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.

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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

 

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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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