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Concrete Covenants

The other day I made some passing comments about the nature of marriage. Let's flesh that out a bit.


Marriages ending is a hard thing to speak about, not least because many of us have either been in marriages that have broken up, or have some close connection to a marriage that has ended. Every time we speak about the godly ideal, some of us will inevitably feel regret, sadness and perhaps shame at the way that we have failed to live in line with God's design and commands.


Here's the good news: If you belong to Jesus, your sin is dealt with. It's taken away! It's gone! Whether your sin contributed to the ending of a marriage, or you see your own failures in your present marriage, Jesus atones for, and forgives your sin because of his redemptive work on the Cross.


We recognise our sin, we repent of it, we trust in Jesus and we seek to embody the wonderful holiness the God has for us!


What is marriage?

Marriage is the covenant union between a man and woman. God encoded this design into His Creation. It is not an invention of the state or religion. There's a reason why it is found everywhere across the earth.


"...a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Ge 2:24).


God is so committed to this design feature that He is involved in making marriages:


"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt 19:6).


There will be some who are given the gift of celibacy (1 Cor 7:7–9) but we expect, due to the way God has designed the world and what he has revealed in the Scriptures, that most people will have the gift of marriage.


This special union is the place where our God glorifying sexuality is freed to be given and enjoyed. That sexuality bears the fruit of new life; children are the good and natural produce of marriage (Gen 1:28). The curse can get in the way of that, with infertility or death, but unless there is a providential hindering, fruitfulness is expected.


How is marriage Covenantal?

Covenants are like relational contracts. It's not as cold as a contract in a business sense (i.e. "If I do A, you owe me B"). Covenants do involve obligations from one party to another, but it is connected by relationship. It is much more than a contract.


The covenants that Christians are most familiar with are found in the Old Testament, with notable examples of Abraham and Israel who covenant with God. The LORD promises to be their God and to bless them in posterity. He also outlines how they will treat each other: God's people will be faithful to Him, and he will give them life.


God's loving relationship with his people is the model on which our marriages are based. The ultimate marriage is the heavenly marriage between Christ and His Bride, the Church. This is why Paul would tell husbands and wives to emulate God's covenantal relationship in their marriages (see Eph 5:22–27).


We recognise the covenantal nature of marriage in the ceremonies we have adopted at weddings. Although there is a fad going around of making up your own vows (which are often not vows at all), the standard is that the bride and groom will make serious promises to one another. They invite God, their family, friends and church to be witnesses to the solemnisation of their covenant. Even if you elope, most modern governments require there to be least be an officiant and two witnesses to make the union valid.


Concrete Covenants

Marriages are like pillars. The ideal marriage is founded on the Rock of Christ, who upholds the world. Then, the marriage is positioned on the plinth (or base) which is a covenant which aligns and supports the pillar to fulfil its design of upholding the epic edifice we call society.


Now, in a building of many pillars holding up the structure, you can get away with removing a couple of the pillars. There are enough others to take up the slack and share the load. You can even live with a few wonky ones because the building is still standing.


But, in case you hadn't noticed, we're living in a building where a bunch of the inhabitants are tearing it down. They yell and whine and complain when we say that the pillars are important, and the covenant plinths are important, and the foundation is important.


They want to excavate the foundations under the building while we're still in it. They want pour in slop and sand to replace the rock. They're running around knocking out all the pillars they can, while trying to put in piles of manure to hold up the roof.


Unless Christ steps in to stop the current insanity, our society will collapse in on itself because all the structure will have been removed. (Maybe that's his plan? Does Christ want us to rebuild our culture and community from scratch? I digress...)


Christians are not immune to the insanity going on around us. Many of us have adopted silly views on marriage, probably without even noticing it. For example, we may think that marriage is founded on romantic love, rather than covenant love. This means that when the feeling fades somewhat, the people think they're justified in leaving. This way of ungodly thinking will even validate adultery in the twisted conscience. Similar examples include someone is not "happy", or not "satisfied". We do expect that romantic love and happiness and satisfaction will be part of the ideal marriage because it is cultivated and worked-on, but these things are not the basis for the union.


Another area where the silliness has crept in, is by making the decision to divorce a private matter between partners. You didn't make your covenant in private, you promised before God and people to fulfil your covenant obligations to one another. If you are going back on those promises, it is a public matter. This is not to say marital counselling and conciliation efforts should be public, but if it comes down to pulling the pin, it is not just a private matter. It affects us all as a community. Don't take the cowards way out and avoid what the Scriptures and Christian family have to say to you. We hope and pray that when marriages get rocky, we as a loving community can rally around with grace and love to see restoration.


Because of our hard hearts, because of sin, there will inevitably be times when marriage covenants are broken, and because of this, God does permit divorce in some cases (Mt 19:8). He permits remarriage in some cases too . Yet you will notice that these are quite limited.



