Article Index

 Thursday 30 April

The following came into my inbox yesterday from Issachar Ministries and is an article by Tim Lowe, a Baptist Minister in Cambridge.

The disciples in lockdown (John 20:19)


I believe it is God’s purpose at this time to strengthen the remnant of believers in this nation so He can use His church to reap a harvest of souls for the kingdom in the years to come.

The death of Jesus was devastating for the disciples. They had invested so much in following Jesus, and now it all seemed to have come to nothing. In fact, Jesus had been preparing them for this very moment, as well as for their future ministry (e.g. John 13:31-16:33). Yet still, in the moment of crisis, the disciples were overcome with fear and went into lockdown: "the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Judean leadership" (John 20:19).

Their situation was somewhat different to ours, but there are parallels. Consider this. Like many mature Christians today, the disciples knew their Scriptures well, which was normal in that culture. Surely they knew Scriptures such as Isaiah 41:14, "'Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,' declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." There are many such Scriptures in the Bible to encourage us. Yet in the eye of the storm they were fearful. That’s often how it is for us as well! Yet between Passover and Pentecost something radically changed that made these fearful disciples into bold preachers of God’s word.

How do we respond in a crisis? The great heroes of the faith in the Bible from Moses to David to the prophets all knew how to turn to God for help. The Psalmist declared, "I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy of praise, so shall I be saved from my enemies" (Psalm 18:3). Turning to God in a crisis means seeking Him in prayer and finding spiritual sustenance in the Scriptures. There is little evidence the disciples in their lockdown did either. Why is it, when we most need to turn to God for help, like in the present corona-crisis, we don’t? The disciples could, for example, have brought to mind the teaching of Jesus just a few days previously: "'Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me'" (John 14:1). Jesus had taught them He was going away and they would see Him again. He had taught them He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. With hindsight we can easily understand the disciples could not fully appreciate these things. But at least, we might think, they could have been praying and encouraging one another. In our lockdown it is not the time to be fearful but to seek God even when we cannot fully understand His purposes. But this does not mean it is easy to overcome the emotion of fear. What was it that changed the disciples? It was the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that made all the difference. The Scriptures testify to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, not only as an historical event, but also as a spiritual reality for all followers of Jesus.

The historical events of the resurrection are explained, for example, in John 20:1-23. After the resurrection, on the evening of the same day, Jesus appeared to His disciples: "with the doors locked for fear of the Judean leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'" It was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that began to transform the disciples from fearful men into those God could use to bring renewal into the first century world. Then, "Jesus breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22). The power of the Holy Spirit makes the power of Jesus’ resurrection real for each one of us. Paul prayed for the Ephesians that "the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened in order that you may know ... the incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead" (Ephesians 1:18-20). The same power at work in the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead is at work in believers today.

The transformation of the disciples began in lockdown as they encountered Christ in a new way. There are health reasons for our present lockdown, but we should be earnestly praying to God that He, in His mercy, would use this time of restriction to strengthen the remnant of believers in the UK, and that we would not be found to be sleeping. Pray that renewal would begin among the disciples of Jesus in these days.

Wednesday 29 April

Some encouragement that dropped into my inbox this morning:

Does life feel out of control?

400 years. That’s how long the Israelites waited for God to deliver them from slavery. But after they left Egypt, God didn’t take them directly to their promised land. Instead, they camped out at the base of a mountain while God instructed Moses. During that time, God’s glory rested on the mountain. But after 40 days, the Israelites grew frustrated by the delay…so they rejected God and pursued whatever pleased them

If you’ve ever felt frustrated by an uncertain season that lasts longer than you anticipated, you’re not alone. Waiting can lead to disappointment and frustration. In those moments, we can become so focused on our circumstances that we forget God is still in control. If God’s in control, we might ask, then where is He? Why hasn’t anything changed? 

Here are three truths to remember:

1.     Waiting reveals what you worship

When the Israelites’ plans were delayed, they pursued instant gratification because that’s what they actually valued. When you find yourself dissatisfied with your situation, what do you turn to? What you focus on reveals what you value, and what you value determines what you worship. 

2.     Waiting is never wasted

God wasn’t withholding His promise from the Israelites—He was preparing them for it. God’s timeline is different than ours, but your waiting might actually be preparing you for the plans and purposes God has for you. 

3.     Waiting helps us focus on God’s faithfulness

God’s faithfulness hasn’t changed. The God who patiently protected and provided for the Israelites also conquered death so that you could experience eternal life. If you find yourself growing weary from waiting, look up and look back. Look for evidence of God’s presence, and look back on what He’s done for you. This will help you hold onto hope. Hoping in God is never wasted because the One who conquered death is still in control, and He’s always at work in your waiting.

Tuesday 28 April

Gordon Crowther, the new Warden at Lee Abbey, Devon, arrived from South Africa just before the lock-down and the first thing he had to do was to send the guests home who had just arrived for a conference. What a start! This week, I received the following from him.

‘As a Community we continue, even more earnestly, with our rhythm of prayer with key moments at 8.30am and 2pm each day. We hear the Bible read and expounded, we offer our thanks and ask for forgiveness for our transgressions and omissions. We pray for each of the Lee Abbey Communities, as well as camp leaders, Friends and then key workers and leaders engaged in responding to this crisis in our various countries and communities. Recently we have taken encouragement from 1 Peter 5:1-11 and especially the promise in verse 10: 'And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast'.
 
‘Like so many, as a Community, we have navigated grief and the full spectrum of the emotions associated with it. However, we have also set ourselves to listen to God as well as each other – perhaps more deeply and carefully. We want to hear how God is calling us to respond as people of the Living Jesus Christ in this time and in the new time that we will all enter post-COVID-19. We feel sure that God will continue to call us at Lee Abbey Devon to be God’s welcome, to build community and to serve and renew the church, but perhaps in some new ways.’

