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.

Published: Hope In Distress

At the last minute I was tasked with preaching on Sunday. After contemplating what I should speak on, and not finding peace about any of my previous sermons, I landed on Psalm 142. This Psalm certainly spoke to me in the context of the last week–Christchurch and Cardinals, disaster and religious war. In the end I prepared as I could and preached the Psalm on the Sunday morning.

In the days after I turned the message into a piece published by The Gospel Coalition Australia. You can find the article here.

“The events of last week (or a look down our street, or an examination our own hearts) prove that we need rescuing. And through his Son, Jesus Christ, and the cross on which he died, we find that rescue.

Through  Jesus, and through the cross, we find our hope: hope in distress. And we can live in this hope knowing that God has already dealt with the evil of this world, and even our own pain and hurt and distress. He deals with us generously. He rescues and restores, comforts and consoles. Despite tragedy, we can hope and trust in God, our refuge and rescuer. May we say with the Psalmist, “Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him my Saviour and my God.” (Ps 42:11)”

Hope In Distress

Hope Gone Viral – A Christmas Reflection

In 1991 Metallica released their self-titled album, commonly known as ‘The Black Album’. On this album they released a song called “The God That Failed”. The central theme of this song being about faith and the human reliance on promises which are broken by the God of the universe. Lead singer, James Hetfield, wrote the lyrics soon after his mother’s death from cancer. She had such a strong faith she would be healed that James felt that had his mother not held to her beliefs she would not have lost her life. The lyrics read:

Pride you took
Pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel

Not the word
Not the love
Not what you thought from above

It feeds
It grows
It clouds all that you will know
Deceit
Deceive
Decide just what you believe

I see faith in your eyes
Never your hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail

Follow the god that failed

There are no doubt times in our own lives when we wonder, due to our personal situation or from observing what is happening in our society and around the world, whether God has failed.

This week alone we can think of the atrocities continuing in Aleppo, the attack in Berlin, and the assassination of a diplomat in Turkey. To have your mind blown check out the list of terror attacks that have occurred in December to date. Crazy times.

Yet despite all of this we can still have hope for the future.

This hope comes from knowing that God is faithful to his promises. 

s_s_hope

If we go back some 2700 years we come to a time where God’s people are dealing with a similar question – has God failed?

Through the prophet Isaiah we read of a time where God’s people were struggling for hope. Isaiah is called by God to speak to the people of Judah and Israel, bringing a message of warning and judgement with a sprinkle of hope. In one particular section, chapters 7-9, Isaiah is called to warn and encourage King Ahaz to trust in God despite what looks like very bleak circumstances.

King Ahaz rules over the Southern Kingdom of Judah and is a terrible king who is constantly disobeying God, worshipping other gods, and following his own devices. You can read of his reign in 2 Chronicles 28. And having been warned by Isaiah not to make allegiance with the Assyrians he decides it would be a good idea to do so. He is soon run over by them and then neglects the worship of God, making other gods for himself and his people.

So God’s people are in a bleak and dark situation. Their nation is being bombarded and they are wondering whether God is truly faithful to his people.

They wonder whether God has failed.

Yet in chapter 9:1-7 Isaiah brings a glimmer of hope. Like the sun poking through the clouds on an overcast day, Isaiah brings a brief message of hope in amongst the warnings and judgement to the people of God. This hope culminates in v6-7, which reads:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Here we find that the hope for the people of God is a child-king, a person, who will be born, who will be named, and who will rule an eternal kingdom. This passage, and these two verses in particular, give the people of God great hope for what is to come.

For those who believe, who live 2700 years after Isaiah’s message and this side of the cross, recognise this child-king as Jesus. 

Isaiah’s message is that there is a great king to be born. This king will not be like the current king, Ahaz. Rather he will be a king that surpasses all other kings. He will lead well and true and fair. His leadership will bring peace and his rule will be eternal.

God had not forgotten his people, nor had he left them. His promises come to fruition through this child-king. God himself will fulfil his own promises and come as a baby, making a way for everyone to know him and bring hope for the world.

In this Christmas season we can look back and see that Jesus was a gift of hope to people in the time of Isaiah, just as he continues to be the gift of hope for Christians around the world today. Through this child-king Jesus hope has gone viral.

God himself fulfils that which he has promised in Isaiah by sending his Son Jesus, who rules wisely with strength, power, and holiness. Isaiah calls Ahaz to turn from his disobedience and sin and put his trust in God. In the same way God calls us to do the same. This trust is made manifest through the life and death of Jesus, through this child-king, who came and lived, and died on a cross in order for us to know our God and King.

This Christmas, like last Christmas and the one before that, and the one before that, we celebrate our Lord’s birth; knowing that he came into this world as a baby. We also celebrate him because of what he has done for us. The gift of mercy, grace, and hope he provides us with.

Christmas reminds us that we worship a God who has not failed.

Christmas reminds us that we worship a God who will never fail.

Christmas reminds us that we worship a God who is faithful.


This post is in response to the WordPress Discover Challenge – Hope Gone Viral

Another Year Begins

It’s a New Year.

A time filled with expectation, excitement and possibilities. 

For me this means a couple of changes, particularly early in the year. I currently have seven more days of leave before I begin as Associate Pastor for Youth & Young Adults at Rowville Baptist Church. In early March there will be a new addition to our family so that will change things up a bit too!

With the turn of a new year brings the opportunity to take stock of what’s important and bring some focus to the year.

I find I’m not very good at resolutions but I do enjoy taking time to think, pray, and plan the coming weeks and months.

typewriterphoto

With this in mind there is always the goal of writing and blogging more. I found last year a bit difficult in this regard, mainly due to personal reasons, as can be seen by my posting patterns. Yet, as 2016 has come upon us the writing vibe has gradually been increasing and I hope to see this as an avenue for more blogging.

If you hang around here over the coming months I hope you will see posts about the Christian faith, youth ministry, sport, and some reflections on what I’m thinking through or teaching. It’s a random assortment of material, which isn’t exactly the advice given by the blogging gurus out there. But nevertheless, I do hope it will be a benefit to you as readers as it will be to me the writer. 🙂