God designed marriage to be the building block of society, yet it seems our society is intent on removing all the building blocks. We hope and expect that Christians will not fall into the traps of the world, but instead emulate the covenant love and faithfulness of the Lord. God has placed us in a spiritual family to help encourage us to stay faithful and grow in godliness in our marriages.


Don't let past failure in marriage weigh you down, only make sure you have repented of any sin. We cannot change the past, only look to Christ. Look to Christ and walk faithfully to cultivate a marriage that looks like Christ & His Church. Take your covenant seriously.


Samuel Lindsay


"This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (Eph 5:32–33).

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Eating & Drinking With God

"Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank." (Ex 24:8–11).


Can you imagine?


Can you imagine going to a meal with God?


This little passage has always blown me away. It's tantalisingly short, and yet so full!


What would it have been like, to be there? To stand on that mountain and see some manifestation of God?


How could you even bring yourself to eat in awesome and overpowering presence of the Lord?


We know that no mere human has ever seen God in his essence and fullness (John 1:18). Even Moses, the "God-seer," who would converse with God like a friend (Ex 33:11), only saw the "back" of God's glory (Ex 33:23). In fact no one may see God's face and live! Even without God's face, the prospect of dying at the sight of God was clearly in view, because the passage mentions "God did not raise his hand against [them]..." Amazingly these mere men were able to see something of God, at least his feet, and live!


And not only live, but share a meal in the presence of the Lord!


Yet do you notice what came immediately before this amazing experience? The people of Israel entered into a covenant with God.


God rescued these folks out of Egypt, and then he entered into a gracious agreement with them to care and protect them. They were joined to God in a special relationship and then they were allowed to come into His presence. They had obligations in this relationship, but it is worth seeing just how lopsided the covenant was - God did all the hard work! It was built on God's mercy.


It is on the basis of God's love and mercy that people can come into his presence. He rescues them, and joins them to himself.


This scene on Saini, seeing God and eating in his presence, looks forward to the work of Jesus Christ. Because of the New Covenant that Jesus made with his own blood, we can "approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb 4:16).


While we are even now united with God, and free to come into his presence figuratively, the day is fast approaching when we will no longer be physically separated: "Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death" (Re 21:3–4). Like Israel dwelt with God in their midst, like the 70 elders ate before the Lord, those in Christ shall live with God, but now with no threat of death.


The LORD has has in store a future day of feasting on a mountain top, when death is finally destroyed. I long for that day.


"On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare 

     a feast of rich food for all peoples, 

     a banquet of aged wine— 

     the best of meats and the finest of wines. 

On this mountain he will destroy 

     the shroud that enfolds all peoples, 

     the sheet that covers all nations; 

he will swallow up death forever. 

     The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears 

     from all faces; 

     he will remove his people’s disgrace 

     from all the earth. 

      The LORD has spoken." (Is 25:6–8).


Samuel Lindsay

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Seasonal Adaption

We're experiencing the changing of seasons right now, as the cool winds howl up from the south and the snow begins to fall in the High Country. The more pronounced seasonal change is one of the cool things about living in southern parts of Australia.


There is something special about the way the marching death, decay, cold and dark push autumn into the depths of winter such that it creates a greater longing. Eventually the dark and cold are driven out by the increasing warmth and light of longer, warmer days. Many trees appear to be resurrected as their "dead" branches burst forth with fresh green leaves.


It's no surprise really that the traditional church calendar was connected with the seasons (in the northern hemisphere at least!). They celebrate the Incarnation (Christmas) in the dead of winter, and the Resurrection (Easter) in Spring. The symbolism is poignant: We were lost in the dark depths of sin and death, yet Christ entered into our fallen and dying world to bring about a recreation full of life, light and holiness.


"The people walking in darkness 

     have seen a great light; 

     on those living in the land of deep darkness 

     a light has dawned!" Is 9:2.


The changing season has me thinking about something else: it brings about a shift in our behaviour. The things that were very natural and normal to do in warmer months are no longer considered. Long evenings in the backyard soon become cosy evenings by the fire.


The world changes around us. It is outside our control. And we adapt to suit. And I'm not just talking of the weather.


Look back across history and you will see there are times and seasons across the years. There are golden ages and dark ages, flourishing and destitution.


It can be broadly said that in the past couple centuries Australia (as a colonial identity) was more or less Christian. Not that countries can themselves be Christian, but the "prevailing wind" of religion and morality was one more-or-less based on the True Faith. It was respectable, acceptable and appreciated.


While there was never a true golden age of Christianity in Australia, the past acceptance of Christianity certainly seems like a much brighter time than the one we are now faced with.


It appears that the second half of the 20th century was our "autumn" and now we are heading into a spiritual winter. As a nation we have given up Christ. We are thoroughly secular, or more accurately: pagan. Even much of the visible church itself has given up the true Christ and created an idol who has fewer "harsh" edges.


Now we find ourselves in this winter, what do we do?


Do we wish to go back to the brighter days of autumn?


No.


We thank God for what we had before, but we also look forward, through the depths of our spiritual winter to hope for a glorious spring to come. We pray for the abundance to come, not the dregs of yesterday! We see where God has us, and adapt to stay on mission in this new environment.