That has challenged me to set aside some time to pray the same, maybe you can join me. Pray that we may know what God is saying to us at this time and what He wants from us post-COVID-19. If 8.30am. and/or 2pm. are good times for you then you can join in with the Community at Lee Abbey Devon.

Monday 27 April

This dropped into my inbox from an American contact of mine this week. I wonder what you feel about it, and how you pray during this coronavirus crisis and lockdown.

Prayer [in a crisis]

Earlier today a very good friend, who has always professed to be atheist, text me with the following message. [I know this is] an extremely private question, so I don’t mind if you’d rather not answer, but what do you say about this [pandemic situation] when you pray?

I thought, as I’m sure many people are asking themselves similar questions, whether atheist or not, that I’d share with you my response in the hope it may be helpful to some. Firstly, it’s not a private question at all, it’s a personal question, in that my answer may not be everyone’s answer. However, I don’t believe faith should ever be private. That’s how faith is misunderstood and can mutate into all kind of introspective and untested ideas. So I don’t mind you asking at all. Faith is communal not private. So, here’s some thoughts on that question about prayer in a crisis over which we have little control. 

First, I need to set my parameters.

1) I do not believe in an interventionist God who swoops in like a superhero, nor that God would only help those who pray.

2) I don’t pray to God in order to inform God of the situation. If God is God, then God is already more in the know then I am!

3) Neither do a believe in a God who has caused this suffering in order to bring about some higher purpose.

But enough of the negative, what I do believe is ...

God is Love

God is in all things, surrounds all things, is beyond all things, created all things, loves all things.

God is not a thing!

But God is as we see in Jesus.

So, on to what I pray.

The Reformed Church has historically followed a four fold pattern of prayer which you may find helpful. The traditional names can be a bit misleading, so bear with me while I explain. Adoration Confession Thanksgiving Supplication

Adoration this is not simply saying ‘God you’re wonderful’ as if we have to first pay tribute to a superior being. Adoration is a centring, a recognition that the universe is bigger than us, that our needs and concerns are held in balance with the rest of creation, and that the entirety of all that is, was, and will be, is far beyond our comprehension and can only be held by ‘God’. (God is a loaded or misdirecting word for some, you may find it helpful to substitute the word God with The Universe). Confession is not a self shaming exercise, being required to list our ‘sins’ before a judgemental super being, who requires our grovelling servitude.

Confession is the next part of the centring, recognising we all have faults and limitations. Maybe ‘acknowledging’ would be a better word than confession? We acknowledge we make and have made mistakes, we acknowledge that we cannot fix everything, we acknowledge we are deluding ourselves when we act as if we can, or do not take responsibility for our actions.

Thanksgiving may now come naturally. Having worked through both Adoration and Confession they have hopefully brought us to a place where we feel freed of our burdens and inadequacies and able to better focus on our many blessings. Just spending time thinking of all the things we are grateful for or fortunate to enjoy is a really positive experience. Again, it can refocus our thoughts to a place much more capable of positive action, even in a seemingly hopeless crisis.

Finally, Supplication, which in my experience is most often misunderstood as Petition. Petition are prayers bringing a list of problems and grievances to God with the expectation that God, once properly informed, will sort it all out. There is a place for prayers of petition, but it is closer to the ‘get it off your chest’ lament category than a facet of healthy prayer. The subtle difference between the two is asking for the strength, help, skill, guidance, etc for ourselves and others to cope with or tackle our problems, not simply asking God to sort them for us. Prayers of supplication, rather than absolve us of our responsibilities, allow us to focus on them and seek wisdom and courage in tackling them, that a time of reflection can bring.

So, that’s a very long introduction to answering your question in practical terms. But here it is ...

In the current crisis, after preparing for prayer with Adoration and Confession to centre myself, and release my personal burdens, and being in a positive and grateful state of mind through Thanksgiving, I might pray ...

•       May I have the strength to deal with the day at hand, and not worry about tomorrow.

•       May I be alert and compassionate to the suffering of others and patient with those I find selfish or    ignorant.

•       May I trust that there is good in all people and that God is with us in all troubles.

•       May I seek our wellbeing, and not just my own.

•       May I be generous in time, understanding, and spirit. Quick to listen and slow to judge.

•       May those working ‘on the front line’ be aware of the love and support they each have, and may I find ways of sharing that love and support with them.

•       May the vulnerable feel supported and never alone, and the anxious comforted.

•       May Gods will be done (which is goodness for all people/creation)

Well, that’s quite a lot! When you’ve digested it, I’d love to hear your response.

Their response, I love it. I'm going to work through it. It touches on a few things I want to get better with.

How would you reply to an atheist's question?

 

Saturday 25 April

'Contagion, a 2011 disaster movie about a viral pandemic, has soared in downloads and rentals. The 1995 film Outbreak has seen a similar surge in views. Even tales of zombie armageddon like 28 Days Later and World War Z are more popular than ever.

'You might imagine we would be desperate for escapism now, but instead many of us are choosing to watch our worst fears play out on screen. As one BuzzFeed headline despaired: ‘The Only Thing I Want To Do Is Binge-Watch Apocalypse Movies.’

'Charles Bramesco describes this as a ‘sanctioned version of exposure therapy’. By recasting our current situation in a fictional scenario, we can watch a version play out where some characters triumph, a solution is discovered, and ‘an inconceivable menace can be experienced and survived’. In other words: disaster films lend us an illusion of control.

'The pandemic has introduced great uncertainty to areas which we normally try to manage: our health, our financial security, our future plans. It’s shattered the idea that we are rulers of our own destinies. Watching disaster films, refreshing news coverage, cycling between social media, or rechecking the infection curve can provide temporary reassurance – a feeling that we are one step ahead. But for Christians there is an extraordinary assurance that we aren’t in ultimate control.

'In Psalm 121, the psalmist journeys along a dangerous path, wondering where to look for help. He remembers God’s promise to ‘watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore’. God represents himself here as a watchman who cares for the city during the night; one who never tires. For us, too, God’s careful watch promises to cover our whole lives – and deaths – until the end of the age and beyond.

'There are many places we can look for an illusion of control, particularly in a digital age of 24-hour news and streaming services. Perhaps, like me, you need some practical measures to ‘turn your eyes upon Jesus’ instead. This week, why not open your Bible before checking your phone each morning, fast from social media, memorise Psalm 121, take breaks from the news, or use your daily exercise to pray as you walk?

'As we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can rest secure in the knowledge that God himself fixes his eyes on us. There is no safer place in the whole universe than under the gaze of the Lord Almighty.'

from Katherine Ladd, London Institute of Contemporary Christianity.

Friday 24 April

I came across this very new and encouraging song this week from Gas Street Church in Birmingham; you can watch Tim Hughes sing it at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAzKrZEy_Rg) or click here: By the Grace of God — Live at Gas Street Church

By The Grace Of God

I rest my soul on Jesus

When the mountains shake.

I put my trust in Jesus

The moment I awake.

When my soul is lost as sea

He will be my rock.

My vision be in Christ alone;

This grace is all we’ve got.

His love is like the mighty ocean;

His love for me will never stop.

Oh His arms are strong enough to carry me

Through it all by the grace of God.

So high upon His shoulders

Safely brought this far;

Helper of my helpless soul,

The King of broken hearts.

His love is like the mighty ocean…

You are the passion of my life, Lord Jesus.

You are the song within my soul.

My strength my hope my all in all is You,

Jesus, You.

When breath grows still and night draws near,

I will not be afraid.

I know the plans He has for me

Don’t finish at my grave.

His love is like the mighty ocean…

Thursday 23 April

If you have been using Lecto 365 as part of your daily devotions then you will know that this week Pete Grieg has been reflecting on verses from 2 Chronicles 7: 12-15:

The Lord appeared to (Solomon) at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among My people, if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.’

The most powerful words in these verses are: ‘when’, ‘if’ and ‘then’. ‘When’ (not if) trouble comes, ‘if’ (not when) we pray, ‘then’ God will act. Terrible hardships are inevitable in life and God’s people are not immune. God gives Solomon three keys to three promises. The keys are humility, prayer and repentance. The promises are the hearing of our prayers, the hallowing of our lives and the healing of our land.

Humility: 1 Peter 5:5: ‘Clothe yourselves with humility.’ This is not something that happens automatically; we have to get up every morning and put on a humble attitude in just the same way as we put on our clothes.

Prayer and repentance: At this time of global crisis, there is little doubt that God is calling His people to ‘pray and seek My face.’ The invitation is to ‘turn away from (My) wicked ways.’ The Hebrew word for turning means return, turn back or answer. There is a sense of homecoming, returning like the prodigal to the happiness of holiness. God is looking for a holy people, a church set apart for Himself. As we seek His face we are accepted by the Father, forgiven by Jesus’ death on the cross and filled again by the Spirit of holiness. C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible.’

In humility, prayer and repentance, may we come to God, that He may hear our cries, forgive our sins and heal our land.

Wednesday 22 April

The Beatitudes for a lockdown community

When Jesus saw people locked down in their houses, and unable to walk through the streets and he spoke to them, saying.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who are tired and struggling, aching for the chance to see family and friends for real. Blessed are those for whom lockdown is little different than life before. Blessed are those who take the time to call or zoom, an otherwise forgotten neighbour. Blessed are those who are working all hours so that others can be safe. Blessed are those who desperately need space and time for their own well-being. Blessed are those for whom staying in means being at risk. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you

Blessed are those who mourn for people who have died. And blessed are those who mourn because they could not say goodbye, could not hold hands, could not join with family and friends to pay their respects. Blessed are those who take the place of family at the moment of passing. Blessed are those who mourn for the routine and ways of living that gave their life meaning. Blessed are those who mourn for their jobs, or businesses, their employees and livelihoods. Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those whose actions are only now being recognised and valued - the minimum wage workers who make our lives possible. Blessed are those whose work has always been essential and blessed are those who now see this. Blessed are those who are risking their own health to care for those that we are cannot care for. Blessed are those who leave a can of beans and a toilet roll on the shop shelf for someone else. Blessed are those who wheel down the wheelie bin of the isolated household next door. Blessed are the babies born into the midst of this. Blessed are those who help someone they have never before met. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are those who in the midst of all that is around can see the injustice and inequity that it highlights. Blessed are those who recognise this light shining on their own lives and commit to living more simply. Blessed are those who are simply hungry. Blessed are the foodbanks, advice services, the charity workers and helpers Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who try to social distance but also have compassion for the family with the autistic child, or spouse with dementia. Blessed are those whose patience is being tested. Blessed are those who are trying to work at home and home educate at the same time. Blessed are those who have got zoom working and those that haven’t. Blessed are the merciful. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are those who see God in the rainbows and the clapping. In the helpers and the helped. In the opportunity to reconnect and, In a new understanding of family, community and society. Blessed are those who see this, not as the beginning or the end. Blessed are those who can - in whatever way - be still and know God. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Amen

Paul Bridges 

Tuesday 21 April

The following is submitted by Rev Stuart Turner

How the Virus Stole Easter
By Kristi Bothur  with a nod to Dr. Seuss 

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.

People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.

People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed.
“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.

“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.

“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.

The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.

“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.

But the sound wasn’t depressed.
Why, this sound was triumphant!
It couldn’t be so!
But it grew with abundance!

The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!

It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling.
“Just how can it be?”

“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then?
Well....the story’s not done.
What will YOU do?
Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that -
Let it start a revival.

Monday 20 April

If you joined us yesterday for our Sunday podcast, you'll have heard me talk about Thomas. The URC Sunday worship also included a sermon on Thomas; it's quite long, but I thought it was an interesting and different perspective on the subject.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. (John 20v.19 NRSV)
 
It has been a long, bewildering, exhausting day. Amidst all the devastation caused to their hopes and dreams by the events of Good Friday, the disciples begin this day discovering that the body of Jesus their teacher, their friend, has been removed, - by whom they don’t know. Disturbed and blinkered by grief, they have forgotten what Jesus has spent three years trying to show them. And, as a result, his death on the cross is a loss to them. The world around them is dark.
 
So they do what human beings tend to do in such circumstances - they lock themselves away - they pull the covers up and bury their heads under the bedclothes. Hidden behind doors of wood and walls of stone they seek that feeling of safety amidst a hostile world hiding not just from the Jewish authorities but from overwhelming feelings of loss as they attempt to make sense of it all. When all the world around them is dark. they are still unsure they can live in the light of the resurrection.
 
John, however, has the answer. We need to have faith.
 
But as this gospel story shows us faith can be complicated by fear and doubt.
 
Behind locked doors all the disciples except Thomas (and Judas) gather. They have heard from Peter and John about the empty tomb and they have heard from Mary Magdalene who has not only seen the risen Jesus but spoken with him also. Yet still they are unsure. Still they are afraid. When all the world around them is dark. they are still unsure they can live in the light of the resurrection.
 
Then Jesus appears and they rejoice. Jesus says to them ‘As the Father sent me so I send you.  Receive the Holy Spirit’. We sometimes tell the Easter story as if the joy of new life and resurrection dawns on the disciples all at once. apart from Thomas that is, who is, of course, absent.
 
In the story of Thomas, doubt is given as the opposite of faith. So, John reports Jesus coming back the same time the following week seemingly to put Thomas right. And, despite what Jesus tells Thomas ‘do not doubt but believe’ and ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’, Thomas comes to faith precisely because he has the courage to voice his doubt!
 
John, of course, has a purpose in focusing on doubt. He writes in the last verses of the chapter that his recording of these events is simply a snapshot of many events which have not been recorded. He records these events so that successive generations may believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and so have the life that comes from faith. This is his reason for the story about Thomas: to doubt is to be human.
 
For Christians doubt might be the opposite of faith but it is not its enemy. As with Thomas, doubt is not a stumbling block it is a stepping-stone on the road to faith as we go in search of what is true in order that we may find it. In these days of panic buying as someone said to me recently faith is not a packet to be lifted from the spiritual shelf. Coming to faith is a process. Coming to faith will take as long as it needs to take. Thomas simply had yet known the transforming power and presence, joy and confidence,
direction and purpose, guidance and inspiration of the risen Christ. But I wonder if there is something more going on here. Because there is not only doubt but fear as well. For me the enemy of faith is not doubt but fear.

We know a lot about fear at the moment – fear of catching the virus - fear of not getting a supermarket delivery - fear of losing my job as businesses shut down albeit temporarily - fear of being on my own - fear of not knowing how long this new way living will last or if things will ever going back to ‘normal’ what normal may be for you.  
Fear is real. It’s not just in the mind; it brings physical symptoms, trembling, physical sickness.  Fear is not just an individual trait. Fear can grip groups of people or whole communities. What we would term mass hysteria can make a group of people behave irrationally as we have seen as people fight over toilet rolls and pasta. It is the disciples fear that has enclosed them behind locked doors made of wood and walls of cold stone. they have no idea of their next move. But Jesus moves through the locked doors and walls and stands among them and says peace be with you. He gives them direction, direction in the task they have to do to bring new life and hope to a confused and hurting world.
 
Many of us are behind closed doors at this time but these are not doors of wood and walls of stone which keep us inward looking. What many of us are learning afresh during this season is that the Jesus who asks Thomas to look and see is the same Jesus who asks you to look and see the gift of God that is alive and present in those who call themselves the people of the resurrection. The challenge of God is that you should take this transforming presence so seriously that not only you believe in it, but that a whole world of hurting and confused people recognise new life and hope, new direction and guidance.
 
This was the appeal of the Church in our Acts reading. When Peter delivers his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost he does so almost immediately after the Holy Spirit has burst through the closed doors of the upper room. Peter tells his congregation in Jerusalem that the ministry of the resurrected Jesus continues through his followers all in the power of the Holy Spirit for the resurrection of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit are inextricably intertwined
 
The result is a church which lay in its ability to hold together the proclamation of a stunning new message, a church which nurtured its people by explaining what that message means a church that expressed itself in service and care to those living inside and outside its community.
 
I’ve been humbled by the acts of kindness shown to me over the past few weeks - virtual flowers - e-cards - phone calls and Facetime - offers of shopping for essentials - as well as conversations with those ministers and congregation who are getting to grips with technology needed to keep in touch with their communities all practical ways in which the Spirit is helping us to break out to share the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 
As we journey on through these disturbing and dark times let God’s Spirit release us from the fears and doubts that keep us behind our closed doors to continue to share the message of the Resurrection that through Jesus . God promises us new life and new life casts our fear. Scarred and wounded we may be but we will be no longer afraid. Jesus is saying to us Peace be with you! My peace I give to you! As one Facebook post says: Churches are not being closed. buildings are being closed. you are the Church!
You are to remain open! Let the light of the resurrection shine through us now and always. Amen.

