Podcast: #005 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat about pets and the things we do for them; hedging our bets in this day of day heavy fines, and casting our nets wide in talking church online over Easter. Enjoy.

Topics discussed:

  • Pets
  • Fine or No Fine
  • Awkward texts
  • Televangelists
  • Church shopping online
  • The Letter of James and joy while in this life trial

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Easter Reflection – The Isolated Jesus

This Easter is weird.

It’s weird because it’s not what we’re used to. It’s not something we’re familiar with. It’s something new. This Easter is weird because we can’t gather as God’s people in the churches we’re part of, or celebrate meals together with friends and family, or head away on long weekend holiday adventures like usual.

Instead, we’re at home. We’re at home with those in our household, isolated from others, and perhaps going a bit stir crazy by now too. But all of this is for that important cause, the cause the government has called us into. This Easter we’ve been called to save lives by staying at home.

Copy of The Grieving of the (Non) Gathering of God’s People

Living this isolated life is but a momentary trial, and while Easter may have a unique shape for us this year its meaning and significance does not change. Easter is still central to the Christian calendar, it still speaks of God’s display of sacrificial love to the world. It still reveals to us a God of grace who puts his life on the line for us, cleanses us from sin, and gives hope and peace to our anxious hearts. The meaning and significance of Easter doesn’t change despite the circumstances we may find ourselves this weekend.

And yet in reflection I wonder whether this gives us an opportunity to enter into the ‘aloneness’ of Jesus. Despite Jesus being surrounded by people, particularly for the three years he was with his disciples, there are indications that Jesus too felt isolated in what we now know were his final 24 hours before his death.

First, in his final meal with his disciples Jesus eats with his knowing betrayer. Judas, one who has followed him for a number of years, is about to gain 30 pieces of silver for delivering Jesus into the hands of the Romans. We read in John 13:21, “…Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified [to his disciples], “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” The act of betrayal is sure to feel isolating for Jesus as a relationship he invested in has turned against him.

Second, his disciples still don’t understand what Jesus has been talking about. In Luke 22:14-30, still in the context of the final Passover before Jesus’ death, the disciples begin to argue with each other about which one of them is the greatest. After hearing Jesus explain the significance of their final meal and the betrayal to come they end up selfishly disputing their own importance. I imagine Jesus throwing his hands up at this point, exasperated at his own disciples incompetence. An isolating feeling for any leader of any thing.

Third, at the time of his arrest Jesus’ disciples scatter far and wide. The disciples have experienced Jesus for three whole years teaching, performing miracles, and showing himself as the Son of God. Yet, in a matter of moments his disciples disappear. When Jesus is arrested we read of this disciple dispersion in Matthew 26:55-56,

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

If Jesus didn’t feel isolated and alone up to this point, he surely did now.

Fourth, as Jesus succumbs to his death on the cross we read of his isolation from God. You may remember that moments before Jesus dies on the cross he cries out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1-2). Jesus is essentially quoting the opening two verses of Psalm 22–words he would’ve known by heart. And as he calls out to God in this way he is in a place he had not experienced before, isolated and alone, apart from God. Smarter people than I can explain how this might work within the context of his humanity and divinity, what it means for the Holy Trinity at this point. But whatever the case, as Jesus takes the sin of the world upon himself the Father turns away from him, and places his rightful wrath and judgement for the sin of the world upon him.

The isolation of Jesus is vivid, real, and powerful.

As we enter into Easter this weekend perhaps it is worth considering the isolation and ‘aloneness’ of Jesus. We may resonate with feelings of isolation and aloneness as we sit at home with our friends, partners, family, or simply by ourself. All our social distancing measures mean we lack touch, we talk to friends through screens, and we only go out for essential needs. Our isolation is vivid and real for us.

At no time do I want to suggest that our isolation is similar to that of Jesus. We may have similar feelings but the circumstances are certainly different, aren’t they? Yet due to our experience of the Easter season we may approach this time in a way that we’ve never considered before.

As you remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus this weekend may you be reminded of the One who has saved your life. Jesus, the one who has given his life for your sake, enabling the forgiveness of sin, peace for your soul, and an everlasting relationship as part of the family of God.

Podcast: #004 of The Sean & Jon Show

The boys give life reports, talk Lycra shorts and Easter isolation thoughts.

