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Deb’s Ministry Blog shares articles of interest to people in a small church, missions, or writing ministry. These are practical and encouraging articles that may be shared freely.

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Free true story for Thanksgiving

Do you ever feel like life doesn’t make sense and the world is spiraling out of control? 2020 will do that to you.

I live in New Zealand, one of the safest places on earth from the Covid-19 pandemic. New Zealand locked down early and strong. Now, when cases are skyrocketing across America, New Zealand has almost no Covid cases from community transmission. Almost all cases are Kiwis returning to New Zealand from overseas.  Everyone entering the borders has to isolate in special hotels for two weeks and have several negative Covid tests before re-entering. My life these days is very close to normal except for travel restrictions. It’s been almost three years since we’ve seen anyone in our family in person. We were due to take a five-month furlough this year, but Covid changed all that. We have so much to be thankful for, but it has been a crazy year.

How are you doing where you live? Are you thriving or barely surviving? 2020 can make you wonder what God is up to. How good it is to know that, even in the darkest days, God is in control and is working things out according to his plan.

Mary Weaver, a godly Christian housewife, watched her life seemingly spiral out of control. She faced many dark days when she couldn’t see God working for her.

See a quick summary of her story in this trailer for Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story. (click on the screen with the doctor and stethescope.)

During the darkest days, Mary still believed God would show her innocence. In the end, God proved himself strong and revealed his mighty work behind the scenes.

For two and a half years I was challenged every day by this true story as Mary, her lawyer and I wrote her story. I was constantly challenged by Mary’s testimony and encouraged by God’s amazing work in her life.

As we come to the week of American Thanksgiving, I want to share a chapter from this book that will challenge you to give thanks. You are receiving this chapter free simply for being one of my subscribers to Deb’s Book Blast. In December I will tell you how you can get the ebook Edges of Truth for free as well.

Here’s the story:

 

Prison Blues: a Thanksgiving Challenge

Mary Weaver sat on her prison bunk and slipped a family photo from the pages of her Bible. It pictured her with her husband and two children, before she was sentenced to life in prison without parole. She caressed her red-headed son John and his blonde sister Catherine in the picture. For sixteen months she had only seen them once a week when her husband brought them to the prison visiting room.

It all started January 22, 1993 when Mary was providing childcare for 11-month-old Melissa. Mary was putting the baby’s snowsuit on when Melissa quit breathing. Mary called 9-1-1 and performed CPR until the ambulance came, but the baby died within a day. The autopsy found a two-inch skull fracture and other severe injuries that were seven to ten days old. Some doctors ignored these older injuries and believed Melissa’s death was caused by acute injuries from shaking and possibly slamming the baby just before she quit breathing. Since Mary was with Melissa during the forty-two minutes before she quit breathing, they believed Mary must have caused the fatal injuries.

Mary had never done anything to hurt Melissa but opinion on her guilt was divided. She was eventually sent to prison for murder. Her lawyers were seeking to appeal her case, but over a year had passed and they still hadn’t been able to get a new trial. Meanwhile Mary was separated from her husband and kids who were now five and six years old.

Mary felt sure God would eventually free her and clear her name. She was a Christian and she knew God would get her through prison one day at a time. But she grieved for her children and unsaved husband. Months had passed into a year and more and her children were growing up without her. She would never get those years back.

As Mary sat in her cell worrying about her family, a guard appeared at the door. “Mrs. Weaver? You got a visitor.”

Mary set her Bible aside and preceded the guard down the prison corridor. Who could this be? As she stepped into the visitor’s room Catherine skipped up to her in a pink tutu and leotard.

“Mommy, Mommy, I’m going to my dance recital! Aunt Lisa brought me so you could fix my hair.” Catherine jumped around until Mary could hardly get a hug from her.

Mary smiled her thanks at her friend, Lisa Murphy, who had figured out this creative way to include Mary in her daughter’s special occasion.

Mary drew her daughter close. “I’d love to fix your hair. Shall we do French braids?”

“Yes, yes, yes, with pink ribbons!” Catherine bounced with every word.

Mary removed ribbons and elastic bands from Catherine’s ponytail and pulled long blonde strands into sections with her fingers.

“Hold still,” she reminded her daughter as she started one braid. Mary breathed in the fruity fragrance of the superfine hair as she began to weave the strands into identical braids on either side of her daughter’s head, then tied perfect pink bows at each end.

Catherine shook her head to feel her new hairdo. “Thank you, Mommy! I can’t wait to see myself in the mirror.”

