of heightened sensitivity taking place during None.  It was the
briefest Office and being almost immediately after our early afternoon
nap, challenging to get to on time.  After a substantial midday
dinner, we took to our cells and beds for the traditional siesta.  A
blanket of absolute and immense stillness and silence descended upon
Our Lady of the Southern Star for more than an hour.  I found that if
I did fall fast asleep it was torture waking up and dragging my
drugged self to a cup of tea and then back into church.

"O God, come to my assistance.  O Lord, make haste to help us" was so
much more than this Hour's introit.  "Jesus, please help me not to
just lie down on the floor here, right now, and fall back into the
warm oblivion of sleep."

But paradoxically this Hour of "affliction" often ended in something
akin to bliss.  Finally, turning back to the Altar we sang, "How great
is Your name, O Lord, in all the earth.  For You have made for
Yourself a worthy dwelling place, in the Virgin Mary."  Then in the
briefest of pauses before our dismissal with the Abbot's blessing,
earth collided with Heaven, or did Heaven simply invade us?  I do not
know.  But for those few seconds everything remained normal, but
became extraordinary.  The church's window frames and glass, metal
paths, fields, fences and twisted pine windbreaks outside, were
suffused to shimmer with transcendence.  Nothing had
actually changed.  But everything was for a few moments rendered so
completely different as to seem to be other.

This is the world where trees and rivers "clap their hands", mountains
sing, and the road metal beneath our boots cries out, "Blessed is the
king who comes in the name of the Lord".(1)

Eastern Europe's 17th century Jewish holy men (Hasidim) knew well this
other and yet completely our world.  For them the sacred imbued every
created thing that surrounded them.  There was divinity and holiness
in the way a withered leaf abandoned a tree to flutter and
spin down to the ground.

In our Lord "all things hold together" and He is "sustaining all
things by his powerful word".(2)  Perhaps then we
should constantly lean forward and into our little lives, always
expecting that at any moment He will "flame out, like shining from
shook foil"?(3)

The afternoon walk to work on the sheep farm could still be just a
weary trudge, awkward gates opened and closed in the same old
difficult way, and the air outside the red shearing shed continued to
breathe a rich and pleasant fragrance of dung and lanolin.  But that
was not all.  Everything remained as it was, or seemed to be  -
ordinary, commonplace, mundane.  And yet?

Such matters continue still to be well over my grey head, and yet I
cannot help but wonder?  When the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the
power of the Most High overshadowed her, God was conceived in her
virginal womb.(4)  And?  And the divine was then restored in a flash
to its rightful place ... in the core and at the heart of all created things.
Dull and sullen evil forever deposed to the periphery of everything,
there to wheeze out its vile and nihilistic threats.

"The seed of God is in us ... a hazel seed, grows into a hazel tree.
A seed of God, grows into God."(5)

1)   Isaiah 55.12 Psalm 98.8 Luke 19.38-40
2)   Colossians 1.17 Hebrews 1.3
3)   "Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Poems and Prose" (Penguin Books, England 1985)
4)   Luke 1.35 Matthew 1.20
5)   "Meister Eckhart.  The Essential Sermons, Commentaries,
Treatises, and Defense" (Paulist Press, New Jersey 1981)

For Everyone

8 July 2016

('For Everyone' is not just an additional chapter for 'The Abbot's
Shoes - Seeking a Contemplative Life'.  It gets at the intellectually
elusive kernel of the contemplative life.  And that is, all of the
praying and all of the prayers of those men and women who live to
pray, are for the whole world.  The Church's contemplative stream will
make no sense and even appear ridiculous to those who fail to
recognise this.  It is a prayer house's foundation and is what makes a
life of prayer so dangerous to the enemies of God's love, and
unfathomable for us.)

Our Night Office or Vigils began at 2.30 in the morning.  After the
novelty of getting up so early had worn off and temperatures fell
below freezing, I just sat hunched up in my choir stall wanting to
throw up.  It was a kind of timeless zone; neither late at night nor
early in the morning.  Nurses call it the "dying time".  I had known
night shift reporters lie down on the floor of their newsroom at that
hour, overwhelmed by their leaden need to sleep.

