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I was struck by the words from James 4 in Sam's devotional for our prayer meeting. "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."
When the message from the government is stay away, the message from God is draw near. We are always exhorted to humble ourselves and come to him. No virus can be a barrier to those who humbly seek him, trusting in the cleansing that comes through Jesus' death. The gospel is not a message of social isolation from God but of social communion with him.
So let’s make this time a time to seek the Lord. To humble ourselves. To confess our sins and acknowledge that we’ve often coveted the control of our lives that is now slipping through our fingers in his providence. Let's draw near to him and be thankful that he is in control.
Let’s pray we’ll be wiser and know the Lord more through these times. Why not keep a diary or journal of what you’re learning from him? One day, these events will become history and fade into memory. Life will accelerate once again. We will forget. How will you remember what he’s taught you through these times?
We’re making progress with connecting with people, through phone calls, social media and video calls. Some of us have been able to hold prayer meetings over the internet and this has been a great boost to those who took part. We’re working hard to get as many people as possible connected in this way.
Keep praying for our government as Scripture exhorts us to. Pray there will be social stability at this time of uncertainty. Pray for wisdom for leaders to make good choices.
Remember our healthcare workers. Pray the NHS will be able to cope with the additional demands on it.
Social isolation is a new challenge for us, but so is its backlash - social suffocation. Some people find the sudden and constant being in touch with everyone overwhelming. Pray we’ll be able to connect but pray we’ll have time and space to deal with the matters at hand as well.
Pray for those who are facing job changes, that they will know the Lord’s peace.
Continue to pray for great opportunities for the gospel at this time.
Grace and peace,
In a week of great upheaval and rapid change we’re grateful to the Lord for his goodness and grace to us.
I’m struck at God’s providence in giving us this as our motto verse this year:
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22
How much do we need to remember this verse as we navigate a stressful course through the next few months and beyond?
We must start with praise and thankfulness as we think of how at short notice and with little experience the Lord enabled us to pull together an online service with so much content on it. Pray that this becomes easier and that we can share things out among us as it’s a big time commitment week by week for those involved.
On the social front we began with big ambition to help the community practically and we still have this heart. Events are rapidly overtaking us and local people are being mobilised to care for the needy. We still need to be thinking about how best we can serve in this way. How can Minster Christian Centre be a good testimony and show Christ’s love in this plague over the coming months? We also need to remember that we’re not saviours. There is only one Saviour who saves from plague (coronavirus) and famine (empty shelves) and death.
Our situation has been likened to the persecuted church where they are prohibited from worshipping together. It may also be like prisoners who are people socially isolated for long periods of time. Maybe this should teach us to have an empathy with those who live like this for years, and to remember them?
We need to remember those who are most vulnerable: the elderly, those who are immuno compromised and pregnant ladies. I am finding social distancing very stressful and isolation will be worse but we must do what we can to prevent us spreading the disease to vulnerable people.
3 things we need to consider this week:
- How do we make sure the physical and spiritual needs of our fellowship are cared for?
- How do we best bring people together for prayer when we can’t physically meet?
- How do we best serve our local communities?
Points for prayer:
- Pray for our government. Like governments all over the world they are facing enormous challenges. They need incredible wisdom. Will our MPs turn to the Lord for help? We pray so.
- Keep praying for our healthcare workers in Minster. They may be pushed to the edge of exhaustion. Pray they’d be refreshed by the Lord and be able to get rest when they need it.
- Pray we’ll keep perspective. As we heard in the sermon this morning the big focus of our lives is the gospel not coronavirus. Pray we’ll keep focused on the gospel.
- Pray for those in our fellowship who are vulnerable to infection or those who have family members in that category. Pray they’ll know the Lord is with them in their circumstances and they’ll trust in him.
- We need to pray for spiritual protection. ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’. Times of high stress are occasions of great spiritual danger as people seek sinful solutions to alleviate anxiety. We need to pray for our hearts to be kept close to the Lord and that we’ll give closer attention to our relationships.
Grace and peace,
Spurgeon, in his ‘Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith’, writes, 'Therefore say: "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone." (Ezek. 11:16) 'Banished from the public means of grace, we are not removed from the grace of the means. The Lord who places his people where they feel as exiles will himself be with them, and be to them all that they could have had at home in the place of their solemn assemblies. Take this to yourselves, all ye who are called to wander.'
It’s been a strange few days. You want to visit people but you know you can’t. People visibly stand back from you when talking to you. We can only communicate remotely. However, these are the days the Lord has called us to live in and so we must.
The WHO has given some helpful advice regarding the psychological challenge:
Avoid over watching the news if it makes you anxious. (I'd add to that - take some Sabbath rest time off Social Media.)
Make a plan and take practical steps to protect you and your loved ones.
Seek information at specific times.
Disable alerts on your phone.
Keep hydrated and don’t sit too long but exercise as much as you can.
And there’s also some faith building things we can do.
'Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus' (1 Thess 5:18). Aren’t there loads of things we can thank the Lord for? He is in control. We have a wonderful church family. Thank him for the internet that keeps us in touch. Why not go to bed at night thanking him for the day that has gone?
'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? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you- you of little faith!' (Luke 12:24-28) Why not take time to notice the small things showing God’s care for you? There are still lots of good things in the world to enjoy. Look for signs of what he is doing in the world. I focused carefully this week on a tiny lime coloured shoot sprouting from a branch on our apple tree. God is bringing the Springtime!
Think of how we can help others. 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.' (Philippians 2:3-4) Let’s value our relationships and work to improve them.
Take time to get into the Scriptures. 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' (Matt. 4:4) What was that book in the Old Testament you never got round to reading? What passages could you commit to memory? Why not even prepare some short talks for church, youth, Sunday school?
Remember ALL our days are appointed by God and not governed by anyone or anything else in all creation. So rejoice in the days we do have and will have. 'Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.' (Psalm 90:12) But we have a much greater appointment and it comes with no disappointment. 'If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.' (1 Corinthians 15:19) Maybe the Lord is reminding us that this life is not all we have? We have something far far greater in and through Christ. Do we need to refocus?
And so to my last point. Look for opportunities to share the gospel in the current crisis. Surely we should be looking to say with Paul in Phil 1, 'Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.' How will the gospel be advanced? How can we advance it - even if we’re shut in? Even if we’re ill?
Grace and peace,