And Forgive Us Our Debts

Forgiveness is an issue central to the Christian faith. After all, Jesus’ primary mission through his life, death, and resurrection, was to bring forgiveness; a forgiveness that would repair the relationship between humanity and God. 

In the Lord’s Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us how to pray, and in doing so teaches us to ask for forgiveness from God. After asking for ‘our daily bread’, that is, our needs, we are also taught to ask for God to ‘forgive us our debts’. 

To be clear, what Jesus is not teaching us here is that God will forgive our financial debts. So often we use the term ‘debt’ in a financial sense. This is the way the word is typically used today. Perhaps unfortunately for you, after praying this prayer you will still have your financial debts to pay. The mortgage will still be there, the car loan still needs to be paid this month, and the credit card bill continues to stack up. 

But this idea of financial debt gives us an illustration of the position we find ourselves in. We are in debt to God. 

We may ask, why am I in debt to God? 

Well, the Bible teaches us that we are in debt to God because of what is called ‘sin’. Essentially, we have disobeyed, fallen short, and rejected God in our lives. In doing so we find ourselves in debt to God. As Romans 3:23-24 says, 

“The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Here we find the Apostle Paul highlighting how great our sin is, therefore how great a debt we have, but also how great a God we have who freely gives his grace to those who believe.

I am well aware this is not easy teaching to accept. To understand our need for forgiveness means we need to understand and accept our own wrongdoing toward God. And considering the hardness of life and injustice in our world there are times we are tempted to blame that on God himself. 

Yet, what God has done is actually grace. And that grace comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ. You see, forgiveness is achieved because Jesus has paid the debt we couldn’t pay. His death on the cross was the payment for our debt and covers all sin–past, present, and future. It is not through saying this prayer that brings forgiveness, through prayer we come recognising what has already been done for us–God has forgiven our debts through the death of his Son. 

In preaching on Ephesians 4:32, Charles Spurgeon remarks about forgiveness,

“[God] not only forgave us at the first all our sins, but he continues daily to forgive, for the act of forgiveness is a continuous one. I have sometimes heard it said that we were so forgiven when we first believed that there is no need to ask for further forgiveness; to which I reply—We were so completely forgiven when we first believed that we ought continually to ask for the perpetuity of that one far-reaching act, that the Lord may continue to exert towards us that fulness of forgiving grace which absolved us perfectly at the first, that we may continue to walk before him with a sense of that complete forgiveness, clear and unquestioned. I know I was forgiven when first I believed in Christ; and I am equally sure of it now: the one absolution continues to ring in my ears like joy-bells which never cease. Pardon once given continues to be given. When through doubt and anxiety I was not sure of my pardon, yet it was still true; for he that believeth on him is not condemned, even though he may write bitter things against himself. Beloved friend, catch hold of that, and do not let it go. Divine pardon is a continuous act.”

It is hard to understand the need for forgiveness from God if we don’t recognise our own brokenness and sin. And it is hard to understand grace because it is so undeserved. But amazingly, it is done. The call for us is to believe. 

And so when we pray this prayer, when we pray for God to forgive us our debts, we are to come with a humble heart, being self-aware enough to know our own brokenness and need for God.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread 2.0

Last week I did a little explaining about the verse in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). And while it was accurate enough, there are further implications worth noting. The Lord’s Prayer gives us a terrific model for communing with God, I suppose that goes without saying considering it is our Lord who gives it to us! But as we scratch more deeply at how we might pray we learn, particularly in the realm of asking God for our needs, Jesus teaching us how to live.

With this in mind, here are some further reflections that I pray go well with you.

(1) Our needs include the physical and the spiritual.

There are some in the Christian church who believe that this body we have here on earth is simply a temporary vessel. They minimise the body and the physical in our world and over-emphasise the spiritual or the life to come. At times this has led to people and groups toward asceticism and a drawing away from others toward cultic practices. At other times this has led to abuses and sacrifices of the body. Neither of these are particularly biblical, and contradict scripture and the example of Jesus. We notice that in the life and ministry of Jesus he is concerned not only for the spiritual condition of the people but also for their physical needs. 

As James Montgomery Boice comments, 

“We can see what God thinks of our human bodies, when we remember that he Himself in Jesus Christ took that body upon Him. It is not simply a soul salvation, it is whole salvation, the salvation of body, mind and spirit, at which Christianity aims.

(2) We are reminded to take it one day at a time.

If you’ve ever heard a player or a coach of a sporting team be interviewed, then you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “we’re just taking it one game at a time”. For us believers, it is right to be taking life one day at a time.