Mary surreptitiously wiped tears with one sleeve. “You look beautiful. Can you show me your dance?”

Catherine performed several ballet steps, ending with a lopsided pirouette. Mary clapped loudly. “Good job! Just remember, when you’re in that recital today, I’m going to be thinking about you.”

Catherine gazed at her mom with pleading eyes. “I wish you could come to my recital.”

Mary blinked some tears from her eyes. “Me too, sweetheart, but Aunt Lisa will take pictures and I’ll study them carefully. Just remember that your mommy is very proud of you!”

Mary gave her daughter a quick, prison-acceptable hug and watched the two walk away. Satan whispered, “You are missing her recital and all the other important moments in her life.”

Mary lifted her chin. But God allowed me to fix her hair. God gave me that precious moment. God is good.

She thought of other ways God had allowed her to mother her children as well. God had given Mary a prison job, and her wages had been raised from thirty-eight to forty-one cents an hour. So what if it was only ten percent of minimum wage? The job made her time pass more quickly, and she could use the money in the commissary or craft store. Supporters could also add twenty dollars a week to her prison account. The activities directors had been especially kind to use this money to purchase fabric and patterns for her. Mary had been able to sew outfits for the kids, paint T-shirts, and buy presents for them.

Mary returned to her cell, sat on her bunk, opened her Bible, and prayed. Lord, help me to be thankful for what I have, not to complain about what I don’t have.

A prison sentence made it easy to slide into self-pity. Unfairness could defeat her but only if she let it. Instead she thought about The Hiding Place, a prison library book she had recently read. Corrie ten Boom had hidden Jews in Holland during World War II. The Nazis had caught her and thrown her into a bitter cold prison for four months, then a women’s extermination camp in Germany. Except for her sister, who was imprisoned with her for a time, Corrie had almost no contact with her family. She and her sister existed in overcrowded, filthy cells with little regard for sanitation and little to eat. They were allowed no exercise or fresh air.

Like Mary, Corrie was unfairly imprisoned, yet Corrie’s sister challenged her to focus on what she had. Corrie accepted the challenge. In solitary confinement she hungered for human contact, but she thanked God for an ant that crawled into her cell and provided a bit of company. In one of her prison cells, for one hour a day, she could stretch herself out tall and feel the sun shine on her head and chest. She thanked God for the sunshine. Later, at the extermination camp, she slept piled on a straw-covered platform with many other prisoners, sandwiched between other crowded platforms. Fleas infested the stinking straw, but Corrie even learned to thank God for the fleas. The tiny insects kept the guards away from the overcrowded bunk, where she hid her precious Bible.

Mary closed her eyes to shut out the conversation of the other inmates lounging right outside her cell. Her prison cell was the Ritz Carlton compared to the ones in the book. “Thank you, Lord, that my family is safe and that I can see them every week. Thank you that I have other gals to talk to. You’ve even given me a roommate who seems to be a true Christian. Thank you that I can feel safe in prison, that other inmates haven’t given me trouble, that the guards treat me with respect. Thank you that I have a Bible and I can read it openly, whenever I want. Thank you that I’ve grown closer to you in prison.”

The State had stolen her family. The first year they seized all her possessions, even her clothes. Only now they allowed her to keep a few things of her own. The State could separate her from her home and family, but they couldn’t take God away from her and they couldn’t take her away from God. She would focus on him and the things she was allowed to enjoy. Today that meant fixing her daughter’s hair for a special occasion.

 

God showers us with so many blessings every day that we sometimes get used to them and claim them as rights. When we have them we don’t appreciate them, and when we don’t, we complain.

Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on what we have. What has God given you today?  

 

 

 

Dealing with Disappointment in 2020

Chances are good that Covid has caused you significant disappointment this year. I went through several stages of lockdown in New Zealand where I serve as a missionary. Locking down with my husband in my comfortable home was not terribly difficult. In fact we enjoyed our time together. We did eight jigsaw puzzles in a couple of months and I was able to work extensively on a book I’m writing. New Zealand locked down quickly and extensively, with good result.  As far as Covid is concerned, I find myself in one of the safest places in the world. New Zealand’s closed borders, however, made the June-to-November furlough to the States we’d been planning impossible. We had found a couple from the States who were willing to fill in for my husband and me in our church planting ministry, but Covid meant they couldn’t get into New Zealand.

