An Intimate Life

Hi everyone. Rob here.

I wonder what the word intimacy does to your heart? It’s a beautiful word but it’s also a truly frightening word. While it speaks of love and closeness and beauty, it also speaks of vulnerability and fragility and even pain. God longs for us to have intimate friendship with him, but in our fallen state intimacy does not come naturally or easily to most of us. It has to be learned and it has to be learned with people if we are ever to learn it with God.

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Intimacy always involves risk because it involves being known at the deepest level. That means you need to make yourself known at the deepest level. The problem is that we can easily get trained out of this at a young age. If home isn’t a safe and secure place where stories of all kinds can be shared and where parents don’t model vulnerability and openness, it can be a long road back. If you add to that trauma from abuse or divorce or anger, then the road gets even longer.

This is an area that seems particularly hard for men. We seem to be more encouraged to achieve than express a life of the heart. As boys we try and look as tough and hard as the men around us. They don’t cry so we don’t. They don’t show weakness so we don’t. They don’t show affection so we don’t. This can become toxic to the extreme if we are surrounded by angry, violent men or addicts, but passive men can be just as dangerous. Men who choose the path of least resistance also fail to model intimacy as they have nothing to make known.

So, how is your life of intimacy going? Do you have people you can be vulnerable with and they to you? Are you someone who shows affection to people you love? Do you feel that others know your heart? Do you believe that God knows, cares for and loves your heart? Are you able to express your heart to God and the people you love?

I have grown a lot in this area and still have much growing to do. For me it involved an intentional journey into the life of my heart. I had to learn my story all over again from the perspective of my heart. What strengthened my heart? Where did I lose heart? What are the desires that God has placed in my heart? Where and when did my heart get wounded? What agreements have I made about my life, my worth and my purpose? Do I believe that my heart is good?

The reason I believe the journey of the heart is vital is love. How can we receive love; God’s love, our children’s love, a lover’s love, if our hearts are dead, inert, lifeless? How can we give love if we have no life of the heart? God is love and he has made his home in our hearts. If there’s no life of the heart the door to God is locked.

We can become students of the heart and people with the capacity to live an intimate life. The walls can be broken down and the gates unlocked. The wounded places can be healed and the agreements can be broken. We can know God and be known by him. We can love others and be loved by them.

May the journey be filled with God’s riches and travelling mercies be yours.

 

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In The Shallows

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Sometimes you need to take a moment and take stock of where you are and the direction you’re heading in. Yesterday I returned to the spot by the Waikato River where I received the call to leave my job as a Pastor and commit myself to Brand New Heart Ministries. That was approximately 6 months ago and, to be honest, I hoped things would be a bit further ahead than they now seem. In fact, while I still trusted the call, I was starting to feel like I’d missed some instructions and was on a wrong track somewhere. Life just didn’t seem to be working! But then, God and his kindness stepped in.

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You see last year was hard, really hard. I took some very hard knocks before God called me out and into something new. I thought I was over it and had healing. What I had was clarity and perspective, but that is not healing. I had forgiven those I felt hurt by, but that is not healing either. Healing, it turns out, is when you are able to swim freely in the deep waters of the river of life. It is when there is a complete surrender to the will of God because you have so immersed yourself in the love of God. What most of us have at any given time is partial healing. God brings healing to us, absolutely! But our character needs to be shaped. He wants to make us whole and holy. For that to happen we need to journey through the suffering and the wounds that this world and the spiritual battle inflict on us. We need to learn how to walk with God in the hard times so that we can build up enough resilience to go back and help others find their way also. In Henri Nouwen’s beautiful phrase, God needs us to be Wounded Healers.

So I had to admit that I was still wounded. My desire is to bring God’s life and healing to as many as I can but, for now, my capacity for that is limited. My heart isn’t ready. It’s getting there but I now trust God with the timing of everything. He’s been telling me not to strive for weeks and now I know why. You don’t run a marathon a month after a heart attack. You build your capacity up slowly. I need to do the same. I am in the River of Life but I’m walking in the shallows, where the current is weaker and less strength is required. I won’t stay there. We’re made for the deep waters. But there’s life and healing in the shallows for a time. Ok God. Meet me there.

How about you? Do you tend to run before you can walk? Leap off tall buildings without knowing how to fly? Or are you the opposite? Do you stand on the edge of the diving board and let fear paralyse you? Do you play in the shallows but fear the deep waters? Do you believe that God can’t trust you when the going gets hard? Ask him to show you the wounds that are holding you back. Maybe you’ve made an agreement that life isn’t working or that God is against you? Renounce it, accept the wounds but also go to the cross where the true Wounded Healer waits for you.

No matter what our stage of life is, we are Wounded Healers in the name of Jesus. Our wounds mean we need to lean on Jesus and follow his lead. He will bring us healing, one step at a time so that our hearts can receive what he gives. Give yourself over to him and the River of Life will flow in, through and around you. Healed and whole is his will for us. We just need to give him permission to do it his way and in his time.

Grace and peace everyone.

 

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Persistent Surrender

Kia Ora everyone. Rob here.

I’ve been thinking about words like perseverance, persistence, patience and how they combine with other words like surrender, passion, calling and even, pain. I’m in an in-between time. I have started a new ministry but not many people know about it. The book is out but not many are buying it. A course is set up but no one’s signed up yet. Don’t worry; I’m not whining! It’s just the reality of transitions and new beginnings. All of the above words apply to me right now but this particular combination really matters: Persistent Surrender.

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The reality of our fallen condition is that we have a desire to run our own ship, but it’s not our deepest desire. Our deepest desire is living in union with God but a legacy of The Fall is that we now also desire autonomy. We want things to be done our way, to happen at the pace we choose and to be comfortable in the process. However, because our deepest desire is for union with God we are still not satisfied even when we get our own way. We need to choose what’s best for us and that is a life of giving ourselves over to God again and again and again. Persistent Surrender is the path to life.

Many of us have a practice of surrendering to God and his will daily, especially in the mornings. It’s a good practice and habit to get into, but it’s not enough. Our tendency towards autonomy is so strong that we need to practice regular pauses during the day where we take a minute, breathe and we give everyone and everything over to God, including ourselves. Jesus is our life and Jesus wants our life so that we can have Jesus’ life flowing in and through us. It is the life we’re meant for, but we can’t have that life or live that life if we’re not surrendered.

Jesus, I give everyone and everything over to you.

If you need help then get the one-minute pause app designed by Ransomed Heart. I find being outside helps me. Pop into the bathroom if you have to. Just do it. It is vital that we remember who we are and who we belong to. Christ is our life and our lifeline. Don’t let anyone or anything else steal our identity – children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, a Spirit-led people.

This identity means that I am not defined by how many books I sell or how many attend my courses. It sets me free to rebuke the enemy who wants to dissuade me from this ministry. It centres me in truth and invites me into union with God – the very thing my heart is made for. But it achieves that for now, not for later. Fresh surrender will be needed then and later.

The good news is that the Holy Spirit will help us, prompt us and cajole us into this persistent surrender. He’ll show me my warning signs – irritability, impatience, deep sighing! – and invite me to take a minute, breathe in and out,

Jesus, I give everyone and everything over to you.

Grace and peace.

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No Other Life

Hi everyone. Rob here.

I’ve been reading in Isaiah recently and I love these verses from chapter 55:

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.

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This is the week when the pace of life starts to heat up. School starts back, churches get their programmes running, traffic increases and workplaces get real busy as they try and keep running in this cut-throat world. Advertisers will compete hard for our attention and our dollars. There will be an increasing number of decisions we have to make and we will feel an urgency about them. It will be easy to make an agreement that there’s no time – for quiet times, for prayer, for sitting and listening to someone, for appreciating a sunset, for good music or anything else that helps your heart connect with the God who is your life.

I use that last phrase deliberately because if we forget that God is our life then it becomes easy to try and live life without God. That would be a tragedy because our hearts aren’t made for any other kind of life. Nothing can substitute for knowing God as your life. Nothing else can be your life and nothing else can bring you life. God is the source of life, the river of life and the fullness of life. Through Jesus that life is available to us. We know this but in the busyness of life our choices don’t often reflect that knowledge.

Often we choose noise over silence, checking out over checking in, relief over restoration, movement over stillness, entertainment over joy and striving over surrender. We choose our way over God’s way. We are told that God will provide for our needs. This includes our need for fun, for laughter, for relationships, for food, for connection and for meaning. If we look to other sources to provide those needs we will find that our needs are never quite met. That’s because they are needs of the heart and it’s God who knows our hearts.

