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.

Hudson Taylor On Love

“One thing, and one thing only, will carry men through all, and make and keep them successful; the love of Christ constraining and sustaining them is the only power. Not our love to Christ, nor, perhaps, even Christ’s love to us personally; rather His love to poor ruined sinners in us. Many waters will not quench that love, nor floods drown it. Pray that this love may be in us…”

This is Hudson Taylor, as quoted in ‘By Love Compelled‘ by Marshall Broomhall, p12-13.

You’re More Than A Number

Hey,

Tomorrow you find out your VCE results.

This is a big day.

It’s a day where you find out where you’re academically rated amongst your peers after 15 years in the education system.

Tomorrow is also a big day for your parents. For 18 years they’ve been encouraging you, praying for you, and helping you learn and grow into who you are today. For them it marks the final hurdle in seeing you complete your studies and the beginning of a new season – university, work, and other adult-like activities.

As much as family, friends, and teachers have told you that your ATAR score doesn’t define you, I know it doesn’t feel that way. I’m sure you’ve been in conversations about what you’d like to get, what course you might like to apply for, and what you’d like to achieve in 2017 and beyond. People can say this moment doesn’t define you but I’m sure you can’t help but feel nervous and anxious about these results. The text message you receive tomorrow may well dictate the mood of your coming days, weeks, and months. It’s certainly not easy to be in the middle of it all, let alone have others try to convince you that it’s not as important as everyone makes it out to be. Everything from school to family to culture implies something different.

It screams make or break.

A friend of mine received a score lower than 30 when he went through VCE. It was disappointing for himself and his parents. Yet over the years he has held a full-time job, completed studies in Marketing, and in the world’s eyes has become ‘successful’. Another friend scored over 98. She had her pick of all the courses in Victoria but chose to continue her passion and study Psychology (a course that didn’t require such a score). A little while after completing her degree she switched to teaching and has enjoyed it ever since.

I mention these examples because as much as their scores reflected their academic results in the year they completed year 12, they didn’t let it define who they were.

The culture you’ve grown up in, the culture you continue to grow into, tells us that it is what we DO that defines us. It is what we achieve, what we accomplish for ourselves, what we are ‘successful’ at, that makes us who we are.

For those of us who follow Jesus this is turned upside-down.

Rather than having to impress God with the things we do and achieve, we are made free because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. When we have our faith in Jesus, recognising that he has taken our brokenness upon himself, and turn to follow him, we are made new. We are a new creation, a child of God, one who has been bought back to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Since the middle of the year our Sunday services have focussed on our identity in Christ. In the Letter to the Colossians the author makes clear that because of this Good News we are now considered holy and blameless in God’s sight (Col 1:21-22).

Our identity is not defined by what we’ve done, good or bad, or by what we’ve achieved, successful or unsuccessful. We are defined as one who has been made alive in God, forgiven and free (Col 2:13-14).

When you get that text, or make that call tomorrow, the knowledge that you are ‘in Christ’ enables you to have a different perspective.

No longer does the result you achieve define your intelligence, your gifts and abilities, or who you are. Rather, knowing that you are ‘in Christ’ brings perspective and redefines who you are. Look at yourself. God has made you to be you. And nobody else. He’s given you unique passions, abilities, gifts, and ambitions for his good and the good of his kingdom. Therefore, high marks, low marks, bettering your friends or bombing out, do not define who you are.

When we move away from understanding that we are ‘in Christ’, the perspective we have of ourselves becomes distorted. Our self-worth, our identity, and what we deem to be valuable turns inward. We begin to consider ourselves more important and valuable than God and soon enough those things that we DO are defining us again.

So tomorrow, remember that you are worth incredibly more than the number you are given. You are a child of God, made in his image to reflect who he is. You are valuable, someone worth dying for. And you have been made new by the grace and freedom given through the work of Jesus on that cross.

Whatever happens tomorrow Jesus continues to love you and seek you.

Remember, you’re more than a number.