A new beginning
Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
Over many years one of my hobbies was trying to restore some old farm machinery - with, may I add, the help of many good friends. Among our projects was a Ferguson T20, Fordson Super Major, McCormick binder, and a Reffold’s stationary baler. But perhaps our biggest challenge was a Ruston and Hornsby Thresher (or Thrasher, the spelling on one of its name plates).
This machine was made in Lincoln around the late 1920s. You can see in the pictures what it looked like, sitting on a loader, before we began to work on it, and then what it was like after the work was completed. It not only looks good, but, after a few ‘teething problems’, it also began to work perfectly. Of course, after a few days of threshing, the new look faded a little.
Now it wasn’t just the outside of the thresher which needed work, but most of the inside as well. In fact, most of the wooden structure needed totally replaced, both outside and inside. That word ‘new’ is used in different places in the Bible to describe especially the beginning of the Christian life.
No-one is born a Christian, although we may have the great privilege of having Christian parents who teach us the gospel. Rather, we are all born with sin in our hearts, as David tells us in Psalm 51:5, and our natural inclination is one of rebellion against our Creator, God. And so, what we all need (just like the thresher, in a way) is a complete change, including a change on the inside - a change of heart.
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel spoke of this when he said in chapter 36 verse 26, ‘I will give you a new heart and remove from you your heart of stone’. And Jesus said essentially the same thing when he spoke to Nicodemas in John 3 telling him that he needed a new birth (that word ‘new’ again) a radical spiritual change which only God Himself can bring about; we cannot do this for ourselves. The Apostle Paul spoke to the Christians in the church in Corinth about how this change of heart will show itself in true Christians. He says that those who are ‘in Christ’ are new creatures: Old things have passed away and all things have become ‘new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
What do you think of the change in the thresher when you compare the two photographs? It is quite something, isn’t it? But when God saves a person, and brings that person into His family, the change is even more wonderful - it involves a new heart and a new birth, in fact all things become NEW.
This is how the Bible speaks of a Christian in this life. But there is much more! After this life is over, all who know Jesus as Saviour and Lord will be with him in a new heaven and new earth, because God will one day make all things new (Revelation 21:1-5). Can you look forward to that day?
Rev Dr Kenneth Patterson is a former GP who was ordained for the ministry in 1990. He retired in 2013 after 19 years as Minister of Castledawson and Curran Presbyterian churches in South Derry. Having worked on farms during his student days, before coming a minister, as a hobby he now enjoys restoring vintage farm machinery.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at [email protected] or call him on 028 9753 1234.