It’s always encouraging to reflect on one’s personal and collective purpose. God who created everything, rested from his works, and in doing so reflected on all that He had made. In His own estimation, “It was very good.”
Likewise, as faithful stewards of God’s will and work, we too can find pause and take time to reflect on His good work among, in and through us. After all, we are the Lord’s fellow workers! Yesterday, we uploaded our 900th gospel video! There’s no time, however, to dwell long on past exploits. There’s work to do.
It is always encouraging to see growth, not only in our own lives, but also throughout our shared faith community. And to that end, our prayers are being answered in ways that are often surprising, for we long to see more people come to faith in Jesus Christ.
What gives us perhaps the greatest joy is when the seeds of the gospel gives way to growth. Often, it takes watering the Word with the sun’s warmth and gentle rains, and in ways only known to God, that little seed of truth somehow germinates. For others, it takes a wild fire to scorch the seed that lies buried under a blanket of leaves. Then, when the landscape appears blackened and lifeless, the first seedlings to appear are often those hardy “Banksias” that no amount of water or sunshine could raise!
That’s the miracle and mystery of surprise. The fruits of our labour in witness, evangelism and edification will be borne, either in our time, or on the harvest of yet another generation.
Our goal is simply to share the good news in every way we can. Everything we say and do must be in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest joy of our labour, of course, lies yet future, when it will be Jesus who will call those who sleep in their graves to rise and live forever “Where I AM”.
One of the anomalies that we can wrestle with is the tone and nature of our reasoned testimony. Twenty six years ago our on-camera message was in the genre of speaking “hope and encouragement”. I suppose it was a young preacher’s license to testify. In more recent times, when a gospel message or sermon has been stronger in tone, perhaps intentionally and recognisably poignant, greater and more positive has been the response! Perhaps this stems from a people tired of being lied to by society’s narrative; or, that believers actually see through an all too common “sugar-coated” message?
Do we intuitively know the truth when we hear it? Speculation aside, for today, it is the power, presence and compelling persuasion of the Holy Spirit that convicts, clarifies, comforts and confronts the human heart more than anything or anyone else can! To that end we pray, trust and labour.
Our Heavenly Father calls us to Christ. Jesus, then, in choosing us, further makes His disciples into “fishers of men,” equipping us according to the spiritual gifts given to us. But there are many who baulk at Jesus’ invitation. In Luke’s narrative in chapter 7, he tells us that those Jesus beckoned into service often made lame excuses.
One wanted to follow Jesus just for the perks. Another wanted to first see his father’s life out before committing to Jesus. Others simply procrastinated. See Luke 9:57-62.
In his search for willing disciples, Jesus often encountered those who cited some kind of pressing, interfering need. How easy it is, from our carnal, limited perspective, to often relegate something more important than the Lord’s beckoning! God doesn’t want to rate second to our work, family, hobbies, studies or anything else.
This should be cause for sombre reflection in our own personal lives and calling. Jesus spoke of the impossibility of serving God and mammon. In His parable of the sower, He cited the dreadful attrition of why good seed failed to produce. How might the lessons in the gospel accounts apply to us?
It’s important to remember that Christ chose us; we didn’t choose Him – as an optional extra in our already busy lives. Our intellectual reasoning or intuitive prowess didn’t bring us before the throne of grace! No, rather, our Heavenly Father called us. Christ chose us. We did not choose Him. Our portion is to respond in faith.
In meditating and examining our current life trajectory, we must sense and respond to a compelling meaning, purpose and identity founded on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the transcendent certain promises contained therein.
Do we really comprehend the nature of our high calling in Christ? What radical changes have happened in our lives since following Jesus? And how have those changes affected us and those around us?
And, may we add, what remaining course corrections are we still to make, as we grow up into the image and stature of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we expand our lives into His grace and knowledge?
Have we adequately filtered out the cacophonies of worldly noise and the forms of inappropriate entertainments and distractions that can deafen our ears to heeding the true and righteous word of the LORD? Our own hearts, according to scripture, can deceptively lead us into sinful ways.
