Reflections on Coronavirus and Christ – Part 4

posted in: Coronavirus and Christ 0

What Is God doing through the Coronavirus?

Based on the book by John Piper Coronavirus and Christ

The fact that all misery, sickness and disease is a result of the fall does not mean that all individual suffering is a specific judgment for personal sins. For example, Job’s suffering was not owing to his particular sins, the very first sentence of that book makes this clear where Job is described as blameless and upright, a man who feared God and turned away from evil.  So we shouldn’t presume to know why God is allowing this pandemic but instead we can look at what He is doing through it.

  1. The church is being refined in this season

What is God doing?  Well he is certainly refining his church.  As it says in 1 Peter 4:17-18,  God will judge us for our actions and this will begin at the household of GodFor us “the household of God,” this judgment from him is purifying, not a punishment.”

So this season of difficulty and trouble is one that God will allow to purify and refine his bride, The Church.  Over this season we as a church have had many prophetic words which in essence say a similar thing – God strengthening the body so that it can carry its mission out well,  the pressing and crushing of the grapes in The Vine to make new wine,  the picture of God raking up the grass of our hearts and removing debris as preparation for the next season, blades being sharpened on a whetstone with oil anointing it and the picture of flour – us being called to be pure flour, not filled with substitutes or impurities – to resist temptation to withhold of our best through this season but instead to steward ourselves well in this time.

All these words in some vein or other speak of preparation in ourselves and as a body.  This season is making us ready for things that are to come. We shall be sharper and more refined if we allow God through this season to make us so. Consequently, this should result in  more power as we are honed to be more like Jesus, as God reveals the things that need burning up, stripping away and dying to.  We choose how we respond to his revelation.  In this season, will we count the cost and chose to press into Jesus?

 

It is important to remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). It is discipline, not destruction, that our Father is doing in us. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).  What a privilege that you and I, in the midst of this, knows our Father loves us and desires the best for us.

  1. Awakening us for the second Coming

What else is God doing? Well through the history of the church there have been failed predictions of the end of the world, the Bible tells us that no one knows the hour yet Jesus tells us that we will experience the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that he is coming and we need to be ready.  “You . . . must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44).

Jesus says it clearly again and again: “Be on your guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. . . . Stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come. . . . And what I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:33–37).

The message is clear. Stay awake! Be alert! Be ready! For Jesus will be coming back and the church needs to be awake and ready.  This season, where the coronavirus seems to be running rampage, it is like a birthing pain, a merciful wake-up call – be ready.

How do we get ready?  What does it mean for us to wake up?  The way to be ready is to come to Jesus Christ, receive forgiveness for sins, and walk in his light. Then we will be those who are not in darkness for that day to surprise us like a thief. Instead we will be ready and awake to live with him.

Reflective questions

  1. What does it mean for you to be prepared by God in this time?
  2. Are there areas in your life that God is revealing you need to change in some way?
  3. What do you think the challenge to wake up and be ready means for you?

 

Prayer

Pray that we would allow God to refine us in this season and prepare us for the time to come.  Also pray that we would be alert and awake with courage to share the gospel with those who need to know Christ.

Reflections on Coronavirus and Christ – Part 3

posted in: Coronavirus and Christ 0

Christ’s reign is sweet and comforting

Quote: “The same sovereignty that could stop the Coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very same sovereignty that sustains the soul in it” John Piper

The reason why we ought to receive the news of God’s sovereignty over the coronavirus, and over our lives as sweet, comforting and good is because (as the quote says above) “He (God) sustains the soul in it.”  Through every situation, circumstance and scenario in life – however bitter, difficult, hard and insurmountable they may appear; God is holding us, and through those bitter realities, is orchestrating, our good, and His glory.  Romans 8: 28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

God is not dethroned!

If as Christians we have a low view of God’s sovereignty, and think that he might not be in complete control of the coronavirus pandemic or any other calamity that blights this world or our lives; that is not good news, because, Satan, sickness, fate and chance etc.… have the final say in our lives. However, God’s reign is great news! Why? Because the sovereignty that rules in sickness is the same sovereignty that sustains us in loss. The very sovereignty that takes life is the same sovereignty that conquered death and brings every believer home to heaven and Christ. The fact that God reigns is also good news because he is holy, righteous and infinitely wiser.

Job 12:13 “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding”

Nothing surprises our God! He cannot be confused or baffled in any way. His infinite power rests in the hands of his infinite goodness, holiness and wisdom, all that stands in the service of those who have put their trust in Jesus. What God did in sending Jesus to die for sinners has everything to do with the Coronavirus. Here is the connection…

 

God has secured all things for sinners

 

Romans 8:32. “He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?’  The fact of the matter is that because of the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection in our lives, we have been graciously given- all things! Everything we need to glorify him, do his will, and maintain our joy and peace in His presence. When God’s infinite rubber stamped, blood certified commitment to give us “all things” meets the coronavirus, here is what he says….

