Blocked at the Border

It was a case of stepping out in faith with ten thousand hours preparation. It’s been an ongoing burden of the LORD in my heart for some time now to visit the church fellowship in Sydney some 3800 kilometres away. COVID regulations meant that they hadn’t gathered for Sabbath worship since May last year. Thus I left Western Australia by motorcycle [still unable to fly there] on 20th February 2022 having planned this trip for several months.

I cherished those three weeks spent in Sydney, in weekly worship and fellowship. There were numerous café catchups. Sydney has good coffee! God blessed me in so many ways; in fact, all my prayers in every way were answered. I had prayed for four specific things: safety, favour, health and providence. During the first week of torrential rains, work was more restrictive to indoors, and then having to vacate accommodation because of COVID; otherwise all worked well.

I left Sydney almost a week ago, staying the first night in Braidwood NSW, then Robinvale VIC and then at Kimba SA. This is now where my testimony begins:

A long ride from Kimba where I stayed last night to Border Village on the Eyre Highway. Throughout this trip there have been numerous favourable moments; people who showed extraordinary kindness. Like the lady at the motel in Robinvale who was simply extraordinarily helpful in finding alternate accommodation.

I was grateful to have had tail winds all day. The bike used less fuel, and the riding was easier. I experienced head winds and a dust storm on the Hay Plains days earlier, so I was grateful for favourable wind. Late in the afternoon, I noticed two foreboding storm clouds in the direction I was riding. But, in both instances, the storm downpour was to the right, and though the road in place was wet, I only got a faint drizzle at one stage.

But arriving at Border Village was a different story. I had been meditating on what it might look like and what I might say to the police checkpoint, as Western Australia still has a “hard state border” that up until recently prevented most traffic from passing. As I approached the border checkpoint, a scripture came to mind, “Don’t meditate on what you’re going to say, for the Lord will give it to you in that very hour.” That notion in itself made me feel at ease, as earlier I had noted to a friend that my heart would probably be pounding in anticipation on arrival at the border.

Thankfully the policeman who met me was empathetic but firm, saying I could not cross into Western Australia. “Ride back to find a doctor who can give you a medical exemption; if you camp out at night don’t get cold.”

Thus I wondered what to do. Another scripture came to mind as I contemplated my next step. “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” I didn’t know what that would mean in this narrative, or what I should next do or not do. So I stood loitering there about ten metres from the police checkpoint. I stood there for a long time, returning later with a chewy bar and some water. What do I do now? The thought seemed to reoccur, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

I stood for several hours outside the quarantine/police checkpoint, only to finally have an unfriendly sergeant tell me to move on. He was a complex, unsympathetic and unkind man. He didn’t buy into the compassionate, helpful and caring scenario. He especially didn’t seem to like religious folk. He refused my offer to join in prayer together. I mentioned that there is State Law, Federal Law and Divine Law. I noted that Federal Law states that all Australians have freedom of movement between states, which he acknowledged. I said, “You and I are brothers.” “No we’re not,” he retorted. In the conversation, his aggressive stance seemed ready for an arrest – there was nothing redemptive or reconciling about his demeanor or attitude. Another sergeant just stood there and from his body language seemed baffled and unconvinced (perhaps even in their role of what they were actually doing there.) Yet the first police officer I encountered on arrival did exhibit a common decency and concern. God does grant favour.

In our energetic and somewhat confrontational conversation with the sergeant, I told him that “one day every knee would bow to Jesus.” He said that his religion was to himself and so should mine be. What really left him rattled was when I said, “One day Jesus will call your name from the grave.” At that moment he seemed as if he momentarily lost his train of thought. Again he threatened what arrest might look like. I explained that as I work for the International Ministerial Congress, that wasn’t an option, and left peaceably. As I left with the bike to organise a cabin for the night, the first police officer I encountered waved to me and shouted, “Safe riding.” Then when I went to buy a bottle of water, I encountered him again as he was there getting a coffee, and he acknowledged that I was staying the night.

Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” Still not clear where to proceed. But to witness the gospel message in the name of Jesus at the police checkpoint with the two sergeants there was an honour and privilege. “The word will be given to you in that very hour.”

I was so brain-and-body tired, but this time on a deeper level. It was a hard afternoon. I really appreciate the rallying of the brothers and sisters in Christ who are joining in prayer across Australia and even overseas. I appreciated hearing Rebecca’s cheerful voice over the phone.