How authentic is our attunement to His will and purpose? Do we genuinely hear and obey the still small voice of the Holy Spirit?
Our response to Jesus’ offer must be radical and sure-footed, especially considering His instructions as recorded in Matthew’s testimony: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [food, clothing and shelter] will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
When God called each of us individually to His Son and into community, He had a purpose in mind. Often that purpose is intended at a specific time in history.
For example, Noah found favour with the Lord and is remembered as a key player in a salvation narrative. Abraham, as God’s friend, was also a notable protagonist in a bigger generational story. Moses talked with the Lord as with a friend, and is remembered as powerfully pivotal in God’s hands. Esther was a woman of her time, called and raised to save her people from genocide. Ruth the Moabite woman stands notably in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Also born for his time was Peter who later led the first century church. Paul, an intriguing man of his time, took the gospel to the Gentiles with great fervour and tireless energy.
What about us? God’s call is also an invitation, and it can be thrust on us when we perhaps least expect it. Moses was called into service at 80 years of age, and we’re quite familiar with how he protested at the mere thought of what was before him. Samuel was called to serving ministry just after being weaned. Jeremiah experienced God’s call at just 17 years of age. “Don’t say that you’re too young,” God told Jeremiah. Elisha also had some quick decisions to make when calling and ministry was thrust upon him.
You see, the prophet Elijah’s ministry was coming to the end, and God told him, among other things to anoint Elisha into service. (See 1 Kings 19:19-21)
Elisha immediately realised that there was no turning back from the LORD’s beckoning. So, what did he do? He killed his twelve oxen.
Remember, animal stock was often the primary source of wealth and provision in ancient times. However, Elisha invited his neighbours and friends, lit a big BBQ with the timber yokes of the twelve oxen, sacrificed to the Lord and hosted a feast for everyone that day. Elisha truly “burned his bridges” in the sense that he was determined to never be tempted to return to his former occupation. He then followed Elijah in ministry.
If we follow the narrative, Elisha wasn’t shy about embracing the daunting scope of work he was called to facilitate in the legacy and footsteps of Elijah. He asked for a double portion of the Holy Spirit! And from the ensuing story, it seems that God granted just what he asked for!
Let’s fast forward to the gospel accounts, as recorded in John chapter 21. Peter and Andrew, together with John and James, were former fishermen. They were the sons of promise for their father’s seafaring livelihood.
However, Jesus had called them three years earlier to become “fishers of men”. After the confusing horrors of Jesus’ crucifixion, however, the post-traumatised disciples returned to Galilee. “I’m going fishing,” said Peter. The others followed. So they fished all night, and caught nothing.
In the morning, Jesus was waiting for them on the shore, with freshly baked bread and barbequed fish on a welcoming fire. Jesus fed them breakfast before re-commissioning Peter back into ministry service with four injunctions. He said to Peter, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep,” and finally, “Follow me.”
The early chapters of Acts then show a remarkably transformed Peter. He was fearless, articulate, and passionate for His Saviour. Never would he again deny his Lord!
The Body of Christ today, at home and around the world, is in need of Godly men and women to hear and respond to God’s calling in their lives. We’ve heard that in our current post-COVID era that church attendance is significantly down throughout the Christianised world. Perhaps it is.
We are undoubtedly in an age of increasing unbelief and faithlessness. But that’s not where we the people of God are. We endure and grow by faith. We learn how to respond. We learn what sacrifices have to be made. We learn to implicitly trust Jesus, and to put our hands to the plough for the Kingdom of God – and all it might mean!
Within our churches we see a new generation of young people embracing God’s calling for their lives. And those of us who are older in the faith must mentor, edify and encourage this next generation so they more clearly see and embrace God’s purpose for them.
Do we see every little boy attending church services with their family as a potential pastor, a missionary, a man of God? Are we equipping our little girls into Godly service and mission?
