Category Archives: Devotional

No-one knows the hour …

It has been pretty mind-numbing to watch the scenes of devastation following the Christchurch earthquake and to hear the cries of hopelessness and helplessness. It must be tough for the rescuers and searchers. It has also been interesting seeing the international aid that has poured in and where it has come from. Most from countries with cultural ties to NZ through Christian backgrounds and laws and other countries that have had citizens lost in the rubble. It has also been interesting to note the ideologies of countries that have not become involved in the rescue and recovery process. It is true that our worldview affects our compassion and a country’s religion determines its worldview.

The tumultuous event also demonstrates that none of us know the day or the hour when we are due to keep our appointment with death and to stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Ever since the sentence of death was passed on me 28 months ago in the colorectal cancer + liver and lung metastases diagnosis and prognosis, I have realised that the most important thing in life is to be ready for death whenever and however it comes. Jesus, through His death and resurrection, is the only one who can give us the peace to confront the last daunting enemy of death, whether it be slow or quick.

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Posted by on 7 March, 2011 in Devotional, Personal


Sibling reunion

Over the last weekend of January we got together with my siblings and spouses in Wellington for our annual sibling reunion. We spent one night in Wellington and then went through to Martinborough in the Wairarapa. We browsed the boutique shops in Greytown, ate at the Gladstone winery, went for long walks around Martinborough, laughed, joked, watched NZ succomb in another one-day cricket match (past a joke!!). A highlight was sharing stories of how our parents had impacted us in our christian faith and then celebrating Communion together.

For the previous two years the siblings have all had to travel to wherever I was having treatments. This year it was a blessing to be able to resume our ‘rotation’ and not be subject to medical appointments.

The clan at Gladstone (my mother's middle name was Gladstone, hence the 'connection'!)

celebrating Communion together

Ministering the Communion elements to Bronwen

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Posted by on 4 February, 2011 in Devotional, Personal, Photos


The Kings Speech

The movie, The King’s Speech is making waves at the moment and is a favourite to win an Oscar.

The proverb of unknown origin, “cometh the hour, cometh the man”, fits King George VI very well. My father in his memoirs records a little known fact of British history that highlights the calibre of this man.

My parents, Frank and Marjory Duncan, had trained to be missionaries and were due to leave for China, when England, and with it the entire Empire entered the Second World War. NZ passports were being refused and all men and women of military age were forbidden to leave the country. My father and mother, engaged to be married, received a letter from the relevant Government Department advising them that they had permission to leave the country at the specific request of King George VI.

When England entered the war, King George VI called the entire British Empire to observe a Day of Prayer. During this time he felt that if the Empire wished to know God’s blessing in the defense of the realm, it must do nothing to hinder the work of His kingdom. He therefore released all those who were already trained for missionary service to proceed to take the Gospel to the world. He also believed these people would make good Ambassadors and public relations personnel wherever they went.

This information was confirmed by the Hon Fred Jones who was the NZ Minister of Defence at the time and throughout the war years.

Would King Edward VIII have made such a decision? The Scriptures say that God puts kings in power and God takes them down. His is the Unseen Hand in history. It was God who allowed his unlawful personal relationship with Wallace Simpson to bring King Edward VIII down so He could bring the hesitant Bertie to the throne “for such a time”

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Posted by on 26 January, 2011 in Articles, Devotional, Personal


Reservoir or water bottle?

With the latest medical opinions ruling out further medical interventions for me, I am once again forced to rethink my life priorities. This is nothing unusual. Many times during my life I have been challenged to re-evaluate why I am doing what I do. In ministry, do I operate out of a rich relationship with God and His Word, or am I merely maintaining a relationship with God and His Word ‘on the run’ to sustain my ministry? There is a subtle difference. What begins as an overflow of one’s spiritual life, can indiscernibly change to a point where one snatches time for prayer and Bible reading in order to prepare for an upcoming meeting or series of seminars.

Are we tapped into a reservoir or sipping from water bottles that need constant refilling?

I have had to examine myself to see if my praying is being spurred by self-preservation; a sense of unfulfilled responsibilities committed to me; the reviving of a relationship in prayer that has flagged and has needed this crisis to remotivate it; or is the deepening of a hope that will, probably sooner rather than later, culminate in faith becoming sight? It is probably a combination of several of these.

Even our motivation for business and working can change. We begin with a dream that flows out of a passion. It ends by creating a monster that demands all our energies and the sacrifice of our talents, families and time to sustain it.

The change is often undetectable until almost too late. In His mercy God will often lay us low with health or financial woes to force a spiritual stock-take and re-awaken our original sense of vocation and desire to have Him pre-eminent in all things.

Writing to Wormwood in Letter VII, (CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters.) Screwtape lays out the subtle twist that often takes place to transpose the basis of a man’s faith from vitality to merely a means of virtue.
“Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.”

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Posted by on 6 January, 2011 in Devotional, Personal


For anyone suffering

Here is a MUST LISTEN for anyone facing difficulties, pain, or an uncertain future.

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Posted by on 10 December, 2010 in Devotional, Personal, Poetry


Some ministers need a ‘Madagascar’ experience.

I had occasion to attend a national gathering of Ministers and elders. Having never been overly excited about the minutiae of church politics and administration, I was interested to watch the same people getting to their feet and pontificating about words and clauses in resolutions and recommendations. I listened to debates about structures and programmes; I heard exhortations on how to update ‘worship’ and attract people into pews and consequent benefits for church finances.

As I sat there and endured it all, I had a ‘wow’ moment. It suddenly dawned on me that what many of these ministers and elders needed was a “Madagascar experience”!

For those not familiar with the movie, Madagascar focuses on four ‘star’ residents of the Central Park Zoo in New York City who are also best friends: a lion, a zebra, a giraffe, and a pregnant hippo. When one of them goes missing, the other three break out of the zoo looking for him, and eventually all four are captured and put in boxes to ship them back to Africa. the continent their species originally came from. An accident at sea strands them on the shore of Madagascar. Having had humans take care of them their entire life, the four know nothing of surviving in the wild, or that one of them, the lion, is genetically predisposed to eat his three best friends. Exploring their surroundings, the four friends soon meet the Malagasy locals (a type of lemur given to having loud “rave-like” dance parties) and their carnivorous enemies, the ‘foosas’. As the two sides try to use these four new, strange friends to their benefit, our heroes are also confronted with the reality of their predestined roles in nature.

As I sat in the Assembly of church divines, I imagined each of them back in their home parishes fulfilling roles much like the ‘stars’ of the Madagascar. Just as the lion would practice his roar so the preacher would practice his sermon. The choir would practice its songs and the ‘worship leaders’ their roles. Then, just as the Central Park Zoo would open its gates to the public, so the churches open their doors at 10am, the public arrive and pay their money to see the performance. At the end, the public leaves having been duly impressed and the stars return to prepare for the next show.

All this may sound rather cynical, but as I sat and listened to all the debates and discussion about inconsequential matters as far as extending the Kingdom of God is concerned, I wondered what many of the ministers would do if they were transported into the ‘real world’ and the streets to confront wild people and situations that did not fall neatly into their proscribed jargon and patterns. It may force a reality check, the end result of which would be far more realistic sermons and empathetic Bible studies that would give their faithful attendees and supporters something tangible to work with during the week at the coalface of business and factory life.

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Posted by on 8 November, 2010 in Devotional, Personal