- Who we are
- What we do
For many people a couple of months ago our lives were busy, busy, busy. “How are you?” we’d say. “Oh, I’m busy!” The key to communicating the good life was saying you led a busy life. Quantity was quality. Identity through activity.
But now, with schedules compulsorily cleared, many of us are finding joy again in a simplified routine. Going for walks, gardening, riding bicycles, cooking, and doing all those long put off jobs around the house. Because that’s all we are allowed to do! The death of one way of life has opened up another life. Reduced activity allows more space to live and breathe. Perhaps when this ends many of us will stay shifted to quite different work and life patterns.
But it’s hard to personally resolve to stop one pattern of life and start another, even if we know it’s far better for us. But Jesus tells everyone to do exactly that.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
This is one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith: finding life through death. If you love your current life, you will lose it. But if you die to yourself and its worldly patterns, and instead follow Christ, you will keep your life. Following Christ becomes a new pattern. We may move towards it with trepidation, fearing what we might lose in the change. But it is good.
It won’t be forced upon us like COVID10 quarantines, we need to resolve to change ourselves. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from these lockdowns. Take the plunge of change, trusting that committing every area of life to Christ will bring about a better, everlasting life. One in step with God.
It’s a big call. It’s scary. But as we deny ourselves daily and take up our cross to follow Christ we will find new life, far better than the one we leave behind.
– SAM PURSELL
During this time of ‘lockdown’ I have felt stuck and some days I have felt as if I was in a rut, with each day’s routine looking exactly the same. Maybe you have felt this way too? Maybe you feel isolated (whether or not you have people with you in your home). Maybe you feel that you’re facing the problems and challenges of life all alone. Maybe you’re discouraged and downhearted.
If any of these things are true of you, then take heart, because you are never alone!
This quote from C. H. Spurgeon should bring hope to any Christian facing hard times:
“The Lord knows all about your troubles before they come to you; he anticipates them by his tender foresight. Before Satan can draw the bow, the Preserver of men will put his beloved beyond the reach of the arrow.”
You don’t have to face things alone. Whether you are stuck in a physical place or stuck in discouragement, Jesus meets us where we are and encourages us through His Word.
Though you feel isolated, you can know that Jesus is close at hand. He sees and He knows, and He does not leave you as an orphan to face this difficult world alone.
During the last week of His life on Earth, Jesus knew His departure was at hand. So before He left His disciples, He wanted to encourage them. First, He warned them that they would face hardship and difficulty. But then He told them:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV).
Take heart was Christ’s call to courage in the lives of His frightened disciples, which also applies to us. Jesus wasn’t simply saying, “Cheer up. Come on, put a smile on your face!” He was saying more than that. He was saying, “Be brave. Be courageous.”
We will face trouble and heartaches and times of isolation in this broken world of ours. It’s part of life on this side of heaven. But we also have the assurance that He has already overcome the world.
And that makes us overcomers too.
– Valerie O’Regan
We may be somewhat scattered and bewildered like the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection, but the reality of the cross and resurrection remain as powerful as ever.
When Jesus died and rose again he made a way for those who believe in him to be restored to God: forgiven from sins, clothed in righteousness and empowered from within by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus now, and for ourselves when he returns, we can say:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
Thank you to everyone who has made the effort to connect in via live stream, to those who have helped others get online, those who have been participating in Bible studies on Skype or Zoom, and to those who have been making phone calls and delivering bulletins, CDs and printed-off studies. It is so much easier just to meet all together in person! Please keep it up.
The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus and is an important part of our fellowship gatherings. I know that for some people taking Lord’s Supper at Easter time is also very significant. However, this Easter and for the time being I will not be leading it online. I have considered doing it via live stream or Zoom, but I have concluded that I would prefer not to do it at all. Although we primarily eat and drink on Christ in our hearts by faith, the physical presence of us all gathering and eating is important in the sacrament. I don’t consider satisfactory expression of what Christ has given us. I do long to properly meet together with you all (cf. 3 John 14).
– SAM PURSELL
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