Should we not pray that God would raise many faithful, humble, servant leaders in our time who are willing to take up the mantle (pick up their cross) and run their race in the name of Jesus? Such prayers or aspirations are not presumptive. They’re absolutely necessary.
God has called us to be faithful with the gifts He’s already given us. We need to ask what strides of faith we have taken to develop those individual gifts for the benefit of the Body of Christ? And, moreover, are we willing to suffer for Christ in His service? The message of scripture is clear. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross. And, follow our LORD.
Think back to our early days of faith in Christ when we were compelled to seek baptism. “I surrender all, Lord Jesus,” we may have cried out in prayer. What we experienced is known as “first love”. And as we were raised from that watery grave, in the Holy Spirit, we became a new creation. Then, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, into His stature and image, at some point the call of discipleship became unmistakably clear.
We learn to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. The Holy Spirit gives voice to Jesus’ words, and if we are listening carefully, it is a call to Kingdom service and ongoing testimony.
God’s hand is on you; don’t resist Him. Don’t follow a path counter to what He’s calling you to. Jesus knew the risks of those who turn back. He said of when He returns, “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth?”
God is encouraging and imploring us today into service and stewardship. His calling and gifts are irrevocable, as they are precious and priceless. May we eagerly embrace all our Lord calls and equips us for! The apostle Paul signed off from one of his letters with the certainty that: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)
On that glorious day, may we too hear our Lord’s crowning words: “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21 ESV)
Brenton’s voice over the phone was troubled. My heart sank. “Dad died early this morning,” his words faltered as the worst realisation suddenly sank in. “Oh, NO!” Holding the phone to my ear, my head sank to the desk. Rebecca hurriedly entered my office, and placed a comforting arm on my shoulder.
I have worked and travelled extensively with pastor Phil for so many years, and now with so much unfinished business, his death seemed so untimely. That’s what it seem for us, in this life, in the here-and-now, but of course not from God’s perspective. In the past few months, Phil had confided in my how much his heart’s chronic failure was rapidly deteriorating. On signing out of the online Zoom Bible Study last time, he half mischievously said, with an undercurrent of seriousness, “I’ll see you later, or I’ll see you later.” While his jovial but prophetic words weren’t lost on me, I wanted and chose to believe otherwise. A few days later, after a surgical procedure at the Adelaide hospital, he called me from the hospital, his voice in an unusually serious tone, saying that “it had went well.” He also went on to explain the doctors’ verdict: his heart was beyond repair and likened to a “blown engine”.
Rebecca and I flew to Adelaide for the funeral last Friday. By then, we had shed our tears, and it was time to remember and celebrate the life of a Godly man. Phil loved the LORD, loved God’s people, and gave his life to the service of the church, the Kingdom of God in microcosm. It was Phil’s desire that I facilitate the main funeral message. I spoke for a few minutes on the only subject I know at a time like this – resurrection hope, reflecting on the many years we’d worked together, and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ that characterised Phil. Of the 150 faces in the auditorium, most were relatives and friends I had not previously met. The rest were church members from near and far.
In the days since the funeral, Rebecca and I have spent the time with the brothers and sisters in Christ in Adelaide, talking, dining out, answering questions, discussing where we move from here and how we pick up the momentum. We were blessed to stay with Michael and Erin; they also offered us the use of one of their cars. I really enjoyed speaking with the local leaders there, sensing an overwhelming commitment and willingness to share the work of moving church life forward.
Before flying back home to Western Australia today, Rebecca and I visited Phil’s grave site one more time. Again, we wept. Not because we don’t believe, and not because we don’t have hope. We wept and hugged each other because we will dearly miss him. I loved him. I enjoyed working with him. I valued our numerous phone and Skype video calls each week. We worked well together, supporting each other, giving good counsel to each other, and vision casting to where we would one day have multiple pastors and elders forming an Australian ministerial council.