 (c) 2020 URC

 

Saturday 18 April

Last week the Evangelical Alliance staff team set aside some time to phone more than 4,000 of its church and organisation members, to find out how things were going in these unprecedented and challenging times.

‘These conversations revealed a number of things, chief among them being:

  • Since the restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 were introduced, many churches and charities have swiftly adapted and they continue their ministry and witness online and in practical and safe ways for those who are not shored up digitally.
  • This temporary way of operating has highlighted areas of growth and how time and resources might be invested in future, and churches particularly are excited about the opportunities to strengthen and broaden their ministry.
  • Some charities are squeezed financially and are prayerfully considering how they might weather this storm and come out the other end with their organisation and staff team intact.
  • Some church leaders are feeling the strain as they manage change, the needs of their congregants and loss of life, primarily from their homes, where they don’t have the energy that flows from the physical presence of their church community.’

Please prayer for the UK church using the above pointers, asking that God, the one behind all perfect and good gifts, will give us all we need to remain resilient and resourced during this time, as we continue to serve each other, society and communities around the world.

Friday 17 April

If my mother had been alive, it would have been her 108th birthday today. She died in 1997, having been a Christian for at least 45 years. Like me, she experienced quite a range of Christian denominations, having come to faith in a Pentecostal church then spending many years in the Plymouth Brethren before joining the true church (!) and being confirmed in a wonderful evangelical Anglican church at the age of 80. I remember sitting at her bedside the evening before she died when she was very weak after a number of small strokes, and one of the last, and saddest things she asked me as she lay there was, "Am I really saved?" "Of course you are," I reassured her; she went to be with Jesus early the next morning. But it was upsetting to see that, after 45 years of following Jesus, she still didn't seem to have that assurance that Christ gives us. 

In these difficult and confusing days, and with the lockdown now set to continue for yet another three weeks (and probably longer for the elderly and vulnerable), it's so easy to feel worried, and God can sometimes feel far away. But there are so many reassuring words in the Bible: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you WILL be saved" - not "might be" or "I hope so" but "you WILL". "Lo I am with you always," said Jesus as he ascended to his Father.

I'll leave you today with one of my mother's favourite choruses to lift you up:

No, never alone, no never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
He’ll claim me for His own;
No, never alone, no never alone.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.                        

 

Thursday 16 April

Peter mentioned the YouVersion Bible app yesterday and the encouraging news that many people around the world are looking for answers from the Bible and from Christianity at this time of upheaval and difficulty. Today’s ‘verse of the day’ is from Galatians 5:1: ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’

Every year I like to go down to London, to the Royal Albert Hall, to sing in the Great Big Chorus ‘Scratch’ Messiah. I have booked for this year (November) and I hope we won’t be in this situation of lockdown then. It is a tremendous occasion with over 3,000 singers trying to raise the roof of the Albert Hall with a full orchestra and four up-and-coming soloists performing. There are many wonderful choruses in Handel’s Messiah, but a high point is, of course, the Hallelujah chorus when all stand for that rousing tune. However, for me, it is the soprano solo that comes after that is the high point: ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.’

These words are from Job 19:25-26. In the midst of Job’s suffering, of no fault of his own, at this point of despair in his life, he speaks of his Redeemer. God will not let him down. ‘I know that my Redeemer lives’ is a great source of comfort to us in times of distress as it points us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. In fact the soprano solo in the ‘Messiah’ finishes with the words: ‘For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep.’ May knowing our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is risen from the dead bring us comfort today and set us free to live for Him. May we know the freedom to share His love and grace with others we might meet on our daily walk or on line today.

Wednesday 15 April

One of my favourite apps on my phone is the YouVersion Bible app. It's free and it gives you access to 61 different English translations of the Bible, a wealth of study plans, a verse for the day and daily prayers. I don't think there's a day goes by when I don't refer to it. It really is worth downloading. It's available for all mobile phones but not, unfortunately, computers. They also send out encouraging emails from time to time, and I thought you might like to read today's reflection:

"You’re staying inside as much as possible, practising social distancing, and checking in on family, friends, and neighbours. Meanwhile… 

Something historic is happening.

While we’re all facing challenges in the middle of a global pandemic, what you may not realize is that we’re also experiencing a season of great spiritual awakening. All over the world, people are searching for answers and hope. And what millions are finding is an invitation into a relationship with God

During the past six weeks we’ve witnessed God moving in amazing ways as we saw the largest engagement increase ever, with more people searching the Bible for hope and peace, sharing Bible verses and Verse Images with others, and engaging in God’s Word with their families through the Bible App for Kids. And we’ve seen more than 1.6 million prayers added in just the last month. Our volunteer community is more involved than ever too, offering their time and talents to serve the global YouVersion Community. 

“YouVersion has given me access to the Bible, increasing my relationship with God and allowing me to connect with His Word every single day. It’s such a blessing to have and I’m so thankful to be reminded of good messages in troubling times.” - Imani S

But it’s only the beginning.

We know that God wants to do so much more as He continues to draw people closer from all over the world. So many people will point back to this chapter in history as a defining moment in their relationship with God. This work matters now, and it matters in eternity.

And you can be a part of it.

We wholeheartedly believe that a daily rhythm of seeking intimacy with God has the power to transform lives. Our hope is that each person in our community is on a vital journey to become who God made them to be, abiding in Him, and drawing closer every day. We recognize that there are many needs in our communities today, and we’re continuing to pray together for our world and for people who are struggling financially

We are honoured to be helping guide people from every country on Earth to seek our amazing, loving God every single day."

Tuesday 14 April

‘Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her.

‘On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

‘Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”’ (John 20: 18-22).

The reflection from Lectio 365 seems so relevant in today’s situation:

‘It’s not surprising that the disciples were afraid and had locked themselves away. The threat of discovery by the very authorities who’d orchestrated Jesus’ execution must have felt very real.

