One minute’s silence

At this morning’s ANZAC dawn service in Albury, and undoubtedly in many other places, we peacefully observed a minute’s silence. It’s a sign of respect, and so simple that’s its power remains.
Albury Military Cemetery
The death of a soldier seems, so often, needless. Perhaps the battle was a failure (as for the ANZAC side of Gallipoli). Perhaps the death in service was far from any battle (as for a number buried in Albury’s military cemetery who died in a level-crossing accident). And even if the battle was decisive, loved ones still ask, ‘Why him?’

The minute of silence, at first blush, looks the same – near useless. What, just a minute? And all we do is, well, nothing? How can that honour the dead?

But the deeper we go into that brief minute, the more profound it becomes. We realise we are doing nothing because there is nothing that we can do to adequately mourn a death – the lives and deaths we remember were indeed great, after all.

And we discover that one minute is not a desultory gift. We find this minute to be but one example of time, and all time is now marked by the death of those service personnel. It is not a minute different from the rest of time, but a minute to show how all time is now different.

Finally, a minute to think also allows us to ask: Would we put ourselves in such a position of danger? We wonder what reasons could move us to risk all in the same way (if we are not already in such a position). For me, at least, I realise how significant was the life of all who freely took on such risk.

I tend not to make comparative links between defence deaths and Jesus’ death for our sins, and will not make that comparison here. Instead, I think the minute of observed silence makes a different comparison: it compares human to human, uniting us as those who face our common enemy, the grave.

At its most potent, the minute’s silence is a minute’s humanity.

 


 

 

Hope for the sake of Jesus

Hope is going somewhere good, by the work of Jesus and for the glory of Jesus.

That is what I have argued in three posts on hope. In summary, Christians look ahead in hope, with joyful hope, and our hope is trust-filled confidence. This final part of the series reminds us that hope is not selfish. Instead, the good outcome of all our hopes is praise to Jesus.

It’s significant that the fulfilment of all Christian hope is the revelation of Jesus Christ, not the revelation of Christians. The focus is him. And the success of our hope results in praise and glory and honour (1 Peter 1:7) – praise to God, I take it.

In my view, the whole of 1 Peter is chock full of the idea of a final reversal: those who presently hope in Jesus, and are slandered for this hope, will be vindicated by the final glory of God. Jesus’ greatness trumps everything – ‘To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.’ (1 Peter 5:11)

This reversal means Christians persevere in honourable conduct knowing mockers will glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12). Slaves are to endure, modelling themselves on Jesus who entrusted himself to God for final vindication (1 Peter 2:23). Reversal happens for wives of unbelieving husbands (3:1), Christians treated with evil and reviling (3:9), all who suffer the temptations of flesh (4:1-5), and believers in ‘fiery trial’ (4:12-13).

It’s as if the universe will say, ‘We judged their hope as folly. But their hope in Jesus was perfect because Jesus is perfect. Praise be to Jesus!’

Jesus is the only source of hope (my previous post). So too Jesus is the final outcome of our hope.

Therefore, putting this into practice, we live every present moment of life for Jesus.

We hope in great devotion for the day Jesus’ name is confessed by every tongue, when every knee bows to him (Philippians 2:9-11). To truly hope for this coming day, we live it today.

Today we confess Jesus, our hope. Today we bend the knee to Jesus, our Lord. Today we show the reality of hope by willingly obeying Jesus’ gospel. Present obedience to the Lord Jesus is an act of subversive hope. Despite not yet seeing his universal rule, we know it and hope for its revelation and therefore live by it.

Present obedience to the Lord Jesus is an act of subversive hope.

So, in 1 Peter, the command to ‘set our hope fully’ on the grace to come leads directly to the call for holiness (1 Peter 1:12-16). This hope also overflows in evangelism, as people quiz us about Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). In Hebrews, holding fast to hope sets us up towards love, good works, and mutual encouragement (Hebrews 10:23-25).

I hope you have gospel hope! Show it to the world in obedience to Jesus.

 


 

Hope by Jesus’ work

In my first two posts on hope, I introduced this description:

Hope is going somewhere good, by the work of Jesus and for the glory of Jesus.

It does not go without saying that Jesus is the one whose work produces real hope. We need to say – again and again – that hope comes from Jesus. That’s what this post is about.

