- Who we are
- What we do
Is this time a unique opportunity for growing our character and closeness with God?
Reading through Leviticus recently, I was reminded again of God’s ‘forced sabbath’ for the land. He had promised that if Israel didn’t keep the covenant, they would be exiled, and the land would “enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies” (Leviticus 26:34). But Israel never ‘rested’ and let the land lie fallow every seventh year. During the 70 years of the Babylonian exile, God gave the land all the sabbath rest which the people of Israel did not (2 Chronicles 36:21).
Many of us Christians have allowed ourselves to become just as busy as the world around us. Among all that COVID-19 throws up, perhaps the clearing of our calendars forces upon us the space we need to refresh our relationship with the Lord.
I worry however in this time we might slide into a trap of our age – to think that content is king. Never before has so much information—including Christian—been available to us. Among all the YouTube and Netflix on offer, it has been great to see many Christian colleges and websites in recent days open up courses and materials for free. There are many good opportunities for you to learn. But don’t be mistaken. Receiving information is only one step towards transformation. Consuming content is easy. What is harder is forming character and closeness with the Lord.
How might we make the most of this enforced rest? Not merely through learning, but using our time to reflect on the Bible, and to reflect on our lives. We need to make space to properly come before the Lord and pray. Busy parents may have less time for taking in information but perhaps more time to build Christian character and call on God for grace!
You may already be doing this and find it easy. But for those of us who find it hard, this strange time may be a gift from the Lord.
– SAM PURSELL
COVID-19 has pierced the notion many of us have of independence and self-sufficiency. As our patterns have changed over the last fortnight many of us have begun to worry. For we have been cut off from others, and gaps have formed in food and other supply chains. Suddenly what Jesus tells his disciples about worrying about life comes a little closer to home:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:22-26)
Jesus tells us to put our confidence in God who loves and richly provides. If God loves and provides for the animals he has made, how much more his people? Jesus says do not worry because God will provide our needs, and he has our lives in his hands. Furthermore, in Jesus God has provided our greatest need, laying down his life for ours.
At the same time, God continually tells those who have, to help those who are in need.
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)
COVID-19 has caused higher isolation, unemployment and anxiety. Therefore, staying in touch and supporting those in need has become both more important and more difficult. But we trust God will provide for us, and he will strengthen us to help one another.
Please do reach out to one another, your Bible study leader, the wardens, Val or myself in these testing times. And be reassured that your life is precious to God.
– SAM PURSELL
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
(Psalm 91:1-6 NIV)
Lord Most High, you are our refuge and fortress, our protector in times of trouble. You have healed us from sin and death through Jesus Christ, and now we trust you in a time of looming pestilence and plague. We pray that you would stop its spread, keep us safe and heal the sick. But whatever your will for us in this life may we always find refuge in your faithfulness.
We are sorry for the times when we fail to trust you and love you as we ought. We are sorry for our selfishness when others are in need. Please forgive our sins.
Increase our neighbourliness, so that we would uphold one another in practical service, prayer, friendship and with encouragement through the word.
We ask that you would strengthen us all; particularly the lonely, the sick, the bereaved, and the anxious.
We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.
– SAM PURSELL
I’m sure that you have heard about restrictions on public gatherings for the time being.
Archbishop Glenn Davies has sent a letter today to every church in the Sydney Anglican Diocese to suspend all public church gatherings. This follows on from the Prime Minister and NSW Health Minister’s order to cancel all public gatherings of more than 100 people (which may be lowered further).
This means that Oak Flats Anglican will suspend Sunday services, Kid’s Club, Andy’s Club, Refuge Youth Group, and other gatherings in the church building.
In regards to Mobile Community Pantry, we will speak to Anglicare about whether certain changes may enable it to continue – e.g. pre-packing boxes.
Although we will not be meeting all together as a whole church family, we can still encourage one another regularly by meeting in small groups in our homes and online.
We will livestream the service on Sunday morning at 9:30am. Go to livestream.oakflatsanglican.com to view the service. It will be recorded, so you can watch it later if need be. A good idea would be to invite everyone in your house to watch it at the same time.
Bible study groups
If Bible study groups wish to meet, they may. Social distancing recommendations are to meet in a large space with 1.5m distance between people. Do not meet if you are sick or a person at risk.
Some Bible study groups already have Facebook groups where prayer points are shared, and readings and studies could be distributed. Groups may also like to read the Bible, discuss and pray using video conference software. Skype allows free group video chats for up to 50 people. Another group video chat option is the Zoom app.
If you are in a Bible study group, please be in contact with your leader and others in the group about how you are going and how to pray for one another during the week.
If you are not in a Bible study group, it would be good to choose a friend you can call and be in contact with during the week to chat about life, to read the Bible and pray together on the phone or via other means. Please let Val know if there is someone you have agreed to do this with.
If you are looking for someone who might be able to connect with you in this way, please let Val know.
Many expenses for the church continue, even though we will not be meeting in person as usual. If you haven’t yet moved to giving via direct debit, now could be a great time to set it up. See details here: oakflatsanglican.com/give
If you wish to continue giving via the ‘plate’, I recommend what Paul suggests in 1 Corinthians 16:2 to set aside a sum of money each week for later collection.
I want to finish with a simple encouragement from the Scriptures. Isaiah 40:28-31 reminds us that God is always with us, therefore we can have hope during this challenging time that he will give us strength. Through drought, bushfire, plague and whatever else we may see in our lives let us remember that our Lord is God: creator, sustainer and redeemer to the ends of the earth.
Pray that he would stop the spread of the virus, that we would display the love of Christ, and that somehow people would come to know Christ through this.
Constantly occupying some part of everyone’s brain at the moment is concern regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19). Should I be afraid, should I stay calm, and more importantly can I get a refund on any of the 4-years’ worth of toilet paper I stocked up on?
As Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God, it can be easy to steamroll the situation and say “Be calm. God has everything in hand. To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Of course, those things are true. But I would like to add and reinforce another theme from Bible.
God knows that he will work all things for the good of those who love him. But he still also cares and comforts those who suffer in this age, before he brings about complete restoration in the next.
In this we think about Jesus in John 11, who promised and knew that Lazarus would rise from the dead (v. 23). He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (Luke 11:25-26). Jesus knew that Lazarus would be alive again in a matter of minutes. Standing at the entrance of the tomb, Jesus called Lazarus out. The dead man rose back to life and walked out of the tomb. Jesus’ glory was revealed.
Nevertheless, upon going to the tomb Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. When he saw the tomb we read, ‘Jesus wept.’ (Luke 11:35). Even the crowd could see that Jesus loved Lazarus (v. 36).
What is my point? Jesus was completely confident in his own sovereign power to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet he still was grieved over the sickness and death of his beloved friend. He was not callous in his confidence, but caring.
Like Christ, let us be both confident and caring. God holds his people securely through life, sickness and even death; and at the same time, we are to love, care for, and support those who are afraid, lonely, sick and grieving.
– SAM PURSELL