“Often hell is portrayed as a place of punishment and heaven as a place of reward. But this concept easily leads us to think about God as either a policeman, who tries to catch us when we make a mistake and send us to prison when our mistakes become too big, or a Santa Claus, who counts up all our good deeds and puts a reward in our stocking at the end of the year.
God, however, is neither a policeman nor a Santa Claus. God does not send us to heaven or hell depending on how often we obey or disobey. God is love and only love. In God there is no hatred, desire for revenge, or pleasure in seeing us punished. God wants to forgive, heal, restore, show us endless mercy, and see us come home. But just as the father of the prodigal son let his son make his own decision, God gives us the freedom to move away from God’s love even at the risk of destroying ourselves. Hell is not God’s choice. It is ours.” Henri Nouwen
I realize the concept Nouwen proposes may be radical to some. Yet the older I have become, the more my relationship with God through His Son is based on love and forgiveness, praying for enemies rather than hating them. I hold the promise the Lord gave to Israel long ago through the prophet, Jeremiah:
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:33,34
Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
They will enter Jerusalem singing,
crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
“Practice an extended period of private prayer, reflection, and meditation, pondering, percolating—whatever you want to call it. But do something everyday on a regular basis to engage in a conscious dialogue with your inner self and God. If every waking moment is filled with input and stimulation, your soul’s voice is being drowned out. You’ll eventually b begin to experience spiritual numbness, a blasé feeling…
Ohope calls itself the “sunshine capital of New Zealand.” Frankly, I would call it the “sunrise/sunset” capital. The Bay of Plenty was named by Captain Cook in the 1770’s after he found abundant provisions to replenish his ships along this coastline.
Since it faces northwards, Ohope Beach benefits from both sunrises and sunsets. As you can see, the colors glow magnificently. At sunrise, the mountains of the East Cape of the Bay of Plenty are often blanketed with clouds. This cloud cover creates a mystique to the land behind these mountains. Beautiful coves and beaches lie beyond the East Cape. It was the filming site for the excellent New Zealand movies, “Whale Rider” and “Boy.”
You are robed with honor and majesty.
You are dressed in a robe of light.
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds.
For Good Friday
let all stand still
Sun and moon
Let the ground
gape in stunned
Let it weep
as it receives
what it thinks
it will not
Let it groan
as it gathers
who was thought
During this Easter week, it is good to remember and reflect upon the incredible unfailing love God shows us despite the evil and chaos that never seems to end. Indeed, we have sound reason NOT to let our hearts be troubled!
“When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer you consolation and comfort.” Henri Nouwen
One of the great joys of visiting family in Ohope is watching the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, the ever changing morning and evening light. Ohope Beach lies on the eastern end of the Bay of Plenty, an eighty mile curve of sea three hours southeast of Auckland. Because of its north-south location, this ocean expanse, unlike the Oregon coast, receives both sunrises and sunsets. The light is unique. Enjoy these pictures.
Full moon setting at sunrise, Ohope Beach
O God, you love us like a good parent, and are present in every aspect of our existence. May your nature become known and respected by all. May your joy, peace, wholeness and justice be the reality for everyone as we live by the Jesus Way. Give us all that we really need to live every day for you. And forgive us our failures as we forgive others for their failures. Keep us from doing those things which are not of you, and cause us always to be centered on your love. For you are the true reality in this our now, and in all our future. In the Jesus Way we pray. Amen. (David Sorril)