Here are the bible reflections we shared during our prayer meeting:
Welcome to this time of corporate prayer specifically devoted to our profession. The Christian Dental Fellowship believes that prayer can bring clarity in the midst of confusion, hope in the midst of crisis and faith in the midst of fear. The power of the living Christ will transform our situation as we look to Him.
One of my most reassuring verses regarding prayer in the Bible is from Deuteronomy, where Moses says to the Israelites, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deut 4:7
In chapter 12. the writer of Hebrews talks about learning from the great cloud of witnesses who are meant to be our inspiring examples. Hebrews 13:7 reads, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
As we are slowly processing the sense of shock and disbelief which this pandemic has brought upon us, the question on our minds is “What can we do when we have no control of what is happening?!”
My attention was drawn to the life of Joseph, a hero of faith in the Bible. His life was suddenly thrown into turmoil one day and he didn’t have any control of his circumstances but still we read in Genesis 39:2, “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered”. In Genesis 39:3 we observe that, “His master saw that the Lord was with him”.
My point of reflection is: despite his circumstances, Joseph not only maintained a relationship with God but also tried to live according to his faith, and God honoured him.
His circumstances did not keep him from maintaining a vibrant relationship with his maker. In fact, it strengthened his resolve to live according to the faith of his forefathers and people around him noticed it.
Even as we go through this unprecedented phase in our social and professional life, let’s continuously look up to him and allow God to work through us, for God honours those who honour Him.
I am reminded of the sailors’ hymn, written by Edward Hopper and published in 1879, which rings out ever so poignantly:
Jesus, Saviour, pilot me, over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee; Jesus Saviour, pilot me.
Psalm 121 (Ian Harris)
The bible passage for this devotional is Psalm 121, which I know is a favourite for many Christians.
Reading from the NIV – Psalm 121:
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
The context for this Psalm is right there at the beginning, before verse one; this Psalm (in common with Psalms 120 to 134) is a Psalm of Ascent. David writes from the point of view of a pilgrim, ascending the long steep hill to reach Jerusalem, the holy city, and the temple, where God dwelt amongst His people. Jerusalem was (still is) on top of a big hill: which ever direction you approach it from you have to get to the top of the hill.
For pilgrims in David’s time, the terrain would have been hard: dry, dusty and dangerously hot in summer. They might have already had a very long journey before they even got to the hill and then they faced, literally, an uphill struggle to finally get to the city and the temple. They might have had doubts about whether they could make it to the top: dangers all around – heat by day, wild animals and robbers by night.
So what are we to make of the psalm, particularly in our current situation? Verse 3 says “He will not let your foot slip” and verse 7 says “The LORD will keep you from all harm”. But this can’t be a promise to us that during this pandemic Christians will be spared financial hardship, loneliness, illness or even death. We understand that as Christians we are not immune from these things, so what comfort is there for us in this psalm, in these difficult times?
Three points; firstly:
1) A desperate question:
verse 1: “Where does my help come from?”
For us, the context is not so much a physical journey as a spiritual one – a journey to the heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the city of the living God (check out Hebrews 12:22); that’s the ultimate destination for every Christian’s pilgrimage. On our journey there are still perils – not so much heat and wild animals – but in this pandemic, maybe worries about loneliness, about loss of income, about getting back to work; risks to our health, risks to patients, the complexity of it all, the expense of all the extra PPE and so on. Maybe even worries about losing our faith.
The journey ahead can look tough and especially at times like these we might wonder whether we have the energy to keep going. We might feel worn out physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. It’s hard going, it’s stressful – our hearts might be crying out, “Where does my help come from?”
2) A wonderful answer:
verse 2: “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
i) First: “The LORD … ”: that’s the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God who will keep his promises to us. The pilgrim back then knew it, but how much more have we seen the full extent of his love for us, in Jesus Christ? Love so deep he was prepared to die for us. He will not let us go.
ii) Not only “The LORD … “, the covenant-keeper, but also “… the Maker of heaven and earth”. The creator of everything is our helper: he made the hills that were a struggle for the pilgrim; he made SARS-CoV-2, so none of what is going on in the world at the moment is outside his knowledge, his control, his plan. Whatever is ahead of us, whether that’s getting back to work, coping with losing a job, dealing with the ongoing loneliness of lockdown; however big, daunting, scary it looks it’s not too big for our God, who made the whole universe, to deal with.