Of course this is a sermon to self, a message for me. Lat night I thought a cold beer would bring me peace and joy. Um no! But praying for and blessing my son who starts High School today did. I’ve been craving chocolate but a healthier diet is really helping me. Beer and chocolate can be good gifts for the heart but they are not the source of life for my heart. That is God – The Father who embraces; the Son who rescues and the Spirit who fills. God has my yes and my life. May he fill my life and yours with his.

Grace and peace everyone

 

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Checking In with an Abundant God

Hi everyone. Rob here.

When I’m in one of those spaces where I’m struggling to trust God, I’m a bit anxious, a bit stressed and worried, I become an escape artist. I check out and struggle to engage with reality. The news becomes really interesting, every sports result matters, movies become attractive and so on. You may think that the antidote to this kind of passivity is to take charge, make life happen, get over it and get on with it and, to a certain extent, you’d be right. There is a need to face reality and take action. However, I find that if I move forward without giving myself over to God things don’t go so well. The anxiety and stress return and the desire to escape can become stronger and the escape routes unhealthier. God is my life and I don’t want to live life as if that isn’t true. I need a better way.

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My first step is to name what’s bugging me. This involves asking Jesus to expose my heart and show me what’s really going on. I assume that it’s an internal issue and not an external one. This is important. Many people rush to try and find an external solution. Sometimes that’s needed, but when I’m checking out I know that it’s the internal wiring that’s off. Recently I was asking Jesus what was going on and he showed me that I was struggling to trust God with our finances, my new ministry and the future generally. The enemy then tries to get in with messages of worthlessness and failure. This could get serious but I’ve diagnosed the bug at an early stage and now action can be taken. I renounce the distrust, rebuke the enemy’s lies, pray for help with my faith (“I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief” – Mark 9:24) and ask Jesus what he wants me to agree with. This last step has really been helping me, and challenging me.

He wants me to agree with his abundance. That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? The difficulty is that I’ve been cheap my whole life! I struggle to recognise and celebrate abundance. It all sounds a bit health-wealth and triumphalistic to me. But here’s the catch. He showed me that I’ve already lived a life of abundance. He reminded me about the overseas trips I’ve been able to take, the food on our table and in our freezer, the family holidays and so much more. There’s also the blessing of a home, a family and friends. Remember the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable of Luke 15? My older brother just got exposed. I need to hear the words of the father in the parable and my Father in heaven;

You are always with me and everything I have is yours (Luke 15:31).

The antidote to checking out isn’t to take charge; it’s to check in. It’s to check my heart in with the one who has made it new; Jesus. It’s to give him permission to name the real issue, to expose what’s under the hood and give it all back to him so he can put it to death on his cross. It’s to give myself afresh to him and agree with what Father, Son and Spirit are up to in my life, even if it stretches me, challenges me and upsets my categories. I agree with God’s abundance, his open heaven and the provision of his kingdom. I agree that I have already received his abundance. He defines abundance; not the world, not the church, not the televangelists. I just know that his abundance looks a lot like life in all its fullness.

Grace and peace.

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Let’s Be Wholehearted

Happy New Year everyone. Rob here.

The transition from holidays to work is always a difficult one, isn’t it? On holiday you slow down, you spend time in God’s glorious creation, you get away from commercialism and noise, you give your heart and mind time and space to connect with God. Well, I hope at least part of your holiday was like that. There’s always the reality of children’s needs, meals to prepare, packing up and packing down, travel and relatives! Work is often about other people’s agendas, busyness, making things happen, commercial realities and the heart barely get a look in if we’re not careful. Then we add in school and sport for the children, church commitments, community involvement and family needs and we see the heart and connection with God being left further behind. What can we do in 2020 to live a wholehearted life, connected to God in all aspects and areas of our existence?

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Here are some quick thoughts and tips that I think may help us.