 

Romans 8: 35-37. “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation,

or distress, or persecution, or sword (OR THE CORONAVIRUS)? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 

What Satan means for evil

 

In every season of life, but particularly during “this crisis” Satan (the arch- enemy of our soul) is looking to; steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) …

– steal our joy

– kill our peace

– destroy our hope

 

What the book of Job and the story of Joseph reminds us of is that Satan is on a lead. He cannot do anything without God’s permission and limitation (Job 1:12; Luke 22:31), neither can he do anything without God meaning/intending it for good.  God hasn’t been caught off guard by this virus and is now thinking, ‘’how can I make the best of a bad job.” But rather God had a good purpose at the very beginning of this pandemic and will see it through to completion.

 

What is God doing through the Coronavirus?

 

Before I consider the first of six answers that John Piper gives in the second part of his book I would like to offer some preliminary thoughts…

Assuming that God has not been dethroned, but rather continues to govern “all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph.1:11), and this devastating virus is in His holy, righteous and good hands, what then is He doing? What are His purposes?

 

Not man’s wisdom but God’s

 

I think we can often be tempted to arrogantly presume that we know what God is thinking, and so we offer our thoughts and say that “God has spoken.” More often than not though, what we presume are God’s thoughts is really our wisdom and opinions. What we think out of our own heads (particularly during this pandemic) is of little significance. The Bible says, “whoever trusts his own mind is a fool” (Prov. 28:26) instead we are told to “Trust the Lord with all of your heart and do not  lean on your own understanding” (Prov.3:5). Fortunately, though, we finite, sinful, culturally conditioned humans do not just have our own wisdom to rely on in this season, but God’s Word.  We have His final and authoritative word (the Bible) but secondly, we have the prophetic. God really isn’t on mute in this season; He continues to speak and we as Christians need to trust in what He has said.

 

God’s reality, not our imagination

 

“KNOWING”! The scriptures were written that we might know the realities that God has revealed. Particularly about suffering – including the coronavirus outbreak. The reality is that God is always doing far more than we can see- and even what we can see, we would not have seen if He had not revealed it.  The coronavirus demands hard reality, not more wild speculation or fertile imagination. God and His word are the reality that we need – the rock under our feet.

 

Answer 1

 

Picturing Moral Horror

 

Quote: “God is giving the world the coronavirus outbreak, as in all other calamities, a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God -belittling sin” (John Piper)

 

SIN is in fact the ultimate reason why physical suffering and misery exists – such as that afflicted by the coronavirus! The third chapter of Genesis describes the entrance of sin into the world. It shows sin to be the origin of global devastation and misery (Gen. 3:9). Paul summed it up in                Romans 5:12 “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and death spread to all men because all sinned.” The world has been broken ever since. All its beauty is intermingled with evil, disasters, diseases and frustrations. God had created it perfect (Gen. 1:31) but from humanity’s fall into sin to this very day- John Piper says, “for all its wonders, is a conveyor belt of corpses.”

The fall is judgement for everyone:

John Piper in the sixth chapter of his book talks about God’s judgement on the world. The Bible does not see the brokenness of a world full of sin as just natural, but as God’s judgement on the world. See Romans 8:20-22. Even we as the children of God are not immune from the effects of that judgement. Christians are swept away in tsunamis, killed in terrorist attacks and get the coronavirus. However, the difference for us as Christians is that the judgement for us is purifying, not punitive. God allows us to go through and experience the effects of His judgement on this fallen world as a way of transforming us into the image and likeness of His son. We have the comfort of knowing that whatever happens in this life, He promises to always be with us, and that when we experience death, we will be with Him for eternity.

 

Key Question

A question that we could ask at this time, that brings the meaning of the coronavirus into sharp focus is this …. Why did God bring a physical judgement on the world for a moral evil? Adam and Eve defied God, preferring their own wisdom over his and chose to do what they wanted rather than His will. In response to their moral and spiritual rebellion God has subjected this physical world to physical disasters such as the coronavirus. Why?

 

An Answer

I wonder whether God might be sovereignly subjecting us to the physical disasters and horrors such as the coronavirus to paint a vivid picture of how morally repugnant our sin against God is. Nobody outside of Christ really feels the weight of their sin and defiance of God. Perhaps physical pain is God’s trumpet blast to tell us that there is something wrong in the world and pointing beyond itself into a spiritual realm.