It is important to recognise that Jesus is teaching us to pray for each day and reminding us of our need for God. It is important to understand that our dependence on God and needs from God are given to us each day. Therefore, there is intentionality in coming to God daily in prayer as we recognise our needs and dependence on him. As we petition God, as we come before him with the requests that we have, the needs that we lift to him, we show our daily dependence on him.

The whole act of prayer is an act of dependence. 

(3) Our request for daily bread points us to our need for spiritual nourishment. 

I presume you know that glorious taste of fresh bread. Sometimes there is nothing better than a fresh ham and salad roll for lunch. And who are we kidding, it’s always more than one when the rolls are at their freshest. 

While it sounds odd to say that we need to feed on Christ, that we need to feed spiritually on God, the only other place in the entire Bible where a request to ‘give us bread’ is spoken by Jesus while he gives a sermon on spiritual bread in John 6. Jesus said, 

“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They answered, “From now on give us this bread.’ Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32–35) 

In context, the people he was speaking to were thinking of physical bread, but Jesus turned them away from these physical things to himself as the One who could satisfy the far greater hunger of the soul.

So, what does it mean to feed on Christ? 

It means that he is the source of all our spiritual life and as we grow in him and come close to him we are nourished, contented, and satisfied in him alone. The hunger and yearning we feel within our hearts for our Creator is fulfilled through Christ as the bread of life. 

As we hunger for achievement, or for love, or for happiness we recognise these are good in themselves when used as God intends. But at the heart of our faith, and at the heart of this prayer, is the realisation that it is only Christ who satisfies, it is only him who fulfils our deep hunger and need.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread 1.0

Well, I wonder whether you’ve ever signed a petition? 

I suspect you know what petitions are. A petition is where you put your name down in support of something. Perhaps it is asking for policy change in government, for better conditions in the workplace, or for support behind a particular injustice in the world. Whatever it may be, and whether it is done online or on an actual piece of paper, petitions are a way of showing your support for a particular cause.

There are also parts of everyday life where we petition others, where we ask people for something we would like or need. Perhaps it is a student petitioning their teacher for an extension in the assignment. Or a child petitioning a parent for ice-cream after dinner. And in a similar way, when we come to God in prayer and lift up our needs to him we petition him. We ask him for things. We ask him for our wants and needs. 

In Matthew 6:11, in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus continues to teach his disciples about prayer through this particular phrase, ‘give us this day our daily bread’. And in similar fashion to previous posts (see below) it is worth reflecting a little on what Jesus is teaching us. 

First, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about depending on God daily. 

As Christians we recognise that we are living a day at a time. It sounds cliche, but we do not know when we will die, and we do not know what will happen tomorrow. 

This requires us to depend on God. 

When we depend on ourselves or on others then we will be let down, but with God we have a solid foundation. A God who rules and reigns, and who is always faithful and dependable. And so a mark of a follower of Jesus is their dependence on him for their needs. We come with a posture of dependence on him. 

To depend on God is to fully trust in his care for us. That despite our circumstances–in happiness or in hardship–we continue to have a posture of dependence on God.

As Leon Morris writes in his commentary on Matthew about this verse, 

The prayer encourages a continuing dependence on God; it does not countenance a situation in which the disciple asks God for a supply for a lengthy period, after which prayer he can go on for some time in forgetfulness of God. He depends on God constantly, and this dependence is expressed in this prayer.

Dependence on God is not simply a once off occurrence. It is something that is required of us daily. It is a practice, a discipline, to continually depend on God. 

Yet, there is also a cautionary reflection here worth noting. 

When we are comfortable. When we have everything we need. When we don’t need to depend on God for as much as we used to then it is common to let this dependence slide. We must be careful not to fall into this trap, not to change our posture from one of dependence to independence. 

Second, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about asking for our needs.

Whenever we pray we are generally asking God for something. And this gets to the heart of petition. Petition is that word that defines prayer as asking God for stuff. Stuff that may include inner comfort and strength, to physical needs like food or finances, to wisdom and discernment. 

And don’t hear me saying this is necessarily wrong. God encourages us to come to him with everything, and in all things. 

In fact, as I’ve read over this Lord’s Prayer I’ve noticed just how much asking there is of God. In fact, everything from v10-13 is really a prayer of petition. We find ourselves asking for: 

  1. his kingdom to come, 
  2. his will to be done, 
  3. our daily bread, 
  4. our debts to be forgiven, 
  5. not to be led into temptation, and
  6. to be delivered from evil. 

