By Faith – A Future Hope

Hebrews 11 is one of those chapters in the Bible that is packed with so much that it takes numerous readings to grasp its various teachings. It’s the chapter where the writer outlines all those significant biblical characters of the past, and describes briefly how they lived by faith, trusting and obeying God throughout their lifetime.

For me, stepping into Hebrews 11 is like walking into a museum. A museum with a long dimly lit corridor, with dark floorboards, and square-paned windows letting the light in. And as you walk down this corridor there are old paintings hanging on the walls. And along each side of the corridor there are white marble busts of significant leaders of history and important dignitaries sitting on top of pillars.

This is what I think of when I read Hebrews 11.

All these people from the Old Testament in painting or statue form, highlighting their status among the saints of the past. And with each of these saints we get a small glimpse into what they are commended for; what they have done to earn such a reputation to be written about hundreds of years after they have died.

To extend this museum illustration further, I can imagine that next to each painting or statue there sits a little plaque and as you wander down the corridor you can walk up to each of those plaque’s and read how they lived by faith. Next to each item there is a little inscription starting with “By faith…” and flowing into their individual commendation of how they lived by faith.

By faith Abel…
By faith Enoch…
By faith Noah…
By faith Abraham…
By faith Sarah…

And as we work our way through this chapter we come to an editor’s sidebar. Like one of those big signs at a museum that gives you a broader explanation of what’s going on, there in the middle of this corridor stands as sign with v13-16 on it.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

These words describe how all these people we read of in Hebrews 11 died knowing there was something better for them. They lived on earth as exiles, as people who were in the world but not of it. While the land was plentiful and the descendants numerous God had promised something better. This earth and life was a prototype of something greater. They knew there was something more to come.

This is why the writer can say in v16, “…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

And this resonates with the words of Revelation 21:1-5,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

We know we live in a world that is broken. People are broken, governments are broken, organisations are broken. This results in a world where bad stuff happens, stuff that is not fair for the individual and the collective.

But here in v13-16 we are told of the future hope we can have as believers.

As followers of Jesus we recognise the reality of a broken world. A world broken by sin but a world being prepared for restoration and renewal through the coming again of Jesus Christ. For through Christ there is the promise of forgiveness for our own sin and shame. Through Christ there is the promise of being able to live by faith in relationship with God. Through Christ there is the promise of the restoration of the world. Through Christ is the promise of life-everlasting in the renewed creation of God.

In the same way as the Old Testament saints live by faith for what is to come, so too we live in the world as people who know there is greater to come (despite how bad it may look at times) as God prepares us for the restoration of all things.

I’m a big fan of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. I really enjoy reading the whole collection every so often, and at the end of the final book, The Last Battle, there is a depiction of heaven as the various characters and animals make their way to a renewed land. Lewis writes,

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time there were somehow different — deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.

The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” (p154-155)

A vivid piece of writing, but also a great reminder that we do indeed live, by faith, looking forward to the Holy City, a better country, a heavenly one.

Published: Practicing Thankfulness

A couple of months ago I had a book review of Practicing Thankfulness: Cultivating a Thankful Heart In All Circumstances by Sam Crabtree published on The Gospel Coalition (AU) website.

Ironically I read this while Melbourne was in its fourth lockdown, of which we’ve never really come out. So I will confess I wasn’t that impressed with the beginning of the book but as I read it more I found it did do something within me. It reminded me that there is reason for thankfulness and not simply being a grump for the situations we find ourselves in. It requires a mindset change, an attitudinal change.

As I say in the final few paragraphs of the review:

“So if you would like your heart to opened and exposed—perhaps even have a metal rake run over it—this book will do you a world of good.

I will confess I didn’t like every part of it. I felt the tone lacked a certain pastoral quality, and that it was overly firm in some places where a bit more grey and grace would have been helpful. For example, Crabtree seems to write off all complaining and frustration as being ungrateful for what God has given us. He doesn’t give room for complaint and lament like many of the Psalms we read, and almost suggests we need to ignore these types of feelings, tell them to shut up, and move on. Further, there was some discussion about topics that seemed unnecessary and forced in relation to the main themes. These make moments in this book seem simplistic and reductionistic at times.”

You can read the full review here.