‘When Jesus arrives, He doesn’t call them outside or knock on the door. Instead, He appears inside the room; He meets them in their fear and greets them in peace.

‘It’s strange reflecting on this passage while I am in lock down. I am staying in my home, behind locked doors not to hide like the disciples, but to protect myself and others from the spread of Covid 19. Fear itself can sometimes feel like a locked room that is hard to mentally or emotionally escape from. What fears are containing me at present? Jesus, I ask You to break into the place of my fear and bring Your peace.’

Twice Jesus greets the disciples with the words, ‘Peace be with you,’ and calm descends on the disciples. It’s the word ‘Shalom’, which means far more than just peace. It can mean salvation and the risen Jesus shows the disciples His hands and His feet, a sign of the reconciliation He has made through the cross. And then He breathes over them the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I pray that  I would know Your peace in my life today and may I receive the power of Your Holy Spirit to live my life for You.

 

Monday 13 April

Welcome to Easter Week: Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Yesterday was the strangest Easter Sunday, wasn't it? I think it was probably the only Easter Sunday in my long life when I haven't been celebrating Jesus's resurrection in church with fellow-Christians. Nevertheless, it was really good, knowing that, wherever we were, even in isolation, we were united together across the town and across the world with brothers and sisters celebrating in their own quiet ways, or tuning in to one or more of the many podcasts and streamed services around the globe. I know some people have criticised Christian denominations for closing their church buildings, but we don't need a building to pray; we don't need a building to worship; with technology, we don't even need a building to meet together. After all, the early church didn't have buildings for years! They met in homes, so probably in quite small groups to begin with. When Jesus ascended to his Father, some of his final recorded words were, "I am with you always." So, whether you're with your extended family, or just with your partner, or with some housemates, or on your own, Jesus's words are for you: He is with you and, because of what he suffered on the cross, he understands your isolation better than anyone. After all, as he hung on the cross, he cried out, "My God, why have you abandoned me?" He know isolation in a way that we don't have to, because God has not abandoned us: "I am with you, even to the end of the ages." Thank you, God!

Saturday 11 April

I always find the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday a strange and difficult day, but particularly this year. We seem to be living in a perpetual Easter Saturday, between life and death, between death and life. I found the following helpful from Danny Webster, Head of public policy at Evangelical Alliance.

‘In the darkness between Jesus’ death on the cross and His rising from the grave there was Saturday. It was a day of mourning. The disciples who had put down their fishing nets to follow Him were left bereft. 

‘The night before Jesus’ death He prayed in the garden and asked His Father to take this cup from Him. But only if that was His will. Jesus didn’t want to go through with this; He wondered if there was another way, a way out, an easier option, a way that could avoid the darkness. He had been betrayed. The authorities had decided that this man who claimed to be from God should be silenced.

‘And on Holy Saturday we remember that silence. The Bible tells us nothing about what happened on that day. Perhaps the religious leaders, keen to protect their purity on the Sabbath, hurried Him off the cross and into the pristine tomb donated for His body. Did they want this finished so they could enjoy their festival? 

‘Some of Jesus’ disciples would have cried, some would have fallen silent, others were in shock or angry or just walked away. The one who they believed was the Son of God was now gone. The distance between them seemed impenetrable. Jesus was torn from the Father He had known from the start, the distance that He felt being without His Father as He bore the weight of all our sin and shame. That distance can be how it feels when we cry out in prayer and we hear nothing back but the echo of our voice. 

‘When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, calling on God to take this cup from Him, He was not pretending to be more spiritual than He was. He wanted to avoid having to die. How often we want to avoid things. We pray to God for something and it can seem like He rejects our pleas. We cling on to what we want. We hold onto the life we know. 

‘But we can know that the King who died on Friday, was silent on Saturday, rose to glorious life on Sunday. The resurrection changes everything, but we can neither skip over the death of Friday nor the darkness of Saturday. Pain is real, grief is among us, and we cannot rush lament.

‘Our non-anxious presences isn’t a glib or flippant sense that there is nothing to see here – we’ll all be fine soon enough. It is a robust sense that even with the hardness and challenges of the presence, even amid the deaths and pain we are experiencing, we know that God is King and He casts out all fear. 

‘As a church we can confidently be assured of the goodness of God and the protection of His everlasting arms. And we can know why this is true despite what we are seeing around us. Our compassion should be in overdrive, as we follow God’s command not to fear. Our hope should be firmly in Jesus as we proclaim Him as the Risen King, as we declare to death that it has lost its sting.’

A poem from Graeme McMeekin from Tearfund:

‘Between Friday and Sunday, is Saturday,

Between death and resurrection, is mourning,

Between uncertainty and certainty, is faith,

Between pain and celebration, is hope,

Between loneliness and community, is love.’

A Prayer: Lord, for those in the midst of uncertainty, pain and loneliness, grant them faith, hope and love. Amen.

Good Friday 10 April

This is the last of Joyce Meyer's Holy Week reflections:

Second Chances

The miraculous lesson of Easter is this: Through Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross and Resurrection, we have been granted a second chance. We have permission to leave our old lives behind and focus on the new day, with all its potential for joy and choices that honour God. 

Our God is the God of “do-overs,” second chances, fresh starts and new beginnings. And He doesn’t have any limit on how many you can have. But sometimes, we lose sight of what God can do because of something in the past. We’re stuck, unable to move forward with the wonderful plans He so desperately wants to reveal to us.

Because Jesus lives, we can have a new attitude toward ourselves. We can live amazed by His great love for us—that even when we’re at our worst, He still chose to die for us so we could be made right with Him (see Romans 5:17). Let that sink in for a moment. Jesus died for our sins and is alive today to help us grow closer to Him and be changed by His Word and His Spirit. 