The wonderful hope of every Christian is ‘through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3). This hope becomes public ‘at the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:7). Hope is of Jesus from start to end. Believers do not create our own hope, but we set our hope completely on Jesus’ return and unveiling (1 Peter 1:13).

This hope is absolutely unlike all other hopes in our world.

The football team hopes to win: their hope looks like training, strategy and years of effort. The movie director hopes for an Academy Award: her hope looks like obsessive attention to detail and passionate communication of vision. The student hopes to graduate: his hope looks like study, assignments and exams.

Any hope in this world depends upon human achievement. And therefore is exceptionally flimsy. Only one team wins the grand final. Most movies bomb. No student ever achieved 100% in every assignment of every course. Human hopes are often seen, justifiably, as close to dreams.

But Christian hope is different because gospel hope comes from Jesus.

Jesus has done it: death is defeated, sin’s sting is gone, the believer’s future is guaranteed. (See my first post.)

Therefore Christian hope has confidence and assurance. Our hope is already safe, so our hope is justified. Jesus is alive, so to trust his hope is right. Jesus guards our hope in heaven, so Christian hope is realism not escapism.

They say that receiving a terminal diagnosis concentrates the mind. That makes sense! “I will die soon – what should I make of my remaining time?”

Hope is just like that, but 100% good. Because of Jesus, every Christian has an ‘eternal life’ diagnosis. It should remove all fear and doubt. “I will live forever by the work of Christ – how assured I am!”

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The next post:
Hope for the sake of Jesus


 

Good hope

In this post I introduced my mini-series on hope. For each post I work of the following description:

Hope is going somewhere good, by the work of Jesus and for the glory of Jesus.

It’s amazingly important, and wonderful, to insist that Christian hope is for the good. Our future is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Post number 1 in this series might have felt a little neutral, or unemotional. That was deliberate, because I wanted us to look ahead and to think well about the certain future we have. And I knew that post number 2 was coming!

As we look ahead and think well, we rejoice (Romans 5:2). We bless our Father in heaven who have given us this living hope (1 Peter 1:3). We’re instructed to rejoice in our hope (Romans 12:12). Our hope is what we boast in (Hebrews 3:6).

As we look ahead and think well, we love and long for the future. We love Jesus, even though we don’t yet see him (1 Peter 1:8). We desire this future so greatly that our eagerness groans (Romans 8:23).

The Christian future – our hope – is so good that of course we want it, and of course we are disappointed that it’s not yet ours. To be with Christ is better by far, even when there are good works to complete here today (Philippians 1:23).

Putting this into practice has two parts.

Firstly, and most obvious, we rejoice and sing and praise God in prayer. We love what lies ahead of us, and engage fully in this good expectation. When Christians sing in joy, it’s a reminder of this good future and it again teaches joy to our hearts.

We must not wait for joy and thanks to well up to perfection before we express them. We instead express our joy and thanks as part of discipleship, training ourselves in godly longing.

Secondly, we are to flee from dead and deathly joys. Rejoicing in the transient hopes of this world will strangle our desire for the real hope we enjoy in Christ. The downward spiral of greed is really joy in ‘things’. The addiction of watching porn promises happiness or some kind of emotional connection, but it’s a false promise.

Too much love for job and career, too much joy in the commendation of neighbours, too much time spent on hobbies and interests … these all kill our boasting in the glory that is to be revealed.

Amid all the tools we have to avoid sin, here is one of the greatest: cultivate joy in the hope of Christ. Do it, because Christian hope is going somewhere good.

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The next posts:
Hope by Jesus’s own work
Hope for the sake of Jesus


 

Hope ahead

The Bible’s idea of hope is a wonderful treasure of many parts. This post is the first in four I plan to write, all based on the following description.

Hope is going somewhere good, by the work of Jesus and for the glory of Jesus.

Hope looks ahead, because hope is going somewhere. Hope is a sure future.

This future includes the resurrection of all, just and unjust, for God’s final reckoning (Acts 24:14-15). This hope is our Christian inheritance, currently under guard in heaven until its unveiling (Colossians 1:5; Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 1:3-4). We hope for the glory of God (Romans 5:2). When all boiled down, our hope is Jesus himself (1 Timothy 1:1) – we long for him and we will see him.

There are, of course, false hopes in this world. Money is a greatly deceptive hope (Acts 16:19; 1 Timothy 6:17). Such worldly hopes will fail.

