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.

father-and-son-2258681_960_720

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.

Advertisements
Posted in awe, Christ, Christianity, faith, hope, kingdom of God, resurrection, Spirituality, the cross, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

longshan-black-pottery-819685_960_720

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

 

Posted in Christ, Christianity, faith, God, Spirituality, surrender, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

jump-1209647_960_720

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.

 

Posted in Christ, Christianity, faith, God, Spirituality, surrender, trust, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

WaH pic

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.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Humanity and the Cross

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23,

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified…

Have you stopped to think about just how scandalous that statement is??? In a highly status driven society Paul preaches that his Lord and ours, died the most humiliating way possible and that fact is the centre of our faith. Salvation is found in the cross. It is found in God, through Jesus, experiencing the absolute worst of what humans can do to each other. He, the Son of Man, the true human, was subjected to utter dehumanisation. This, for the sake of our humanity.

cross-671379_960_720

This is why the cross is a place for the arrogant and the shamed; the victim and the perpetrator; the sinful and the sinned against; because at the cross we cast off all that is coming against our humanity. Jesus takes all of the stuff that stops us from truly bearing the image and likeness of God. That’s also why we have to keep going back there. Every day we are subject to forces that seek to degrade our humanity. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy Jesus tells us in John 10:10 and it’s our humanity that he’s after. He doesn’t want us to bear God’s image. And so we come against hate, prejudice, resentment, unforgiveness, selfish anger, greed and injustice that our world seems to be filled with in increasing quantities, in the name of the cross of Jesus Christ. We die to those things there. Our humanity depends on it.

Paul continues:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:27-30).

These words were written to people who craved status but had none. Not many were of noble birth as Paul put it. Status in the world is a fool’s errand. It doesn’t take you to God and that’s all that counts. As Paul puts it in Romans 6:11, it’s dying to sin that leads to being alive to God in Christ Jesus. Jesus died a sub-human death that was designed to keep the slaves in line, and by doing so, he breaks the power of the powerful over us. Death by empire became the means for the coming of God’s kingdom. The empire’s tool of control unleashed the means of her demise. Paul again:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

This Easter, may the cross summon you to die to sin and come alive to God. May those of us who are both victim and perpetrator, sinner and sinned against, proud and shamed, find the restoration of our humanity at the feet of the truly human one who died for us. May his blood cleanse us and set us free and may the grace of God be with you.

Posted in Christ, Christianity, easter, humanity, Spirituality, the cross, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Standing with Jesus

Greetings. Rob here.

Friday saw the holding of a National Memorial for the 50 victims of the two mosque shootings in Christchurch 2 weeks ago. It has been a sobering time for a generally peaceful nation like ours. There has been a lot of love and sympathy poured out to the Muslim communities and they have responded with much grace and affection. It truly has been a time of coming together as citizens, as friends and as family. I was one of those who stood outside our local mosque last Friday in solidarity as our Muslim community gathered to pray and worship. I wasn’t there despite my Christian faith, but because of it. I was there because of Jesus.

eight_col_ponsonby_mosque.jpg.hashed.6e6ebdc3.desktop.story.inline

One of our favourite texts in the Christian faith is John 3:16-17:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

These verses tell us God’s heart towards his creation. It is a heart of love and a heart that desires restoration and reconciliation. God’s answer to the brokenness and sin of the world is Jesus. It is “to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14).” Jesus is God saying yes to humanity. But Jesus didn’t just identify with humanity as a whole. He made a very deliberate point of identifying with the powerless and the vulnerable. He was born among the animals, baptised with the sinners, walked with the poor, ministered to the outcasts and died between two thieves. He even lived in Galilee, an outcast province on the edge of the empire. There is no greater symbol of powerlessness than the cross. Crucifixion was the ultimate statement of Rome’s power, but Paul says that Christ…

having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15).

The symbol of humiliation is actually a symbol of victory. Why? One reason is that it shows us that the ones with the guns are not the powerful ones. God identifies with the suffering ones, the tortured and abused, the victim and the voiceless, the powerless and the poor. The victims of the mosque shooting may not be able to name Christ as Lord, but he stands with them in their suffering anyway. So on Friday at the mosque I stood with Jesus, along with many others.

It’s not easy to stand with victims because victims carry much pain and hurt. It’s uncomfortable. It challenges and exposes me. I need a lot of practice to learn how to stand with Jesus in that pain. It’s his pain. He knows it, bears it, redeems it and heals it. The cross is also the place where the terrorist who inflicted this pain needs to go. Only the cross has the capacity to take his sin and bring him mercy. The cross will reveal the weight of his sin to him, but it is also the only place where the weight of grace can surpass that sin.

My prayer is that our hurting nation will discover cross of Christ and the forgiveness, mercy and healing that dwells there. Our common ground is that we’re all in desperate need of the cross even if many can’t name that need. It is as people made in God’s image, but who all carry it in a flawed way, that we find our common ground.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things,  whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).

Salaam

 

Posted in Christ, evil, faith, Spirituality, the cross, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

pebble-111889_960_720

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

Posted in Christ, faith, God, kingdom of God, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment