The following is from the end of a letter by Fiona Bruce MP - it is really encouraging
Social media is full of advice which is not always helpful but this is one which took my attention and I would like to share with you:
L. O. C. K. D. O. W. N.*
is a time to:
*L* - isten to God’s Voice and reflect. Let go & let us trust in God. *O* - bey His Word and His Teachings.
*C* - all on God’s name and be calm.
*K* - now what is the purpose of all of this.
*D* -well in His presence.
Do not panic.
*O* - ffer a prayer for everyone’s safety.
*W* - ait and be patient.
This too, shall pass
*N* - urture our personal relationship with Him.
This strange period gives us a time for retrospective consideration. As people we look forward, plan and work out what we are going to do. Looking back during the last week has shown me very clearly where God has been beside me all my life protecting, steering and helping me as I ploughed on head down oblivious.
Breakfast is usually a hurried affair, a bowl of cereal on my dressing table as I get ready to go to work or out to shop or visit friends. Yesterday morning I had my breakfast sitting at my table looking out into the garden and it was such a joy Firstly I could enjoy all the lovely spring flowers bursting into life and then I watched the birds hopping about in the garden or sitting on the fence. There was a wren, two robins and some blue tits. It reminded me of the start of the poem Leisure by William Henry Davies 'What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? These days going out is to shop for elderly neighbours or for my daily exercise. This lock down is a good opportunity for us all to stop and appreciate the wonder of God's creation.
Yesterday Adrian and I watched ‘Worthy’ a DVD produced by Christ For All Nations. (Reinhard Bonnke’s work now carried on by Daniel Kolenda)
We had been waiting for this DVD to arrive in the UK format since our visit to Pensacola last September. The DVD is filmed live from a Crusade in Nigeria last year where hundreds of thousands of worshippers praise God led by Eddie James. The sea of humanity was incredible and when Daniel Kolenda asked everyone who had a cell phone to turn the light on, the scene was breathtaking.
In contrast to the DVD we then caught up with the latest Coronavirus reports on the BBC website. We read about an Indian doctor saying how much the poor in India are going to suffer - they do not have the space to distance themselves (so many live in very close proximity to others together with multiple households in one small home) many do not have fresh clean water and many do not have any money to buy soap or hand gel! This morning I tried to find the report so I could copy it out, but sadly failed.
I thought as we prepare ourselves to receive Tim’s teaching on the ‘Parable of the sower’ later today, perhaps we could all ask what God wants us to do at this time of international crisis?
I’m sure we can all think of many times where we’ve been reminded that we have a choice. Sometimes it’s easier said than done especially when facing unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. I was reminded as I listened to Tim’s talk, that the current situation we face will bring all sorts of emotions to the surface. None of these emotions are wrong, we are human after all. However, how we handle those emotions is the key. This time of lockdown will present varying challenges to each of us. For some it will be the task of home schooling, for others it will be worries over finances and for others it could be the fear of isolation and loneliness. Each of these are very real situations that we face and certainly from experience it’s been a bit like being on an emotional rollercoaster. Some days seem much easier to handle than others and yet the simple truth remains, no matter what we feel we do have a choice about how we handle and live out each day.
As this slower pace of life is enforced on many of us, we have an amazing opportunity to strengthen our will and to actively take the time to make the right choices along the way. As a phlegmatic it would be so easy for me to breathe a sign of relief as the normal daily pressures of life are lifted. I could easily step back and become a spectator, choosing not to engage but, as we were reminded at the bible study, this is not a fruitful path for either myself or those around me. This is not a time for shutting down and retreating. This is a time for going deeper and reaching out but in order to do so it requires an active choice to engage, it doesn’t just happen. Each one of us will have our own version of this depending on our individual temperaments but we all have the same thing in common, we do have a choice.
We can’t necessarily control the situations that we will face over these coming days and weeks but we can control the choices we make. We can either choose to focus on the negatives that this situation brings or we can choose to focus on how blessed we are to be in the comfort of our own homes and that we have a God in whom we can trust and walk this path with.
We can either let this current situation drift by, a day at a time, or we can see it as an amazing opportunity during which to strengthen our will and in doing so change our perspective on how we view each day. We have a choice.
Thanks Jen. This so clearly articulates our true position currently and the great fact is we have the Holy Spirit within us guiding us every step of the way.
Hi all.Thought I'd share some thoughts here.. they might be pushing the boundaries a bit to what God might be saying / doing so take with a pinch of salt. But also, if anything resonates, then great.
I wonder if God is doing something significant with these times? The overall theme I get from these comments and other things from my life and generally, is a need for all people, particularly God's people, to slow down, let go and focus on Him.
I do see two parallel tacks in Christian walks. One which is not wholly good ultimately, (incidentally one which I used to be fully on) and one which is a whole lot better.
Track 1 is all about doing. As a person / Christian its about my outward actions - what i'm doing for God, in God's name, how I'm impacting the world around me for good / for God, how much 'fruit' Im bearing (fruit in relation to outward actions). Yes, character is important too but it's kind of just a given and a secondary consideration that I am aligned with God in who I am.
Track 2 is all about being / about my character - what am i doing to align my whole being (thoughts, actions, feelings) to God. To his truths. So I can hear him, feel him, know him, deeply and acutely, so I can be all he made me to be.
From what i see in Christian experiences in this country, the former is most prevalent, most accepted, most focused on. Ultimately, the focus or objective its about how many souls I am winning for Christ. What am I doing, outwardly that delivers that objective. With the second track, the focus or objective is to get so close and aligned to God within myself, as who I am, that whatever he wants to do in and through me will be realised. I do believe this is a wholly better focus because it will also deliver all that is in Track 1. It will just deliver it wholly, fully and in the right way.
A focus on track 1 ends up being more about our own strength or what's in our own minds as opposed to what is in God's. Why? Because we've missed the 1st bit - to get our 'selves' out the way. Therefore it will always be a jumble of what God wants but also, what we want.
I think what Laura wrote aligns to this and was really good. I do wonder if God is desperately wanting his people to focus more on how they hear and feel his voice clearer. How they clear the clutter, un-truths, twists and blockages within themselves so he can live and move freely within that person, in harmony, unison, as one.
If we want to win hearts for The Lord, I believe track 2 needs to be the focus. Its obvious in most churches, other than HCC (and no doubt some others) that focus on our characters is secondary to the programmes and activities that are designed to bring people through the doors. And its clear, this approach isn't working. Something needs to change with the focus the church is driving and I believe it should be more focus on track 2. This doesn't mean outward activity etc would stop - as you know as a church. It just puts the focus in the right place. It puts God in the right place,.
There are some valuable thoughts there, Phil. This is a real opportunity for the church as a whole to reconnect with our roots and to learn what 'remaining in Him' really looks like.
I have just read Psalm 93. It was a Psalm to be sung every Friday in the temple by the Levites.
Here we are on a very different Good Friday to any other I have experienced but this Psalm is so re-assuring. It is concise but powerful. I have read in the NIV and the Passion (TPT) and the message is clear in both. Have a read for yourself. You will be encouraged.
A poem from the Tearfund prayer diary, written by Graeme McMeekin, Tearfund’s Acting Scotland Director.
Between Friday and Sunday,
Between death and resurrection,
Between uncertainty and certainty,
Between pain and celebration,
Between loneliness and community
One of my Bible readings this week (From the Bible in One Year 2020 by Nicky Gumbel) was entitled ‘No blessing goes uncontested’ and in the day’s verses I read about the promises of God and the privileges of his blessings, to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy and to Jesus’ followers in Luke chapters 9 and 10. However Nicky Gumbel wrote that these blessings were contested by trouble and sickness, demonic powers, problems and disputes.
As I read, I thought about the many blessings that I have, blessings of family and friends, of work I enjoy and my house and garden, which I’m very thankful for during these days of lockdown. Most importantly, the hope that Jesus’ death and resurrection brings, which we are celebrating this Easter, and the assurance of knowing that God is the rock beneath our feet in these difficult times.
As I’ve reflected during the week, I’ve come to the realisation that it isn’t God’s blessings which are being contested, rather it is our appreciation of them. In practical terms, we can’t see our families and friends this Easter in the ways we would like to, and we can’t meet together as a church family, and that is difficult, but those blessings are just as real. We have to find different ways of connecting and keeping in touch with one another, and there are many technologies which help us to do that. In many ways the restrictions we are currently living with can give us a heightened appreciation of some of God’s blessings which we have taken for granted or have been too busy to stop and fully appreciate. One thing we do have at the moment is the time to slow down and really appreciate those things which the Lord has blessed us with, and to thank him for them. That is a choice, as Jen wrote about earlier in the week, to focus on the blessings that we do have, to appreciate them and to stop and thank God.
This morning I read Hebrews 12:1-3, ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’
‘The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you …’ (Deuteronomy 1:30)
This is the first Easter that I can remember not meeting together with the Lord's people to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us and to celebrate his resurrection, strange times! I have however really been encouraged in the time I've spent sitting with the Lord, reading his word and following some Easter plans on my phone. Easter Saturday is usually a day when we'd be shopping for the weekend, meeting up with friends and family and anticipating the joy of Easter Sunday. My devotional this morning reminded me what a difficult day it had been for the disciples. They had just lost their closest friend and they couldn't properly grieve as it was the Sabbath, a day of rest. They didn't know the resurrection was coming. The following is taken from my devotional and I thought it would be an encouragement to us all.
'Rest reminds us that God is Lord over every situation. And rest helps us refocus on what matters most: the One who promises to provide all we need. When we choose to be still in the middle of hardship, we choose to worship God.
So no matter what's going on around you today, choose to rest in God - even if the world around you is choosing to worry. Nothing is impossible for Him.'
During the Bible study on Wednesday night I started to think of the first two words of the Lord's prayer - 'Our Father'. It suddenly hit me that Jesus uses the 'our' pronoun. God the Father (or daddy) is as much our Father as he is Jesus' Father. We are the adopted children of God and viewed with the same love and privileges as 'natural born' children.
These are my verses for the day that came through on my phone:
'In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:37-39) This is the victory gained for us on the cross.
This morning I was listening to the report of a Naturalist who was able to record birdsong at the bottom of his garden for the first time. He wouldn't normally be able to hear it as it would be drowned out by the sound of traffic as his garden backs on to a busy road. When I came downstairs I asked Alexa to play Christian music and this song came on:
'Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace'
It made me stop and think how for many of us the normal routines and the busyness of everyday life has slowed down and we have more time on our hands. Maybe many of us are catching up on things that we've long wanted to do but I thought what a shame it would be if we missed this opportunity to stop and turn our eyes on Jesus and look into his wonderful face. Who knows what we might see, hear and discover in the stillness of his presence.
In my Bible reading yesterday, a quote came up that was in line with what we have been thinking about in the Bible study and in some of the comments on this page. It’s referenced as Betty Stam, CIM missionary, martyred 1935:
“Let us lift up Christ before the world, and live so closely in him that others may see that there really is such a person as Jesus because some human being proves it by being like him”.