In spite of this Hour's pain, it allowed me my first glimpse (as if
out of the corner of my eye?) of the reality that enclosed
contemplatives do not abandon their fellow men.  "It is in the name of
all that we stand before the living God."  Our hearts, a Trappist
abbot once taught, had to be "large enough to embrace the whole and I have the entire world in our care".  But not just as
some abstract concept or vague, pious hope.  Our cause was meant to be
nothing less than "union with Christ".  Out of this alone, the
contemplative "gives to all of the fullness of the grace which he
knows and by which he is possessed...He shares the breath of the
Spirit, the Comforter, and becomes himself a comforter (and) lights
and warms the world".(1)

Our house of prayer seemed very small, swallowed up and swaddled by
the night.  Few visitors came into our public church at such an hour.
We were utterly alone.  A tiny vessel adrift on an ocean.  A
flickering pin-head of light, so very far away from everyone and
everything, "dead" and buried in the lush darkness.  And yet?  It was
exactly then and there that I most keenly felt and believed that even
our sometimes distracted, tuneless and half-hearted praying, actually
"worked".  Our tired voices and ancient, oft-repeated repentings and
yearnings were given wings and flew to fill the mouths of others.
Most were unknown to us and many probably infinitely more needy and
desperate than we could ever dream of being.

The consummate Reformed theologian, Karl Barth, spoke of our prayers
reaching God through the mouth of Jesus "inasmuch as he enables us to
draw near and be heard".(2)  I have not doubted that as I stood and
knelt among Bernard's Son-burnt brethren, my mouth and theirs brimmed
with so much more than our own private supplications and
thanksgivings.  It's really a remarkably subversive proposition that
the uncelebrated, unproductive contemplative utters petitions that can
traverse the whole world, igniting inextinguishable fires of valid and
meaningful prayer, even for those who dare not pray or completely
eschew it.

It is an utterly brilliant, beautiful but supernatural idea.  Perhaps
that is why contemplative communities effortlessly provoke ridicule
and offence, even from their "friends"?  In the 1960s an English
prelate caused a furore when he fulminated against "perfectly healthy
monks who are priests and who never go out to work in a parish"!(3)

For as long as the monastery was my home, some of the monks remained a
complete mystery to me.  They had withdrawn deeper into our already
secluded family.  It would be too easy to see them as strange or a bit
odd.  They might only occasionally sing an Hour and attended to their
duties and chores in isolation.  In the "normal" world they might be
rushed off to visit the doctor?  If life did become unbearable or
impossible for such a one, I certainly witnessed the brotherhood's
warm, practical humanity and absolute determination (no matter what
the cost) to settle him into a new way of life, back "outside" and
within the surrounding community.

And yet I do wonder now if perhaps some of these men, who others might
well have dismissed as misfits on the run from reality, were actually
fulfilling their contemplative vocations?  Had their lives become so
totally suffused with God over so many years that every aspect of
their daily routine was no longer merely prayerful, but prayer itself?

Perhaps the little, old brother mutely splitting firewood and stacking
it in a buckling, corrugated iron water tank was heard in Heaven more
compellingly than all the rest of us put together?  Maybe there comes
a time when the one who lives to pray at last steps over an invisible
threshold and into a place where liturgical form, word and gesture
dissolve?  Where feeding scraps of stale bread to a young magpie
translates into intercession that is as fervent as it is unobserved,
as effective as it is inexplicable?

The Scriptures understand that sometimes people become prayer, and
their silent eloquence reminds us that "the world which we can see has
come into being through principles which are invisible".(4)

1)   The Carthusian Order Statutes (Book 4, Chapter 31)  The Less Travelled Road, Rev. M. Raymond (The
Bruce Publishing Company, 1953 Milwaukee).  A Carthusian Speaks,
2)   Prayer and Preaching, Karl Barth (SCM Press, 1964 London)
3)   The Hidden Ground of Love, Thomas Merton (Farrar Straus Giroux,
1985 New York)
4)   Psalm 109.4 (KJV); Hebrews 11.3 (JB Phillips NT)

Reasons for Writing

3 November 2015

I have written 'The Abbot's Shoes' for two main reasons.  To say
"Thank you" to the house of prayer that took me in during the early
1970s.  And to offer a helping hand to any younger person who may be
feeling called to "live to pray" today.

"The church was humble and not at all the great cathedral-like
structure many might have expected.  The atmosphere was unexpectedly
cosy and intimate.  A few lights made the bare wooden floor glow
golden, and the air always smelt faintly and pleasantly of polish,
beeswax and incense ... I honestly doubt I would have lived very long
into my twenties had I not been received, 'hidden' and nourished by my
Trappist fathers within their sanctuary."