Do you need a second chance? Ask God for one...or a third chance, fourth or fifth—whatever you need. God is full of mercy and is longsuffering. His loving kindness never fails or comes to an end (see Psalm 100:5).

God is a God of new beginnings and fresh starts! 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions...(Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV). 

Luke 18:27 (NIV) says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Think of an area in your life right now where you need a second chance—a “do-over.” Then take some time to write down some of your favourite scriptures that remind you of God’s mercy and love for you. Ask God to speak to your heart and build your faith as you study. Then, grab a journal and write down the ways you see God working in your life.

PRAYER:

God, I know it doesn’t do me any good to hang on to my mistakes when You lovingly stand before me with a fresh chance, so I let go of all the wrongs I’ve done. Take my sins and make me clean. I give it all to You, excited to see the beauty that You will bring from them. In Jesus’s Name, amen.

It’s time to experience Christ’s love and embrace a brand-new beginning in Him. 

Maundy Thursday 9 April

Today's reflection is the third of Joyce Meyer's Holy Week reflections:

You Can Trust God

The days between the death of Jesus and His resurrection must have been some of the most uncertain days for His disciples. Matthew 17:22-23 says that the disciples were filled with grief just hearing Jesus talk about his crucifixion. 

There are times in our own lives when we feel uncertain or fearful, and that’s actually when we need to trust God and His timing the most. But it’s hard for us to remember that His timing is perfect and it rarely matches ours. 

God sees and understands what we do not. We have a choice. We can “rely on our own insight and understanding”—endlessly thinking about our problems, trying to figure everything out ourselves—or we can believe God has a plan and will work it out.

Without trusting God, we will always be striving to "make things happen" in our own strength. We must remember God not only has a plan for our lives, but He also knows the perfect timing for each aspect of it. 

God is working—often in ways we cannot see—to bring His plans to pass in our lives in the best possible ways. Once we’ve asked God to help us, our part is to let Him speak to our heart through prayer and reading His Word. Then we can make decisions based on what He’s leading us to do, not just what we want, think or feel. 

No matter what you do—no matter what you see or don’t see—always remember that God is with you. In all your ways, submit to Him, and He’ll make your paths straight (see Proverbs 3:6).  

Prayer: 

Father, I know that Your timing is perfect, even when I don’t understand everything that’s going on or how things will work out. Help me to patiently wait on You and learn to enjoy each and every moment of my life, knowing that You are in complete control. In Jesus’s Name, amen.

Wednesday 8 April

I hope we can all find a moment today to pray for the Prime Minister, still in intensive care, and for all those who are desperately ill; whatever our politics, we don't wish this virus on anyone, and we do pray for his speedy recovery.

Today's reflection is the second of Joyce Meyer's Holy Week reflections:

Jesus forgave all of our sins when He died on the cross. Even as He was hanging there, 

He was forgiving. And because He loved us so much, Jesus  willingly gave Himself, so we could experience forgiveness and have a personal relationship with God if we believe (see Romans 5:8 and John 3:16).

Forgiving others can be difficult, especially when we’ve been seriously hurt by those who are close to us. But with God’s help, we can choose to obey His Word and forgive rather than follow our feelings. Jesus was tormented—mocked, beaten and betrayed—yet through it all He was still able to forgive because of His love for us.  

Jesus’s own disciple Judas betrayed Him, and His disciple and close friend Peter denied Him. He also endured other forms of rejection and pain and was no stranger to suffering. Yet in Luke 6:27-28 (ESV), He said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

When someone hurts us, we can follow Jesus’s example of forgiveness as His Spirit enables us to love and forgive the way He does. If we trust God and choose to forgive, He will take care of the rest. Even when it’s hard, everything God asks us to do is ultimately for our good. 

When Peter asked Him how often he needed to forgive those who had wronged him, thinking seven times would be enough, Jesus answered, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times”(Matthew 18:22 ESV). This means it’s something we should do as many times as people need it.

The truth is, when we forgive, we’re actually doing ourselves a favor. When we decide to forgive and pray for God to bless our enemies and love them like Jesus loves them, God is faithful and He will change our heart as we keep doing what’s right according to His Word. 

Prayer: 

Thank You, Father, for Your mercy and forgiveness. Help me, in turn, to forgive those who have hurt me and to release any bitterness and resentment that I might be holding on to. In Jesus’s Name, amen.

 

Tuesday 7 April

I received an email from the Evangelical Alliance today, that I'd like to share with you:

Subject: Are you ready for The Comeback?
"Our gift of hope to the UK church

These are unprecedented times. Many of us may feel worried for ourselves and vulnerable members of our communities, but at this moment in our world’s history we wanted to bring a message of hope to you and your church. As God’s people, we know that whatever darkness we might be feeling now, Easter is just around the corner. It’s a time to remember Jesus, the light of the world, making a way out of darkness for us. While you may not be leading an Easter gathering this year, we still want to give you an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with those inside and outside your church community. This is why we’ve created, The Comeback.

>>> Click Here <<<

Pass it on to parishioners, post it on your church website, share it on social media, email it to your congregation. However you choose to use it, this video is our gift to you. We are with you and for you in this season, and our prayer is that we would still be making Jesus known together. 
Blessings,
Eve Paterson
Great Commission lead"

 

Monday 6 April

Good morning, everyone. Thanks to those who joined us for yesterday's podcast. It was good to know that some of us were able to worship together, even if only through the wonders of digital communication. Here is a reflection by Joyce Meyer, as we enter into Holy Week:

As we look forward to the Easter holiday, it’s beneficial for us to focus on what took place over the days leading up to the Resurrection. In Luke chapter 22, Jesus was having what is commonly called the Last Supper with His disciples. The Bible says that one of His disciples whom He loved was leaning on His chest, describing a closeness between the two (see John 13:23 AMP).