By my reckoning there are six requests, six items of petition to God in this prayer. 

And when Jesus specifically prays the petition of ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he wishes us to pray for the needs that we have, the needs necessary for life. 

Martin Luther, the great Reformer of the 16th century wrote that this use of ‘bread’ was symbolic of ‘everything necessary for the preservation of this life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, husband or wife, children, good government and peace’. In essence Luther was saying these are the necessities of life, rather than the luxuries, of which a couple here and there may be debatable.

Whatever the case, here in Matthew 6:11, in this petition given to us by our Lord, we find an aspect of our prayer life that involves asking for our needs.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

There comes a point when so much analysis, or in this case, exegesis, can mean you miss the bigger picture. And sure, there is often much to be learnt from studying the detail of a leaf, but it just might mean you miss the overall vision of the tree. This can happen when we study scripture. We can become so narrow in focus that we miss the wider picture of what’s going on. 

As we come to this phrase, ‘On earth as it is in heaven’ we must recognise that this needs to be read in conjunction with the beginning of the sentence,’ Your kingdom come, your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10-11). For the sake of this series on The Lord’s Prayer I have separated these various phrases, but in reality the prayer Jesus is teaching us, and his disciples, means they are intricately connected. As RT France comments,

“The prayer embraces the whole scope of this outworking of God’s purpose, but its focus is not on either present or future, but on God himself, whose glory must be the disciples’ first and deepest concern, before they consider their own needs.

And so one could get caught up in the comparison of earth and heaven. I think it is fair to suggest that the prayer is making a distinction between both places, an actual earth and an actual heaven. But before the questions that naturally arise begin to form it is helpful to remember this is as much about recognising God and his ways before lifting up our own requests. 

Yet this prayer gives us hope. For when we understand ourselves in light of God’s goodness and holiness, when we understand our own need in contrast to who God is, we realise we are in need of more of heaven and less of earth. As people who begin this prayer in worship, recognising God as God, we know that it will not be our action but the action of God that will ultimately bring this prayer into reality. 

And it is the action of God that achieves anything and everything for us. It is the action of God that provides salvation. It is the action of God that shows love. It is the action of God that provides mercy. It is the action of God that brings justice. It is the action of God that grows godliness. And of course, all these things come from the centrepiece of this action–the cross. 

In the Incarnation, Jesus’ coming to earth, we find heaven coming to earth. God comes to humankind in a personal and relational way. And while we continue to live in the ‘now and not yet’ tension–where God’s kingdom is here, but it’s not all here–the action of the Incarnation gives hope and shows a glimpse of what is possible. 

You may well have images of large golden buildings and paths coming down through the sky when you envision heaven coming to earth. This is most certainly a mistaken image. Already God has made clear he does things in ways we humans least expect, such as coming in the form of a baby, birthed in a dirty stable, and found in a small out-of-the-way village.

So in our prayer ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, it might be better to understand that in heaven God’s will is perfect, there is no bad thing to hinder it. Heaven is God’s will perfected. And when we pray these words, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, we are hoping for similar circumstances here on earth. And given the current state of our world, it might be time to pray this more fervently than we have done before. 


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Your Will Be Done

No one likes to think they are under authority. We live in a world where we are constantly told that we are free. That we can do what we want if we put in the effort. That we control our own destiny. That the decisions we make are ours, and we are free to make them. This is certainly part of the cultural milieu of Western society. Although it is somewhat ironic to say this during 2020, the year of the global pandemic, particularly when living in Melbourne. In the last few months we’ve all come to realise that we aren’t in control of much, and whatever we thought we were in control of we probably never have been. 

As Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, as he outlines a prayer to pray, we come across this phrase, “Your will be done”. And in essence, this is a phrase that is about giving up control and sitting under the authority of God. 

There are certain prayers that are dangerous. Perhaps all prayer is dangerous, because the act of prayer is an act of giving up control and authority itself. But prayers can be dangerous because they can change us and they can change the world. And when we come to God in prayer, expressly saying to him ‘your will be done’, then we are praying a dangerous prayer for at least three reasons.

First, we are acknowledging his power and sovereignty over all. 

Through the act of prayer we are acknowledging that God is greater. In prayer we lift our praise and requests to God, and we come to him because he is God and we are not. He is the one with all power and wisdom to rule the world. He is the one who has created this world and given everything in it life. He is the one who is all-knowing of past, present, and future. And so we come to God in prayer as beings who rely on his power and sovereign rule, to act in our lives and in the lives of people we know. 