I do absolutely believe that the contemplative-monastic vocation is as
real and valid as the call to live out one's Christian life and
service in a local church or out on the mission field.  But my
conviction is not necessarily widely shared or strongly supported ...
especially within Protestantism.  This can make life even more of a
struggle than usual, especially for younger people who truly love
Jesus of Nazareth, want to live lives of prayer, but who don't
identify with or belong to a particular Church or Christian movement.
Lacking any kind of paradigm or context, such (sometimes intuitive and
sensitive) people are vulnerable to feelings of disorientation,
marginalisation and frustration.  I am hoping that 'The Abbot's Shoes'
will contain sufficient hints and clues, navigation lights and
handholds for such as may be experiencing the ancient and ever-new
"allure into the desert".  Perhaps they will make their own
beginnings, either alone or with a handful of friends?

"I am led by the 'perpetual Psalter' , which allows these holy songs
to unfold in the successive order and plan determined by Another.
Thus, I am in one sense cast adrift, but always on the ancient and
irresistible draughts and tides of the River of prayer ... I am
dreaming of many tiny monasteries, 'invisible' in urban and rural
wildernesses, where young and old, married and single can together
'live to pray'."

But what is of course more important than my writing, is the fact that
I am now sincerely trying to learn to "live to pray" myself, and in
surroundings which are as unremarkable and provisional as one could
ever imagine.  And this is no "flash in the pan", overnight
undertaking. It is a life begun and laid to one side in the early
1970s, to be picked up again 10 years ago.  Slowly but surely I have
begun "upon my knees, to inch cautiously back into the currents of
God's contemplative stream".

"The house of prayer in which I now sit is only a few feet square ...
Although I am by myself here, it is impossible to be alone.  The most
solitary Psalm singer is nevertheless part of an immense choir that
enfolds and subsumes all who have ever and will ever tell and chant
them.  At every moment of every day there will be some, somewhere
rendering up these everlasting songs of contrition, spiritual poverty
and adoration."

"The Abbot's Shoes - Seeking a Contemplative Life", Revival Streams,
2015, Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Unum Necessarium

25 July 2014

"One thing is needful." (Lk 10.42)


I am no longer an "itinerant preacher". At the beginning of 1993 the Teaching and Ruling Elders of St. Columba's Presbyterian Church in Auckland (where I had been a pastor for the preceding 6 years) laid hands on me and "despatched" me out and into that ministry. And so for the next 21 years I traversed and criss-crossed New Zealand and its Body of Christ, with occasional "sorties" away to Australia, the USA, England, Germany and Israel. I am especially grateful to God that (during the 90s) I was graced to share in a national revival and fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit here. Sadly, I also had to witness its suppression and "death" at the hands of Church leaders who proved to be incapable of cherishing and serving something they could not "own", dominate and control.


These days I am just some old bloke who lives in a very, very small prayer house. Its name, when translated from an original tongue, means "hole in the ground". I am "buried" in this place because I'm trying to live out my own message proposed in the book (and e-book "The Tribulation Church". It is a devout and solemn call for the Church to become "the house of prayer" evoked by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 21.13. I am also at one and the same time in the process of returning forwards to my contemplative roots. My own spiritual foundations were laid down in 1972-73 in the novitiate of an enclosed Trappist monastery. There I became a 'child" of a community of seasoned, scholar-farmers who "lived to pray". That unconventional apprenticeship went on for another 40 years, and in the past year I feel that I may possibly have begun to begin to "live to pray".


Three times a day, seven days a week, I "sing" the Psalms, read the Scriptures, and make intercession for others - known and unknown. By so going I am consciously, increasingly immersing myself in the contemplative-prophetic continuum and "river" which was released at The Cross and will be consummated by the Parousia. It is a mystery which a pray-er "moves closer to...plunges into and lets close over him". ("Poverty of Spirit" Johannes B. Metz)


Some days these very elementary activities are a struggle. My praying is usually average, ordinary and mediocre. It is always modest and simple; unexceptional and uncluttered. It involves praying "at the meeting place of two infinities," according to an anonymous Carthusian hermit. My "own infinite need for mercy, and the infinite mercy of God." That is the place, according to the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, where we might be graced from time-to-time to "exult in the union of our voice and the Holy Ghost's voice." It is the place where "the poor in spirit" (Mt 5.3) are to be found. Such "poor" ones' prayers are not our own; we find nothing to be proud of or pleased with ourselves about. But our emaciated pleadings and stunted praises are overwhelmed and subsumed into "the might of a prayer stronger than thunder and milder than the flight of doves," according to Thomas Merton. It rises up "from the Priest who is the centre of the soul of every priest, shaking the foundations of the universe and lifting up continents, and worlds to God, and plunging everything into Him."