We don't know how long this winter will be, but we do know that God has promised an eternal Golden Age that He will bring us into, where there will be a great multitude of those who belong to Him. But, there may be many seasonal changes before that final age dawns. There will be tough seasons and easy seasons.


It may seem hard at this time, as if there is no fruit to be found. Perhaps we are looking for a summer crop while the winter crop is heavy on the branches elsewhere?


Perhaps we have not even been sowing the seed, so there is no harvest to be had!


"Sluggards do not plow in season; 

     so at harvest time they look but find nothing." Pr 20:4.


I do not know the mind of the Lord, but I do know what He has said. Whether the way is easy or tough, our purpose on earth remains the same. Whether Christ is loved or hated we push on in hope that His Kingdom will grow and be established. Let's face it, the way that Jesus spoke leads us to suspect there will be much more hatred toward Christ than love (e.g. Jn 15:18–25).


So whether the going is tough, or easy,

...whether the days are hot or cold,

...whether we are accepted or maligned,

...we go out into the fields to bring in the harvest of Christ.


As the seasons change, we can adapt to the environment, adjust our tactics. As Christians on mission, our goals and beliefs don't change, but we have a changing world around us. Like Christ seeks out the lost sheep who has wandered far from home, we go out to find people where they are. We meet them in the midst of their spiritual destitution, and share with them the love of Christ.


In the coldness of winter, we expect to find hearts with very little "spiritual heat". The road to faith will likely be longer for many of our neighbours who have no spiritual "scaffolding" on which to prop Christian categories. Patience will be an important asset.


Many people will need to be discipled for years before they finally repent and believe. We like easy wins, like a voice from heaven for Paul, or a once of evangelistic conversation that brings conviction. Yet we probably know from our own lives, or people we've met, that sometimes the Lord is at work in our hearts for years before the critical moment takes place. So play the long game, the Holy Spirit is.


We can ask God to give us heavenly wisdom on how best to engage the world at this time in this place. Change what we need to change in our own hearts, attitudes and actions that are preventing us living in faith and on mission.


Adapt to this season, and be faithful.


Samuel Lindsay


"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." Paul to Timothy - 2 Ti 4:2.


"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building." Paul - 1 Co 3:6–9.

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Emotion

We're emotional beings. God made us this way!


It is a good and wonderful thing to be embodied emotional beings!


Why has God given them to us? It is worth a ponder. No, I don't have a clear answer to the reason why, but it is still worth thinking about. God has designed us intentionally.


When God created us "very good" in His Image, crowning creation, He made us to feel.


And in His wonderful sovereign plan, He knew that we would rebel, taking our emotional selves into a corrupted world to experience the most awful sorrows and sufferings. There are many things we would have never felt if it were not for the effects of sin and curse on this world.


Perhaps God is preparing us, training us in a special way for eternity. Here we are as eternal beings who will have known what it was like to stand against God and fear His wrath for our crimes, yet receive the mercy and grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Christians know the love and grace of God in a way that faithful and rebellious angels do not. Having felt it, experienced grace ourselves, one wonders if we will have something special to offer in the Lord's service into eternity?


But alas, like everything in this world, emotions can be used to sin against the Lord. This good gift is corrupted by sin.


Sometimes we let our emotions rule us, which of course is a dangerous place to be! Anger and sadness, joy and happiness, jealousy and disgust, contentment and peace. Each of these can be used poorly, or just let loose to run rife back and forth across our heart like a dog chasing a rabbit. Never able to reach the goal but always on the run, helplessly lost to instinct.


Sanctification leads us to a place where we are better equipped to use our emotions and feel their weight without being beholden to them. We can find our joy in the Lord, our hatred of sin, our contentment even in the midst of suffering. Our jealousy is properly placed, and our anger is channelled productively. We weep for injustice and relish godly beauty.


The Bible talks about the heart as the seat of our being and emotions. Not the literal heart organ of course, but our soul, our inner self. In fact sometimes in the Bible feelings are described as being in our "guts"(or less Aussie, "bowels"). When we feel, we feel it in our core, as a physiological phenomena.


Yet even though the heart feels deeply, there is no excuse to let feelings take mastery over us, to be subject to its whim. This is why we teach children, from their earliest days to gain control over their self to be able to obey even as they experience the push and pull of the world and their own desires. Yes some of us will have illnesses that affect our bodies and emotions, yet even there we ought not to be slaves to emotion.


Each of us will need to learn to use our feelings depending on how God has wired us. Some of us are naturally more or less emotional, and yes, this can tend to be differentiated along gender lines. Even if we feel the weight of our emotions less, we can still cultivate a God honouring emotional life. After all, being a stoic impenetrable rock is not much better than the other extreme!


Whatever your wiring, we must all remember that emotions are subjective. They are not reality. What we feel, especially if we're feeling something strongly, or nothing at all, it must be tested to see if it is justified. It's no use being angry if there is nothing to be angry about! Or upset when there is no cause! Or feel nothing when there is much to rejoice!