As John Frame puts it

“The sovereignty of God is the fact that he is the Lord over creation; as sovereign, he exercises his rule. This rule is exercised through God’s authority as king, his control over all things, and his presence with his covenantal people and throughout his creation…Because God is tri-personal, however, his sovereign control is not impersonal or mechanical, but is the loving and gracious oversight of the king of creation and redemption.”

And this is the God we pray to. This is the God we are able to come to in times of need and hardship or in joy and happiness. And so when we come to him in prayer this is the God we bow down to and to whom we acknowledge our need.

Second, we are acknowledging that we need help and lack control.

In prayer we are doing the exact opposite to what we like to believe, that we are in control. In prayer we are acknowledging that we need help, that we can’t do it all by ourselves. Sure, we can do a lot by ourselves, and we can become very successful at life and work and relationships by doing it all ourselves. But in the end, we know there is little that we do actually control. 

There is little that we can do when we are sick will severe illness, there is little we can do when a global pandemic hits, there is little we can do when our employer tells us it’s time to move on, there is little we can do when supposed friends no longer wish to be friends, there is little we can do when a child is diagnosed with cancer, or when a friend loses their spouse suddenly. 

There is little one can do. 

And so prayer becomes dangerous because it is the realisation that we have so little we can control. Yet having little control is not something to be afraid of, rather we pray to a God who is in control and knows what he is doing. So despite not being in control we can still have peace and a sense of assurance. With the Psalmist we can affirm, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears”. (Psalm 34:4)

Third, we are acknowledging that we wish to do what God wants rather than what we want. 

And maybe this is where the prayer-rubber hits the roads. When we come to God in prayer we are handing over our own wants and needs and being open to have God have his way. 

Think about the phrase, ‘your will be done’. This is affirming to God that we want him to rule and have authority in our lives and in what we do. It isn’t about our own will and desires and wants–it is about God’s. 

Often this is taken out of our hands, as I have alluded to above. But at other times we may need to make a decision that requires going against the grain. It might be making a stand of conviction, a choice about the future, or making the call to stay or leave. As Jesus teaches his disciples this Lord’s Prayer we realise that it isn’t some nice, wafty, feel-good prayer that will wash over us and then we will be on our way. No, it means that we affirm truths about God and hand over our lives to him. 

Another way of putting this may be thinking about the cost of prayer. We know that there is a cost in becoming a disciples of Jesus, to hand the Lordship of our lives over to him. In the same way, through prayer we are handing over our prayers and our wills to him and asking him to guide us. 

I wonder, for God’s will to be done in your life right now, what is it you need to hand over to him? 


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Hallowed Be Your Name

When we are aware of someone’s name then we are aware of who they are.

A name defines us.

Some parents put time and meaning into the names they choose for their children, others don’t think too hard but come up with a name they like . But a name defines who we are. It represents us. It identifies who we are. Further, with time and experience, our name may become synonymous with particular things; with a particular family, with a particular place (if we’ve lived there a while), with a particular industry or workplace or organisation, and perhaps even a particular character trait.

I mean, think about the last few months here in Melbourne, how many times have you heard the Karen used in the media? Right now Karen is the name that represents someone who is an obnoxious, entitled, complainer.

But of course, this doesn’t rightly represent all Karen’s. We feel sorry for those people who are actually named Karen and are very nice people. Not all Karen’s are complainers, just like not all Wally’s are wasteful with water.

As we survey scripture we find there are over 100 names for God, many describing and revealing the character and person of God. In Matthew 6:9, continuing on from last week’s post, Jesus teaches us to honour the name of God, to hallow it, to recognise it as holy.

As we come to our Father in prayer we are to recognise that we are coming before God in all his majesty, holiness, righteousness, and beauty. We are children of the One who is all-powerful, all-glorious, all-excellent, and all-holy. And yet in prayer we are able to come before him and enjoy and adore him.

With this in mind, what then does it mean to adore God? I often feel we have inadequate words when we try to describe our adoration toward God.

You see when we adore something in human terms we have our heads affirming our adoration, our hearts yearning toward that which we adore, and our hands open to act toward that which we adore.

We think, we feel, and we act in adoration.

There is a head, heart, and hands aspect to this.

If we adore our particular football team we will watch the games, go to the games, buy a membership, debate others about how superior our team is, wear the scarf, and think often about our team and the players.