As time went on we began to see that a regular furlough might not be possible for quite some time ahead. As people who travel from state to state and meet with big groups of people, missionaries pose a significant health risk to churches. Also many of our supporting churches were not functioning as usual. Most probably only had virtual services for an extended time.

When a regular furlough wouldn’t work for the foreseeable future, we began to consider a quick trip to the States for Christmas to visit our family. The first obstacle was finding someone who could fill in for us for a number of weeks. The fill-in couple pretty much had to come from New Zealand since our borders remain closed. In August we found a couple who would consider the idea, but couldn’t let us know right away. In October, just when we had begun to get excited about seeing our family for Christmas, the couple said they couldn’t come. Then within a week, it seemed like a miracle had happened. We found a well-qualified couple who were New Zealand residents who were happy and eager to fill in for us during the time needed. We decided the Lord was leading us forward, the time was right for a number of reasons, and we would go back. We started looking for airline tickets and planning a schedule. Within a week, however, some feedback we got from trusted sources made us feel that it would be significantly safer if we waited until the middle of 2021 or so. Our daughters and their family had started to plan for a family Christmas and we were all excited about it until this new development made us feel like we had to reverse our decision.

But we’re missionaries so we don’t get disappointed, right? Wrong. So wrong.  For a number of reasons, we had decided we really needed to go back at this time. It seemed the Lord had answered our prayers and provided a couple to fill in so we could go. Yet in the end, it didn’t feel right to go when waiting another half year or so would make it significantly safer for us and the people we want to visit.

What have you lost during 2020 that left you feeling disappointed? You may have lost a loved one or your health or your job. We missed a hundredth anniversary celebration for our mission and a seventy-fifth anniversary of our sending church that we had planned to attend.  Almost everyone has had plans changed and church attendance curtailed. We’ve just experienced a national election in New Zealand and will experience another in America in the coming week. Both involved critical moral issues.  Racial unrest, wildfires, hurricanes. What a year!

What do you do with your disappointment? You know God is in control, that he’s working out his best for you, but you’re still disappointed.

Here are some things that helped me:

This song sung by Ben Everson spoke to me right away. We have the CD of this so the words were so familiar that they were the first song that came to mind after our second decision.

The chorus goes, “You know better than I. You know the way. I’ve let go the need to know why for you know better than I.” I admit that I’d like to know why God seems to be saying no to this Christmas trip, but I am still working on letting go of that.

I filled in for a Sunday School teacher this morning in church. The story was about Cain and Abel. The lesson talked about warning signs. Sometimes God gives us a green light to do something. Sometimes a thing is definitely wrong and we get a red light from God. And sometimes he gives us a yellow light, telling us to use caution or to wait and listen to God’s warning. Cain was angry God didn’t accept his sacrifice and that anger was dangerous. God told him sin was crouching at his door like a wild animal, waiting to overpower him. Disappointment, discontent or anger can quickly turn to sin if we listen to it, wade through it or wallow in it.

Then a character in the current novel I’m writing was struggling with a similar issue. Long ago I had plotted out the book, but as I came to the disappointment of missing Christmas with children and grandchildren, I was just working on the part where my character faced a similar issue. I couldn’t expect my fictional character to be more spiritual than I am, could I?

So when disappointment rears its ugly head at me, I need to remember I have some choices.

  • Refuse to listen to what God is trying to tell me
  • Do what’s asked, but wallow in self-pity
  • Conclude that nothing good ever happens in 2020 and expect the worst to happen
  • Step forward in faith, knowing God is good and in control, and choosing to trust him

“Just two choices on the self: pleasing God or pleasing self.”  (by Ken Collier)

Teaching Christian Kids about Gender and Racial Issues

Parents need the support of the church more than ever today. When children go to public school, they especially need the church to back up good teaching.

When I was in high school evolution was the big problem. Textbooks taught evolution as if it were fact. In most museums and national parks today, the idea that the world is billions of years old is automatically assumed. Students can get the idea that their parents and teachers believe what the Bible teaches, but scientists know better. They sometimes think scientists have proven evolution as a scientific face and the earth has to be billions of years old. While this is far from true, the teaching they receive in schools can make them doubt the truth of the Bible. Churches can help students have faith in God and his Word when they teach creation in a way that shows the credibility of the Bible.