Our feelings will come and go, but God never changes. The reality of His Gospel and saving power are not affected by how we feel about them. They stand firm through our joyful reception and our cold ignorance. And thank God for that! Because I cannot trust my own heart, still affected by sin, to be always feeling the reality of salvation at all times.


Because our hearts are prone to fear and be anxious, to despair and doubt, we should listen to the example of the Psalmist and question our hearts, examine what is going on there and preach to ourself the Good News:


"Why, my soul, are you downcast? 

     Why so disturbed within me? 

     Put your hope in God, 

     for I will yet praise him, 

     my Savior and my God." Ps 42:5.


Lets ask God to help us embody His good creation design, with our unique personality, and to use all of it, emotions included, to glorify and honour Him.


I was recommended a book on emotions: True Feelings: God's Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions by Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Whitacre. While I have not read it, based on the author I'm sure it would be useful.


Samuel Lindsay

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A Prayer For Australia

O great God of highest heaven,

Occupy my lowly heart, own it all and reign supreme, conquer every rebel power.


Lord, I know something of my own heart and how easily it strays from you. I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips (Is 6:5). I know that I belong to a people who's hearts and lips are just like mine, easily distracted from giving you worship and living a righteous life that brings you glory. We would rather swap the joys of your presence for poor imitations in this fallen world. Please forgive us.


We Lord, deserve nothing from you. We have no claim on your kindness. We deserve leaders that reflect our natural state: full of corruption, deceit and perversion.


Yet Lord, in your mercy we ask that you would give us what we don't deserve.


In fact you have already done so in Christ! You gave the human race hope and redemption that we don't deserve! You have brought salvation for us! For that we are eternally thankful!


We know that you have triumphed over Satan, sin and death. But, we still see the effects of these tyrants in our world and across our nation. We ask that you would undo these evils in this people. We ask that you would overcome this wickedness.


We know that you are able. We know that you are at work across history undermining your enemies by plundering their slaves; you are taking slaves to sin and making them slaves to righteousness! (Ro 6:21). We ask that we might see that in operation today in our nation, starting in hearts, renewing them by the power of your Spirit and rebirthing them to eternal life (Jo 3:5-6). Please turn the hearts of our nation to Jesus Christ, the only name under heaven by which we may be saved! (Ac 4:12)


Please unshackle our country from our rebellious spirit, and give us a spirit of submission to the Living God.


We long to see our nation turn to you, from the youngest to the oldest. Not so that we may have some golden age or become a Christian utopia, but so that we may Glorify Christ. So that we would see a great multitude of our friends, family and colleagues worshiping in spirit and in truth while spreading holiness and obedience to every corner of this land. Make this place the great southland of the Holy Spirit.


Show us how we, who already belong to you, are to use the gifts and resources we have to be part of your plans for making disciples of Jesus. Spur us on, so we may in love herald the coming of Jesus to our fellow citizens.


Please give us leaders that would help us on this way; leaders that would not hinder righteousness and holiness. Please grant us leaders that would seek to glorify you as they execute the duties of their office.


Your ways are higher than our ways, and your thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Whatever circumstances you place us in, whether it be joy or sorrow, suffering or prosperity, war or peace, we know that you know best. If you answer this prayer in a way that feels to us like a failure, please help us to trust you regardless. Keep us from loosing our hope. We entrust ourselves to you our Faithful Creator while we go about the work you have given to us (1 Pe 4:19).


In Jesus Name, Amen.


(Samuel Lindsay)

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Christians & Elections – Part 3

It’s a classic story, there’s a bright eyed and bushy tailed young person. They see many of the problems and injustices of the world, so they sign up to support a political party that reflects their values. Before long, they’re preselected to run as a candidate in an election.


This young politician is passionate, excited and hopeful. They stick to their guns and they want to make real, positive change! Their enthusiasm is contagious. They attract votes because people see the fervour and the strong stance. Maybe this will be the one who will really deliver on their promises?


But, it’s not long after they’re voted into office that the passion seems to cool. The language is more toned down. They say a lot of words, but they don’t really say anything at all. They seem to have lost the fiery mettle that made them so appealing as a representative of the people.


The voters get jaded, and the cycle starts all over again.


It’s this kind of thing that makes us doubt everything that comes out of a politician’s mouth. The dodging and weaving during interviews. The constant excuses…


It is a great reminder to us of the human condition. It shouldn’t be this way, but everybody is sinner.


All Humans are sinful (including the ones we like most)

Back in the day, rulers promoted propaganda to portray themselves as god-kings, perfect leaders who do no wrong. Or later on it was the Divine Right of Kings, taking true Christian principles of authority and abusing them to legitimate their political position as if they could do no wrong.


Australians don’t go in for any of that. We are keenly aware of the failings of our leaders. Disrespecting politicians is a national pastime. Now, we Christians need to fight the prevailing wind and remember to respect and honour our leaders (even the ones we don’t like), but the benefit of our cultural moment is that we have no naïve notions that our leaders are any different from the person in the street.