I’m now getting lots of messages from across the world. Some of my responses:

It’s a strange peculiarity creating a hard border that excludes the philanthropic accommodation of those who have made a personal informed decision not to take the COVID vaccine or to disclose their personal medical details. Please pray.

I’ve been on the road for some 30 or so  hours, riding 8 hours each day. There is no option for turning back, but that God grant favour and opportunity from His divine repository. We need the congregations of the saints to uphold this in prayer. Thanks Mike

Thank you for PRAYERS. I often preach about faith, talk about faith, retell the great Biblical stories of faith and encourage others to have faith; now is the day to humbly stand in that moment. Sometimes all we need to do is to, “Stand still and see the salvation of the LORD.”

Continued below:

Sometimes it’s hard to see the silver lining when treading the difficult path. What do I do standing in no-man’s-land? A man of God, now a sojourner, unable to return home. My wife Rebecca some 14 hours away by road anticipating me coming home soon, but I’m blocked by an authoritarian, unscientific political narrative. I had wrongly presumed that the checkpoint would have had a COVID testing station. After all, the Government website informed travellers to bring their own Rapid Antigen Tests. I had bought a pack of six at a pharmacy in Sydney, just in case. But, there was no testing procedure. We now know that the vaccinated are just as contagious as the unvaccinated, so a testing mechanism at the border would have been a genuine complement to the State Government’s health emergency powers. It was conspicuously not. One can only conclude that the current WA policies are about control and exclusion, nothing more.

As the sun was setting, I decided to continue praying, and began to also think it might also be a time to fast. I’ve certainly lost some kilos on this trip; stress does reduce appetite.

I eventually checked into a motel at Border Village, and had a troubled night, my body inexplicably trembling from the stress. Again a Biblical theme pressed into my mind during the night. It was as if, again, “the word of the Lord came to me.” The thought persisted during the night of when a fleeing Elijah was fearful of his life. King Ahab sought to kill him too. Elijah was confused, felt alone, defeated and overwhelmed. Hiding in a cave, an angel of the Lord came and said to him [the paraphrase going around in my mind], “Eat, gain some strength, for the journey ahead of you is long.

In rehearsing and pondering that scripture, I realised that now wasn’t the time to fast. That can happen later. If I were to ride the bike, especially maintaining control at very low speeds, I needed physical strength. (The first things to feel the stress from fasting are my weakened legs!) “Eat, you need the strength, for great is the journey ahead of you,” was the recurring theme in my head.

Thankfully I had some munchy bars and water, and felt somewhat in a better state of mind. Talking to Rebecca on the phone brought out a well-spring of tears and for a few minutes the choked incapacity to speak. Sometimes we get tested to the very maximum!

The short story is that the following morning, I took the phone counsel of two very different options. One qualified “good” advice was to ignore the police checkpoint and ride straight into Western Australia. At Norseman, the police would stop me, arrest me, issue a heavy fine, with then the scenario of a court case in Kalgoorlie. The source told me that others had been “successful” with getting back home to Western Australia this way. I spent some 25 minutes on the phone asking a variety of questions about the details of the pending operation. It seemed that it would be the only way to get home. After all, the Western Australia police were actually acting on South Australian soil, a mitigating technicality that could be presented in court.

So what do I do? I felt the stress like I’ve never experienced before. So I sought additional counsel from pastor Phil in Adelaide. We discussed what the potential news headlines would look like: WA COG7 PASTOR ARRESTED…” It would reflect badly on our part of the body of Christ, the church. The harder option would be to turn around and ride back the 16 hours to Adelaide. I’d rather suffer for righteousness and in the name of Jesus, (and not for my rights) than be tempted to find the quicker way home. It was a hard choice but one what was clear enough to me.

Thus I saddled up the bike, and quietly headed east again, on a road terribly familiar but one filled with tears. Again, I’d rather suffer for righteousness sake, than play by the devil’s rules. Then the word of the Lord sounded again, “For long is the road ahead of you.” I somehow understood.

Even a day’s journey begins to see events in their bigger perspective. Let’s go back a few years. When I was ordained as pastor, both anointing pastors prayed. The first pastor prayed for an out-pouring and anointing of the Holy Spirit. The second pastor prayed for strength for all the things “John would suffer in the name of Jesus”. The second prayer piqued my attention for reasons different from the first prayer. I’ve often wondered how that suffering might evolve, what it might consist of and the circumstances therein? I’ve tasted some of it now, and so has my wife Rebecca.