In my last blog I talked about a common problem Christian parents have in New Zealand. Maori, the native people of New Zealand, have many ancestral stories which talk about their gods and the part they supposedly played in creation and other parts in life. The public schools use these stories to teach respect for the Maori culture. Since these stories often contradict the Bible, they can undermine Bible teaching that students get at church.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is another big issue parents face today. Public schools in New Zealand may soon be forced to teach curriculum that actively teaches that gender stereotypes are harmful and students should be able to choose their gender identity. Even now our church parents say their children are being taught these things at in school or bringing home library books that normalize having two daddies or two mommies.

These dangerous ideas are beginning to be taught to children as young as five:

  • Gender identity as male, female, both or neither is determined by a person’s feelings
  • A person is sexual from birth
  • The proper time to begin sexual activity is whenever one is ready
  • If you speak out against people being able to change their gender at will, you’re guilty of hate speech

At this time, not every public school is teaching all of these things, but curriculum has been developed for public school use that teaches these things. These are the kinds of ideas students are now hearing at school at a very young age. Find out more here.

If we say and do nothing about these things our children will hear, they may decide that teachers a school are better educated than their parents and thus know the “real scientific truth” about them. Several parents in our church have brought these gender issues to my attention because of teaching or library books their children have brought home. This has shown me I need to address these issues in Discovery Club.

There are several dangers in addressing gender issues like this. If I say too much about it, I may actually spark an unhealthy amount of interest in the subject. If I say nothing, my students may believe wrong teaching or think it doesn’t matter. Without guiding students’ responses to students who struggle with gender identity, I could trigger arrogance, insensitivity, or disrespectful remarks in them.

Racial Equality

Racial Issues are also becoming prominent in today’s world. Some children live in an area with great racial diversity. Others live in areas with very little diversity. All need to know what God says about on the topic. When teaching small children, it’s probably not wise to dig into historical wrongs and how to make them right. But clear Biblical teaching can give children a strong foundation to build their worldview on. These are things we can clearly teach:

  • All people come from one blood. Share the same ancestors, Adam and Eve and Noah and his wife. All belong to the human race. Acts 17:24 – 26.
  • Nationalities developed different skin colors and physical characteristics as different people groups settled in different areas of the world. Genesis 11:1-9.
  • Just as men and women are equal in Christ, so are the various nationalities. Galatians 3:28
  • All cultures have positive elements to their culture as well as negative, sinful ones. We need to judge cultural ideas by the Bible. Many cultural differences are not right or wrong, they are just different.
  • We can all learn from others. Very early in the church we see diversity. The Ethiopian treasurer (a man of high rank in Acts 8) and Simeon who was called Niger (a prophet or teacher in Acts 13:1) were probably black men.

Who Am I? – Lesson Plan to Teach about these Issues

I don’t plan to teach a whole lesson centered around gender identity. Instead I want to talk about our identity in Christ. In that way gender identity doesn’t become too big. It’s just one aspect of who we are. Racial equality also fits nicely into the topic.

Here’s a brief outline that you can use to teach about our identity in Christ and how to deal with others of different opinions.

  1. God created people in his image. Genesis 1:27-31

Because of that people are like God in these ways:

  • They live forever somewhere.
  • They can reason, figure things out to a high degree, make decisions.
  • They can create ideas and use them in art, literature, music, and science.
  • They know the difference between right and wrong and can make moral choices.
  • They communicate with each other on a very high social level.

God created people to be either male or female.

  • They would be the mothers and fathers that would bear children and fill the earth.
  • They would take care of the plants and animals around them.
  • They would form families to take care of each other.
  • God’s creation of people in this way was very good.

God planned for people to be scattered over the earth and develop physical characteristics as a people group like skin color and facial structure.

  • All people come from one blood. Share the same ancestors, Adam and Eve and Noah and his wife. All belong to the human race. Acts 17:24 – 26.
  • Nationalities developed different skin colors and physical characteristics as different people groups settled in different areas of the world. Genesis 11:1-9.
  • He wanted all people to come to salvation. Matthew 28:19, 20; 2 Peter 3:9.
  • All people are equal in Christ. Galatians 3:28.
  • We can all learn from others. Very early in the church we see diversity. The Ethiopian treasurer (a man of high rank in Acts 8) and Simeon who was called Niger (a prophet or teacher in Acts 13:1) were probably black men.
  1. God planned out your life before you were born. Psalm 139: 13-16
  • He planned out everything that would happen to you before you were born.
  • He helped form you in your mother’s body from the moment your life began inside of her.
  • He made you to be a boy or girl, and choose how you would look and what you would be like.
  • You weren’t born in the wrong body. God doesn’t make mistakes.
  • He put you in the right family, the right country, to have the right nationality.
  • He is giving you the right opportunities to develop skills and abilities you need.
  • No one else can be you. God has a special plan for your life. You need to find his plan and follow it.
  1. Jesus died for your salvation before you were born. Romans 5:6-8
  • You are a sinner because sin entered the world. You do wrong things.
  • Jesus died to provide salvation, but you have to choose to accept his gift.
  • To be your best self, you need to follow God’s will and obey him.
  1. God made you to bring him glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31
  • My main purpose in life should be to bring him glory, not to do what I want.
  1. Every other person was also made in God’s image and is loved by God. John 3:16

