Go With The Flow

Hi everyone. Rob here.

One of my favourite things this year has been walking beside the Waikato River that runs through my hometown of Hamilton, New Zealand. There is something so soothing and restorative about water, whether it be rivers, lakes, oceans or waterfalls, and my heart has needed that this year. As I was walking yesterday I was drawn to the spot in the river where the current was swift and steady. There are other parts that are turbulent, forming eddies and cross-currents. Other parts are slow, almost stationery, particularly in the shallows. The swift and steady current was right in the middle of the river. I knew what God was saying: “That’s where you need to be.”

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God was talking to me about the river of life, spoken about in Revelation 22:1,

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

I pictured this river of God’s life, love and will flowing through history. Over the centuries people have tried to go against the flow. Others have stayed in the shallows, not going anywhere. Others are on the banks of the river as life passes them by. God’s invitation is for us to throw caution to the wind, jump right into the middle and give ourselves over to the current of God’s life, love and will. Let me correct that. It only has the appearance of throwing caution to the wind. It is actually the safest move you can make.

This is because God’s future is the only future there is. All other options stand in opposition to that. So the best move we can make is to surrender ourselves to the life, love and will of God as revealed through his Son and our Lord and brother, Jesus. As John Eldredge said at a recent Boot Camp,

The safest place is all in

God is urging this on me and my family at the moment. We’ve all noticed that half measures don’t get us very far and, in fact, leave us vulnerable to accusation, confusion and sin. When we’re all in, fully surrendered, there is more clarity and more purpose. It reinforces to me that you can’t do God’s will unless we do it God’s way. Most if us try and do God’s will our way and wonder why things don’t work out so well. We play around in the shallows, or turn our rudder against the current , because it seems more comfortable there. But we need to be in the flow. God is at work and he wants us on board as he works. We get to be part of it!

Yes, it’s scary. You need to travel light. You can’t be weighed down by unnecessary burdens and baggage when you’re going with the flow. So we need healing for our wounds, freedom in our minds and hearts and a focused desire for the kingdom of God. I’m in. Come join me.

Grace and peace.

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Hiding Places

Hi everyone, Rob here.

A close read of Genesis 1-3 reveals so much of what we need to know about the human condition and how we relate to God. One of the most startling scenes is this one in chapter 3:6-10, just after the serpent had done his work of deception:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.

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The desire to hide from God has been hardwired into us from our very ancient ancestors. Hiding comes from a sense of shame, of unworthiness and a feeling of nakedness and vulnerability. As I venture into this new season of my life the sense of vulnerability is getting stronger and, with it, the pull to unworthiness and hiding.

I have had some very good hiding places over the years. While many may use pornography, alcohol and drugs, the really effective ones are much more subtle. Naked women and red wine have obvious appeal, but if you’re resorting to that stuff then exposure will soon come. Hiding won’t be an option. I’ve found things like intellectual pursuits, apathy, novels, TV and people pleasing to be helpful in keeping my heart hidden and God’s love at arms length. That way you can be hidden in plain sight as they say.

But it’s not life. It can give a good impression of life as can a lifestyle of cafes and bars, holidays and really great Instagram shots, but it’s not life. It’s certainly not the fullness of life that Jesus offers us. To have that we need to come out of hiding. We need to be seen. We need to be naked. God needs to see our wounds, our fears, our desires and our glory. More specifically, he needs us to see our wounds, our fears, our desires and our glory and to name them in front of him. To do that he needs to strip away all that we’ve used to cover ourselves up and hide our heart away. It’s often painful and frustrating. It’s as if we’ve been hiding in a forest and now every splinter is being pulled out.

It’s not just our wounds we like to keep hidden but our gifting too. We shy away from the glory that God has given us but, by doing so, we keep God’s glory hidden also. Jesus wasn’t afraid of being brilliant but he did so to give glory to God, not to blow his own trumpet. The best athletes reveal the glory of their sport: Roger Federer and tennis, Simone Biles and gymnastics, Rory McIlroy and golf for example. In the same way as we let God shine in us and allow our gifts to emerge we reveal God’s glory. Think of the gifted musician whose beautiful playing makes us feel as if we’re entering heaven, or the preacher who expresses a truth in such a way that our heart soars, or an administrator who makes the complex become simple allowing others to shine as a result.

We die with Christ. We bring our pain and our wounds to the cross. We allow them to be seen. We also offer ourselves as people made in the image of God who reflect his glory when we allow his life to shine through us. Let’s give the Spirit permission to fill us so that the life of God and the glory of God is seen in and through us. Let’s come out of hiding. Let’s get rid of our hiding places and exchange them for the truly safe place of living in God’s love.

Grace and peace everyone.

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Why I Need Courage

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Well, here I am sitting in a different office at a different desk, having finished up as a Pastor 2 weeks ago, with a new job title of Director of Brand New Heart Ministries. The title sounds good but it gives the impression of something tangible existing. In reality nothing much exists yet. The Charitable Trust has yet to be formed. There are no retreats booked in, no Spiritual Direction clients, no job description, little money and a book that just a few people own. There is an idea, a dream, a vision, a conviction and a lot of space for God to lead this thing where he wants it to go. Now it’s a case of seeking, listening and obeying. It’s exciting, scary and kind of fun!