We are now sadly living in a post-Christian culture. The anchors and vestiges of morality and compassion are virtues quickly receding into past memory. I see that so clearly. The question remains: what will it take for return, repentance and reconciliation? Maybe there’s a harder and longer road ahead.

And, finally, what is the word that I keep hearing from above? “Blessed are those who put their trust in the LORD.

John Classic
By John Classic

One Small Step…

Each journey begins with one small step, often by faith into the unknown and unexplored, and desirably with ten thousand hours preparation! We’re not alone in this, surrounded by family and friends, and watched over from above. Our prayers for each other are the touchstone of community.

And in our “Amen and Alleluias” our reliance is established on His divine providence and favour – a grace unmerited but afforded nonetheless. I’m looking forward to the richness of shared fellowship amidst the current uncertainties. Let’s keep upholding each other in prayer, reflecting a divine glory in all we say and do!

PS Looking forward to keeping you posted on the travels, people, opportunities, challenges and aspirations along the way, travelling from Perth to Sydney.

John Classic
By John Classic

With All Alacrity

Eyes fixed not on the storm but on Jesus and on him alone.

Baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another year is over, and we’ve enjoyed the challenge of further researching and developing gospel content that speaks into the issues of this generation. From the perspective of what has been accomplished in the past by Jesus and what remains yet to be seen as the scriptures indicate, we have significant work yet remaining. The gruesome death and literal bodily resurrection of Jesus sets the stage for all we aspire to.

Based on this, our forward-looking approach is also inspired by the distinct promises and assurances that Jesus now gives. He assures us that he will never leave or forsake us. That he will dwell with and in us. That his words will come from our mouths, and as such our testimony remains. That in this world we’ll experience hostility, adversity, suffering, trial and tribulation – realities for which we’re encouraged to rejoice and face with all alacrity! Why and how? Because it ends well. There is hope. There is reason, purpose, morality and objective identity. And so whatever 2022 holds, we’re unafraid of whatever the path ahead bodes because we’re faith filled – eyes fixed not on the storm but on Jesus and on him alone.

We’re planning another motorcycle ride from Perth to Sydney, filming along the way, sharing the gospel with fellow travellers and sojourners, as well as visiting those in Christ scattered across this great continent. Our goal is to have a freshly printed 6th edition of Resurrection HOPE which we’ll again promote along the way. Seven years ago we gave away 48 copies of this Christ-centred book. This 6th edition features a new introductory chapter. May God grant us courage, grace, favour and opportunity in sharing the best good news message we could ever hear!

John Classic
By John Classic

The Terrifying Truth

Bloodied, bruised, beaten, nailed and speared. It was hard to believe that Jesus, the Son of God, the Word (Logos) was dead. After all, He was the Messiah – the promised, long-awaited Anointed Saviour! Ancient prophecies told of his rulership, might and power. During his ministry, he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead and forgave their sins, and if you knew those ancient scriptures, then only God can lay claim to that. And now the lifeless body of the Son of God hung, bloodied, pierced and expired.

The brutality of Roman rule seemed to triumph once again. The King of the Jews was dead.  Those who had hoped in a different outcome now cowered in a mixture of fear, contempt and brewing anger.

The turn of events, unpredictable at best, was not what any of Jesus’ disciples anticipated. Earlier in the ordeal, when the soldiers came with clubs, swords and lanterns to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, they fell over when Jesus asked them who they were looking for. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

The power of “I am,” conveyed in Jesus’ response caused even battle-hardened warriors to collapse in helplessness. But, then, Jesus let them arrest Him. That’s when Peter, seeing “events seemingly go so wrong” clumsily wielded his sword, but failed to decapitate the high priest’s servant.

Now, hours later, Jesus was dead. Darkness and terror lay in the hearts of the living, most of all his followers. It just wasn’t meant to happen that way! Or was it?

The gospel narratives clearly show that on several occasions Jesus predicted his death to be followed by his resurrection three days and three nights later. But it didn’t really register even to his closest disciples. Jesus’ detractors, however, the Jewish religious rulers namely the Pharisees, did remember Jesus’ prophetic assurances, and so added security was enforced around the tomb, ensuring no unpredicted outcome.

The belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, is at the heart of the Christian message, hope and doctrine. There is no other central teaching, no other matching doctrine. Jesus died on a Wednesday afternoon, was buried before sunset prior to the high day of Unleavened Bread, and rose from the dead sometime after sunset that following Saturday night. When Mary arrived at the tomb early on the Sunday morning, Jesus was gone.

The angelic messenger questioned her, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He’s not here. He is risen!”

Today, we stand on the testimonies of those first century eye witnesses. We see their despair, and feel their darkness. And then, just as Jesus predicted, we too exult in their exceedingly great joy at seeing their Lord and Saviour again. Such joy and gladness continues to echo across the millennia in the endearing and enduring faith of those who would follow.

Many years later, one of Jesus’ closest disciples again saw the now glorified Son of God in a powerful and terrifying vision. Jesus said to John, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore…”

If it is true that Jesus, the Logos, the Son of God, died and rose again, then this narrative seriously needs our attention. It’s otherwise foolishness to relegate such compelling evidence as fables to be discarded to the realm of fantasy. As verifiable, factual recording of events, Jesus’ resurrection then however must be the most terrifying truth we could ever encounter, because it suddenly condemns our society’s atheistic suppositions as deceptively and dangerously wrong, just as it also opens up the realms of possibility and hope.

Without “resurrection” there is no hope; human life is otherwise just a random accident, neither good or bad, with no meaning or purpose. But, if the Logos who spoke everything into existence, then entered our reality of time, matter and space to demonstrate complete redemption and forgiveness by his own blood, and he is in fact who he says he is, then you and I have a responsibility to dare to ask: “What does it mean for me, and everyone else who has ever lived?”

Are we willing to explore the compelling reasons to believe and hope in the power and promise of glorious resurrection life?

Written by John Classic
Written by John Classic

Looking Ahead

How do we adequately prepare for what’s ahead – either the immediate future or the long-term horizon view? It is without doubt that those who have a Biblically-based broad-brushstroke narrative and trajectory of “certain hope” focused on Jesus are in a good place to pioneer whatever lies ahead.

We believe that we’re created in God’s image and likeness. We believe that life, therefore, has meaning and purpose. In other words, that suffering also has some kind of larger, transcendent context. We identify as God’s offspring, His children. We cherish that we’re loved so much, and often marvel that such a great price has been paid in our redemption (in Jesus). We hold dear that Jesus is coming again, in glory, might and power. And, from those scriptures, we also become cognisant that His coming will be preceded by a time “that has never happened before nor will ever happen again”.

We can easily become immersed, for example, in the descriptive narrative throughout Matthew 24 and Luke 21, as well as ponder the rich imagery throughout Revelation, each contributing to a broad-brushstroke array of the events at the end of this age and the heralding of the new.

The Lord has revealed just enough for us to know and all that we need for today. Of course, none of us particularly relish facing what appear to be increasingly difficult times. Here we’re comforted by Jesus words:

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”

“In this world you will have tribulation,” says Jesus, “but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

The notion of suffering for Christ begins with Jesus’ teachings and proceeds throughout the apostolic letters. The question, of course, is how are we ever going to adequately negotiate these times – given that the past 70 or so years in the West at least since World War 2 has been relatively peaceful, abundantly prosperous, full of opportunity, with generally good health services, a stable economy, and parliaments that still affirm the Bible before each session? Many have become complacent, beguiled by ungodly ideologies. Our society that grew from its Judaic-Christian roots is now in the throes of accelerated, declining change.

When Jesus said, “As in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man,” he referred to a previous age known by its extreme violence, sexual depravity and social malevolence. Thus, “the Days of Noah” are also synonymous with a great “reset”.

God thus simply flushed away all the wickedness, and through this baptism of water, started again. And, at the brightness of Jesus’ coming, begins another “GREAT RESET”: Return, Reset, Resurrection followed by an age of Righteousness. But all this is preceded by “birth pains”.

So, here’s the question: How are you and I (or our children and grandchildren) ever going to be adequately prepared to face all this yet “unwritten” but certain interim future?

The good news is, that as we abide in Christ and His words are intrinsic to our narrative, our future trajectory is not uncertain. We are victors in Christ!

How does this happen? God prepares and equips us over many years and through all kinds of circumstances, like He has done throughout history. For example, Joseph was prepared through unjust and arduous suffering before he attained the pinnacle of leadership in Egypt. Imagine languishing in prison for many years at the behest of a lying, promiscuous woman!

Likewise, Moses was prepared for his life’s calling, first in the courts of Pharaoh, then in the wilderness for decades, before his life’s mission and purpose became apparent.