As Christians we know this already, but when we’re faced with something as big, daunting and scary as a global pandemic we need to be reminded of things we know. That’s one of the reasons why these Saturday morning CDF prayer sessions and the devotions are so helpful – they help to remind us of the covenant-keeping God, who made everything, who loves us so much. So we need to keep on encouraging each other: when we struggle, when the route back to work looks arduous and full of uncertainty – perhaps months of difficulty lying ahead of us – first and foremost we need to look to the LORD, every day.
3) An all-encompassing protection:
verse 3: “He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber”
Verse 4 – God never sleeps: just think about that. He is always wide awake, watching over us: he hasn’t nodded off at any point during this COVID pandemic and he won’t be snoozing when we get going with clinical work again, seeing and treating patients. He is always alert, always protecting.
And then in verses 5 & 6 his all-encompassing protection is there by day and by night. I love verse 5: it’s not that he makes something to shade us by day, like Jonah’s leafy plant. The Psalm says that the LORD himself is our shade: he puts himself between us and the scorching sun, to stop us from coming to harm – what a powerful picture of how He cares for us!
So verse 7, “The LORD will keep you from all harm”, is not a promise that we or our loved ones won’t catch the virus, nor a promise that we won’t struggle financially, or that getting out of this crisis and back to doing dentistry will be straightforward. But it is a promise that if we keep living out the Christian life, even in the midst of this pandemic, the LORD will keep us going until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem – he’ll keep us going till we are finally with him, face to face.
And one day, in that heavenly Jerusalem, he has promised that we will be: free from all fear; free from all uncertainty; free from all sickness; free from all sadness and there will be no more death. Be sure, the Maker of heaven and earth loves us and he is our helper and protector.
Mary and I were in isolation for seven weeks. It reminds me of the Israelites being in isolation on Passover night when the families had to be indoors. In the coronavirus crisis, those over 70 and others, have been the vulnerable ones. In Exodus 12, it was the oldest boy who was vulnerable, under God’s fearful judgement on the first born in Egypt. But the Israelite boys were safe and secure as they obeyed the Lord’s command and killed the lamb and sprinkled the blood on the doorposts.
Fast forward to the New Testament, where John the Baptist greets Jesus with the words “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus, in his last supper with his disciples proclaims his new covenant in his blood. His death was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. We can have safety and security in this. I want to let you know how I came to faith.
I was not brought up in a Christian home but I was invited to a boys camp, run by a great man of God, David Tryon. We had tremendous fun, freedom and friendships and most of all, we heard the gospel in evening prayers. I came to meet the One who loved me and gave his life for me. I opened my heart and life to Jesus Christ who became my Saviour and Lord. I was 13 at the time and I am now 93. I rejoice at the Lord’s faithfulness over 80 years. I am very conscious of how I’ve gone my own way and failed him many times but His hand has been on my life, guiding and guarding me through schooldays, and at Birmingham Dental School all through the war, then two years National Service in the Royal Army Dental Corps and then in an NHS practice in South London for 30 years with one day a week at Bethnal Green Medical Mission.
I was able to retire early and so it was a great joy to do dental mission work in Africa, twice with Andy Patching’s mobile unit and later in Kwa Zulu, South Africa. Mary came with me. We are celebrating 64 years of happy married life next month. Mary came to faith in Jesus Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade in Haringey Stadium and joined our church, Trinity Road Chapel where we were married in 1956. The text we both came to, independently, was Luke 24:15: “Jesus drew near and went with them” in the story of the Risen Lord meeting the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. That has been our experience through all our married life. We have sought Him in daily quiet times in reading His Word and praying together. We freely admit many failures in the ups and downs of family life but God has been so good to us. Early in our marriage, Mary had two miscarriages and we were devastated, thinking we would never have children but thankfully, we have been blessed with 4 children – three girls and then a boy.
They grew up in the church life and put their trust in the Lord at an early age. They matured in the Christian life and they left the nest when they went off to university. They all met and married fine Christian life partners. Our youngest daughter, Anne, married Peter Morden who was an acting principle of Spurgeon’s college and now is Pastor of a Baptist church in Leeds. Anne was an excellent pastor’s wife but sadly, she died of cancer 18 months ago.