We were intent on raising up new leaders in the church. This is without dispute a process that takes time, wisdom and discretion. And because in our church family as elders we’re so few on the ground, servicing such a large continent, his passing seems so untimely and unfair. Besides, I’m not sure anyone is ready to step into shoes so big and established. Somehow we get thrust into service, as someone put it. I was happy to have Phil at the helm. He was the man for the moment. But, it is what it is. We’re all stewards for just a short time. And thus, I’m all the more aware of my own mortality and responsibility to raise up more Godly leaders. When Brenton originally called me, I reminded him of what someone one said about being a son in “being the strongest person at your father’s funeral.” He seemed to understand, and confirmed the commitment to continue the work his father had begun.
Now, we must let grief morph into gratitude, listen to the comfort and counsel of the Holy Spirit and love and comfort those around us. I believe the church in Adelaide is well and truly capable to take the baton and run.
While I have written extensively about resurrection hope, preached numerous sermons on the subject, as well as having written various articles over the years, nothing can quite prepare one for the rawness of death. Death is an enemy, introduced by the Devil in the Garden of Eden. Although the Tree of Life was freely available then, the first humans chose otherwise. And thus the reigning curse of death could only be remitted by the author of life, the righteous Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ. The law of God is perfect, holy, just and good, as it is true and righteous, but as such it condemns us all to death. The law can’t save us. But the Lawgiver can and did and does. And because of that we have victory. Phil ran his race. He fought his fight. Now a crown of righteousness awaits him on that day of resurrection glory.
That day, Jesus will descend from heaven and with a loud shout, call Phil’s name from the grave. In one of the oldest passages of scripture, it was the patriarch Job who asked, “If a man dies shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait,” before crying out, “You will call, and I will answer you, and you will desire the work of your hands.”
By then, he’ll also be calling my name from the grave. If you’re read this far and nodded in agreement, he’ll probably also be calling your name as well!
If you don’t understand who you are it’s impossible to develop self-control. In fact, without identity, we don’t know where we’re going in life.
In our generation, there are many who search endlessly for “identity”. The search for identity is perhaps one of the greatest issues of our century. We hear about racial identity, political identity and sadly gender dysphoria and identity.
As a country which is typical of western decline, it seems that in abandoning our Judaic-Christian heritage, we’re now in search for a new identity, a new constitution, and a new flag with new colours.
Of course, identity is important – it’s at the heart and core of human consciousness.
I recently came across a news report where a young lady learned that she was conceived by a sperm donor. In the course of time, she further learned that she has some 168 siblings!
Not knowing her biological father, her search for identity has been relentless; legal constraints have prevented her from finding all the relevant information she so desperately wants. She has, however, found 12 confirmed siblings, each of whom were willing to participate in DNA tests.
She said that wherever she goes now, she searches the faces of strangers everywhere, hoping to find yet another person who bears a biological resemblance to herself.
Like her, we all have a strong, almost inexplicable sense and will to know who we are, what is our biological parentage, where our unique features come from, and have a greater sense of personal place within society. Identity and its implications for personality, individual expression, and a sense of place and belonging are powerfully important.
Today, much of the erosion in matters of morality, ethics and conservative values stem from the voices of dissent that focus on and accentuate identity. For example: “Because you aspire to traditional values, and are a white, middle-aged male, you must be the cancelled, ridiculed and disadvantaged.” And so un-Godly folk such as leftists seek to control the narrative, and further try to suppress freedoms of speech in their woke aspirations to foster and advance dangerous legislation.
This is a deadly path to follow, and manifests in opposing group identities such as sexual/gender identity, ideological identity, political identity, as well as of course racial identity. The latter “classing” has been a popular false fire of discontent sown by malcontents for decades, coercing people to believe that they are victims of oppression – essentially white oppression. A victim-identity is dangerous and disempowering, because it creates a false sense of self and a perverted view of justice.
We hear today that the enemies are allegedly “privileged, white, middle-ages males”, (which is generally representative of the roots of western civilisation, built on the values and ethos of the Judaic-Christian heritage).
