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?

Day 2 – You Are Sinful

“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.” (Romans 3:23-24)

It might seem odd, in the early stages of a devotional series about identity, to have a focus on sin. It doesn’t really seem encouraging or uplifting, does it?

It’s not meant to be.

Sin is a reality.

Sin is hurtful.

Sin is bad.

We are sinful.

You are sinful.

The bible speaks about sin in a number of ways. It is called ugly, shameful, guilt-giving, people-hurting, relationship-destroying, heart-wrenching, gut-twisting awful.

Sin is something which can be done by a person, but first and foremost it is a state of being.

It is a reality.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Sinful

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 utterly against God in everything we do.

Even if it looks good.

The bible speaks of our heart as being against God and His goodness. Our hearts, from birth, are defective. They are selfish.

So, often we will operate out of a place of self-interest. We will make decisions and act in ways that will be for our good before anyone else’s. We place ourselves as king or queen of our own lives, neglecting others, and particularly God.

Often this plays out in action. When we think of a school assessment we might want to short circuit hard work and steal the answers off the person next to us. When we are filled with lustful thoughts of that person down the corridor. When we think poorly of a person in our team. When we joke amongst friends about the loner sitting in the playground during lunch. When we do something that hurts someone else. All this is the outworking of our sinful heart.

We are always wanting the next best and greatest thing for ourselves, no matter the cost. Whether it costs us friends, relationships, family, or even be harmful for ourselves, our hearts chase after sinful things and drive us toward sinful action.

Because God is supremely good and holy everything He does is good and holy. And because we are not we find ourselves in a bit of trouble.

There is a problem.

The state of our hearts, our bodies, and this world is not entirely good or holy. Therefore, God wants nothing to do with those things that are sinful, things that are against his holiness and goodness.

The focus on ourselves brings us to the point where we think nothing of believing that we rule the world on our own. Instead of acknowledging God as the true and right ruler of this world we have bought into the lie that tells us we are the centre of this world.

We are living in a world that tells us we can have satisfaction and joy if only we are true to ourselves.

We are told we can have everything if only we can put in the hard work.

We are told that at the end of the day, if we have looked after our self and put ourselves first we will find some form of wholeness.

The culture we absorb from a young age spills over into our thinking and is something we find completely natural. What is unnatural, it seems, is to realise that there are greater things going on in the world. That God is actually the right and true ruler of this world, and when we place him at the centre of it all then we will find that satisfaction and joy we desire.

The putting of self at the centre is just another form of our sinful heart leading us away from God.

And because we operate out of a sinful heart we find we are separated from God.

Because of his goodness and holiness God can’t have anything to do with sin. And because he can’t have anything to do with sin this means he can’t have anything to do with us. We are a bitter taste on the tongue of God.

This means our relationship with God is non-existent. Our relationship with God is broken. There is a large fjord between God and us, and no matter how hard we try to reach him and know him we can’t.

The divide is too wide.

Our sinful nature leaves us apart from God. It leaves us lonely, self-absorbed, and heavenly homeless.

FOR REFLECTION

  • How does understanding our sinful nature help us understand our position in life?
  • What sort of feelings rise up in you as you read what has been said?
  • Do you know what brings this separation with God back to wholeness?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

Day 1 – You Are Created

The Radiating Jesus

The book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, is a terrific read. It’s a book that outlines how God is no longer tied to a particular place but is accessible through the person of Jesus.

At the beginning of the book the writer, or ‘preacher’, outlines how God speaks. He used to speak through the prophets and fathers of the Old Testament. Now, however, God has spoken through his Son, Jesus. In explaining who this person Jesus is the writer uses these words:

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Hebrews 1:3)

This is some lofty language, and some kind of statement.

-He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the

First, we find the writer speaking greatly of this Jesus whose divine nature is seen and made known to us. Jesus, this God-man, reflects the image of God in the most perfect way. The glory of God and the nature of God shine upon the world through this Jesus. Jesus isn’t some sort of replica, a replica that is mass produced like small toys gifted to children at Christmas. No, this Jesus is God. And, the glory of God the Father and everything of him shines through his personhood. He is the light of the world (John 8:12).

Second, we are then told of his divine rule. Jesus upholds the universe through his power. His words are the foundation of the world. It is by his word that things happen and things don’t happen. Here we see the power and authority imparted to Jesus as he rules over the universe. We shouldn’t be scared of his rule, for he is the perfect ruler. He is unlike worldly rulers who seek glory for themselves and go a little loco with power. Jesus is the ruler of the universe who rules perfectly.

Third, we are made aware of a permanent salvation. No longer is salvation found through the Law and sacrifices of the Old Testament. There is no need for an annual sacrifice in order to purify our sinful nature and deeds. Jesus was that “purification for sins” when he died on the cross. He fulfilled everything that was needed in order for us to be made pure. This process doesn’t need to occur over and over again. It is not like water purification, which needs stage after stage, to make it clean. No, Jesus made us clean once and for all through his death and resurrection.

To confirm its permanence we note Jesus “…sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. He does not need to go through this purification for sins process again, he is not required to die over and over and over again. No, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) and “…when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sin, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).

How astonishing to know that we have our sin covered, our person made clean and pure, through the sacrifice made by the ruler of the universe. This salvation is offered to us through he who radiates God’s glory and majesty. May it radiate from our heart into the world we live.


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Radiate‘. 

The Presence of God

I’m once again attempting to read the whole Bible through in a year as part of my daily devotions. It’s a yearly goal. Sometimes it gets done, sometimes it doesn’t. This year I’ve been inspired by Melissa Kruger to take on this program which allows for the weekends off. If you’d like to join in it’s not too late!

Today’s reading was from Genesis 28-29 and Mark 11. I found it interesting how they dovetailed each other.

In Genesis 28 Jacob, on his way to find a wife, has a vision from the Lord while he is sleeping. This vision is essentially God promising Jacob that he will continue the line of Abraham. After this vision Jacob wakes up and realises that God is present. He wakes and says:

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

As a result Jacob builds a pillar of stone in honour of the Lord and makes a vow to Him.

In Mark 11 Jesus enters Jerusalem with much fanfare. He is praised and honoured and arrives on the back of a donkey. He makes his way around the city and heads to the Temple, the place where God is supposedly residing. Here he comes upon business activities that are unbecoming for a place of worship. He clears the Temple Courts and curses them.

jesus-cleansing-temple.jpg

As I read these two passages side by side this afternoon I was struck by the reality of God’s presence in the world. In one God comes through a vision to Jacob and by the time the first century rolls around there is a temple representing the presence of God among the people.

But with the arrival of Jesus these things become redundant.

We may still have visions and we may still have places of worship representing God’s presence but it is the presence of Jesus that brings the presence of God to us. For it is Jesus who is the True Presence, he is the one who is the reality of God in the world.

We celebrate this every Christmas when we remember how God entered the world as a baby. We remember every Easter the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that we may know the presence of God in our lives. And we live each day knowing God is present with us through His Spirit.

What a wonderful encouragement for us to know that the very presence of God is with us wherever we are in the world!