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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Losing Control

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Have you ever stopped to think about all the things that you’re not in control of? When you drive you can only control how you drive, but not how anyone else drives. You can control what you say and do, but not what anyone else thinks of you. You can control who you worship, but not who or what anyone else worships. In other words, most of your life is out of your control! Then you think about the fact that God, who is sovereign over all of life, is utterly free and beyond our control, and it leaves us with a decision to make. We can choose to defy the odds and try and bring life under our extremely limited control, or we can trust God with our lives and the lives of others.

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In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 the Apostle Paul writes:

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is unseen is eternal.

How do we fix our eyes on what is unseen? By having the eyes of our heart opened so we can see life from God’s point of view. This is the point where we don’t just say we have faith, but have to live out our faith by actually entrusting ourselves to God and his ways. That’s the hard bit. If you’re anything like me you might pray a prayer of surrender and then spend the rest of the day running through doomsday scenarios in your head. As the cliche goes, you have to let go AND let God, and that means getting your ego and need for control out of the way.

There is no easy way to do this. I have been facing uncertainty and an intense spiritual battle for a while now. There are good days and hard days, but I now know why scripture keeps emphasising perseverance and patience. You have to keep turning up, keep seeking God, keep opening his word, keep praying, keep resisting the enemy, keep meeting together, keep open, keep surrendering and keep humble and open to correction. Beyond what I can always see is God’s eternal work being done for me, in me and around me even though it’s never about me. Jesus Christ is building his church and, as the head, he will finish his good work. That is good news for all of us. We can trust him. We don’t need to control the outcomes and when we try, he will remind us that we don’t need to.

We can rest in him, even though it may seem like a hurricane is blowing all around us. In God’s eyes they are ‘light and momentary troubles.’ I long for that perspective to be a consistent quality in my life. I’m not there yet. But God is in control of that outcome and I choose today to trust him for it.

Grace and peace.

 

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Wild at Heart

Greetings, David here.

Over the past eight weeks myself and 15 men have been on a journey into Wild at Heart BASIC.

So what is Wild at Heart?

Wild at Heart BASIC is Wild at Heart Boot Camp led by John Eldredge and his team through video sessions.

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A man needs a deeper desire and understanding of why God him the way he is.

What if? What if those deep desires in our hearts are telling us the truth, revealing to us the lives we were meant to live? God gave us eyes so that we might see; he gave us ears that we might hear; he gave us wills that we might choose; and he gave us hearts that we might live. The way we handle the heart is everything. A man must know his strength; he must know he has what it takes.

This retreat was not about the “seven things a man ought to do to be a nicer guy.” It was a quest into the recovery of a man’s masculine soul, the release of a man’s heart—his passions and his true nature—all given him by God. It was an invitation to rush the fields at Bannockburn, to go West. For if a man is going to know who he truly is as a man, if he is going to find a life worth living, he must get his heart back.

For over a decade, John Eldredge and his team have led more than 20,000 men through Wild at Heart Boot Camps, all around the globe, against a backdrop of beauty and adventure. They are expeditions of the heart, and the men who’ve attended are never the same.

God is up to something epic, and it’s much larger than John and his team. That’s why they created Wild at Heart BASIC.

We took the plunge with 10-15 men in our area to experience the transformational Wild at Heart message.

All the sessions were by video. We worked through the schedule over a number of Monday nights and finished well with a two day weekend retreat.

It was William Wallace who once said,

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

Built into the BASIC schedule are “covenants of silence” so we had dedicated time to hear from God, journal, and go deeper into the issues raised in the sessions. These times of silence were the centrepiece of retreat.

We also shared our stories at the end of the retreat – there were stories of recovery, redemption, and re connection. There were many confronting moments.

We grew closer together and have formed a common language and understanding of what it means to be a man fully alive.

While the retreat may be over, this is only the beginning.

 

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