We can have the same closeness with Jesus. In fact, John 15:4 says that we should “abide” in Him. To abide in Christ means we “live, dwell and remain” with Him—we spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer, living in His presence—because every day we need fresh strength from Him. 

It’s important for us to realize that we can do nothing apart from Him. We may try to be self-sufficient, but we need to let God supply the grace and ability to do what we need to do. 

Too many times, we see what’s wrong with ourselves and try to fix it through our own strength. Or we try to change our spouse, our family, our friends, or our circumstances. But having a personal relationship with Christ means we can completely depend on Him—taking all the weight off ourselves and putting it all on Him. 

It can be as simple as saying, “God, I need You. I am nothing without You, and I can do nothing without You.” These are powerful confessions because nothing is impossible for God. 

Saturday 4 April

The article below came into my in-box a couple of days ago:

On Being Overwhelmed | Connecting with Culture

'It was Harold Wilson who allegedly said that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. In these recent momentous days, it looks as if that should be reduced to five minutes.

'In the space of a very short time, life has been turned upside-down. Work, school, family life, daily routines, leisure activities, as well as that number one pastime – shopping – have changed for all of us, almost overnight.

'It’s easy to see why our nation – nay, our world – is uneasy. You may feel it yourself, identify it in friends and colleagues, or see it reflected in your social media feeds. We’re experiencing what theologian David Ford has called ‘multiple overwhelmings’. Whether personally, professionally, or politically, it’s one thing to have a single event that knocks us off our feet. But what if the knocks continue to come thick and fast? Is it any wonder we’re confused, anxious, distrustful, and fearful?

'In all this, though, shafts of light manage to break through – the neighbours forming WhatsApp groups to support people in their street, the already-exhausted NHS workers coming in for the next shift, the rainbows in windows of houses saying more than the occupants of those homes perhaps know about the commitment of God to his creation.

'They’re all traces of grace, showing something of a refusal to be shaped by the prevailing culture, which Christians of all people should understand. Because while some ‘overwhelmings’ wound and crush us, others are life-giving and transformative. As David Ford says, the wisest way to cope is ‘not to expect to be in control of everything’, but ‘to live amidst the overwhelmings’ in a way that lets one of them shape the others.

'During this period of Lent, Christians remember that Christ himself embodied ‘multiple overwhelmings’ – baptised in the Jordan, driven into the wilderness, tempted by the devil. Then, at the climax of his life, betrayed, deserted, tortured, crucified. But, as Ford writes, ‘then came the resurrection, the most disorienting and transformative overwhelming of all’.

'Given that death-and-resurrection pattern, what would it look like at this time to be overwhelmed with an assurance of God’s love? Overwhelmed with gratitude? Overwhelmed by generosity? Overwhelmed by a commitment to pray? Overwhelmed by a desire to see others thrive, even if it comes at our expense?

'Given the resources available to us in the gospel, what might we be overwhelmed by today?'

Antony Billington (Theology Advisor, London Institute of Contemporary Christianity)

Friday 3 April

One of the questions people are already asking is, what will church look like when we come out of this Coronavirus crisis? One of the things we're all having to learn is that church doesn't depend on a building, because WE ARE CHURCH, and we're doing church today outside the walls of Riverside. Here's a poem by a fine contemporary Christian poet which challenges us to ask whether we're spending our time worrying about what we do inside the building whilst forgetting what's going on beyond the walls.

Home Improvements (by Geoffrey Rust)

You can’t trust anyone these days.

Take this Jesus.

Seemed OK,

We asked him in,

just being neighbourly, the way you do.

 

Over dinner he was pleasant enough

apart from an annoying habit

of turning the small talk into conversation.

Even seemed keen to hear about

our plans for home improvements.

 

This was the big mistake.

When it came down to it

he wasn’t really interested

in the kitchen units

or the bathroom tiles

or the artificial ceiling in the lounge,

but kept peering into cupboards uninvited

(as if we had dry rot)

and prizing up the edges of the carpet

(as if we had woodworm)

 

and finally disappeared into the cellar

(heaven knows what he found down there)

emerging with a hammer

and a pickaxe

and a pocketful of drawings

and smiling in a most alarming way said,

I’ve just had a much better idea 

and started smashing down the walls.

Thursday 2 April

The following is part of today's daily reflection from Lectio 365:

'Today I am reflecting on how the Lord led the Israelites out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. The Lord sets the direction and actively leads His people on this journey.

'Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it". Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you"  (Joshua 3:1-5).

'The ark of the covenant was God's "dwelling place", and it preceded the Israelites into the Promised Land. Wherever the Lord asks His people to go, He goes first. It helps me to remember, whenever I feel alone and lost in my own wilderness, that God is not only with me, He walks ahead of me. He won't ask me to go anywhere He hasn't already gone.

'Where are You asking me to go Lord? I ask You to show me the next step in my journey, and to begin leading me there. Pause and pray'

 

This comes from Lectio 365 from the 24/7 prayer network and is downloadable to your phone, tablet and computer for free. It includes a Psalm, Bible reading, reflection and prayers. You can either read it for yourself or listen to the recording. Personally, I find the music that goes with the reflection rather distracting, so have taken to reading it.

 

Wednesday 1 April

"Hello, hello, hello: what have we here?

 

I hope you can laugh with me at this: I'm absolutely sure that Jesus had a great sense of humour...and it's something we all need to get us through these difficult times.

Here's a lovely Celtic blessing from the poet John O'Donohue:

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence. May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses. May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon. May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path. May the flame of anger free you from falsity. May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you. May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul. May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention. May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.   John O'Donohue

Tuesday 31 March

  • John 15:10

    “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

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