Your Kingdom Come

Well, it seems I’m in a little series about the Lord’s Prayer. The last couple of posts have been about the start of the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer taught by Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 6:9-13. You may well be familiar with it. I figure I might as well continue with it too. So, this week we come to the next phrase of this prayer, ‘Your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10)

Over 10 years ago I was impacted by a song related to this theme. The song, which can be found here, is conveniently titled, Let Your Kingdom Come and was released in 2003. I thought at the time, and still think now, it’s a great congregational song for any church. And it upholds the truths of scripture, the sentiment of this verse, and calls for God to continue to make his presence felt in this world. The lyrics go:

Your glorious cause, O God
Engages our hearts
May Jesus Christ be known
Wherever we are
We ask not for ourselves, but for Your renown
The cross has saved us so we pray

Your kingdom come
Let Your kingdom come
Let Your will be done
So that everyone might know Your Name
Let Your song be heard everywhere on earth
Till Your sovereign work on earth is done
Let Your kingdom come

Give us Your strength, O God
And courage to speak
Perform Your wondrous deeds
Through those who are weak
Lord use us as You want, whatever the test
By grace we’ll preach Your gospel
Till our dying breath

When I pray this prayer that Jesus teaches, and if I ponder these words, ‘Your kingdom come…’, then I am struck by the tension that is within it. For in praying for God’s kingdom to come we are recognising that it isn’t all here yet–it being ‘God’s kingdom’.

We live in a world that is broken and sinful and, at times, downright horrendous. But we also live in a world where there is joy, happiness, and satisfaction. We live in a world that is in tension all the time. Whether it be through personal relationships or the environment and creation groaning, or whether it be the internal nature of our soul and attitudes. We are living in tension and learning to constantly live in tension our whole lives.

The theologians among us may be familiar with the term ‘Now and not yet’. This is a phrase that describes just this–the tension of living between two worlds. The kingdom of earth and the kingdom of heaven. For what we do recognise as believers is that God has entered the world in the form of his Son, Jesus Christ. And through entering this world he has begun the redemption and restoration of his kingdom. And yet, not all is well. Sin still reigns, brokenness still exists, and pain is still present. We continue to wait for the glorious reconciliation of all things.

2 Corinthians 5:1-8 reflects some of this when Paul writes,

For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.

So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to him.

To bring in a sporting analogy, we are playing away. We are playing our games away from our home stadium and our home city. And so while we recognise this tension we live in, this playing away from home, we also know that God is here with us. Through his Spirit he is present in our lives and in this world and at work in it. And so we strive to serve him, by his grace we strive to know him more and make him known to others in this world.

If you pray, ‘Let your kingdom come’ this week, may you be aware that he is with you in the tension that you live in. And may you call on him for the comfort and grace that you require this week.

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.

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: #1 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

Published: The Performance Trap

Last week I wrote about often feeling inadequate in the ministry, and it raised a few questions and comments. However, it also dove-tailed with a post I had published on The Gospel Coalition Australia later in the week, entitled “The Performance Trap“.

In this post I write about the amazing grace God gives to us, not because of anything we’ve done, but simply as a gift. Even though we may know this intellectually, often we fall back into performance-based living.

You can read the whole thing here.

“Intellectually we get it. We understand the heart of Christianity really isn’t about us, it’s about God and what he has done. Yet functionally we keep trying to make it about us. We are drawn back to performance in our attempt to live out our faith. In the end, we fall into performance traps; distorting the gospel and making our faith about us once again. “

Screen Shot 2019-10-05 at 2.53.07 pm

Youth Minister ‘But Now’ Series

Each day last week I had a blog post series published at Rooted Ministry. Each post focussed on particular slabs of Scripture that used the phrase ‘but now’. The entire series was narrowing in on the theme of identity in the life and times of a youth ministry practitioner (and others). The round up of each of these posts is outlined below.