Podcast: #38 of The Sean & Jon Show

Well here it is folks, a year gone by,
We’ve battled, we’ve won, we’ve laughed we’ve cried.

And while it’s a tough year when we look to review,
It’s a year I’ve loved, just podcasting with you

We’ve talked COVID, Quarantine, and everything in between.
And our emotional state has always been easily seen.

Three weeks in and we were mourning being apart, 
We did not know the distance from the end to the start.

We’ve talked Lycra and pets,
Televangelists and awkward texts.
 
We’ve critiqued sermons and each other, 
Eaten spicy food, and disc golf with brothers,
 
Jon has gotten real old, and keeps getting older, 
While Sean is young Spurgeon, and his preaching gets bolder.
 
We have screamed from our porches, and felt the COVID dread,
As Jon demolished Supercoach and let it go to his head.
 
We have had guest speakers, and forgotten about Sean,
We’ve talked mental illness, and mowing our lawns.
 
We played table tennis to fight slavery, 
And seen how poor supervision let Jon’s hamsters be free.
 
We’ve talked Easter, Christmas, and swimming in seas,
We’ve gone from life, to lockdown, to finally being free.
 
Well what a time it has been, to grow through this season.
And as we look at each moment, it’s hard to see rhyme or reason.
 
But through it all, in every moment and strife,
We have seen God’s eternity meet ordinary life.
 
And through every trial we know we withstood,
Even in COVID, God is good.

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

Podcast: #37 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat James Bond, the end has come, and life in 2020 and beyond.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Finishing the season of podcast eps
  • Consistency
  • Sean’s new nickname
  • Shopping centre adventures
  • Disc golf success
  • Meeting new friends
  • TV watching
  • Social media
  • Friends together
  • Fashion Show success
  • We’re going back to in-person services!

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

Podcast: #36 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat driveway tears, changing careers, and Jon’s all-consuming-anger-spilling-forth-from-the-stresses of a COVID year!

Topics Discussed: 

  • Let’s get some sun
  • Meeting people in the flesh
  • Heading to the beach
  • Disc Golf…again
  • What would you do…?
  • Missing the sounds of the home
  • Accomplishing stuff
  • Angry drivers
  • What have we actually learnt about ourselves?
  • Growing in godliness

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

Podcast: #35 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat heading to the beach, learning life lessons you can’t teach, and doing a little Christmas preach.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Gazing into your eyes
  • No stories, again.
  • Up to date with the podcast
  • The longest story ever 
  • The trials of travelling to the beach and back
  • Putting on weight during isolation
  • Time for a trim
  • Hitch-hiking
  • Growing in ourselves and with the Lord
  • Christmas as a growing experience
  • A messy Christmas
  • Being self-reflective

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

Podcast: #34 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat early morning swims, haircut trims, and a battle where the police wins.

Topics Discussed: 

  • No stories
  • Having people over
  • Visiting others
  • Getting into the pool for the first time this season
  • Conversations with others
  • Calling the cops over and over again
  • The Book of Joel
  • Repentance
  • God’s character
  • God’s work in COVID

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

Podcast: #33 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat freedom satisfaction, family COVID test reaction, and reflecting on faith in action.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Freedom
  • Latte in a glass
  • Sean’s parents
  • The goats return
  • Sean’s sister
  • Grand Final weekend
  • The COVID test adventure (again)
  • Year 12 muck up day
  • Shopping and clothes
  • Jonah + God

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

Podcast: #32 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat binging TV, being set free, and mentoring inter-generationally

Topics Discussed: 

  • Disc Golf Stories – Version 1
  • Birthday celebrations
  • TV watching
  • Disc Golf Stories – Version 2
  • Wowed by Celebrity 
  • Cricket and Footy
  • Mentoring and Discipleship and How To Grow

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

Podcast: #31 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week Sean apologies to every old person he offends by his comments in this podcast. 😉

Topics Discussed: 

  • The number 31
  • Back to school
  • Opening the mail
  • Voting time
  • Inflatable pool time
  • The Trinity Sandwich
  • The anti-cat rant
  • What’s the deal with pushing engagement?
  • Fast internet
  • Star Wars
  • A theology of work
  • Rest and work
  • Retirement
  • Discipleship
  • Sean offending every old person listening
  • Knocking the water off the pulpit

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