When we adore a person we will think about them, we will talk to them, we may have a photo of them on the wall, we will seek out the best for them–we want to be with them.

In prayer, as we show our adoration toward God, we come to him through relationship but we also come to him for who he is. We are drawn to God because of his greatness, his magnificence, his excellencies, his works for us and our world.

It can be stated rather crassly that the adoration component to prayer is simply repeating back to God how good he is. But I think this misses the point. We may well be telling God how good he is when we pray in adoration, but we do so because we recognise that God is God and we are not.

We are, after all, in a relationship with the God of the universe who has done things we cannot comprehend or understand, and whose character is displayed and told to us through his scriptures. Psalm 8 is a good example of adoration toward God, and we would do well to pray this Psalm as a prayer ourselves. It reads,

1 Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!
You have covered the heavens with your majesty.

2 From the mouths of infants and nursing babies,
you have established a stronghold
on account of your adversaries
in order to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you set in place,
4 what is a human being that you remember him,
a son of man that you look after him?
5 You made him little less than God
and crowned him with glory and honour.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all the sheep and oxen,
as well as the animals in the wild,
8 the birds of the sky,
and the fish of the sea
that pass through the currents of the seas.

9 Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!

The whole Psalm resounds not only in praise for what God has done, but recognises the greatness of God. How majestic is your name in all the earth! It is a true Psalm of adoration toward God.

Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer that to begin prayer in adoration is prayer that highlights God’s goodness and greatness. It honours God’s name as holy. May we do this in our prayers during this time.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Our Father In Heaven

In the Anglican tradition, the Book of Common Prayer defines adoration as ‘…the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.’

I’m not sure about you but I find that hard. 

Prayer is often hard, and I don’t think many believers, whether they are new in the faith or those who are more mature in their faith, think they’re very good at it anyway. I know in different seasons my prayer life changes, it goes up and down, but it can also take on a different shape. Sometimes it is through a list, other times I write them out by hand, other times I pray while doing a particular task–like doing the dishes or vacuuming. 

But when we pray in adoration we turn our hearts and minds not only to the things of God, but to God himself. As we commune with God through prayer we do so in relationship with him.

In this COVID season, as much good there is that comes from text messages, phone calls, family gatherings over Zoom, and FaceTime calls with loved ones, nothing replaces the actual physical presence of being together with those we love and cherish. I’m sure you’ve felt this in recent months. Our relationships and friendships are still in existence during this time, we can still catch up with each other, but there is something missing when we aren’t in each other’s presence. Likewise, our relationship with God is made all the more when through prayer we come and enjoy being with him. 

As Jesus teaches about prayer in Matthew 6:9 he begins by pointing us toward adoration. Adoration in the context of relationship. 

At the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer this is described as a familial relationship between God and his children–“Our Father who is in heaven”. It’s not quite as close as ‘Dear Daddy’, but it certainly has a familiarity, a relational tone, that shows a deep and abiding relationship between us and God. 

Through the scriptures God reveals to us that he is a father to his children. The Old Testament portrays God as a father to his people–Israel–in Exodus 3-4; Psalm 2; Psalm 103; and Hosea 11 to name a few. In the New Testament we find that God the Father is, of course, the unique father to his Son, Jesus Christ. And the writers of the New Testament show the intimacy we, as the corporate people of God, have with God as we are considered his children, his sons and daughters. As 1 John 3:1 reminds us, 

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God…” 

For those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, we know that the Creator of everything is not a father; he’s our Father. As children we are able to commune and relate to God as one who is our Father. 

Jesus teaches us about prayer as someone who is in perfect relationship with God the Father. Through his perfect and acceptable sacrifice for us on the cross we are able to step into the presence of God as his children. Through the blood of Jesus we have access to the Father, and we come to him as such in prayerful adoration. The relationship we have with God is one that is intimate and personal–a point we can never emphasise too much. 

It is important to recognise that not all earthly fathers live up to our expectations. Earthly fathers are not perfect; they fail us, they fail God, they fail themselves. Yet, whatever our relationship with our earthly father, it does not compare to the perfect love and care shown by God the Father toward us, his sons and daughters. 

Galatians 4:6-8 reminds us powerfully about our identity because of God’s love and care toward us,

“Because you are his sons [and daughters], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

As Jesus begins this model prayer for us, and as he teaches us a way to pray, he begins by stating the unbelievable truth that we are in relationship with God–the Creator God of the universe–who we are able to call ‘our heavenly father’. 


This begins our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Christ In A Curfew

Our city has now been under a curfew for a week.