Chicken Nuggets or Gospel Nuggets

Every now and then I like to spoil my four-year-old daughter by taking her out for fast food. Her food of choice is usually chicken nuggets. You know, those small morsels of processed chicken enveloped in a thin batter. If she’s hungry enough she’ll eat six in one sitting.

These little pieces of chicken are called nuggets because they’re small enough to eat quickly and they temporarily satisfy our hunger. Unlike a large piece of chicken, where we might need to use a knife and fork, chicken nuggets provide a quick go to for food.

Throughout the New Testament, either in the Gospels or in the Letters of Paul and Peter and John, we can find gospel nuggets. These are bite-size pieces of the Good News that remind us of who God is and what he has done in Jesus. Unlike chicken nuggets these are easily digestible and all-satisfying truths of the Christian faith.

One such nugget I came across recently is from Titus 3:3-7. It reads:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

In reading this I am reminded of the position I used to be in before knowing Jesus, and now the position I find myself in because of Jesus.

Formerly I was in a place that was foolish. In this position I sought to gain pleasure for myself, looking out solely for my own needs and wants. This leads down a path that is unhelpful and unhealthy. Seeking pleasure in the wrong place, and in pursuing wrongful passions, we end up being people who are prideful, egotistical, and self-centred.

Knowing the position we are in it is then revealed to us that through the love and kindness of God we can be rescued from this inwardly focussed life. Instead, through the mercy of God, we have been saved through Christ Jesus. We haven’t done anything to achieve such kindness and love but God has done it all. From one reality our eyes are opened to another reality. This new reality understands that through the Spirit our hearts have been changed and we have been rescued from our own selfishness.

Because of this we are (1) included into God’s family, (2) made right with God, (3) have an inheritance given to us from God, and (4) our hope is put into perspective because of eternity with God.

That is four gifts that God has freely given to us because of his kindness, love, and mercy.

What an amazing gift!

  • As you ponder your own position with God have you come to understand the gifts God seeks to give you?
  • As you dwell on this gospel-nugget can you see the all-satisfying grace of God?

As you go about your day today, take this gospel-nugget and chew on it. Digest it. Understand it. And may it nourish you in a way that no fast food outlet can.


This post was originally published elsewhere on the interwebs but is no longer available.

God’s Love Expressed: Through Our Love For One-Another

In the passage 1 John 4:7-21 the beginning and the end command us to love one-another.

It’s like a love one-another sandwich.

In v7-8 it reads,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

And v21 says,

“And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”

Whether there is an issue within the churches John is writing to, I’m not sure. But he certainly makes it clear that loving one-another in an important part of what it means to be in community together.

Because love has come from God we are to love one-another.

To love one-another is an expression of what it means to love God; a visible expression of God being a God of love.

God's Love Expressed Through Our Love For One-Another

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find churches who have within their history periods of time where loving one-another is lacking.

But a church devoid of love is like a tap without water.

A church devoid of love is like a football team without players.

A church devoid of love is like an orchestra without its conductor.

A church devoid of love is like cushion without stuffing.

A church devoid of love is like a car tyre without air.

A church without love is an unmitigated disaster.

And I wonder whether John would suggest they are really a church at all.

In his book, ‘The Compelling Community’, Mark Dever writes,

“To follow Christ is to love other Christians…Love between believers isn’t a sign of maturity; it’s a sign of saving faith.” (Dever, 52)

And John seems to suggest this here in our passage. The church, when loving one-another, show they are people who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, acknowledge his saving grace, and understand his atoning sacrifice for sin.

We may know these truths individually and personally. But, we should also see and know it together as a community, as a church.

Love between believers is the sign of a faith that is grounded in Christ and confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

In the same book, Dever says,

“Our greatest confirmation of the gospel is the community of the local church. Therefore, our best strategy for reaching the world is to fan that community into a raging inferno of supernatural witness that will be far more attractive than any adjustment to our music, small groups, or sermons could ever be.” (Dever, 192)

The love of one-another within the local church is what is attractive to others. It is the love of one-another that stands out to visitors and non-believers. It feeds into the mission and evangelistic edge of the church that we are called to be part of.