 

  1. How should you treat someone who you disagree with, when they are wrong by the Bible? 1 Peter 2:17
  • We should treat every person with respect, no matter who they are.
  • We should never bully anyone.
  • You should treat people with respect, even if they think things that don’t agree with the Bible.

Situation #1 (gender identity):

A friend in your class at school says that he was born a boy, but he feels like he’s in the wrong body. He’s going to identify as a girl now. He wants you to call him a girl and use female pronouns for him.

Treating him these ways would show disrespect:

  • Make fun of him.
  • Tell him you think it’s stupid for him to say he’s a girl.
  • Refuse to call him by his name if he’s chosen a new one.
  • Refuse to play with him.
  • When he’s in your school group project, try to exclude him.

Treating him these ways would show respect:

  • You can be kind to him without agreeing with his decision to do this.
  • When you talk to your friends about him, be kind and point out good things about him.
  • Call him the name he asks to be called, just as you would do for anyone else.
  • If someone asks you, you can say you think God makes us the way we are and we should stay the way we are born. But don’t do this in private in a way that shows you think you are better than him.

Situation #2 (racial diversity):

A new girl becomes part of your class at school. She is a Muslim and wears a hijab (he – JOB or HE-job). You’ve heard that some Muslims have done bad things to Christians. How should you treat her?

Treating her these ways would show disrespect:

  • Make fun of her hijab.
  • Make fun of the way she talks.
  • Exclude her from a game you’re playing during break.
  • Ignore her and walk away.

Treating her these ways would show respect:

  • Be friendly to her.
  • Explain things to her if she doesn’t understand.
  • Include her in a game you’re playing during break.
  • If others don’t want to play with her because she’s a Muslim, you can say that you don’t agree with her religion, but she’s still a nice girl and needs to be included. Think of how you would want someone to treat you if you were far from home, didn’t always understand, and found it hard to join in fun with others.

Situation #3 (evolution):

Your teacher says the earth started billions of years ago with a big explosion. You believe the Bible and think she is wrong.

How you could show her disrespect:

  • Speak up in front of the class and tell her she’s wrong.
  • Tell your friends she’s stupid to believe that.

How you could show her respect:

  • Go to the teacher privately and tell her you know many people believe the things she said, but you’re a Christian and you believe God created the earth like the Bible says.
  • Tell your friends privately the same thing, but show respect for the teacher.

 

A Christian Parent or Teacher’s Response to Maori Creation Stories in the Classroom

I’ve lived in New Zealand for 22 years and one part of the culture here is hard to pin down.

Maori people are the New Zealand natives who have been here for hundreds of years. The Maori culture comes with many stories about creation and other topics that come into their belief system. Europeans began to arrive about a hundred and fifty years ago, bringing Christianity with them. The two cultures have mixed together to become the New Zealand culture we have today. Some people borrow from both belief systems along their spiritual journey. Some don’t believe either one.

About 20 years ago, my husband did a funeral for a baby whose father identified strongly with the Maori culture and whose mother was a member of our church. Because Maori have many funeral traditions, planning the funeral brought us to the marae (Maori meeting place) to work out the details. We were welcomed onto the marae with a ceremony, touched our noses to theirs in the traditional Maori greeting, washed our hands and ate lunch with them there. They sang a Christian song and talked about being inclusive in their religion. But by the time we left we had unknowingly taken part in some traditions that had religious meaning that we had not intended.

In recent years New Zealand has been seeking to integrate the Maori culture and language (Te Reo) into the school system in a stronger way. Some aspects of the Maori culture, such as loyalty to family and community, are good concepts to teach to children. But teaching their ancestral stories to school children comes with some dangers. These stories are contrary to the Christian belief of one true God in heaven Who created all things.