David the unknown shepherd boy had his first fights with a lion and then a bear, before embracing a calling to leadership, replete with ensuing battles and many epic struggles.

Jesus equipped and mentored his closest followers for over three years to take on the biggest job of all – in the midst of Roman cruelty and oppression. It’s terrifying to contemplate how many crucifixions those disciples may have witnessed before they saw Jesus go that same fate?

God equips us all before he allows us to step into “future history”. Jesus so many times exhibited a stunningly accurate foretelling of the immediate as well as long-term future. He said to Peter with unwavering confidence: “Satan has asked for you. But I have prayed for you and when you have turned…” the corner in this.

When Jesus called his disciples, he said, “I will make you…” There were no shortcuts to what Jesus had in mind. God knows who we’re becoming, and we need to trust His handiwork. It is the Lord’s work and all is of His making. Gold and silver are refined by fire; Jesus is building His church, and he’s not using sticks and straw. Our part is to remain available and faithful – looking indeed to a future that is gloriously brighter than we may dimly envisage today.

John Classic
By John Classic

Global Prayer Summit

It was indeed a blessing to share in the Global Prayer Summit, sponsored by the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Jamaica, where during the past three days we were blessed to hear, see and be exhorted through a variety of speakers and messages of the upward call in Christ to be about His will and work.

A special thanks to all who contributed. The church indeed moves forward, but on its knees in prayer.

John Classic
By John Classic

Orthodox Fallacy

Are we sure Christianity has “gotten it right” in all its core faith essentials? What about those historical pagan practices now embedded within church culture? This short message may shock a few and is certain to make many uncomfortable, but doesn’t Jesus want us to make those necessary course corrections?

I share this video by way of a deep and lingering concern that we sometimes allow apathy and disregard to prevail when it comes to the accuracy of what we believe and celebrate. Have we not simply taken convenient shortcuts on truth? It’s not that we’ve intended to pave a path other than what the scriptures reveal, but our adherence to long-held traditions can easily veil and limit the truth of Christ. Oh that the reformation of 500 years ago had moved us further out of darkness and deeper into the truth!

Some churches develop their core essentials from a mix including the Bible, their tradition and their unique “apostle” or “prophet” (either living or long deceased). Others denominations give equal equity to the Bible as well as tradition. And yet others testify to adhering to the Bible and the Bible alone; that is, no prophets, apostles or popes, and no tradition that exists outside of the Biblical narrative!

The assertion in this video is really quite confronting as it claims that Christian orthodoxy has lapsed in its ability in basic mathematics. Jesus was dead in the grave for three days and three nights. No more and no less. And this then creates a problem for traditionalists and theologians alike.

As a sincere apologist, let us know whether you think it’s time for an honest rethink, some theological honesty followed by some significant recalibration?

John Classic
By John Classic

Grandmother’s Love

The church fellowships within the Church of God Sabbatarian community are blessed with differing gifts, resources and opportunities. Instead of harbouring an “us and them” mindset, we increasingly embrace this diversity today with profound thankfulness. Across the earth we still call home, we find ourselves “building bridges between brothers” in an ever more uncertain and perverse generation. This increased fraternity and the sharing of resources is a powerful testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Are we not seeing the ministry of reconciliation during our time of stewardship? Praise God!

Perhaps one of the oldest (let’s call her “grandmother”) in our Sabbatarian community is the Church of God (Seventh Day). The past 170 or so years have seen many church families spread out across the world. Many don’t know “grandmother” all that well, but “grandmother” wants you to know that “she’s doing well by God’s grace”. The church internationally is represented in 60 countries, and its members are predominately English and Spanish speaking, the latter formed as strong and vibrant fellowships across the USA, Central and South America.

Ever wondered about the significant growth in the Spanish-speaking churches? Those who read their Santa Biblia (Holy Bible) soon discover that the word for Sabbath is Sabado. In English the seventh day has inherited its Roman naming after the god Saturn. But not so in Spanish. Thus, the day of the week given for rest, worship and fellowship is, of course, Sabado!

So next time you’re out of town, and looking for a place to fellowship, or would simply like to explore our shared church heritage, the love within our “grandmother” church is sure to leave you both blessed and loved. And, if grandmother bids you “paz hermanos” – it’s a special blessing among our Spanish fraternity which simply and profoundly means “peace brethren”.

John Classic
By John Classic