Topics Discussed:

  • Maundy Thursday
  • Easter & Exercise (the lycra story)
  • Hot Cross Buns
  • The ‘aloneness’ of Jesus and our ‘aloneness’
  • The sacrifice of Jesus

And we also referenced one of my recent articles: https://joncoombs.com/2020/04/04/the-grieving-of-the-non-gathering-of-gods-people/

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The Grieving of the (Non) Gathering of God’s People

We now enter the third Sunday where our church is unable to gather together.

And this week it has finally hit me.

I’m grieving. I’m sad.

Perhaps I’m a little angry, but mainly I’m sad.

The Grieving of the (Non) Gathering of God’s People

I’ve been involved in church life all my life. Being born into a pastors family means church is part of my life and lifestyle of my weekly rhythms–as it is for many Christians around the world. And it is in this time of uncertainty and alleviated stress where we seek the rhythms of familiarity. There is something about our nature that seeks rhythm and regular structures in our lives.

And so over the last few days I’ve been aware enough to notice that my emotions have changed as I’ve gone about my responsibilities this week. Knowing we are not gathering as the local expression of God’s people here at Rowville changes the nature of how I think about my weekend. While I may well be on the premises during our livestream, while I may know many from our community maybe watching even, I know it is different and there is something sad about this.

In our secularised, comfortable Western world grief and sadness are not seen as positive emotions. In modern Christianity we are more inclined to want to speak encouragement, we want to push people to see the joy, and take up the opportunity of the season. And of course, we know that God is in control in all of this, there is hope; the peace of our souls does not rest upon the prevailing winds of the world.

Instead, we worship a God, who through Christ Jesus, laid his solid foundation of hope and joy upon our hearts–knowing we are still held in him with enduring joy.

Yet, I’m still feeling sad. I’m still experiencing the grief of not being able to gather with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

For two years I lived in a small village in the mountains of Lebanon. I was apart from my home church back here in Melbourne, but I gathered each week with a local community of believers and ex-pats that I was working with.

Despite being away from my home church, what I knew and what I experienced was still a closeness with those I gathered with each week. Even though I didn’t know many of them very well, particularly in the initial months, I was encouraged and reminded of our unity as part of the family of God.

This time it feels incredibly different.

It isn’t simply being away from the usual sheep pen I reside in, this time it feels like we’re all out of our usual sheep pens and left out in the pasture. This isn’t to say God is not with us. Nor is it to say we aren’t all alone–modern technology accounts for something, but not everything.

The feeling of isolation, loneliness, and sadness comes from not being able to gather together with our church family. Rather than try to find some sort of faux-joy in amongst all the strangeness, perhaps it is appropriate to lament…?

After all, we enter Passion Week tomorrow, the week that symbolises the final week of Jesus’ life, culminating in his horrific death and glorious resurrection.

And perhaps this is something we can take away from this season? As we recognise the aloneness of this season this year it may help us enter more into the aloneness of Christ during this time. Though Jesus was surrounded by his disciples, and though he continued his ministry in this final week, we read of the unique isolation he felt as he headed toward the cross. Luke 22:42-44 helps reveal this to us:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.

And so, while we may feel alone, sad, and grieved, unable to meet in the same physical location this week perhaps this provides us with an opportunity to see Jesus more clearly and walk his way more steadily?

Podcast: #002 of The Sean & Jon Show

You won’t believe it. We’ve made it to episode #2.

Here Sean and I discuss our lives amongst the coronavirus and imminent shut down. Sean again tries to rename the coronavirus, moving on from last weeks attempt. We chat all this church online, and a few ways in how to de-stress in these times too.

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #001 of The Sean & Jon Show

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything worth reading. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve done anything of substance on here.

But, we have entered a strange new season in our world with this COVID-19 virus spreading around the globe.

In light of the unfolding changes this is bringing to our world, and particularly to the church community I’m involved in, me and our new Youth Pastor at Rowville Baptist have begun a podcast. It’s all very experimental right now, so be kind! But we do hope it brings some lightness in amongst the heaviness and confusion of these days. We will be exploring life and faith in these days and would love for you to join us.

Have a listen. Subscribe. Rate. Whatever!

You can listen here

The Sean & Jon Show - Podcast Graphic

My Top Posts of 2019

I continue to plug away on this thing called a blog. There are times when I wonder whether any of the words I string together to make sentences and paragraphs are worth publishing. But it seems this year has seen continued growth on this blog, and also some wider writing on other ministry sites, so that’s been encouraging.