As Jesus meets with his disciples for the last time before his death he says these words in John’s Gospel, 13:34-35,

““I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And in Romans 12:10, Paul writes,

“Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Out do one another in showing honour.”

Through the love we have for one-another people see the gospel worked out in practice as we build one-another up through love.

When a local church is going through hardship, significant conflict and disagreement, there will often be less people drawn to the church. The effect of a church lacking in love will mean that there are less new people coming along and less people turning to Christ. On the other hand, when a church displays love for one-another the love of Christ is displayed for all to see. It can be seen and felt within the church itself and draws people in.

It is through our love for one-another in our church that expresses the love God has for us.

In my previous blog post I started by talking about the movie Frozen. How Anna can only be saved by an expression of true love.

We too can only be saved by an expression of true love. This expression of true love is God sending his Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. Through the cross God expresses his saving love for us. And building on this, we too can be part of God expressing his love for others by the way we love one-another in our church.

God’s Love Expressed: Through The Cross

In our house princess stories and movies are high on the agenda. Over the last few years the movie Frozen has been a regular viewing experience.

You may know the story yourself.

We sit on the couch and watch the journey of Elsa and Anna, both princesses of the royal family trapped within the walls of the castle. Yet, it isn’t until Elsa becomes Queen that the gates are opened and the connection with the people is renewed. But because of Elsa’s special powers, and their uncontrollability, the city is sent into a perpetual winter and she runs away to hide and live by herself.

Princess Anna goes on an adventure to find her sister and have her return, but in the process she is struck by Elsa’s icy powers. From here on in there is a distinct concern for Anna who can only be saved by an expression of true love.

I won’t spoil the ending.

But Frozen is a story with twists and turns, and is of course a story of love.

In the Bible we read of the way God has expressed his love toward us. In fact, the whole Bible is God’s love story toward his creation. We see this from Genesis to Revelation, as God seeks to be with his people who are so often rejecting his love.

In 1 John 4:9-10 we read about the pinnacle of this story, the pinnacle of God expressing love. It says,

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

This is the extent of the love God has for us; his expression of true love for his creation.

God's Love Expressed Through The Cross

I wonder how you express love?

I wonder how you express the love you have for others, for your family, your friends, your pets, the things you do, the things you have?

A little while ago Ed Sheeran released his single, ‘Perfect’. In the lead up to the release of the song he publicly stated that he wanted this to be his best song ever. Here are some of the lyrics:

I found a love for me

Darling just dive right in

And follow my lead

Well I found a girl beautiful and sweet

I never knew you were the someone waiting for me

‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love

Not knowing what it was

I will not give you up this time

But darling, just kiss me slow, your heart is all I own

And in your eyes you’re holding mine

Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms

Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favourite song

When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath

But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

Ed here (yes, we’re on a first name basis) is expressing love. He is expressing his deepest love for his girl through song. It is a clear expression of love.

And while 1 John 4 isn’t talking about romantic love it nevertheless describes the love God has for us.

John describes the love God has for us as sacrificial love. He points out that God has shown his love for us through, (1) the sending of his one and only son, and (2) as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.

The way God has shown his love for us is through Jesus.

The way God has shown his love for us is through the cross.

It is a cross-bound, life-sacrificing love.

This love is a relational love, meaning God has such a strong affection for us, he cherishes us so much, that he is willing to die for us.

This is a love that is deeply personal, a love that shows his commitment and faithfulness to us. This committed love, this affection for us, is displayed for us through the action of sacrifice. He loves us so much that he sent his one and only Son to be an atoning sacrifice for us.

He loves us so much that he sent himself, in human form, to take our place on that cross.

This sacrificial love is the love God has for us.

