Reflections on NH2018 – the 30th New Horizon in Coleraine

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2: 15 – 16

By Ruth Garvey-Williams

Across the tent, people stood holding up the lights on their phones; over a thousand stars sparkling and shining in the darkness. Most of those standing in the crowd could not see the effect that they were creating. For some, it was simply the prelude to the offering. But Media Team photographer, Al Hamil perfectly captured the breath-taking scene. And as I look back at this year’s New Horizon, that beautiful image seems to represent something profoundly important.

One of the great privileges of being part of the New Horizon Media Team is to stand back and see the big picture of what God is doing among us. We can see the way God has woven together the contribution of each speaker into a rich tapestry that displays His glory, all the more clearly because of the diversity of colours and styles.

The soundtrack of this week has been a surging anthem of corporate praise, whispered prayers and the hum of a thousand conversations, punctuated with tears and laughter and the occasion squeal of greeting. And all the while the signature tune of God’s grace echoes through countless lives.

At times, we’ve been invited into the intimacy of people’s stories, hearing how they have been touched and transformed as they have encountered our Lord Jesus.

And we’ve lifted the curtain to glimpse hundreds who work and serve and care, often to the point of exhaustion and beyond, so that we can all experience and enjoy this week together.

To the praise of His Glory – Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The beauty and glory of God was revealed again and again as the main speakers took us on a whistle-stop tour through the scriptures – here’s just a taste!

Philip Yancey’s narrative style provided vivid illustrations of biblical truth.

From Seasons of the Soul -“I once asked a group of prostitutes, ‘Why did Jesus choose prostitutes?’ In broken English, one replied, ‘People look down on us. We are the low. Sometimes when you are the low, you cry for help.’ We don’t receive grace because we deserve it; it is God’s free gift. To receive it, you must open your hands.”

From Be still and know that I am God – “Prayer asks, ‘What is God doing and how can I be a part of it?’ It is not about what God can do for you but what you should be doing for God.”

Rikk Watts’ stretching and thought-provoking teaching on the Trinity gave us a daily steak dinner each morning!  (NB – be sure to read or listen to all five sessions in order to grasp the full picture).

Is belief in the Trinity essential? – “In our reading (John 20: 19 – 31), Thomas is the hero. What Thomas offers is the first truly Christian confession in the New Testament. He was the first one to get it right …when Thomas encounters the risen Jesus, you get this wonderful moment when he declares, ‘My LORD (Yahweh) and my God (Elohim).’”

A God like no other – “In the Exodus, God reveals Himself as Yahweh – the God of compassion. He has seen the suffering of His people and He has heard their cries. When God says, ‘I AM who I AM.’ He means, ‘Don’t guess!  I am not like other gods. Look, listen and learn because I am a God like no other.'”

The Spirit of God  – “One thing to note from the scriptures: The Spirit did not rest on everyone. Particular people were chosen and anointed for particular tasks.  But through the prophets, there is a hope and promise of the Spirit being poured out on the Messiah (Isaiah 61) and then on everyone (Joel 2).”

One LORD – Jesus Christ – “The God you see revealed in the Gospels is exactly the same God you read about in Israel’s scriptures. I don’t see anything in Jesus that I don’t already see in Yahweh. This is the God who stands on the rock, allows Himself to be struck and bleeds living water for His people. He is the God who shows compassion and mercy when His people deserve judgement and wrath.”

It is all about Him! – “Jesus goes on to say, ‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled.’ Why? Because this whole thing was never about you in the first place. Don’t you remember the Exodus? ‘I AM who I AM. I will do this. I will redeem you. I will bring you to the land.’ Yes, we will betray Him in all kinds of way. But good friends, get over yourselves. This is all about Him. It is about Yahweh and what He does. He is the one who lays down His life [for us].”

Sam Allberry’s challenging Christ-centred journey through the Gospel of Mark brought us once again to the foot of the cross and on to the wonder and joy of the resurrection morning.

Jesus our Champion – “You will never meet anyone better, bigger or more beautiful than Jesus Christ.”

Jesus our Master – “Jesus calls us to yield everything to Him. He asks for nothing less. He is worthy of nothing less.

Repentance is not the condition for God’s love, it is the fruit of God’s love!”

Jesus our Sacrifice – “There is no death like this one. There is no life that Jesus’ death cannot transform. The centurion was there to make sure Jesus was killed. He ended up confessing Him as the Son of God.”

Jesus Our Life  – “Whatever the dimensions of the mess in your life, however great the sin is and has been, your sin is not bigger than Jesus’ grace.”

Bishop Ken Clarke finished the 30th New Horizon with a challenging message 

To the Praise of His Glory – “We were create by and through and for God… not unto us but to Your name be the glory, says the psalmist.  This is one of the secrets of life. We were made by God and for God and until we understand that, life will never make sense.”

Treasure in Jars of Clay

Throughout the week, individuals have shared their stories. Here are just a few we collected:

“Spontaneously brought my friend one Sunday. Today marks two years since she committed her life to Christ in 2016”

“Seven years ago I had lost my home, my marriage and almost everything I had. I didn’t know what lay ahead for my life. I came to New Horizon for the first time and found the Lord again, my life was turned around when I turned back to Jesus. The Lord gave back the years the locusts have eaten and I am now preparing for mission in Peru. Thank you New Horizon.”

“2006 was the year I decided to give Jesus my everything and follow Him for the rest of my life.”

“The missionary seminars have been excellent and inspiring. I love when we sing about heaven at New Horizon. I love the walk up to the tent with the sound of praise.”

“After my wife was diagnosed with dementia/ Alzheimer’s she had to be admitted to a care home. I was pleased to attend New Horizon for the first time in 2003 and have found the convention a real help in sustaining my faith in all of these years.”

Beyond the Tent

Shining like stars – Back to that beautiful photograph, it strikes me that those beautiful lights shine all the more brightly in the darkness. We gather for seven days in a tent but the real measure of New Horizon’s vision is when we return to our homes and our communities to shine like stars, bringing the light and joy and beauty of Jesus to those we meet.

Standing together – One of the things I love about New Horizon, is seeing different generations and people from different church backgrounds worshipping together. When we stood side by side in the darkened tent, lifting our lights, the whole tent was illuminated. Imagine what could happen if that same unity was expressed in our communities?

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

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Ruth Garvey-Williams is the Editor of VOX magazine (Ireland’s Christian magazine) and serves on the Boards of the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Irish Bible Institute.  For the last five years, she has been part of the New Horizon Media Team.

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