This made a big hole in our lives and was a great test of faith for Mary and me. We pray we will have the faith of Job who said “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”. But our hearts cry out to God: “why…?” Why have you allowed this to happen to us? We may never know the answer in this life. God never promises us a trouble free life but he promises his loving arms around us in the midst of the trouble. That cry “Why?” must be on many lips during this crisis, an upheaval in all our lives with sickness and death with loved ones and friends and loss of income for some. Even the apostle Paul wonders why God has allowed him to suffer the thorn in the flesh which caused him great distress. The Lord’s answer was to assure Paul of His grace sufficient for every need. Paul’s weakness was made strong as he trusted in God ‘s strength for every day. I am so grateful for the Lord’s grace in my life, his favour to undeserving sinners. I’m rejoicing in all the riches of his grace, which are like six peas in a pod. The first ’P’ is Pardon of all my sin, then His Power, available in all my weakness, His Peace in times of anxiety, and His Protection, His Provision and His presence. I’m never alone. May this be our experience and in all of us in CDF!
Psalm 23 (James Ho)
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord , for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me. You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honoured guest and fill my cup to the brim. I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home as long as I live.” Good News Bible Translation
Written by King David some 3000 years ago, this great psalm of comfort is arguably the most quoted on greeting cards and ornamental plaques, as well as inscribed on Christian headstones down the ages, out of all 150 Psalms in the Old Testament.
With first hand personal experience, the veteran shepherd-boy David used the perfect imagery to portray his relationship with his Father God in heaven, acknowledging that he is a sheep and the Lord is his Shepherd.
Now, just because the phrase “valley of death ” is mentioned in verse four of many translations, Psalm 23 has been mostly used during funerals and memorial services, which I think is an unjustified restriction. My view is that this psalm is essentially a divine promise of God’s goodness, faithfulness and care for His people throughout their entire life journey and is therefore appropriate in all occasions.
We now consider God’s Care Ministry under three headings:
God cares by His PROVISION
Sheep are by nature vulnerable, anxious and timid animals, unable to look after themselves very well. They have a poor sense of direction, and therefore tend to get lost easily as they wander around in the fields. Verses 1-3 tell us how the shepherd provides food, rest, health and strength as well as direction for his sheep.
I have been a city dweller all my life, with little or no knowledge about animal farming and country life. Before the lockdown, I liked driving around the UK from time to time, enjoying the breath taking and inspirational scenery of the British countryside. It’s particularly delightful when I see flocks of cuddly sheep grazing happily on extensive green pastures along the hillside, often bordered by gentle streams and lakes of still water. What a beautiful scene and setting for Psalm 23!
However, I am afraid the reality is not always like that. In David’s time and even today, sheep farming in Palestine is a world of difference from what we are familiar with in this country. About three years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land and can provide an eyewitness account. As our tour bus drove through the Judean wilderness, all I could see across the desert were small flocks of skinny sheep, always led by a shepherd in the front, grazing on unattractive, barren rocky terrains with only a scarce amount of vegetation. I was not aware of any puddle of water around for the sheep to drink and River Jordan was miles away. To me, those poor animals were really struggling and they needed their shepherd for survival.
In the Bible, there are over 200 references where we people are described as sheep; vulnerable and deprived, often going astray, making terrible mistakes and struggling with sin all the time. But the Lord is our good Shepherd, always providing for our practical and spiritual needs, giving us peace, safety and contentment if we trust and obey Him.
God cares by His PROTECTION
Sheep are naturally defenceless animals without sharp canines or claws and horns. Also, they can’t run fast at all. In the West, livestock are probably protected by a range of sophisticated security measures from guard dogs, armed guards, to CCTV and satellite tracking devices.
But talking about traditional sheep farming in David’s time, the shepherd himself was the only protection against predators and dangers, with two very basic PPE: the rod and the staff.
As the flock moves from one pasture to the next in search of food in the Judean wilderness, with awkward rock formations and hostile extreme weather, often the sheep had to walk through shaded dark valleys in transit. This might have been a welcome break from the heat of the deserts, but could also be a minefield of loose rocks and quicksand, with predators lurking around the corner.
We are all familiar with dark valleys in our own lives, are we not? Remember those anguished stressful moments of anxiety, worry and fear?
Perhaps it’s bereavement, mourning the loss of loved ones; maybe it’s ill health, advancing age and loneliness, or suddenly overwhelmed by career and financial setbacks, relationship issues, or, the current Covid-19 crisis, and so on . As mortals, the ultimate darkest valley we might need to walk through is, of course, death. It is really depressing to realise suddenly that we have so many enemies surrounding us and we are just as vulnerable and helpless as those sheep.