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However, there is also doubt, fear and indecision. There is second guessing myself and, by extension, the call of God that came upon me. Some of that is the devil snapping at my heels. Some of it is the unfinished places within me that still need to mature, heal and bear fruit. Some of it is the mucky reality of letting go of what was in order to embrace what is and will be. You can’t embrace when you’re still holding on to something else, even if it’s only by your pinky. There is the natural fear of doing something that you’ve never done before. There is the material reality of not having regular income that gnaws away at you. The older you get the more awareness you have of consequences to actions. Fearlessness is harder to come by. Courage comes and then it goes.

The good and hard news is that this ministry can only work if God is at work in it. I can’t do it through my own giftedness, charisma, personality or skill. There isn’t enough of those things, and so I must pray. I must surrender. I must keep handing my life, my ministry, my desires over to God. I must die with Christ and learn to keep rising with him. But I also need to work. There are things to do, people to contact, structures to establish and so on. Doing those practical tasks from a surrendered, prayerful place is the challenge and the invitation.

So I could give you a salesman’s pitch on why you should buy the Coming Home book. I could try and persuade you to send a cheque to this address. Rather, I would have you pray for my heart and yours; that we would be surrendered, obedient and brave. The world needs us to have the courage of Christ. May it be so. Amen.

P.S For more on the Coming Home book, please click the link below.

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Pulled Up and Pushed Along

Hi everyone. Rob here.

At the moment the weather is acting as a great metaphor for my life. It’s sunny one moment and is then followed by a wind gust of gale proportions and a downpour. It’s warm and lovely while I walk through a series of puddles. I have no problem with change but the process of changing and the reality of transition is messing with my head. The call to change remains strong but the gusts of opposition make it hard to keep moving. If I was on my own in the change, it would be almost impossible, but I’m not on my own. There are enough allies on the journey, that partner with Jesus in pulling me up and pushing me along. Praise God for that!

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There’s David, who has put the hard work in to get our book over the line (details really, really soon). When you’re self-publishing there’s a lot of detail, like formatting, that you have to do yourself. David has done this and it’s helped me up and helped me along. My friends Tony and Chris have agreed to partner with me in the new Trust that will administer the new venture (see last post for more on this). There’s the elderly lady who offered a small amount monthly, the ministry that has offered their facilities and others who have offered general encouragement. There’s Kiley and the kids who have kept affirming the call even though it has the potential to really mess our lives up. There are friends who have listened and given good advice.

In short, the message has been affirmed to me over and over that we need each other. Roles change, circumstances change, lives change, but all the time, we need each other. I would be very stuck right now if it wasn’t for the support I’ve received. The difficulty of the transition from pastoring to starting a new ministry would have been overwhelming. I’m not an entrepreneur or a self-starting man. I’m not a type-A individual or the type of guy that ‘makes things happen.’ I need help. I’ve never done this before and it’s a bit scary.

If I’m not vulnerable enough to admit that it’s scary and that I need help, then it makes me unable to receive help when it’s offered. It makes me proud and operating outside God’s plan for the body of Christ. As Paul said, the parts of the body need each other. they aren’t independent entities. Christ gives us all meaning and purpose but it’s interconnected and mutually dependent.

We need each other and every small act of connection helps to build trust between each other. By reading this blog and engaging with it you contribute to this ministry. Thank you. Christ is our head and he gets the glory, but he’s chosen to use the whole body, even the humble parts to see his will done on earth. We get to be a part of it and that part matters. It’s connected to the whole; the Kingdom of God.

May God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Shalom.

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A New Calling

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Regular readers will note that it’s been a while between posts! I apologise for that, but the last several weeks have seen a big change in my life. A month ago I handed in my resignation as pastor of my church, Hillcrest Chapel, in Hamilton, New Zealand. I have served as pastor for 12.5 years, been on staff for a further 3 years and been part of the church for 25 years. It was a big call, but it was because I had received a new call. bridge-19513_960_720

Well, not that new really. For several years the desire to write, run retreats and serve God’s kingdom in new and creative ways had been bubbling away in me. The problem was that I was struggling to do all of that, while also doing what needed to be done as pastor. The church didn’t seem to be the forum for me to fulfil those other desires at this time. And that’s fine.

So, instead of having me battle on, God called me out. He reminded me that he had put those desires in my heart. He showed me that there are hearts lost in the wilderness of self-centredness and in the fog of self-preservation that need rescuing. It’s time to step outside of one church so that I can serve many churches, and the kingdom of God as a whole. The time is now, God said. As I said yes, I felt God’s excitement for what’s ahead and his pleasure in my agreeing to his will.

Soon, a book called Coming Home will be available on Kindle and as a paperback. It’s a book that David and I have written on the story of the two sons in Luke 15:11-32. They represent the wilderness and the fog; rebellion and self-preservation; true identity and false identity, but both remain objects of the father’s unconditional love. So, under the banner of Brand New Heart Ministries, I will be offering retreats and workshops based on the book, Wild at Heart BASIC retreats, spiritual direction and coaching for men, guest speaking and more. It feels scary! That’s good. It means I’ll be praying.

