A Psalm For Our Sanity

Ooft, there’s no other way to say it, the restrictions now placed on us here in Melbourne are brutal.

Yesterday evening we entered a ‘State of Disaster’, which now means we have a curfew, limited time for exercise, and we’re unable to travel more than 5km from our home (except for special circumstances). This is now in place for six weeks, and is off the back of a second lockdown of which we had already been in for three weeks.

There’s not much to say.

It’s been tough, it’s going to continue to be tough.

There’s a range of feels–annoyance, sadness, denial, shock, depression, apathy, anger, and whatever else you’ve been going through.

It’s times like this I’m thankful for the Psalms.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honour depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8)

There are plenty of Psalms that may help those of us who are struggling right now. And it seems the lament-style are the most appropriate ones. Here in Psalm 62 I find comfort in the words like rest, hope, rock, fortress, refuge and trust. These are words that resonate with the God I know, and I hope they are words that resonate with the God you know too. With so much changing, often by the day, knowing God is firm and solid and provides care and refuge for us is important. He gives us something stable to rely on in these unreliable days.

These days are not easy. And while we may all be in this wild seas together, each household is in a different boat. As we navigate the range of emotions we feel and the situations we find ourselves in may we show the kindness and graciousness of God to each other and to ourselves.

In Memoriam: JI Packer

It was about 10 days ago that I heard of the passing of JI Packer. What came to mind when I heard this news, as oddly as this may sound, were pleasant and appreciative memories for someone who has had an impact on my faith–from my view of the Bible, my view of theology, and in many ways, my view of God. 

In Memorandum_ JI Packer

There are greater people than I who can outline the 93 years of Packer’s life. There have been different tributes from various scholars, pastors, and theologians in many major Christian publications over the past week

My first introduction to Packer, that I can remember, was reading his book ‘Among God’s Giants’ (an early version of ‘A Quest for Godliness’). It was a book that outlined puritan history and gave mini-biographies of a number of significant puritan pastors and theologians. In my records, because I’m that kind of guy, I can tell you that I finished reading that book on the 5th of February 2007. 

Only a few months later I finished reading (1st May 2007, for those who are interested) the book he is most known for, ‘Knowing God’. What I remember is that this book had a profound effect on me. In my notes on this book I wrote a one sentence summary saying, “Orthodox theology focussing on the Calvinistic doctrines, and making them clear.” Seems apt. But it is also a book I have gone back to again and again. There is a sense of refreshment when reading Knowing God. Not only is it dripping with biblical truth, it is written in such a clear and concise way. 

When I first read Packer I was doing Christian mission work in a small village in the mountains of the Middle East. I was teaching students and connecting with people who were culturally, ethnically, and linguistically different to me in so many ways. It’s a time I remember fondly, it was a challenge and an adventure. But it was also the place where I experienced the most growth as a believer that I can remember. More than my upbringing as a pastor’s kid, more than my theological degree at college, and more than serving in the local church. And so it was here with Packer, and many other great Christian books, that I found my place theologically. I may have been walking with Jesus for nearly 10 years by this point but it felt like this was the first time I was hearing the gospel and amazing truths of the God I worship. I mean, just listen to how he speaks of the grace of God!

“In the New Testament, grace means God’s love in action toward people who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending his only Son to the cross to descend into hell so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven.”

And then perhaps a word for today in waiting upon the Lord,

“‘Wait on the Lord’ is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”

And the whole book is like this…

What Packer brought through his books, particularly Knowing God, was a new sense of clarity and appreciation for the works and person of God. Not only was I reading about the God of the universe and with a God who I could have a relationship and commune with each and every day. 

Today I have at least a dozen of JI Packer books, most of which I’ve read. Each time I dip into any of his works I am struck again by the irresistible clarity in which he writes about God and the thorough practicality of the doctrine he explains. 

While I may never have met Packer in person, the amount he has written and the numerous sermons you can now find online, is a wealth and treasure trove for any believer. If you’ve never read anything of his then I would highly recommend doing so. 

Packer has invariably influenced many people, the word over, but he has also influenced me–personally. His impact on my life and faith, on my character and the way I follow Christ is something personal. This week I’ll go have a look over a few of his books I’ve got sitting on my shelves, perhaps dip into another one I haven’t read and see what he says. Whatever the case, it will be impactful, it will ooze Christ’s centrality, and it will point me towards greater worship of God. 