That means that they are sinners just like us.


We need to remember this as we go to the ballot box. We are voting for local representatives for the lower house, and state reps for the upper house who are just as broken and in need of Christ as everybody else.


Don’t be swayed by the slick marketing or smooth talk to think this candidate or that party is the solution to all our ills. Knowing the Creator of the universe and the corruption of humankind prepares us for their inevitable failures.


But,


It also prepares us to look beyond their weaknesses. We hope in a Lord God who works in human hearts and guides history. We vote with eyes wide open with realistic expectations, that our representatives are not perfect, but our God can use them to work wonderful things.


God uses means

All Bible believing Christians know that God works miracles, but sometimes we forget that the majority of God’s work in the world uses ordinary means, even the betrayal by Judas for 30 pieces of silver. Think of the ordinary means He used to bring about the protestant reformation, working in hearts and aligning circumstances. Think about the end to the British slave trade through the political efforts of William Wilberforce. There are hopefull signs that the legal precedence for baby murder in the USA may be undone through ordinary means.


God often uses unlikely candidates, but He also uses “likely” ones. If we desire leaders that love justice and righteousness, we should start by voting in candidates who already do.


And if we can’t find any, at least we can vote for a Saul instead of a Jeroboam.


It’s tough to vote for people that most of us will never meet. But I think we should do what we can to learn about who we’re voting for. We only have one* vote, and we want to use it to promote people who are most likely to work towards a nation that glorifies God in this great land girt by sea.


Who are you voting for?

It is very relevant to remember who you are voting for.

Despite the media hype, you are not voting for a Prime Minister, unless he/she happens to represent your electorate. Even then, the PM can change with a caucus vote next week!


Because the people who created our system of government knew the depravity of humanity, and the corrupting influence of power, our government is divided into three sections: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. This spreads power and responsibility across different roles to make it much harder for any one person or group to take over the whole show and have their way. This is a blessing from God, in my opinion.


You are voting for a local representative and senators for the Legislative branch. Not for a Head of State or other executive leaders of the country. You see, the PM and ministers belong to the Executive branch. While they are almost always taken from the pool of members in the House of Reps, they are not appointed by the people. We voters only choose the pool of people, some of whom will get the fancy positions.


This may be Politics 101 for you, but many of us were never taught how our government works.


When you think about placing your vote, my encouragement is to think much less about who has the Executive jobs (something you have very little control over) and focus on the character and capability of the person you want to represent you in the place where they make laws.


I’m a realist, I know it’s not possible to get to know the hundreds of senator candidates, but we should at least be as informed as is reasonablly possible so we can vote with a clear conscience, not in ignorance.


You can see your candidates here: https://aec.gov.au/election/candidates.htm


While we concern ourselves with who will be representing us in our federal government, I’m so thankful we have a representative in the government of the Cosmos: Jesus Christ himself who is the man who defeated sin and won life on our behalf. He is seated at the right hand of the Father with Authority over all things in Heaven and on Earth! He is enacting his policy "to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Col 1:20).


Samuel Lindsay


*Our preferential voting system means a vote used well may be counted multiple times, but in the final count it still only acts as one.

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Christians & Elections – Part 2

Who gives Authority?

When talking about kings and rulers, governance and authority, we cannot have a serious conversation on how that power should be used unless we first understand the source of that power.


If you ask the average Aussie where government authority comes from, my guess is you’ll probably get blank looks. It’s just not a topic on our minds, it doesn’t seem to have any bearing on everyday life. The person who has their wits about them may say “authority comes from the will of the people!”


This is partly true, however we are still a monarchy, and we have a Queen of Australia who is our head of state. Over the course of history, the British Crown (via the UK parliament) gave permission for us to be our own federated constitutional democracy. But the monarch of the UK, is still our monarch. She holds power to repeal any laws within one year of them being enacted, and to appoint our governor general who acts on her behalf as the Commander in Chief of our defence force and her executive representative in Australian Government.


But, for the most part, we get left alone to look after ourselves. To make our laws, call our elections, appoint our ministers and so on. Most of the jobs left to the Governor General are largely taken care of by other people and he just ticks-n-flicks. The authority and responsibilities have been delegated or assumed so that a bunch of different people have different jobs and powers such that we the populace, and all the people connected to government, work together to ensure the governance of our federation.


Yet because we’re left to our own devices, Australia tends to forget it is a monarchy and pretends that it is a republic (except when the Commonwealth games are on, or there’s a royal wedding/birth/visit etc.). Yet, even if we don’t acknowledge it, we are all subjects of the Queen of Australia and owe allegiance to her.[1]


Now, you may think this is a strange tack to be taking when thinking about voting in a few weeks, but trust me, there is an important parallel here!


All people across the world are for the most part left to their own devices, but, they are all subjects of the one True Living LORD God. Every man, woman and child has been born into His domain and He is their rightful ruler, whether they acknowledge it or not. This includes Kings, Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers. It includes all voting Australians.