But Jesus does not fail and cannot fail. Hope, when it’s hope in the Lord, does not disappoint us. This hope is already won, already secure, already waiting.

Therefore, putting this into practice, we look ahead.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13

 

We expect this hope, and teach ourselves about it. As we look ahead, we dedicate ourselves to learning what God has said about this hope. We will ever ask: What does our Father say?, Which things has he taught us?, What is the promise of God?

After all, angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:12). We would be fools to be uninterested or uncaring! As much as God has said to us about our hope – and no more than God has spoken – let us learn, and so hope well for the guaranteed future we have in God.

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Future posts in the series:
Good hope
Hope by Jesus’ own work
Hope for sake of Jesus


 

Whose hope?

Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor.’ Disciples of Jesus are armed in an odd fashion: we don’t take up weapons, but daily take up the cross.

Therefore, it makes sense that Christian hope is not for those who entertain high hopes in this world. Here’s a quotation that captures this powerfully:

The hope about which it [the Bible] speaks is valid for the hopeless and not for the optimists. It is valid for the poor and not for the rich. It is valid for the downtrodden and the insulted so that they will learn to walk uprightly, and all this as it will be in heaven, so already here on this earth. As the book of the promises of God, the Bible … points beyond itself into the future which does not yet fill our present.

(Jürgen Moltmann, quoted in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.)

 


 

On losing a child

Tender words and comfort from John Donne. Written to his sister in 1629 after the death of her son.

We do but borrow our children of God, to lend them to the world. And when I lend the world a daughter in marriage, or lend the world a son in profession, the world does not always pay me well again: my hopes are not always answered in that daughter or that son.  But of all that I lend to, the grave is my best paymaster. The grave shall restore me my child where he and I shall have but one Father, and pay me my earth when that earth shall be amber, a sweet perfume, in the nostrils of his and my Saviour.

Source.


 

God of the Old Testament

Some evidence about what the Lord (in the Old Testament) is really like.

Exodus 34:6-7

The LORD passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Psalm 86:15

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalm 103:8

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Psalm 145:8

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Nehemiah 9:17

They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

Jonah 4:2

And he [Jonah] prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Joel 2:12-13

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

The Lord:  merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, ready to forgive, relenting from disaster.

So why do I hear the frequent accusation that God ‘changed’ for the New Testament to finally learn grace and love? Perhaps we are all like Jonah: we know the goodness of God’s mercy, but dislike God’s mercy – it’s easier to flee.

 


 

Quick review: The First 48 Hours

The First 48 Hours: Spiritual Caregivers as First RespondersThe First 48 Hours: Spiritual Caregivers as First Responders by Jennifer S. Cisney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a volunteer ambulance chaplain, I was given this book by my senior chaplain (thanks Paul!), and I am very glad to have read it. In two words: highly recommended.

Before I describe why, however, there is one bugbear to note – questionable use of the Bible.

I’ve often seen that Christian books dealing with counselling or other personal helps tend to read their pastoral situations back into texts of the Bible, and thereby determine what they think a particular Bible verse means.

So here we read of disciples, ‘Struggling with direction, full of doubt and fear, they believe they are alone’ (p.20) – this sounds more like one of the authors’ crisis care situations than an accurate portrait of Matthew 28:18-20. Yes, there are elements of this, but not as much as is claimed. And so Jesus’ closing words (‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age’) become comfort. There is, undoubtedly, an element of comfort. But also of challenge: the one with all authority has given a command and is with us!

This is important because the Bible word lives and is powerful. When Christians adopt powerful emotional ties to wrong interpretations, it’s an unstable help. One of the authors mentions how Hebrews 12:1 is a great comfort to him after his father’s death: believing that the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ witness us, rather than bear witness to the faithfulness of God (p.120). I could not help but think he will be painfully discomforted when someone points him to a more accurate reading of Hebrews 12.

Noting this point, though, I still highly recommend this book.

It has a clear focus on the first stages of helping people in crisis. It has helpful definitions (for example, the difference between critical event and crisis). And it is so very realistic – speaking of the first 48 hours as a first aid-type involvement. That is, first responders don’t need the advanced skills of fully-trained psychologists or psychiatrists.

With presence, sensitivity, compassion, one’s own life experience, and a few fundamental skills caregiving is possible.

The First 48 Hours names these skills, as well as illustrating them with real life examples. Perhaps most importantly, it generously encourages Christians to provide this type of crisis care.

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