Change like this involves loss as well as opportunity, grief as well as hope, uncertainty to go with faith. I ask for your prayers. I still have a couple of months until I finish at church. May I finish well. We’ll keep you informed about the book and ongoing developments.

Grace and peace to you.

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Endless Possibilities

Hi everyone. Rob here.

A preacher’s phrase caught my attention the other day; “the endless possibilities in God.” He was talking about God defeating every empire, setting hearts free, transforming lives, defeating death and the power of the Holy Spirit. He was waking us up and shaking us out of the stupor of our lives and the easy agreements we make with hopelessness. He was pointing us to the fact that resurrection from the dead is the kind of business that God deals in and that Jesus our Rescuer came to reveal to all of us. God is not done with us. This is not it, in this life or the next. God is growing us, shaping us, transforming us and enlivening us right now so that we are fit for Kingdom of God purposes. And yet, I and we, are so slow to believe aren’t we? The everyday existence that passes itself off as reality is very effective at dulling our senses and our hope. Accompanied by the devil himself, the power of a godless world and our own fallen flesh, our lives can blind us to the glorious hope and resurrection power of the God of the Universe. This blindness can be fatal if we keep making agreements with it, or never wake up to it. We are made for life and we must never, ever forget it.

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Resurrection is true reality. Not only is it our eternal destiny, but it’s also our everyday power. This power has worked in me in recent weeks and is effecting a change that isn’t obvious on the outside but clear on the inside. It’s been a slow, but sure return of hope. It’s been a renewed conviction that God is truly in charge of things and is working all things together for the good of his people. It’s been a fresh grounding in the unconditional love of God. Most of all it’s been a deep reminder of the old and wise adage, “one day at a time.” God is life for today and that is enough.

It’s easy to look at the trials and the things that are hard. They are obvious. I and you face them every day. Not every one will like or love us. Not every idea will work. Not every opinion we hold will be agreed with. We will be misinterpreted and misunderstood. But, for today, I base my life on the reality of resurrection. I base it on the fact that after death, there is life; after pain, there is healing and after division, there is reconciliation. If not in this life, then the life to come.

It doesn’t always feel like an easy choice to make. Moaning and complaining is always easier. Bringing your complaints to the cross is harder. And resurrection begins at the cross. There’s no new life without dying to the old life. If you’re desiring the new, we always need to ask, “what is the old that I need to take to the cross?” I can’t make other people do that, but I can do that for myself.

May the Spirit lead us through the cross into resurrection life. May we know that for today, we have life. May we die to the old and come alive to the new that God has for us and may we know, deep in our bones, that in God there are endless possibilities.

Grace and peace everyone.

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The Purifying Challenge

Kia ora everyone. Rob here.

This has been a year where much of what I do, why I do it and how I do it has been challenged. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long to truly welcome that challenge. At one point Paul writes that what “counts is the new creation.” We’re all being made new, but being made new is far from comfortable. It’s upsetting, disturbing, stressful and demanding. Think of what it takes to turn a lump of clay into a glazed pot with kneading, shaping, spinning, heating and, finally, being made beautiful and presentable and useful. It feels like I’m experiencing many of these things all at once, but I’m now seeing more clearly that God always has the end in mind. There’s a saying I heard at Wild at Heart Bootcamp that goes, “every man wants to be the knight but no one wants to bleed.” If we want the outcome of being made whole and holy, we need to learn to bleed. We need to welcome the purifying process.

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We all want to be popular, liked, and even adored. It’s good for the ego and that’s the problem. An ego that’s full of self is not filled with Christ. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve been running around with a big head and an inflated sense of self, but I am saying that I’ve liked being liked, and if that’s been in the way of Christ ruling my life, I want it to die. I think, in our most honest moments, we could add many other things that get in the way of Christ ruling our lives. Money and comfort; safety and security; fear and trepidation; status and reputation; even family and friends, can stop us from wholehearted surrender to Jesus Christ and his call to follow him. Let’s face it the most vibrant churches, the most missional churches, are in the places where there is poverty, persecution and oppression. These are places where faith is the only thing left and it seems to be enough. The purifying process is ultimately good for our faith which is why we need to welcome it.

We may suffer, lose our jobs, be bullied or abused, harassed and mocked, but Jesus still asks us to follow him. Faith means that when hard times come we run to Christ and not away from him. Part of our growing up is to learn dependence on the Holy Spirit, and nothing teaches that more than when our security blankets and ego soothers are taken away. Jesus is always our friend, the Spirit is always the one who comforts and the Father is always ready to embrace his children. Sometimes we look to other things to provide what God wants to provide for us. They never can. We’re made for God, but so often we need tough reminders of that.

Casting Crowns sing in their song, “Just be Held,

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.

I love that line. It reminds me that what I may write off as assault or hardship, is God training me, shaping me and moulding me for a much better future. Sometimes that shaping is done through assault, hardship or setbacks, but sometimes it’s simply me not getting my way because God knows it’s not good for me. May your training go well this week and may you come out stronger, more faith-full, and purer for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Grace and peace

 

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