Why then, in verse five are we told that even when we are overwhelmed with troubles and petrified, the Lord would still lavish a sumptuous banquet for us as honoured guests, right in front of our enemies, with assurance of victory, deliverance and anointing ? How is that possible ?Where is our hope ?
The answer is found in 2 Chronicles 20, when we read the story about Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, under siege and surrounded by massive enemies from Syria, Moab and Ammon. He humbly prayed and acknowledged his military weakness, not knowing what to do next, except wait upon the Lord.
In verses 15 and 17, we have an unequivocal promise from the Lord God “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not need to fight this battle. Position yourself, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you.” NKJV
Please read this amazing story at your leisure and be encouraged. The Lord our Good Shepherd protects us from evil and dangers. He will fight the battle for us. By His grace and mercy, God will heal and restore us.
God cares by His PRESENCE
In verse four, the Lord reassured David of His divine presence with His people in whatever challenging situations they found themselves, and there was no need to be afraid. Such powerful “fear not, for God is with you” reminder is estimated to appear in the Bible over 300 times. In our everyday endeavour, God always goes with us and goes before us, sustaining us upfront in obvious ways or sometimes quietly behind the scenes, according to His sovereign will and purpose.
From the dawn of creation, God always desires to dwell amongst His people and have a loving fellowship with them. This was symbolised by the Tabernacle and the Temple throughout the history of Israel. In New Testament times, Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning God with us. Right now, born again Christians have God the Holy Spirit taking up permanent residence in our hearts, all the days of our life with blessings of goodness and love, as David concluded his Psalm 23 in verse six.
So, in closing, for our physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing during these difficult times of extraordinary challenge and crisis, please have absolute confidence that God knows what’s going on and He cares for us by His divine provision, protection and presence…because the Lord is our good Shepherd!
Psalm 107 (Douglas Robertson)
Psalm 107 is part of a trilogy of Pslams including Pslam 105, 106 and 107. Each of the Psalms begins with a call to give thanks to the Lord.
The Psalm can be broken into five sections.
- The call to praise.
- The cause for praise (deliverance after failure)
- The consequences of sin and of obedience.
- A call to observe and be wise.
God’s people are called in the first section to reflect on the redemption that they have received by God. Redeemed by blood and redeemed by power, the nation of Israel had been brought out of the bondage of Egypt and across the Red Sea to enjoy the land that flowed with milk and honey. And yet despite being the Lord’s redeemed people, the next large section of the Pslam records for us the cycle of rebellion, affliction, confession and gracious restoration.
In this Psalm we have repeated, ad nauseum, a fourfold cycle of sin followed by sorrow followed by supplication followed by God is great and wonderful salvation. Charting different sections in Israel’s history, we have four sections which speak of those who are lost and hungry in a wilderness, those who are in bondage and captivity, those who are in sickness and on the very verge of death and those who are experiencing the most tumultuous of storms on the sea of life. Whether lost and hungry in a barren land, whether in bondage and captivity to sins, destructive habits or Satanic control, whether experiencing illness and sickness or the fear of the loss of life as we are tossed in the storm of life in a tiny wooden vessel, those who finally call upon the Lord in repentance experience God’s restoring upon their lives.
Psalms 107:27-30 (KJV) “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.”
When he moves in restoration we read the repeated refrain: (31) “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
If the cycle seems familiar to you and me, it is as true of Nations as it is of us as individuals. With VE Day having been just yesterday, I read a passage from the King’s speech. A king who knew his God and a king who testified in the face of victory that it was when we as a nation cried to God for his help in the midst of that conflict so many years ago that He heard our cry, He helped us and He carried us through. May we be nation again who call upon to the God that King George knew and that our forefathers cried out to in the face of war and find that He is a God whose infinite mercy and grace is not exhausted by our apparent infinite capacity for failure and rebellion.
They say that those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The final verse in the Psalm encourages us to learn from this observation: “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.”
May we be able to say with King George: “In the hour of danger we humbly committed our cause into the hand of God and He has been our strength and shield. Let us thank Him for His mercies and in this hour of victory commit ourselves and our new task to the guidance that same strong hand.”
God bless you.
Romans 8:28-39 (Vicortia Rushton)
It’s good to be part of a fellowship of believers and to be able to use this time and technology to encourage and support each other and our profession through this uncertain time. What a privilege it is, as sons and daughters of a loving God, to be able to bring these things to Him in prayer. If we have doubts and concerns, how much greater must these be for those in our profession who don’t believe and have yet to know the love and care of our Lord Jesus – let’s continue to pray that many will turn to Him at this time and that we can be salt and light to the profession.