In typical fashion I started out the year with a flurry of posts and articles but it seems I went missing in the second half of the year.

Below I list the top 5 posts in 2019 as well as some stats for the year. For those interested in stats from previous years you can read about 20152016, 2017, and 2018.

Top Posts of 2019

The Top Five Posts:

  1. 10 Tips For Reading In 2019
  2. Making The Bible Project Your Bible Reading Plan For 2018
  3. My Top Books of 2018
  4. Growing Young – Keychain Leadership
  5. 11 Things: The Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor Relationship

Some Reflections:

The only post actually written in 2019 was the first one, ’10 Tips For Reading In 2019′. The reason this made it to number one was because it got picked up by a very popular blogger in North America. The traffic that sent to this site was out of this world, particularly compared to usual!

I found myself writing 21 articles or posts for other ministry sites. I don’t get to know how well those did in terms of page views, but due to the sites I wrote for I’m fairly confident the readership will have been larger than I could reach.

The top five posts actually written in 2019 go to:

  1. 10 Tips For Reading In 2019
  2. New Children’s Ministry Initiative Makes Worship Leaders Walk Out Of Service
  3. My Top Books For 2019
  4. The Inadequate Youth Pastor
  5. Christian Blogging And Social Media

Raw Stats for 2019:

In 2019 I managed to:

  • Publish 54 individual posts on joncoombs.com.
  • Write over 29,800 words from those individual posts.
  • Have 11,657 views on the site for 2019 (up from 7700 in 2018).
  • Increase to 185 followers to the blog, as well as 34 email subscribers.
  • Publish 21 articles on other ministry sites.

This is actually more encouraging the more I think about it. I didn’t think I’d posted on average once per week, but it looks like I have. Writing for other sites at nearly every other week is also a pleasing goal to have achieved.

While right now it’s holiday time, and really the last couple of months I’ve not been in the zone to write and publish, I do hope I can continue to plug away at this again in 2020.

Anyway, if you’re a regular reader, thanks for popping by. I hope it’s been useful for you as it has been for me.

My Top Books of 2019

Well, it’s that time of year folks.

The unveiling of the top books I’ve read for 2019.

Exciting, isn’t it?!

Continuing my long-standing tradition of pretentiously blogging a list of books I read and rated highly, I submit my 2019 edition to you.

Oh, and here’s the previous years if you wish to read those lists too: 2014201520162017, 2018.

My Top Books of 2019

Excellent. This is an excellent book. Theology of sleep. Theology of rest. Theology of living by grace. Theology of sustaining ministry. Excellent. I don’t think I could’ve started the year off with a better book. In this age of hurry, burnout, and distraction this book is a good reminder we need to slow-down in this hurried life.

A different approach from Grisham in some ways. I found the storyline great, although I know plenty of people who didn’t. As usual it’s fast-paced, full of intrigue, and picking up themes of race and culture in the American South.

I haven’t read this since I read a children’s version when a child. It was good to listen to the audiobook and I found myself reminded of how good the story of ‘Christian’ is. Some terrific Christian themes and a good reminder of what it takes to remain faithful and persevere in the marathon that is the Christian life.

This was the best youth ministry book I read all year. It only came out mid-year and I was keen to get my hands on it. As I wrote in a review:

I have not read a youth ministry book which actually quotes Hebrew and Greek in its pages. But now I have. And it’s not just quoted for McGarry to look scholarly, it’s quoted to show the meaning behind a number of texts in the Old and New Testaments that build towards the book’s aim of,

…presenting a clear and simple but thoroughly biblical framework for thinking about youth ministry as the church’s expression of partnership with the family for co-evangelising and co-discipling the next generation. (p3)

Sam Allberry writes really well about biblical sexuality and same-sex attraction. A same-sex attracted minister himself, Allberry writes this brief book about the biblical understanding of homosexuality and what it means for those who are same-sex attracted. I found this a very helpful primer on these themes.

Continuing in a similar vein, DeYoung dives deep into the various passages in the Bible which speak of homosexuality. Furthermore, he writes to those who are critics of Biblical sexuality seeking to winsomely show the fault in their understandings. It is very good on the exegetical front and a good resource for teaching on such a topic.

For a personalised summary of all the books I read this year you can check out my Goodreads infographic for 2019.