To live in the beautiful Manning Valley over the past months has been to live in a community rocked by devastation. The fires have brought loss of life, homes, livelihood and unfortunately a great loss of hope. But these fires were really just the tip of the iceberg – the climax of a far greater problem – this beautiful and once luscious valley is bone dry.
This year, rainy days were so few and far between that my two year old virtually forgot what rain was. And the little rain that did fall from the sky was never enough to soften the dry and cracking ground, bring the grass back to life, feed stock, fill the water tanks, fill the dams, nor fight fires – and the resulting devastation was the outcome.
How should we respond as people of faith? Is there hope? Should we too be rocked to despair in the face of seemingly overwhelming physical, emotional and environmental challenges?
Our thirst for renewing and lifegiving rain has reminded me many times of the powerful words Jesus said to a woman who came out in the heat of the day to collect water. In an interaction that broke all social and cultural boundaries, Jesus revealed himself as the one who would freely give living water to anyone who asked – water he claimed could well up to eternal life.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
As I collected burnt and blackened leaves on my lawn, which had blown in from the fire front, I thought of how well they symbolise the assault on hope. Blackened leaves have no hope of life, no hope of restoration – even if the heavens opened up and showered them with rain.
But what if they were touched by living water? What if they were touched by the hand of God?
While bleakness may feel like the situation in our valley and in our world, especially in the face of fires and drought, we have hope. We have hope that all things can be redeemed and restored. On a small scale this is seen when people lay down their lives for the safety of others or sit in the ashes of another’s pain.
Thanks for looking after what is most precious.
But we also have hope of restoration that is on a much grander scale. There is hope among the ashes because Jesus promised to bring restoration to the whole world, including his creation, and he has gone before us to show us that death, darkness and fire does not have the last say. The one who was once dead and nailed to the cross, became alive!
This Christmas we are in a state of emergency and as I write, a fire front is quickly approaching the place Zenos Media calls home (the beautiful Blue Mountains) and is currently burning in Lithgow, the place I will call home at the end of January. The fires seem inescapable.
The news that “the saviour has come” is a 2000 year old message, but it is a message we all need to hear this Christmas. No matter what lies before us, no matter how black the landscape, we have a God who gives life – living water in fact – through his Son and it does well up beyond the grave. We therefore have hope that he can bring beauty out of ashes and that he will make all things new again!
By Jenny Hanslow
The sun streamed through the door of my office, casting shadows across my desk and with a burst of spontaneous creativity I took the opportunity to draw and reflect on what I had been reading in the book of 1 John.
1 John is so rich with teaching on the nature of God, the identity and saving work of Jesus, the reality of sin and both who we are as God’s children and who we are to be. And it contains some immensely powerful verses that naturally lead those of us who are visually inclined to imagine. Verses like…
1 John 1:5 – God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 5:19 – We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
1 John 4:15-16 – If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.
So as I gazed out of my door, squinting into the sunlight, some of these ideas powerfully came together for me. This is my self-portrait and accompanying blurb in reflection on 1 John:
Isn’t the world a messed up place? Globally, locally and even when I look in the mirror? So often, it’s the imperfections, the shadows that catch our attention and in fact hold us captive. That is unless you are looking at the light. And I don’t mean the sun or the stars or the angels or a light – I mean the one who is light. Get a glimpse of his glory and your world is forever changed. Bathe in his light and darkness fades. Believe in his truth and hope is certain. You may see a woman caged in shadows – but I, the woman, see a God in whom all shadows are destroyed.
By Jenny Hanslow
1 John is the focus of the “The Creative Space” this month for young people (ages 13-25). If you are young and creative, check out the following link for ideas on how you can read God’s word in creative ways. We would love to see what you have created in reflection on the book of 1 John. https://www.zenosmedia.com/thecreativespace/
If you art interested in having a speaker come to your church or youth group to run a workshop on the use of visual arts in personal devotions, stay tuned for the details in our ‘Art in August’ campaign.
All Scriptures taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
So the journey begins! It is with great excitement that we open our website for contributions and for a sneak preview of our own sample resources. We want to thank everyone who took part in our survey over a year ago. Your feedback helped to shape the direction of the site and will help guide our resource production in the future.
Open for contributions
What does this mean? It means we are ready to accept contributions from you! We would love to have a resource where those in ministry could search any chapter of the Bible and have a range of resources appear. From videos, to Bible studies, artworks, photos, poems, music…your creativity is the limit. But we need your help! If you are a Christian artist, photographer, musician, designer, cartoonist, or writer or if you have made some great resources yourself, consider sharing or selling your work through our website!
Things to check out
Browse our website and check out our sample kids memory verse videos, our scripted version of the NIV Bible, our Easter video and resources, our Bible based photos and our evangelism course written by Dave Jensen, ‘Evangelism: The mission of your life.‘