  • Make time for silence. My wife is an early riser. Every day she enjoys silence as the sun rises. I’m a night owl. I enjoy silence at the other end of the day. Silence allows us to catch up with ourselves and bring that self to God. In silence thoughts, hopes, fears, worries and joys arise and we can offer them to Jesus and allow him to validate, correct, convict, encourage and love us as we do that. Do not fear the silence!
  • Download the Ransomed Heart App and the One-Minute Pause App. The RH app is great with podcasts, prayers and readings to encourage at any time during the day. The one-minute pause app they designed to help busy people take time out for God through the day. It is literally a led one-minute pause and very, very helpful.
  • Buy Coming Home, the book David and I wrote on the Prodigal Son story. I don’t just say this to get more sales but because I believe it will really be helpful to you. It’s short, cheap, readable and rich in helping you grasp your identity, your worth and your God.
  • Stay in Scripture. I have studied Scripture for much of my life. I encourage everyone to do it but study is not enough. We don’t master Scripture, Scripture has to master us. Spend time meditating over small portions. Gravitate to the Gospels. Get to know Jesus’ beautiful humanity, even as his life reveals God to us. The Word became flesh and all of life changed. Soak in Paul and his glorious reflections on our identity and hope. Please don’t put Scripture on a shelf.
  • Ask God to help you love. Trying to love in our own strength while being busy is a recipe for disaster. God is love so it would make sense to ask him to increase our capacity for love, our ability to love and our willingness to love.
  • Take time to be in his creation. Quite frankly for most New Zealanders this is easy. For some of you city dwellers stuck in a Northern hemisphere winter it’s harder. Do what you can but be intentional about it. Here we can take beauty for granted. May it never be so. May the eyes of our heart be opened so that God’s beauty can always pierce our souls.

That will do for now. May 2020 be a year where you dwell closely with God as he dwells closely with you. May you run into his arms even as he runs towards you. May you know Father, Son and Spirit as you share the life and love that exists among the Trinity. May Jesus be the older brother who trains you as a son and daughter, the friend who walks with you, the Saviour who rescues you, the King who reigns over you and the Lover who has your heart. May the Spirit dwell in you richly and give you life.

Grace and peace everyone.

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Let’s Say Yes

Christmas greetings everyone. Rob here.

As the year comes to an end, I wonder how you’re interpreting the year that’s been for you? My wife, Kiley and I, were doing this last night as we pondered all that has happened for us this year. We had no firm conclusions except that God has led us through. It’s been a year of upheaval and at times, turmoil. There has been a spiritual battle and earnest prayer. At the end of it all, a new ministry is being born and my trust in God is deeper than it has ever been.

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I can only imagine how Joseph and Mary felt when they looked back on the events that came upon them. There was the upheaval of a virgin becoming pregnant, angel visitations, a marriage, a journey from Galilee to Bethlehem and, ultimately, a birth. Then there were mysterious words as shepherds came telling them that angels had come and told them to visit The Saviour, the Messiah, The Lord, who just happened to be in a manger and wrapped in swaddling cloths. After that there was Simeon at the temple telling Mary that her baby will be a sign opposed and a sword will pierce her own soul. Matthew tells us that they then had to flee to Egypt in order to keep the baby safe from Herod’s evil. Now that was a year! How do you interpret that?

There’s a saying that God’s ways are not our ways. How true is that!? God seems to thrive in creating labour pains. The new comes out of suffering and upheaval. You have to agree to the new in the midst of that upheaval. I heard a comment today that God resources you after you have said yes to the new and left the old behind and not before. I can relate! God is patient in his preparation and asks us to join him in his patience. We tend to want answers to our questions and he just wants us to trust him. He wants our yes, and when we give it we discover that trust is the key to the kingdom.

As you look back on your year the big question is, ‘do you trust God more than ever?’ If so it’s been a successful year. If not you have an invitation to respond to. Mary said yes to the angel. Joseph said yes more than once. The shepherds said yes saying, ‘let us go now.’ Does God have your yes? We don’t know what the future holds. Mary couldn’t know that her yes would lead to a cross, a resurrection and a church. Your yes may be more important than you know. The important thing is that we give it.

2019 has been a storm and God was in the storm. After a storm the weather settles and there’s a sense of things starting afresh. The wind changes direction and it brings cleansing and refreshing. It’s time to set a new sail, turn the rudder and go where the wind of the Spirit takes us, trusting that our good God knows exactly where to take us.

Have a blessed Christmas. See you in 2020.

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