These last few Saturday mornings we’ve been reminding ourselves of God’s promises:
- Not to be anxious (Philippians 4)
- To trust that God has plans for our future (Jeremiah 29 v11-13)
- That He will give us strength (Isaiah 40)
- and the many reassurances of protection found in the Psalms.
Susie reminded us last week that we all have a part to play within the body of Christ as we help to support each other and the need to seek God’s will for our lives (Romans 12).
I’d like to return to Romans – to the familiar (although not always well received) promise in Romans 8 that all will be used by God for good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, 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.
Do ALL things work for the good??? Really?? At the time they often don’t feel like it but, I’m sure that many of us can testify to times when with the benefit of hindsight we can see that this is so. Sometimes we can see that God has used the bad times we have gone through to enable us to help others in addition to strengthening our own faith.
The environmentalists will tell us that COVID-19 has already produced good for the planet. One tiny virus has reduced carbon emissions more than any number of global summits. We can see and appreciate the results of less traffic and noise pollution. Many are finding new joys in nature as they are forced to spend time in their gardens. Neighbours whom haven’t previously spoken are now doing each other’s shopping. Let’s continue to pray for an increase in care and kindness amongst communities.
As dentists, especially those in NHS general practice we have been taken off that treadmill we’ve complained about for so long, just at the time when we are pedalling the fastest. We’ve been running on empty, exhausted, hoping and praying for more time, more energy, a new and better way of delivering care. It is becoming clear that dentistry, especially general practice, will not be the same for some time, if at all. It’s understandable that we feel unnerved and sad about this. We will need to adapt and we need to pray for our professional leaders, for wisdom and for the good changes that can come about by having this pause and rethink. Many are facing the challenges of redeployment, providing remote education, working in Urgent Dental Care centres, keeping practices viable whilst treating staff fairly – these are indeed difficult times. All of us have had to adapt to different roles in our professional and home lives. It’s not easy to change.
As dental professionals we like to be organised; we usually plan our lives at least six months in advance! All this uncertainty is unsettling. Today I was expecting to be catering for a large birthday party- to have a house overflowing with overnight guests and hosting a dance at the village hall for my husband’s special big birthday – all planned at least a year ahead! Instead we will have a virtual drinks party on Zoom! Not quite the same but certainly less expensive!! However, due to other unforeseen circumstances and a reoccurrence of an underlying condition, at the moment, my husband can hardly walk around the house with the aid of a stick- let alone dance. So is this a blessing in disguise? All things working for good? Maybe. It depends on how we look at things and where we choose to focus.
Looking back, we may see where God has worked good. If we try to look too far ahead, it can all get very blurry and confused; far too many uncertainties that cause us worry and stress. Instead we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. To find His presence in the present. To focus on that which we know is certain: His love and care for each one of us and to live in that day by day. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, nor COVID 19. 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. Keep the focus right and take one step at a time trusting in our Lord.
I’d like to finish with another verse from Romans, which is my prayer for us all:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN
Romans 12:1-8 (Susie Matthew)
Many of us are part of a local Christian community, the Church.
Many of us are members of the CDF community, the Church.
We are all part of a worldwide Christian community, the Church.
We come together this morning and cry out;
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven….
The Roman’s passage has been a “go to” scripture for me since schooldays. It was a text that our RE teacher encouraged us to learn by heart:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
I finished a job this week. In my home are many unfinished tasks and projects so it was a delight to finish one. The job was reorganising family photograph albums into date order. How satisfying then, to choose a picture that I WhatsApp’d to my son on his 30th birthday.
Sadly, we could not celebrate with him, nor could I send him his birthday book since the post-room in his accommodation is closed. Like everyone else, we settled for a virtual birthday instead and decided I could read the book on his behalf!
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 it says this; There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Coronavirus has interrupted our lives in ways that we could scarcely have imagined. The enforced “stay at home” advice and social distancing has surprisingly given me the precious gift of time, but how can I make the most of it?
My household is under the strictest of isolating measures and I find myself in a new role as “the person who can go out.” It puzzles me how much time tasks take in lock-down; queuing for a prescription, waiting to enter the supermarket, keeping up with social media or zooming colleagues, friends and family. I was never an enthusiastic shopper, but I have managed to avoid returning home with the wrong sort of fish, chocolate or drinks so far!