I have known for years that children are taught Maori stories about creation in school. Many times I have asked New Zealanders, “Are these stories taught as fact or legend?” The answer always comes back the same. “The stories are just taught.” Even in early childhood education, children aged three to five may hear some of the Maori stories and learn about Maori “guardians.” How should a Christian parent feel about this? What should they do about it? How can the church prepare children for this?

This year I am planning to teach several sessions of Discovery Club that deal gently with some difficult subjects our children face in public school. We’ll talk about gender identity, race issues, and the what to believe about Maori creation stories. While preparing to teach about Maori stories I’ve given new effort to finding out the answers to these questions:

  • Does the Maori belief system teach their creation stories as fact or as myth?
  • Do Maori actually worship their spirits as gods?

To a Christian from a Western culture, these seem like sensible questions that should have straight-forward answers, but these answers aren’t easy to find. Because I’m dealing with the issue as it relates to students in the public school system, I wanted to find out what schools are expected to teach. I found this very helpful website which helps teachers to include Maori language and culture in their classroom. Their article on the Maori creation story helped answer my questions. I’m not an expert on these things, so I am basing my information on this website.

Are Maori creation stories taught as fact or myth?

In the beginning of my study I thought that surely educated Maori people today don’t really believe that the world was created in the way their stories are told. That Sky Father and Earth Mother separated to allow their children to leave the dark, cramped space they lived in. According to the story, their son Tane, God of the Forest, pushed Earth Mother downward so she would not see Sky Father’s sadness. Tane clothed her in trees and plants. Sky Father was pushed upward and Tane’s sweat from the exertion became the stars.  Another god was so angry that he gouged out his eyes and threw them into the sky to become a star cluster. Maori people might like the story, but surely they don’t consider it to be scientific and factual.

I found the answer in this part of the article:

Examine how you approach the words “Myths” and “Legends”. If you use these words, make sure you understand what you are conveying.

Although the word myth has a dictionary meaning….”a traditional story of historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief or natural phenomenon”, it has become a word used for “unfounded or false notion”.

“Oh, that’s just a myth!”

Please examine your introduction of these whakapapa pūrākau (ancestral stories). I prefer to call them this rather than “Myths and Legends”.

Remember there may be tamariki (young people) in your class who consider these very strong whakapapa (ancestral) links.

As part of colonisation there has been a view that perhaps Māori pūrākau (stories) somehow have less value. ( We know better than that).

 I don’t think I could have understood this answer without my experience as a missionary in Taiwan. As Americans in the 1980’s and 1990’s, we tried to show our unsaved students that the Bible’s view of creation and salvation were right because they were true. Why would you follow a religion or belief that wasn’t true? They were strangely unmoved by that argument. We grew to realize that Chinese culture doesn’t care a lot about absolute truth. Their culture has not come out of a culture that believes or emphasizes absolute truth. They care more about the question “Does it work?” than “Is it true?” They wanted to know if Christianity would help them prosper. That’s what they expected from their gods. If their gods didn’t help them, they would abandon their gods. They also worshipped their gods to fit into their family and community. Some even believed Christianity was true, but wouldn’t follow Christ because of the division it would cause in their family.

Fast forward to our ministry in New Zealand. With my Taiwan background in mind, I interpret the explanation above to mean this: It doesn’t really matter if the Maori stories about their gods are true, factual, or scientifically correct. The ancestral stories are important to the Maori culture and values. So they should not be considered inferior to European stories that are based on Christianity.

Do Maori actually worship their spirits and gods?

 In Taiwan it is easy for us to see how people worshiped their gods and ancestors. On certain days of the lunar calendar our neighbors would set up tables outside their house. They might have a cooked chicken on the table, some fruit and beer on it. They would light incense sticks and maybe burn paper spirit money to the god or ancestor. Sometimes we would see a procession fill a street with worshippers carrying a god from one place to another. Certain holidays filled the temples. It didn’t seem to matter a lot what the worshipers thought or felt as they worshipped, but there was strong pressure from family and community to engage in the visible aspects of worship.

In New Zealand we don’t actually see Maori people worshiping gods in this kind of way. They do have rituals and blessings that are important to them on certain occasions. But if they aren’t actually worshiping false gods, should it matter to Christians if they share their religious stories?

Dangers in teaching Maori creation stories as significant to our lives.

  1. Maori guardians are actually false gods, an important part of Maori beliefs.

 Whether you call them gods, guardians, or atua (ancestors with influence over certain domains,) these stories are about false gods. The stories are similar to gods of Greek mythology and other gods that cultures have invented.