Unlike our head of state, God is not a hands-off distant figure, but an active and present benevolent ruler who is at work in his creation building his Kingdom. Interestingly, similar to our Australian systems of authority, God delegates authority to different people and then they are to act on his behalf.


“The Lord has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all.” (Ps 103:19)


How does God delegate his authority?

Firstly Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat 28:18). As outlined in repeatedly in John’s gospel, Jesus is the Son of God who has been sent and appointed as our ultimate authority. He rules over everyone and everything.


Now, from Christ flows other authorities. If we go back to the beginning, we see that God commissioned humanity to rule over the earth (Ge 1:26–28). Under God, humanity is given power and authority to establish God’s plans on the earth. Now obviously that has been seriously hampered by sin and curse, but the principle still holds.


Throughout the pages of scripture several other delegated authorities turn up. While there is plenty to investigate in this arena, we can basically put delegated authorities into four groups: Family Government, Spiritual Government, Civil Government and Self Government. Sometimes one person may have authority in multiple areas (like Abraham was all, Judges were usually civil, but Samuel was a judge who was both a spiritual and civil leader, etc.).


All four areas have certain elements that are exclusive (e.g. there was no place for a king to interfere with worship - 1Ki 12:28–33), but there are times when the areas intersect (e.g. like when prophets call civil leaders to account for their actions - 2Sa 12:7, or where civil authorities bring justice for crimes committed in families - Le 20:1-2). Each zone of authority is directly accountable to God and in some way dependant on the other authorities.


Each person has been given a body and a life to watch over and to use for God’s glory.


Spiritual authorities are specifically appointed; in the Old Testament you had to be part of a priestly clan or anointed as a Prophet, and in our age of the New Testament, there are Apostles commissioned by Jesus or Elders commissioned in the Church (yes this is oversimplified).


However when it comes to other authorities, Civil and Family, their authority often arises much more organically. In God’s providence people can become authorities unintentionally or by deliberate action. A classic example is in families where a man takes up the authority by entering into the covenant of marriage and having children.


Now, focussing in on our circumstances, with an election looming over us, we have providentially found ourselves in the position of being given authority by the state to collectively select our representatives in the legislative process by preferential voting.


Another way to say it is: In God’s providence, under Jesus Christ’s supreme authority, we have been delegated authority to delegate civil authority in our country.


Confused yet? I’m not trying to be confusing.


What I’m trying to get at is that God gives authority, and in this time and place you have some power you have been given to use for God’s glory. How are you going to use it?


Now, all civil leaders are installed and deposed by God, but he often does it through ordinary processes (e.g. like the emperors in Daniel). God can make low or raise up, and even their hearts are easily directed by Him (Pr 21:1). Ultimately whoever becomes your local representative and senators is part of God’s wonderful plans, but we must be faithful with what we have, and seek righteousness in this world.


This is a great problem however, because every person in the world in affected by sin! More on this next week…


Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (Jn 19:11).


“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Ro 13:1).


Samuel Lindsay


 Prince, Peter. Research Paper no. 3 200304 We are Australian–The Constitution and Deportation of Australian-born Children, section 'Aliens' and 'Natural-born Subjects'. Law & Bills Digest Group, 2003. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp0304/04RP03#aliens

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Christians & Elections – Part 1

The old adage goes: “Don’t discuss politics or religion”. One can certainly understand the wisdom that there is a time and place for everything, and that these topics can touch on deeply held convictions, but “don’t talk about it”? Is that really the way to go?


Is it any wonder that politics and religion are in such a woeful state in Australia when important discussion topics are almost taboo in ordinary conversation?


I’m not implying causality here, but I am suggesting that the spirit of “don’t rock the boat” can have dangerous consequences, especially if you’re heading for a reef!


Now before you start to worry, no, I’m not about to say that we all need to become activists or rant on Facebook. With the federal election campaign underway, it seems prudent to be reminded about the principles of authority from God, and how those timeless principles apply to this time and place. It may take a couple weeks to cover all these topics, so you can anticipate further instalments.


To be sure, it’s not my place to endorse certain parties or decry particulars of policy in public, but it is quite appropriate proclaim the Truth and all it’s implications in the life of people. Speaking both to believers and outsiders about what God has said, and what he requires of us, should not be limited by politeness or a mirage of nicety.


The Christian faith is inherently political.

We cannot divide our lives into nice, neat boxes of family, work, faith, politics, etc. All of these things intertwine and affect the others. Some people seem to think that religion should have no role to play in our modern democracy, forgetting all the while that many of the people who make up the voting population have deep religious convictions that affect their values and votes (and let us not forget that Christianity formed the cultures that gave rise the democratic systems we enjoy today!).


To be a Christian that votes is to immediately connect faith and politics. What we value should align with what God values, and what we as God’s people despise, should align with what God despises. Thus to vote puts all of us in a position of applying matters of faith directly to politics.