In the original languages the particular word for ‘atoning sacrifice’ is only used twice in the whole of the New Testament. Here in v10 and also back in 1 John 2:2. As one commentator has put it, it is a term to,

“…emphasise that God sent Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice to remove the guilt we have incurred because of our sins so that we might have eternal life. This is the great expression of God’s love, and on this basis the author can say God is love.” (Kruse, 161)

Due to our sin, both the sin we do as action and the sinful nature we find ourselves battling against as fallen creatures, we are in need of a saviour.

The reality is that our hearts are naturally inclined to sin. Sin isn’t just what we do that is bad, or immoral, or hurtful, it is more than that. It is a heart position. It is the state of our heart that means we are against God in everything we do.

The bible speaks of our heart as being against God and His goodness.

Our hearts, from birth, are defective.

Our hearts are selfish and messy.

Essentially we’re a mess.

And so, we find God sending his one and only Son in order for our sinful natures to be transformed. Transformed into life-giving, self-sacrificing, love-promoting hearts. Sin is forgiven, our hearts are changed, and we begin to be changed into creatures perfected by his love.

Ironically, Ed Sheeran’s song, which I read out earlier, points to this. You may not remember but he sings,

When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath

But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

Did you see it? Do you get it?

We are a mess yet because of God’s great love for us he looks upon us because of the cross and says, ‘you’re perfect’. As we dance with God through what we call life God understands our mess, and because of the cross calls us perfect.

Our mess is made perfect through his sacrificial love.

Through the atonement God’s love is expressed. And through the atonement we find ourselves transformed away from selfishness and mess and made into people of perfected, sacrificial love.

What’s The Deal With Cranky Calvinists?

Seriously.

What’s the deal with cranky Calvinists?

I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why any Calvinist should be cranky. I mean, it’s called the Doctrines of Grace for a reason.

You know, grace and stuff.

What's The Deal With Cranky Calvinists

Sometimes I meet with pastors and Christians who have been significantly impacted by the rise of New Calvinism. And sometimes I leave with a sour taste in my mouth. It seems the ‘grace and stuff’ portion is missing. All that is left is hard doctrine expressed in a way that sounds like a resounding gong and clanging cymbal.

In recent years, Calvinism has made a massive impact in the Christian world, and its only been on the increase in the 10 years since this article was written. So much so there was a recent documentary produced about it. It’s certainly impacted me.

When I lived in the Chouf Mountains of Lebanon for two years I devoured John Piper’s teaching on TULIP, the main structure of Calvinistic thought. I first came across Piper over 15 years ago now, while listening to his biographical messages on significant Christians in church history. This made me put words to a theological system that I’d grown up under. In some ways nothing had changed, but in many ways everything had changed.

Yet, after 15 years of knowing what I’ve known about God, the Bible, and the Gospel I look around at this rise in Calvinism and am sometimes saddened. I’m either saddened, angry, or cynical – I’ll be honest. For some reason people jeopardise their relationship with others over a system of thinking about the Bible.

While I believe it is the more consistent system in understanding God and His Word I realise it is just that. A system. It’s not Jesus himself.

Anyway, this rant-like post has been inspired by my reading of William Jay. In his autobiography he writes about Calvinists in his own day. Thankfully he came across some good ones, as he says,

“In my considerable acquaintance with the religious world, some of the most exemplary individuals I have met with have been Calvinists. Of this persuasion were the two most extraordinary characters I ever knew – John Newton, and Cornelius Winter. They held its leading sentiments with firmness; but their Calvinism, like that of Bunyan, was rendered, by their temper, milder than that of some of their brethren; and they were candid towards who who differed from them; and esteemed and loved them as fellow-heirs together of the grace of life.” 

Well, to have that said of you would be a terrific thing. But, evidently these cranky cage stage Calvinists must’ve been around in his day too (circa early-1800’s).

If you are a Calvinist, or lean that way, then I encourage you to be a pleasant and understanding Calvinist, not a cranky one.

Remember, grace and stuff.