The devil’s deception currently pervading particularly the western world is insidious, relentless and deadly. And, it all centres on identity. In other words, the devil doesn’t want us to know who we potentially are!
We were created in the “image and likeness of God.” We are to become God’s own children! The devil knows and fears our identity in Christ; he hates God, he hates the Son of God, because, in Christ, you and I were given a new identity – an identity that frees us from the curse of death.
Raised from the waters of baptism, with the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, we became a “new creation”. Scripture teaches that our old self died and was washed away in the waters of baptism.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3-4 ESV)
Paul personalised his conversion experience when he wrote to those first century churches.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
We are no longer defined by our sinful past.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
“If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you,” Jesus explained, we would be able to have all that we prayerfully ask for. Why and how? Because of our identity. Once, our identity was sold under sin. The consequence of this was the certainty of the death penalty. God told Adam what his identity looked like because of his sinfulness: “From dust you were taken and to dust you shall return.” Adam and Eve’s identity as sinners was worth little more than the soil on the ground!
But through the redemptive process available only in Jesus Christ, we have become a completely new creation. Our identity is in Christ. He is our LORD, our Saviour, Redeemer, and the One who justified us by his blood.
Yet, there are risks living in this broken and deceptive world. Jesus warned that “if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived”. In other words, the risk of losing our crown can be tangibly real. Jesus told his followers that the entire world would be deceived, led astray, and perceived as lost.
When I was much younger in my late teens, I did for a while struggle with identity. My father was Austrian and my mother Greek. Living in Australia with European-modelled family values amidst Australia culture, there were times when I didn’t really know who I was.
Thankfully, that was just a passing phase. However, in following years, I sought identity, among other things, as a mechanic, as a motorcyclist, and as an artist. Many men find their identity in their work, or sport, or some consuming hobby.
It was only many years later that I encountered the Lord Jesus Christ. At that moment, everything changed. There was one particular scripture that really spoke to me in that conversion process.
my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Galatians 4:19 ESV)
I learned that Jesus offers to take away our sin, sin which defines us all, and gives us His righteousness – my life becomes conformed to his! The grace and truth in the depth of fellowship offered to us changes everything, for now Christ is being formed in all faithful believers.
I understand now, why some months ago when prevented to re-enter Western Australia enroute on the Eyre Highway, I was able to speak with the aggressive police sergeant from my anchoring in Christ.
“Keep your religion to yourself,” was his response. He didn’t realise that in Christ, faith isn’t just a compartment of our life; just the opposite is true.
We have an identity, beyond our physical parentage, where we live, and what we do for a living. We can be at peace, because know who we are – and that of itself changes everything. Jesus told his disciples that their understanding would manifest fully in the future.
In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20 ESV)
The takeaway for us is that in Christ, “we are the light of the world.” John wrote in his testimony, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The illumination of the light of God in Christ can never be overcome by the darkness of this world! This is so important in our mission and ministry work, because each of us is the closest that most people will come to experience the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! This new identity affects everything and everyone around us.
Paul discussed the equalising nature of our new identity in Christ.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28 ESV)
Because of God’s calling and mercy in our lives, we are capable and equipped. We know who we are in Christ. We know we are loved, and therefore able to love others. We know and remember that a great price has been paid on our behalf. Thus, every day we begin each prayer with, “Our Father in heaven…”
Resurrected and clothed in glory, Jesus tells us that one day he will give us a new name – a name that will reflect more fully the identity we have become!
Each of us are defined by the more we grow up in Christ, and therefore we become more like the person we’re meant to be. Baptism is the outward affirmation of the beginning of this new life in Christ.
We remember, celebrate and proclaim this reality that Jesus gave up his life so we could have ours!
That’s where our assuredness of faith stems from – our identity in Christ.
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.”
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.“
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.
Eyes fixed not on the storm but on Jesus and on him alone.
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!
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?
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.