There have been many societies throughout history that have understood the inherently political nature of Christianity. The wicked tyrant can see that our religion can undermine regimes because our allegiances are primarily with a God outside their control. This is probably most well known in the ancient Roman empire, where at times Christians were persecuted because they proclaimed Christ is Lord, and not Caesar. It is no coincidence that where horrendous political powers and philosophies arise, the Church is supressed. A few modern examples include Germany under Nazism, USSR under communism, China under, um, kind-of-socialism(?), and dictatorships with power hungry leaders.


Conversely, people who created political systems of the most free and fair societies around the world understood that it would only really work when the voting population was made up of people who serve the Lord God.


Pervasive Power

Christ goes with his people, out into the world. And there he upturns empires and throws down tyrants. Christ is not constrained by the location of his people, but he often works through the ordinary means of Christians going out into the world and spreading the Good News. With people made new, born again, their lives are changed from the inside out! The reality of spiritual rebirth plays out in their lives with real effect. It is no coincidence that where God’s people go there is less crime, less substance abuse, stronger families, more stable institutions, more justice and more mercy.


But, if you are deceived, if your world view has been seriously warped by trying to depose God, you will not see the light of the Gospel and God’s people as wonderful things to be encouraged. You will instead see it as an existential threat to your existence and the twisted fantasies you value most dearly.


In that sense we are an insurgency – bringing the light into the darkness of this condemned world. But we are not here to kill and steal and destroy, rather we are here to herald the one who overthrows death, grants eternal riches and builds that which can never be destroyed.


We are in the world, but not of it (Jo 17:13–19), exiles on the way to our eternal home. And being in the world, we are to live peaceably (Ro 12:18) and work for the common good (Gal 6:10, Jer 29:4–9). Knowing the true source of all that is good, means that we are equipped to use our small power of a vote to serve the common good of our neighbours.


In theory, the earthly power in this nation lies in the hands of voters. Providentially, each of us holds a small piece of it. Now, it may only be “one talent” (cf. Ma 25:14–30) so to speak, but we want to invest it wisely for the sake of our Master so that he might see a good return.



Our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ rules and reigns over all earthly authorities, and that basic principle underlies everything as we consider this topic, so next week we will start there!


Samuel Lindsay

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The Catechism of Worship

As a kid, I was a bit confused about about sitcoms. It was the way that the show was periodically interrupted by raucous laughter from off screen. It was the studio audience or the "laugh track." I didn't understand why they "ruined" the show with the unnecessary hullaballoo.


But, you try watching a sitcom (modern ones at least) without the laugh track and you will see why they're needed. They're not all that funny! The laugh track is needed to teach the audience what is supposed to be funny.


The laugh track is basically a type of catechism. Teaching by call and response. Over episode after episode we are shown what is funny by the way the "audience" reacts and we are invited to participate (sadly most shows these days teach us a profoundly ungodly perspective on life - but I digress...).


We have repetitious teaching all around us; from the dopamine inducing doom-scrolling of social media, to the child practising their times-tables in a chant - "two times six is twelve, three times six is eighteen, four times..."


To be fair, I'm using the words catechism and catechesis somewhat loosely, but I'm sure you get the drift! A catechesis is the process of teaching beliefs. This process is often accomplished through the use of a catechism that uses a question-and-answer format [1].


When we come before the Lord in worship, many of the things we do are intended to instruct us continually in the way of Christ. We are designed to be worshippers, but left to our own sinful devices we will conform to the world and worship created things (Ro 1:25). We need to be continually encouraged to take hold of Christ and follow the Lord with all of our heart, soul mind and strength with the Holy Spirit at work in us.


God sets the content/elements of our worship, but we have some freedom in the circumstances of worship. Such as the length of worship gatherings, who gets to speak, which songs we sing, what order, etc. The legacy handed down to us in the church is time tested forms of worship as the gathered people continually sought to worship rightly. These are by no means authoritative, but we should carefully consider what we're doing before we throw the baby out with the bathwater. This legacy has catechised generations.


I'm sure you can see it now - week by week we are shown how to respond to God and his Gospel as we continually behold God, then praise Him. We hear the proclaimed word and then seek to live it out. We remember Christ crucified and take hold of him by faith in the Lord's Supper. We greet one another warmly. We pray for leaders and the sick and the advance of the Gospel, just like the New Testament teaches us. We teach everything Jesus commanded us (Mat 28:20).


The regular pattern of Sunday gatherings may feel unimaginative at times, but it is not designed to entertain. It is designed to embed the life of faith into our bones. We do together the things that we (for the most part) should be doing in our own homes and individual devotional lives. It is designed to reinforce and remind and revive us in our faithful walk.


You may not remember next week or next month what was said or sung at a church service, but you will have been part of the bit-by-bit building up of God's church. Over months and years you will have practiced 10s and 100s of times how to approach God, how we are to respond to Him, what the Gospel is and how we enter into faith.


"See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end." Heb 3:12–14.