You see from the article that, among the Maori stories “there is considerable diversity among various … versions of the creation story.” While the various versions contradict each other, the story of God’s creation given in the Bible is always the same. Conflicting accounts of an incident can’t all be true. Christians believe, however, that the Bible gives a scientifically accurate, true account of what really happened at the beginning of time on planet earth. Bible history comes from actual events that really happened, not made-up stories.

People in Bible times often believed in false gods whose history came entirely from made-up stories. At times they sacrificed their babies to these gods or engaged in despicable practices like prostitution to appease these gods. In the Old Testament even God’s people, the Hebrews, worshiped these gods. God always condemned the worship of false gods and showed the foolishness of trusting in a made-believe deity. (Isaiah 44:9-20)

  1. Some use Maori stories to influence their lives.

 Note the importance the Te Reo Maori Classroom article gives to the Maori creation story.

 The Māori creation story and its tradition is so strong that it can influence all aspects of life. In this way customs, practices and institutions can become an expression of a culture’s foundation story. The essential elements of the Māori creation narrative influence many aspects of the Māori world view. These practices give us structure and support to live in a way closely aligned with our tīpuna (ancestors).

As Christians, our beliefs, who we are and what we do all need to be based on the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:17-6-17) When we allow other, conflicting beliefs to shape our thinking and decisions, we place ourselves on dangerous ground.

  1. Non-biblical creation accounts rob our Creator God of His rightful glory.

 Take a fresh look at Genesis 1 and 2. In six days our Creator God created everything on earth out of nothing. He created mature plants, animals, and people who were able to reproduce from the beginning. All life on earth today comes from God’s creation some six thousand years ago. Nothing man can do comes close to this original act of creation by God.

When someone takes this incredible act of creation and changes the story to give credit to false gods that don’t even exist, that demeans God and His act of creation.

How can I help my children when they encounter teaching about Maori gods in their classroom?

You could try to have your child taken out of class when these stories are taught. You could complain to the teacher or principal that you don’t like to have these religious beliefs taught during the school day. But if you continue to educate your children in the public school system in New Zealand, you are going to face this issue. Here’s an approach that I believe can help you navigate your way through this situation.

You need to teach your children these things:

  1. The truth about how the world began comes from the Bible.

Maori stories of creation and other stories of this kind are made-up stories. Different stories may share some common ideas but the details vary widely. Since the stories are conflicting, they can’t all be true.

Today’s scientists also continue to offer theories about how the world and its universe came into being. Some scientists today say the earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old, plus or minus about 50 million years. Since their dating of the beginning of world changes constantly, by millions of years at a time, you can tell their dating methods are unreliable. Scientists are also constantly changing their theories about how the earth evolved. As new evidence comes to light, the theories constantly change to accommodate the evidence. Many non-Christian scientists readily admit that the theory of evolution has problems and they don’t know how the earth came into existence. Evolutionists have never been able to explain two questions. 1. If the earth is the result of an explosion of very dense matter, where did the first matter came from? 2. Where did the first life come from?

The Bible, on the other hand, teaches the true history of the beginning of the earth. God, the only eye witness to creation, revealed this to man. The Bible is a reliable source of history backed up by historical evidence. The creation details don’t change because the account of creation is true and accurate. For more about the reliability of creation stories from the Bible versus other creation stories see this article.

The Bible gives us the only authoritative truth about how our world began.

  1. Some stories are made-up and aren’t meant to be true.

 The story of the ant and the grasshopper is clearly not true. Ants and grasshoppers don’t talk to each other. In some versions of this story the grasshopper plays the fiddle and dances, which is scientifically impossible. The story is clearly a make-believe one which teaches us a good lesson. In the same way, the Maori creation stories are stories which were made up to explain the beginning of the world. They aren’t scientifically true. They are just stories.

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Grinch that Stole Christmas are examples of other made-up stories. Of course, if you tell your children that Santa Claus is a true story, at some point you will have to admit you lied about this. Your children may realize they can’t trust your word. I believe Christian parents need to tell the truth from cradle to grave to their children and model a clear distinction between truth and make-believe or falsehood.

  1. Even when we disagree with people, we need to treat them with respect.

When it comes to Maori stories they learn in school, students should be allowed to say to their friends that they believe the stories are make-believe, that the Bible gives the true creation story. They should be allowed to say the same thing to teacher on the side. But it wouldn’t be respectful to speak up in front of the whole class and tell the teacher that the stories are false and they shouldn’t have to study them.

