Today is my youngest son Josiah’s third birthday. Recently, my older son, Asher, turned five. For me at 35, my birthday is not super significant. It’s a good milestone each year, and a chance to celebrate with those I love, but it doesn’t hit for me the same way as my kids’ birthdays. I imagine there’s a certain amount of reflection that is unavoidable as a parent celebrating your child’s birthday, and when your child’s health journey is, shall we say, less than straightforward, it feels like this is amplified even further. Just last week we had one of those moments where everything sort of pauses or slows down temporarily due to a health scare, as we wait to find out what is wrong below the surface, what can be done, how quickly and what the outcome will be. Thankfully, this time was a minor one, but more on that later.
This reflection is healthy, I think, and worthwhile, but has its challenges too – but first, an update…
I think it could be said that Romans 8 may well be the most glorious, joy-inspiring, hope-giving chapter in the book containing the clearest and most comprehensive treatment of the Christian gospel message in the entire Bible. It’s hard to choose favourites, and of course we must let all of scripture speak rather than honing in on one chapter or book in isolation, but I have certainly found in my own walk with God that the truths contained in Romans 8 and 9 in particular have been a balm that breaks through the difficulties and sorrows of life, shining a light that causes our sufferings to pale in comparison to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17), and helping us to face them in faith and with joy and hope.
In this wonderful book by Australian pastor and author Ray Galea, the reader is taken on a journey through this chapter, section by section, beginning with our life in the Spirit as believers (including the incredible declaration of ‘no condemnation’ for those who are in Christ), our status as heirs with Christ as a result of our adoption as children of God, the way in which God works through and in the midst of our suffering – with the Spirit interceding for us in our darkest moments – for our good and for God’s glory, to the assurance we can have thanks to God’s unbroken chain of redemption, and concluding with the amazing reminder that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.
Full disclosure: I did not buy this book – I was given it after ‘winning’ an informal online contest through the Christian podcast sphere of which I have been a part since 2015. I’m also not the target audience (it is written for women). With that said, I am very glad to have received a copy, and although it was not written to a male audience, I can say I found aspects of it were certainly applicable to my own walk with God, while other parts gave me valuable insights into some of the fears faced by my sisters in Christ. For both of these things, I am thankful.
Trillia covers a lot of ground in a fairly concise book, from fear of death/tragic loss to fear of not measuring up, parenting guilt/woes, fear in or arising from marital matters, body image issues, and more. Throughout the book, and often using personal real-life examples, Trillia brings the gospel to bear (helpfully and without piling on the guilt) on the tension that commonly exists between fear and faith.
A year ago today I…
A year ago today I had just been through one of the most stressful experiences of my life.
A year ago today I was sitting in a hospital room with my wife, talking about our new baby boy and deciding on his name.
A year ago today I was leaving that same hospital room periodically to check on my brand new baby in the Special Care Baby Unit, hoping his oxygen levels would stabilise, and that the raft of negative outcomes and worst case scenarios we’d been asked to prepare for would not eventuate.
Famous author and critical thinker C.S. Lewis is quoted as having said that Christianity can either be true and vital or untrue and useless, it cannot be both and it cannot be somewhere in the middle, containing elements of truth and elements of falsehood.
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
The same can be said of the core Christian claim that Jesus, the perfect Son of God who was ‘in very nature God’ (Philippians 2:5-11
), died and rose from the grave on the third day, conquering death once and for all by taking the sins of his people upon himself, cancelling their debt before God and rising from the dead.
Today is Good Friday, 25 March 2016 – a day to pause from the busyness of life and remember afresh the significance of what Jesus has done for His people.
The title of this post might be confusing at first, particularly due to my use of the term ‘full justice’, but hopefully the meaning of this will soon become clear and you will see as I do the beauty in the truth of the title’s statement.
Following on from Good Friday’s thoughts about the beautiful collision between humanity’s depravity and Christ’s divinity at Calvary, I got to thinking about what it must have been like for the disciples during the Easter weekend. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions and experiences both leading up to that time and throughout Easter! They’d heard the prophesies about the Messiah, but they didn’t want to accept the fact that He had to die. They’d heard John the Baptist telling people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand before Jesus started His earthly ministry (Matthew 3:1 – 6) and yet they were confused as they had been expecting an earthly political kingdom to release them from Roman rule rather than a spiritual Kingdom set up by a suffering servant. They were finally understanding who Jesus really was and then His life and ministry turned towards the cross. Within the space of a few days they experienced the last supper, prayer in the garden, betrayal by one of their close friends, the brutal floggings and mocking of Jesus by the soldiers, accusers that wanted to pin Peter down as a close friend of Jesus followed by Peter’s denial of that fact, the crowds demanding Jesus’ death, the disciples’ Lord and master carrying His cross and having to be helped by another on the side of the road because the brutality had already tortured his body to breaking point… and then the actual crucifixion itself with darkened skies during the day time, nails through flesh, immense bloodshed, earthquake and the temple curtain being torn in two. Then it is finished. Jesus’ body is buried, the stone seals the tomb and the disciples are left wondering what is to become of it all.
In arguably his most famous play, Shakespeare’s female protagonist asks a well known question about the substance of a name;
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
I haven’t really thought about this until now, but Shakespeare is like the king of the English language (other authors come and go but Shakespeare will seemingly forever be studied by English students) and yet in this very famous scene the character wants to disregard the word (in this case a surname) as a means of describing the idea or person that it represents. This of course goes against the grain of history in which names carried authority, tradition, and identity.
Similarly, 19th Century Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is quoted as saying
“Once you label me you negate me.“
Now without getting into a full blown discussion on post-modernity, relativism, ‘progressive social norms’ and ‘subjective reality’ (I know, this sounds like an oxymoron, but I’ll leave that for later), I have to say both men were ahead of their time with the notion of wanting to strip words of their definitive meaning, instead freeing up concepts, ideas and even identities to remain undefined and unrestricted. However, I also think this notion is, at times, extremely unhelpful.