From the days of Israel God expected the worship practices of his people to be a reminder and teaching tool for the next generation:


“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” (Ex 12:24–27).


"In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the LORD sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today" (Dt 6:20–24).


As we come week by week to hear the word of the Lord proclaimed in our midst, we must teach and enable our children to take up this faith even as we are confirmed and strengthened. We teach them the meaning of the sacraments of the Christian faith and how God lead us out of slavery with His mighty hand. Parents are still actively involved in the discipleship of their children in the Sunday gathering - being an example to them, teaching them and encouraging their own worship of the Living God.


Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Mt 19:14).


We no longer have the ritual of the temple sacrifices, but we do have laid out in scripture the patterns of worship in Spirit and in Truth. The weekly gathering aims to fulfil those patterns as we worship God together. Week by week we follow a similar pattern to teach us by repetition and practice how we (and our children) are to follow Christ.


"What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us" (2 Ti 1:13–14).


Samuel Lindsay


[1] Grenz, Stanley, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

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The Dialogue of Worship

When you have a relationship with someone how does it grow?


It has become popular to speak about Christianity as a relationship not a religion. Make no doubt about it, our faith is a religion! But the sentiment is very good. Ours is not a religion based on ritual observance and mental ascent, but on the God-man Jesus Christ. We enter into a covenant, a union, a relationship with him and in doing so we receive everything!


But entering into a relationship comes with responsibilities and allegiance. If we ignore or betray our friends then our relationship is disrupted and damaged. In order to grow our friendships or marriages or even child-parent relationships, we must each put in the effort to engage and build that connection.


We spend time with one another, we listen as the other talks, then we speak in return. We don't do things to the other that hurts them, and conversely we try to do things that leads to their joy and their good.


Now we need to be careful not to take our human creaturely experience and overlay that on God, but it is true that God designed some earthly relationships, like Husband & Wife or Parents & Children, to reflect heavenly reality. Our earthly relationships are shadows of spiritual realities. For example:


"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk 11:11–13).


Now, when it comes to our relationship with God through Jesus Christ we have great confidence and encouragement, because although we have done many things to hurt and offend God, He has made a way to be reconciled. He is merciful and patient and kind. We have wonderful promises:


"Come near to God and he will come near to you... ...Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (Jas 4:8 & 10).


What does this have to do with Worship?

Well, when we gather as the church to worship, we are essentially having a public dialogue with God. He speaks to us, and we speak to Him. We ratify and build our relationship with God collectively as his people. Yet in doing so we are also confirmed and encouraged as individuals. He comes near to us as we come near to Him.


If you look at church services throughout history you will find some variation, but you will always find that orthodox churches will have some kind of pattern that involves God giving to his people, and them responding in worship and service.


Lets think about our own "standard" church service.


It starts with God speaking; a verse from God's word that tells us something about who He is, or why we worship him (sometimes called a Call to Worship). Then, the people respond to God by speaking in prayer, usually sung a praise. You see this pattern in many of the Psalms, e.g.:


"Let us come before him with thanksgiving 

     and extol him with music and song. 

For the LORD is the great God, 

     the great King above all gods" (Ps 95:2–3).


After this we will often be reminded of God's expectations of us, of His holiness and righteousness, then we will respond with confession recognising our failure. Then in response to our response we are reminded that we are forgiven by God because of the reconciliation of Jesus Christ.


It goes on, back and forth hearing from God, then he hears from us.


We read the scriptures, then we pray and sing. We hear from God in the preaching of his word, then we respond with our thankfulness and commitment in the songs and prayer. God communes with us in the Lord's Supper, where the elements communicate to us the sacrifice of Jesus, and we respond my taking, eating and proclaiming the Lord's death.


At the end we are sometimes reminded of what God has done and our commission as God's sanctified people (the benediction) then in response we fellowship as the church, then go out into the world, on the basis of that truth.


The dialogue takes different modes as outlined above. Sometimes it is reading, sometimes it is spontaneous speech, sometimes it is singing, sometimes it is being led in prayer by a leader. But throughout our gathered time it is an ongoing dialogue between God and his people.


Like earthly relationships, selfishness is a fast track to bring it to a swift end. If you come to God only for what you can get out of it, you'll be disappointed because you're coming serve yourself, not Him.


God has set the example in this by giving his only Son. He has given far more than we could ever give back. He pours out love and mercy and kindness on us in immense measures! We cannot hope to repay Him! He gives without any hope of being repaid in any meaningful way. He gives self-sacrificially. He gives for our benefit. And we respond by giving back to him, not out of expectation of gain, but out of love.


"We love because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19).


We don't come to worship because of what we can get out of it, yet amazingly, when we give up trying to gain for ourselves and give ourselves over to serve Him, we find that we gain everything that we need! It is part of the seemingly upside-down way of life for the Christian.


"For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." Mt 16:25.


As you walk into church this Sunday, I encourage you to consider it not as religious observance or ritual, but as God's people entering into a glorious discussion with God through Jesus Christ.


Samuel Lindsay

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