*Special thanks to The Te Reo Maori Classroom website for their helpful article on Maori creation stories.

Here’s a short summary of the Maori creation story.

Dear Reader,

How are you doing today?

2020 has been a year for the record books. Covid-19 brings uncomfortable restrictions and uncertainty about the future. In New Zealand, where I live and minister, Covid was eradicated in June but has come back to haunt us in August. Then add protests, riots, and elections with every kind of opinion about how we should respond and what we should do. Even when you’re trusting the Lord, sometimes you just want it all to stop.

2020 has made me dig deeper in God’s Word for assurance that God is still in control. Psalms like Psalm 94:17-19. Uplifting Christian fiction is also a good break from all the noise and confusion around me.  The most interesting character I’ve read recently is Margot De Wilde in The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White. (See my book review at the end of this Book Blast.)

Do you ever tire of formulaic fiction characters? The beautiful model with the troubled past meets the strong but sensitive hunk. Immediate physical attraction (hormones) makes for love at first sight. Constant danger, several car chases, and a rescue from kidnapping assures them they are meant for each other. These elements might make a strong fiction plot, but they aren’t exactly a good way to find a godly partner for life. And these aren’t the kind of characters I write about.

Three characters from Broken Windows:

Jordan Axtell’s faith is challenged by something authors rarely talk about. His missionary parents have been faithfully serving in Taiwan, but have seen few visible results for their efforts. Why doesn’t God bless their ministry?

My husband and I spent sixteen years serving in Taiwan, and at the end of that time we had to close two ministries that weren’t going to go ahead. I know what that feels like. We believe we were in God’s will in Taiwan and God did use us, but we had hoped to see more visible results. We had to leave that in God’s hands. Since then God has brought us to a new ministry in New Zealand that seems like a good fit for us. We now have many Asians in our church and we understand them better because of living in Taiwan. We know God used our Taiwan time in our lives and the lives of others. But we had to come to terms with that part of our lives like Jordan had to.

Zophie Zobel isn’t the kind of girl that many guys long to date, but she has a passion for ministry and a caring heart that drives Jordan in a good direction and causes him to grow.

More than anyone else I know, Zophie is like my oldest daughter. No wonder I love this character so much. To get the perfect look of this character in my head, I chose a photo from a magazine from our mission. Once I saw “Zophie” in a crowd. Now I find she will be working with a missionary friend of ours in Peru. Maybe one day I’ll get to meet the face that inspired this character.

Jordan’s black ’69 Mustang also becomes a character in my book. Jordan introduces her as “Mustang Axtell, the Mrs. Jordan Axtell, my beloved. She’s the only girlfriend I need right now.” If you’ve read Broken Windows you know how the car speaks to him and brings him to the point of significant spiritual change.

Since I’m definitely not a car gal, I had to rely on my brother, Jim, for the details and feel for this character.  Jim told me, “that scene in Chapter Thirteen where Bradley is riding his skateboard close to the Mustang, that’s not funny, you know.” Jim wasn’t joking. He told me how a real car guy would never allow a kid and a skateboard anywhere close to his classic car and the stern warning he would give a kid like Bradley who was anywhere in the vicinity of a classic car. Which told me this scene would resonate with a true car guy.

If you’ve read a book with interesting characters lately, why not leave us a comment and tell us about it?

I’ll end this Book Blast with my book review of the book mentioned above.

My book review of: The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White 

 This book was unlike any book I’ve ever read before. It’s definitely historical and yes, it is mystery and has romance. But the characters are what make this book a 5-star read. The author takes you deep into the mind of Margot, a girl who lives, breathes, thinks, feels and prays in numbers. She counts compulsively and is a genius with numbers. She doesn’t care about fashion and avoids shallow friendships. But the qualities that restrict her social life make her an excellent codebreaker during the Great War. She is intensely loyal to the friends she does have and pushes herself into social situations when she senses the need.

This book demonstrates friendship that looks beyond first impressions and the outer facade of a person to the heart. Unlike the author and me, the characters are Catholic. Salvation is never mentioned, but Margot relies heavily on prayer and learns to trust in God when she doesn’t understand. God speaks to her in numbers and when she doesn’t hear the numbers she doubts that God is speaking to her. I wonder about that. But the characters are unique and compelling. They grow to appreciate the differences of others and learn to work with them, flaws and all. I love that this book is outside the formulaic plots of romance and suspense and yet compelling in a way that is hard to describe. It grows on you until you don’t want to put it down. The most interesting book I’ve read in a long time.