What an amazing sentence to write.

I’ve always figured that to be under curfew would mean I was living in a country under martial law or something similar; where there would be the threat of violence and war.

Even living in the Middle East for a couple of years, in a country that had numerous political assassinations, bus bombings, a short-lived war with its neighbour, and military checkpoints throughout the area I lived, there was never a curfew.

It’s a strange and sad sentence to write.

And it’s a sentence that already feels like it’s taking a toll.

Christ In A Curfew

I’m not sure how you’re feeling about this curfew and this Stage 4 business, but in conversation with people I know it seems we already feel the weight of it. There’s the emotional toll, coming to terms with the shock and awe of being in such a lockdown again and all the feels that come along with that. There’s the psychological toll, as people wrestle with their own mental health, anxieties and depressingly negative thoughts of what the next six weeks is to look like. And then there’s a relational toll, as the alone-ness continues the loneliness of isolation is felt more deeply. Let alone all the other stresses and pressures this lockdown now leads to–unemployment or lower job security, financial pressure, family pressure at home, and the overwhelming stress from remote learning for young families. It feels like a dangerous cocktail.

Is there a positive in this at all?

Let’s be honest, sometimes it seems hard to see through to one.

Nevertheless, positives or not, there are some truths worth holding on to. Because despite what is happening in our lives, despite the pressures we’re under, and despite the strain of the day, there is still a God who is with us, who cares for us, and who brings hope into our lives.

He Is With Us

Even though we’re all surprised by how 2020 has turned out God is not.

For thousands of years God has been across and involved in the world we live. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He hasn’t changed. He remains steadfast, he remains faithful, he remains a God of love. He remains a God who looks upon his creation and seeks to be with them, to know them and he be known by them.

God has not disappeared. He hasn’t gone on holiday. He hasn’t run away. No, God is with us. He is with us in the confusion and the chaos, just as he is with us in our health and in our happiness.

In John 14:26-27 Jesus speaks with his disciples promising that God will always be with them through the Holy Spirit. He says,

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

How assuring to know that God is with us. As followers of Christ we can know that he is with us. That upon his death, resurrection, and ascension Christ didn’t leave this world to its own devices. Rather, Christ has given us his peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace through his Spirit and worth holding onto in this season.

He Cares For Us 

And just as Christ is with us, so too he cares for us.

As 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

When we feel all is lost, when we’re under pressure, when we’re despondent, when we’re angry, when we’re in tears, when we’re annoyed, when we’re anxious, when we’re fearful, when we’re worried, and when we’re none of the above, Christ still cares for us.

However we might be feeling, and in whatever situation we may find ourselves during this curfew period, Christ cares.

He cares for the overwhelmed parents juggling remote schooling and their own work from home.

He cares for the single person stuck at home with little relational contact with friends or family.

He cares for the bored student trying to make their days somewhat productive but seeing no point.

He cares for the grandparent confined to their home without grandchildren running through their house as usual.

He cares for the worker who has just lost their job who now faces months of uncertainty.

He cares.

Christ cares.

Christ cares for you.

He Brings Hope To Us

This time of curfews and COVID brings with it a loss of hope, a loss of purpose, and a loss of identity. We understand hope is diminished because of all the feelings, the restrictions, and unwanted changes to life. But in Christ we find hope restored. Christ is our hope. He is our hope in this season and our hope in eternity to come.

This hope doesn’t come from some positive feeling, nor even a positive action or thought. This hope comes from Christ and the cross. Ironically, through death comes hope.

Through the death of Christ comes the hope of Christ.

For through the death of Christ comes the hope of knowing we are forgiven, we are accepted and loved as we are, and we are at peace with God.

As we recognise, and perhaps even more so in these strange days, we are not in control we may come to realise that there is little we can do to save ourselves. Whether it be an internal or external struggle we are familiar with the exhaustion that comes from those constant waves beating down upon us. And so as Christ goes to the cross for us he takes with him our exhaustion, our frustration, and our brokenness from life in the world.

As we put our faith in this Christ on the cross Paul reminds us in Romans 5:1-5:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Are there greater words than this!?

That through our faith in a crucified Christ comes the hope of Christ through the love of God. May we know this hope this week. For during this time of curfew we may be isolated and lonely. We may be angry and hurt. We may be disappointed and sad. Whatever we may feel will be what it is. Yet, what we can know and be sure of is that Christ is with us, that he cares for us, and that there is hope.

And perhaps that’s the sentence we really ought to be amazed by.

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.