I do not know very much about prayer at all. And that's just fine, because I'm not called to be knowledgeable, but if it be possible "prayerful"! For someone called to "live to pray" and "pray to live", it is being burned into the marrow of our bones that without exception beseeching eclipses preaching, pleading prefaces leading, and intercession is the parent of confession.


All I can say at the moment (that I do know) is that I am thankful. Thankful to have stumbled upon and fallen into that "one thing". Not a ministry, but a life. And a life I can now live uninterrupted until the end. One hope I do have for the future is that this "seed" will be enabled to "die" gracefully, and then perhaps spring up into some un-named, scrubby, scrawny bush, which might produce a few more seeds, and where this or that one may find a temporary perch or a little shelter?


"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (Jn 12.24)

No News Today

9 March 2011

If you want to give a newspaper editor a heart attack, then tell him, "There's no news today!"

I am from time-to-time reproached for not writing frequently enough to justify this page's existence. But the plain (and perhaps sad?) truth is, I do not consider myself sufficiently newsworthy. And I base that judgement on my having spent a quarter of my working life as a professional journalist and subeditor; on newspapers metropolitan, provincial and religious...and radio stations run by state broadcasters and private enterprise.

"Revival Streams" is not a (self) promotional website. I am not interested in organising a following, obtaining more speaking engagements, or drumming up finance. My goal, if possible, is to feed a few morsels of Truth to those who have the appetite...and will employ its energy to crash on and "do the business" for Jesus.

So...any news today? is Ash Wednesday. It is always very good to remember (in the words of P.T. Forsyth), "O Lord, Thou knowest our frame, and rememberest that we are dust."

And I will be in Wellington this Sunday. I'm to preach at Hope Centre in Lower Hutt; a church which is determined, constant and sincere in its holding the door open and keeping the deck clear for a spiritual awakening that's Heavenly in origin, national in scope, and eschatological in focus!

"Revive Thy work, O Lord:
Give power unto Thy word;
Grant that Thy blessed Gospel may
In living faith be heard."

(PCNZ Hymn 679)

A Great Sign

24 December 2009

I have this week published a new collection of essays entitled "A Great Sign".  In it I endeavour to address biblically and creatively the perennial "hot-potato"...Jewish-Christian relations.  The subject has been described as one that "has the potential to either split the Church or unite it".  I earnestly hope this book will aid and abet unity amongst all of the People of God...most especially in these Last Days.

"A Great Sign" consists of 15 essays (including the introduction and conclusion), contained in 100 pages.  You may purchase a copy directly from me for $15, by writing to:

Revival Streams,
PO Box 38031,
Auckland 2145,

Bruce Berryman - Promoted To Glory

4 May 2009

(A tribute to the Leader of the 90s Red Shed Revival)

Reading: Hebrews 11

In recent weeks, Bruce said to me on a number of occasions, "Brother, I'm preparing practically for the worst. But I'm hoping and believing for the best." Part of his preparing for the worst, included talking a little bit about his funeral. He was unusually adamant about two things. Firstly, that I should deliver a eulogy...his choice of words. Secondly, that there would be much laughter at this service. Sadly, I cannot contribute much to the laughter, because Bruce's loss for me is too grievous. I mourn the loss of a very dear and close personal friend. And I grieve that New Zealand has lost one of its greatest modern revivalists. These days, it seems to me, that every second chorus is about revival...and every man and his dog is a revival expert. In fact, very, very few Christians actually carry about in their hearts and spirits the seeds and the sparks of revival...described by someone as, "A work of God, which consists of a powerful intensification of the ordinary work of the Holy Spirit (convicting, converting, regenerating) poured out upon large numbers of people at the same time". Bruce did carry revival seeds and revival sparks.

He was one of that rare breed created by God to cry out over cities and provinces and nations along with the great Isaiah, "Oh, that You would rend the heavens, that You would come down, that the mountains might flow down at Your presence." He was prepared repeatedly to risk everything, to risk the loss of everything, for the possibility, for the faint chance that God might open Heaven over us, even for a few brief minutes. So that His power from on high could rain down upon us, and make all things new. He was, in the words of the great 16th C intercessor, Teresa of Avila, "Like the apostles, flinging it all aside and catching fire with love of God."

I am very, very sorry, but I have to say in the words of verse 38 of our Scripture reading, "Of him the world was not worthy...He was a man the world was unworthy to contain...The world did not deserve a man like that." Neither the world nor the Church deserved Bruce Berryman. He was quite simply too good for us, and as Leonard Cohen has sung, "He sank beneath our wisdom like a stone." And yet in spite of this, Jesus did send him to us. As it says in Ephesians 4.8, "Jesus ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and He gave gifts of men (such as Bruce) unto us."