All this to say, Packer will have been enjoying the presence of his God this past week, and that the God he has known through veiled eyes will now be known in person and greater clarity than ever.

Podcast: #19 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week the boys reminisce on holidays in the sun, golf and guns, and living life on the COVID run.

Topics discussed:

  • Holidays
  • Beach
  • Books
  • Mildura 
  • Merimbula 
  • Dinner
  • Golf
  • Harassing birds
  • Podcast
  • Flossing
  • Guns
  • Masks
  • The Great Escape
  • Philippians 4:8
  • Adoration

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

The Quarantine Quiet Life

I doubt any of us who aspired to achieve a quieter and more peaceful life in 2020 thought this was the way to go about it. Sure, in my case, less children’s birthday parties, less meetings, and more time with family were all good things to aspire to. But at the sake of people contracting a virus, people losing jobs en masse, and not being able to visit anyone outside of the home wasn’t really what I was thinking. I suspect the same for you.

The Quarantine Quiet Life

BC, ‘Before COVID-19’, life was hectic. Everyone in their different ways and in their different stages of life were walking at a brisk pace that was hard to keep up with. The calendar was always full and the different people and events garnering my attention was constant. One of the first books I read this year was “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer. It’s an excellent book and well worth the read, but also a symbol of how I was approaching this year–one that required some work in order to become less hurried in life and more at peace with a slower pace.

I’ve often been struck by Paul’s encouragement to the church in Thessalonica to aspire to a quiet life. It’s a little verse tucked away at the back of the letter, there in the middle of the New Testament, encouraging something that seems beyond our comprehension. He writes,

9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, ESV)

In context we’re talking about loving others, loving the brothers and sisters of our churches and those around us. There is also a missional bent to this passage where we are to seek to walk in godliness in order to witness to outsiders. But there tucked away in v11 is this little phrase, ‘aspire to live quietly’.

These days of isolation aren’t all quiet. I know they are for some, painfully so. But for others, these days of isolation are even more full and tiring than they were before coronavirus hit. While we may not be in the same boat, we’re all sailing the same seas and being hit with different waves.

As this year has progressed we’ve been incorporating different things in our weeks that have helped to slow us down. While the meetings and events may have disappeared, in person at least, there is still plenty to keep our family of five occupied. One particular rhythm we’ve begun is to have what we call a ‘Saturday Sabbath’, which basically means we do things as a family that are life giving to us and avoid all digital devices. Phones are kept in drawers and not looked at until late in the evening (and to be honest, the addictive nature of these things become so much more evident on this day!). An all-in family activity usually happens in the morning. We talk, and read, and play, and pray, and celebrate life together. They’ve been refreshing, and something we don’t want to do away with come post-isolation.

But that’s just an example from our household, I wonder how you’ve pursued the quiet life in yours?

In this second round of isolation, here in Melbourne at least, I wonder what pursuing a quiet life might look like? My situation will no doubt be different to you, and by now the whole thing is becoming more and more frustrating. That’s the reality. Yet, as we continue to aspire to a quiet life, how might it be marked by the love of God and the love of others?

Podcast: #17 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we are excited to be introducing a new segment for The Sean & Jon Show – Perspectives from the Pews!

The idea is simply interviewing someone from our church or the broader community, and hearing their thoughts on life and faith. We hope you’ll enjoy our first interview here with Connor Loughrey. 

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

Podcast: #16 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat grumpy lifestyle, murder trials, and Jon having been married for a while.

Topics discussed:
– Grumpy Jon
– Groaning Sean
– High ropes course
– Liturgy of the Ordinary book
– Family dinner
– Wedding anniversary
– Christ and His Church
– The four walls of the building

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

Published: The God of The Last Dance

I had a couple of reflections about The Last Dance, the greatest sports documentary ever. I managed to form these thoughts into coherent words in an article for TGCA.

You can read the article here.

“In reflecting upon this series, I’ve been struck by how relatable it has been to faith. While there is no mention of God himself, there is allusion to the worship and wonder of God through what occurs on the wooden court. It would be a stretch to suggest there is a theology of ‘The Last Dance’, but it definitely contains traces of the God who creates things of glory and wonder—things like Jordan himself in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Other writings can be found here.