God interrupts our lives in extraordinary ways. Many of us know times when He has stopped us in our tracks, with our lives taking an unexpected turn or new direction.
In my new direction, I am discovering that God loves me for who I am (his beloved daughter), not for what I do or achieve. Today, I believe all of us, wherever we are working, living and praying, have a God-given opportunity to listen, pray and seek his glorious face.
My prayer for me is that God plants in my heart the desire to do the things he desires for me. And for us all, through this interruption, He will plant into all our hearts the desire to do His will. We cry out to our Father in Heaven, that His will may be done.
Can you believe it? (Neil McDonald)
“As the deer pants for water so my soul thirsts after You …” (Psalm 42:1)
This scripture is especially poignant today as we seek God’s presence and direction during our global health pandemic.
A story was reported on the BBC this week where George, an 11 year-old Bournemouth AFC fan, was admitted to hospital with kidney problems. George’s father contacted the Club to ask if his son’s hero, their goalkeeper Aaron ‘Rambo’ Ramsdale, would send George a signed photograph to cheer him up.
Rambo did better than this and telephoned George who initially thought it was his dad on a hoax call. When Rambo said “George this is really me and I’m calling to say I hope you’ll get well soon” George was reduced to tears saying “I can’t believe you called me!”
I was converted to Christ at age 17. I’d believed I was already a Christian being a churchgoer who led a good life. 50 years on I remain astonished by this life-changing encounter with Jesus which has formed the basis of all subsequent decisions. “I can’t believe He called me” is still a frequent comment to family and friends. C.S. Lewis described a similar event in his own life as being ‘Surprised by Joy’.
Why does God do this?
“So that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9)
And this must have its outworking:
- Come rain, come shine
- In good times, in bad times
- In times of good health and in times of anxiety, sickness and even death in the absence of loved ones
- In times of prosperity and in times of financial distress
- In times of the ordinary everyday – full of freedom and choice – and in times of lockdown restriction.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 42:5
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will again praise Him, my Saviour and my God”
And he also writes in Psalm 42:2
“My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God.
When can I go and meet with God?”
- The answer is “Anytime”
- Christ has been crucified
- The temple curtain has been torn in two
- “Christ is Risen! And we’re in his marvellous light to help illuminate the lives of others”
The God of the Universe has called us to introduce the fragrance of Christ in a broken world. Let’s all be alert to such opportunity.
Matthew 6:24-33 (Tony Giles)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
I am naturally an anxious person. My joke motto as a teenager was “Why worry tomorrow when you can worry today”. We are living in an unusual time. Most of us were not alive during the last world war, so this worldwide ongoing uncertainty seems unprecedented.
I chose this passage because the Lord used it to encourage me to trust him when I was a new Christian and many times since. It was the realisation of the truth of the resurrection and the reason Jesus had died that had led to my conversion from atheism. I essentially said to Jesus “you died for me, I will live for you”, but the daily outworking of that promise was proving difficult. Then I heard a challenging message where the speaker said, “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”.
This passage records Jesus’s very words, meeting our anxieties head on and expressing how valuable each one of us is to Him. If anything should settle my anxieties, surely these words should! It comes down to whether or not I can trust my life to him who died for me. Am I willing to do that when my livelihood is under threat? Are these words of Jesus still valid today? If my answer is “yes”, then there is no reason for me to be anxious.
Even in this most uncertain of times, His word tells us we can trust in the certainty of His love and care for each one of us. We can put into practice 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”
Matthew 6:24-33 (Tony Giles)
We have all been told to stay at home and to venture out only to collect food and medicine, exercise or travel to our essential work. This enforced separation from family and friends and our usual social interaction may lead to stress and anxiety. In effect we are shut up in our own personal fortress, either alone or with a few close family members, unable to do those things we take for granted.
We may be worried about financial security for ourselves or those who depend on us; our physical or mental well-being; our personal relationships; vulnerable friends or family; our career development and many other issues and concerns, all beset by uncertainty.
Psalm 91 describes a very different fortress. Our fortress is the ‘God in whom I trust’and the psalmist writes that we will not fear because of God’s faithfulness. The psalm ends with these promises for all those who love the Lord:
I will rescue him
I will protect him for he acknowledges my name
He will call upon me and I will answer
I will be with him in time of trouble
I will deliver him and honour him
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.
Let us not develop a bunker mentality where fear reigns but focus upon these promises as we take refuge in our fortress, the God in whom we trust. We are still faced with all the issues this pandemic has brought but we are not alone.