How easy it is to eulogise such a man. For "eulogise" means to praise and to bless. When John the Baptist's father recovered the power of speech, it says in Luke 1.64 that he eulogised and praised God. But also in Matthew 14.19, it records that when the Lord multiplied the loaves and the fishes, He eulogised, He blessed them, He gave thanks.

Above all things this afternoon, I eulogise, I bless, I give thanks for Bruce's humility, his modesty, his determination to take the lowest place...which is the greatest mark of Godliness, for our God is in His heart of hearts essentially humble. This may come as a terrible shock to some of today's men of faith and power, who glory in the size of their churches, their bank balances, their houses and their vehicles. For the King and Head of the Church (as we are taught in Philippians 2.6), "did not regard His equality to God as a thing to be clutched to Himself. So far from that, He emptied Himself, and really and truly became a servant, and was made for a time exactly like men. In a human form that all could see, He accepted such a depth of humiliation that He was prepared to die, and to die on a cross." As the Lord said in His own words (in Matthew 11.29), "Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly, humble of heart".

In fact Bruce's legendary and somewhat zany sense of humour can be traced back, I believe, to his humility. For it was definitely not of the bully-boy variety, which laughs to highlight and ridicule the failings of others. He loved to make us laugh over his own foibles and idiosyncrasies, hoping that might help to ease our own struggles and difficulties and disappointments.

Bruce was a considerable evangelist, who loved and lived to tell others in the words of John Newton (the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace"), "I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I wish to be. I am not even what I hope to be. But, by the Cross of Christ, I am not what I was."

He was also a compassionate and highly intelligent pastor-teacher, who understood along with the great Baptist pulpiteer, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Preaching is not child's play. It is not a thing to be done without labour and anxiety. It is a solemn work. It is awful work, if you view it in its relation to eternity."

And he most definitely deserves to share the mighty Finney's epitaph, "He narrowed his mind to revival."

If there are any here today who desire to follow in Bruce's revivalist footsteps, then look no further than his modesty and his lowliness of heart. The Apostle James(4.6) teaches, "God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble." Likewise Peter confirms in his first letter (5.5), "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

I bless the altar boy, who studied Latin through secondary school, perhaps pondering the priesthood. I bless the wiry 1st XV loose forward, always playing and punching above his weight. I bless the hippy in his van with the union jack. I bless the missionary to Asia, whom God sent back to us. But most of all, I praise and bless my friend, who was able to pray with complete authenticity along with Kathryn Kuhlman, "I ask but one thing. Take not Your Holy Spirit from me. For without Him, I shall surely die."

The last time we spoke about revival was by phone a short time ago. I read him excerpts from a venerable account of a local church revival in Scotland in the 1830s. As we spoke, the warming presence of the Holy Spirit settled about us. I quote.-

"While pressing upon them immediate acceptance of Christ with due solemnity, the whole vast assembly were overpowered. The Holy Spirit seemed to come down as a mighty rushing wind, and to fill the place. Very many were that day struck to the heart. The sanctuary was filled with distressed and inquiring souls. A vast number pressed in with awful eagerness. Meetings were held every day for many weeks. The whole town was moved. All Scotland heard the glad news that the sky was no longer as brass - that the rain had begun to fall."

This was ever Bruce's dream; that the sky over New Zealand would no longer be as brass...that the rain would begin to fall. I implore you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ...keep his dream alive.

A Desired Haven

26 June 2008

Back on March 11 of this year, I came upon the following verses in the course of my daily Bible reading, "He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle ... He guided them to their desired haven."  (Psalm 107.7 and 30)

At that time I did not really feel ready to give up our faith-"adventure" of the past two and a half years. But in my heart I nevertheless recognised that we had probably "done our dash" so far as living out of two suitcases and the boot of a car was concerned.

About a month later we returned to Auckland for meetings, where very old and dear friends invited us to live in their house, while they moved next door for two years. For some weeks we prayerfully pondered this "door" and concluded (after some wrestlings and debatings) that it was in fact the fulfillment of the promise of Psalm 107. Thus, we moved our possessions out of storage (on June 10) and into our "desired haven". We are now hidden away in bush close to the beach in that old part of Howick where Penny and I spent our childhood ... but a few steps from the church where we attended Sunday school and Bible class together.

With the Psalmist (107.30-31) we "give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men".

So, we have settled, but continue our journey. We are housed, but not caged. We have landed, but will continue to fly.

"They founded a city where they could settle. They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest."  (Psalm 107.36-37)

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