White Stones

Greetings everyone. Rob here.

We’ve been looking into the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation at church lately. These letters were the words of Christ himself, dictated to John on the island-prison of Patmos. They are a mix of compliment and rebuke; encouragement and call to repentance. I love the end of the letters when Christ, risen and glorious, speaks of the reward to those who follow him. These words are spoken to churches facing intense persecution, especially as Rome started to insist that she and her emperor must be worshipped too. What most of these churches knew was that if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not. This conflict of worldview was particularly obvious in Pergamum where the Imperial Cult had erected a temple in honour of itself. In 2:17 Christ says this to the church in Pergamum:

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

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Christ has food for you and he has a name for you. Many of Pergamum’s buildings were made of black stone and so the plaques or inscriptions were often made out of white marble as a contrast. At dinner parties you were also often given a stone with your name on it. God gives a white stone with a new name written on it. White stone carries the meaning of indestructible luminescence. Durable and then some. A new name that lasts for all of eternity. I wonder what name Christ has for you. Abram became Abraham, Simon became Peter, Saul became Paul. John and James became sons of thunder. What name does Christ have for you? You can ask him you know?

But in order to receive your new name you need to lay down the old one. What names have you been carrying that don’t belong to you? Loser, hopeless, junkie, nerd, sick, broken. Are you just a number like Jean Valjean in Les Miserables? His story was transformed when the bishop gave him a new name – my brother. What do you need to lay down in exchange for the white stone with your eternal name? You are a brother or sister to Christ himself; a son or a daughter of the true Father; a living temple of the Holy Spirit. You have a name. Ask God. Take refuge in his love for you and may that love lead you to a life of beauty, of purity, of courage and valour, of durability and strength, for ever and ever Amen.

Shalom

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Majesty

Greetings everyone. Rob here.

I hope that you’ve been enjoying David’s photo’s and quotes. They remind us that God’s creation speaks profoundly to us of his heart and his character. Our family recently returned from an epic 4 week trip around New Zealand’s majestic South Island. While I spent my childhood there, growing up under the shadow of the Southern Alps and the beauty of the glacier formed lakes, it was a new experience for my children, Mr 12 and Miss 10. Their reaction as we encountered the stunning turquoise of Lake Tekapo was one of wonder and delight. As it should be! What does it say about our God that he creates such soul-piercing beauty? What does it say about us when we’re so distracted or hard-hearted that we fail to appreciate such glory?

What we fail to appreciate is that such beauty is the natural order of things. It is what we were made to experience. It affects the soul because it echoes the eternity set in our hearts. We are not made for dreary concrete landscapes or polluted air or damaged soil where nothing grows. We are made for beauty and we are constantly invited into it. However, we can’t all live by the mountains or the ocean or glorious lakes. We can, though, all ask God to open the eyes of our heart so we can see the beauty all around us.

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It was definitely hard to return to Hamilton’s fairly flat landscape, its muddy lakes and its stifling heat. We have had to escape to the beach more than once! But the trees are lovely, our parks are pleasant and a mighty river runs through us. The landscape is gentle, subtle and the beach isn’t that far away! I have needed to remind myself of this: The beauty enters when we take the time to gaze.

In the South Island you would gaze at epic vistas. In Hamilton it pays to gaze at the particular; the old and grand Eucalyptus tree in the local park, the way the suns hits a particular spot on the river, the juicy tastiness of the Louisa plums from our tree. By focusing on the particular it reminds you God shapes things, how he’s in the detail and how intimately he dwells with his creation. He is with us even more intimately, asking us to pay attention to him and see his work and presence in our lives. We need to look beyond the beauty to the source of it all. God creates beauty because God is beautiful.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. he has planted eternity in the human heart… (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

He is the God of the mountains and the God of the wildflower. He is the God of great majesty and the God who gives breath to the tiniest of creatures. He is the God of every human life and the God of this particular moment. He is beautiful. May we gaze on him and may our hearts be filled with wonder, worship and gratefulness.

Grace and peace.

 

 

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Nature

IMG_2374Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.
William Wordsworth

 

 

 

 

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Calling

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The mountains are calling and I must go.
– John Muir

 

 

 

 

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Forever

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There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
– Saint Paul

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Path

Hi everyone, David here.

Well it’s 2019 and a brand new year full of opportunities.  Here at Brand New Heart Ministries we’re still taking a break.  Rob is on his sabbatical and I’m still on holiday for four more days and trying my best to make them drag out as long as possible!

This year we’ll be adding some new photographic content with a very short reflection to our blog, along with Rob’s weekly insights.  Some say a picture paints a thousand words so we’ll be keeping the reflection to a short quote or thought.

We invite you to stop, pause and reflect on the images and see where it takes you. Perhaps it may transport you back in time to a memory or into the future to a new hope and dream.  We would love to hear your thoughts on how these images speak to you.

Grace and peace as you venture into 2019!

Path

Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.
~ Theodore Roethke

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Photograph © Eyestosee.nz  Used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

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Changing My Mind

Greetings everyone. Rob here.

I’m about to head into a time of sabbatical for which I’m very grateful. It’s God’s perfect timing. For me, that means no sermons, no blogs and no social media. It’s an invitation to simplify and shrink my world; to be present in the here and now. That is actually a challenge for me. I like to think big, think ahead and think generally. I realised the other day that thinking is kind of a hobby for me. Over the years God has been working on me to think less and trust more. Kiley and I were praying the other day about an issue at church and out of her mouth came this gem:

Help him to see that he can’t think his way through this.

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Oh my goodness. Talk about being exposed. That prayer was so true and so needed. God is sorting out the issue and I need to trust him. He is sorting out my own heart and I need to trust him. He is leading me on my sabbatical and I need to trust him. The difficulty comes because I’m good at thinking and we all need to think. Most people need to think more I suggest. But when I’m trusting my own thinking over and above God’s thinking then I’m committing a form of idolatry. I’m reminded of Romans 12:2.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The transformed mind is one that’s acutely attuned to the will of God, which is good, pleasing and perfect. That means a transformed mind is a surrendered mind. As Paul says in the previous verse:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.

If God is to renew my mind, fill my mind with his thoughts, then I need to surrender my mind to him. Now, I’ve tried to do this over the years as I mentioned, but clearly God wants to shift some of my default settings. It gets me to thinking that God wants my sabbatical to be more like a backpacking trip than a holiday on a cruise ship. Every day I need to pack lightly, be open to new adventures and trust my guide. I need to let God shape my time and not try to dictate terms. It’s about walking with him far more than it’s about achieving anything. That’s when true restoration comes. Restoration comes from intimacy with God, not from trying to arrange for my own relief .

These are my final words for several weeks. May we all give our minds over so that we may have the mind of Christ. May his thoughts be our thoughts. May his Spirit fill our hearts and minds so that we may bear witness to his love. And may grace and peace be yours.

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