Am hoping that this may be of interest to melancholic introverts and anyone else wondering what goes on inside them. Being one, accompanied by a choleric extrovert I’m finding that the present lockdown brings up from the deep what’s going on in both temperaments. The choleric is quite capable of dealing with any challenge, possibly the more extreme, the better. There’s a lot that can be done, spring cleaning, gardening, finishing that book one was enjoying, even the one one wasn’t. There’s also the temptation to assure everyone else that one is fine, it’s just a question of keeping going. Meanwhile the melancholic is being ignored, how can they possibly be of help? Until comes that little trigger that reveals just how separated these two halves of one person really are. Then there is simply the feeling of being disconnected, a spare part floating around with no roots, no meaning. (This would be my own feeling, I guess each one would have their own description) Fortunately it helps so much if one can express this situation to someone who will hear the Lord for you and suggest a way forward. This was my experience. It was suggested to me it could be like this; imagine a concert about to start. A soloist is introduced, their name, what they are going to play or sing, perhaps a few more details, then along comes the soloist taking centre stage, pausing and delivering through their voice or instrument what delights and exults their heart. The audience may catch what they’re communicating and share their exultation or even their sorrow, whatever it is, it has been shared, given a unique meaning through the giver. And so we have the announcer, the one who presents the soloist and the soloist. The choleric and then the melancholic – a worthy combination. This picture really encouraged me to the core, I love watching and hearing soloists, their demeanour, seeing them revelling and exulting in the music. This is the way I can set out to encourage my choleric to appreciate and promote my melancholic, the part of me that can feel what is happening in my soul, can seek help from others and the Lord when it needs restoring, can be a source of love and restoration to others. I guess each one will have their own personal way of doing this according to what touches their imagination, may we each find it and pursue it.
During this lockdown phase of the pandemic, we long for the time when we are able to meet again with those whom we love. How much more do Father, Son and Holy Spirit grieve the absence of Their children who have turned their backs on Them; ache to see them, to have relationship with them...
I woke up yesterday morning with quite a heavy heart, the thought of several more weeks of isolation and concerns about those I love made the day ahead feel like a mountain to be climbed. I opened my Bible reading on my phone and read the following words, ‘Don’t just speak to God about your mountain – speak to your mountain using God’s Word!’ When you make God’s Word your Word, your mountain will begin to move.’ (UCB Word for Today) What an encouragement!
The day’s devotional was based on Romans 10:8-10, ‘It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God - “Jesus is my Master” - embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”’ (The Message Bible)
It is right to talk to the Lord about our concerns and fears and worries and I’m sure many of us have done that over the past few weeks. However, as I thought about the reading during the day it was a reminder to focus upon the promises of God in his word and the powerful message of salvation which we celebrated last week.
With thoughts about the works of the Holy Spirit floating around in my head (re last night's Bible study) I had a little experience the other day, when I thought 'I wonder if that is the Spirit working? It was one of those days that begin not with an expectant wondering, what will the day ahead bring, but with a lethargic sigh - I really don't feel like doing this or that, my sometime 'get up and go' had got up and gone! I realised that, although I'm not a cuddly sort of person, I was so missing close proximity to people, having them sitting near me for a lovely conversation. This feeling was acute, like a physical hunger. Like the psalmist who took his deepest feelings to the Lord, I poured it all out to him. His response seemed to be 'I understand Cathy, its alright, you're alright' And strangely when I got going again it Was alright. Although I knew this feeling was a part of me, and that circumstances wouldn't change, maybe for some time, there was something inside me that could cope. I didn't need to be bogged down, I could carry on being blessed, a blessing, the Lord had this particular burden quite safely, I didn't need to be troubled by it. It was such a strange feeling and I wasn't sure whether it was my own inner resources surfacing, however I now expect it was the working of the Holy Spirit providing that lifting of the load, that opportunity to experience the joy and satisfaction of the Lord.
Have just watched a catchup of the BBC programme on the Hubble telescope (can so recommend it plus a listen of Tim's talk in which he recommends it) showing how the telescope was eventually able to capture images of galaxies billions of light years away in time and space. The whole experience leaving one transfixed with awe towards a God so infinitely beyond ones grasp to comprehend. How could he possibly be concerned with this tiny speck of a planet, amongst billions upon billions, and even smaller atomlike people like us? I had the consoling thought (and I'm quite sure there are many thoughts more profound) that its because he is so unfathomable, so infinite, so incomprehensible that he is able and willing to contemplate and love us. .
Halesworth Community Church