 

Thoughts for Reflection

  • Think about how God is sovereignly sustaining you in this season
  • How are you specifically drawing comfort from the fact that God hasn’t been dethroned by the Coronavirus?
  • Think about how you might specifically seek Gods wisdom and understanding rather than leaning on your own in this season

Prayer

That God gives you fresh revelation of the fact that he is ruling and reigning over the coronavirus, and that he continues to show you  the Good that he is intending to bring out of this season.

The bicycle and the flowers

posted in: Filipe Almeida 1

By  Filipe Almeida

 

It is interesting to think that in the middle of good days and others without news in this lockdown, I have discovered new things. Reinventing myself has been one of the exercises, even if there are days when I don’t feel inspired, I have found reasons to reflect in new ways. Experiences with nature have helped me in this process. I can already hear the song of some birds and recognize the species and in a very personal way this has given me joy. Not only the birds, but the blue sky on sunny days, the fauna found in the walks and the fields of flowers.

 

A few weeks ago, after a day of work at home, I decided to enjoy the end of the sunny day by cycling a little. The plan was for a quick ride close to home with the awareness that I would need to divert around people all the time and thus maintain social isolation. But when I arrived at the destination 10 minutes from where I live, my desire was not to return, but to continue cycling, to continue exploring and discovering new places in Luton (even if it was not so far).

 

As I rode, I had the expectation that I would find something new. Something that would bless and build me up. I continued cycling and passed through a path with tall trees with the most diverse songs of birds which only impelled me to continue. Right after this path through the trees, I came across a pedestrian crossing and bicycles and at a certain point I found a bit of abandoned trash and debris and that was not so cool. At this moment I reflected on life. In some moments of our lives we are not faced with pleasant or good things and how this is related to this time in Covid-19 when we have faced sad and uncertain experiences. But the question that never left my mind was what would I find at the end of that path?

 

When I reached the end of this path, I came across a beautiful field of wild yellow flowers and my heart was filled with joy and emotion. I cycled quickly to get close to these flowers and spent time in prayer! It was me, the bike, the flowers, the birds, the sunny sky and the Lord speaking to me. The Lord spoke to me that in the midst of the difficulties and unpleasant things we encountered on the way (as it was with the garbage I found), at the end of the way, the Lord would have prepared for me a beautiful place that would fill me with peace and joy. As I prayed and sang praises, the Lord spoke to my mind and heart that only He has words of eternal life, even while so many people are dying all over the world. And the Lord kept saying that his power can overcome any kind of evil.

 

Our experiences with God give life beauty in big or small things! On this day cycling, I just realized that this is the Lord’s time to work even harder in my life and I accept and receive what He wants to do in me each day.   During the Covid-19 period, I think the Lord wants to do special things in his Church. He wants to wake us up and by the power of the Holy Spirit to use us as witnesses. May we be open to what the Lord wants to do in us at this time, even with ups and downs. In this moment of the walk of life (or pedaling), we are facing very unpleasant things, but that prepares and strengthens us for the future. May we remember the beautiful field of flowers that we will find at the end! Even with the challenges of the present and others that may come, this is a time that we will experience much more of the Lord and will be even more used by Him until we are in our eternal home with Him.

 

 

 

 

Reflections from John Piper’s Coronavirus and Christ – Part 2

posted in: Coronavirus and Christ 0

Download the book from: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/coronavirus-and-christ

 

The unchanging God 

based on reflections from John Piper (Coronavirus and Christ)

One thing that this pandemic could do is challenge our confidence in who God is.  It can feel like we are standing on shifting sand, our lives, our jobs, the lives of those we love, the economy everything that seemingly our society is built on reveals itself to be sand. These things are temporary, good things, but temporary and not worth building our lives on, however until they are shaken we don’t realise the depth of trust we put in them.  Consequently, as these things are shaken so can our confidence in who God is.

Is he a good God?  Is he righteous? Can we trust him? Will he be faithful and what does that faithfulness look like if it isn’t a safe, healthy life, a good life for us, our families and friends?

The truth is in the midst of all this God the rock DOES NOT change.  The coronavirus pandemic does not change who he is. Our trust, our hope, our faith isn’t put to shame when we put it in the great ‘I AM’.

God the Rock

In Isaiah 8:12–13, God said to Isaiah, “Do not fear what [this people] fears, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honour as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” In other words, don’t put God into the same group as all of your ordinary fears and dreads. Treat him as an utterly separate and unique— with a transcendent—fear and dread.

God is righteous, he is holy, he is good. Who He is does not change in the midst of the Coronavirus.  His righteousness and goodness requires that he not simply give us an easy life but gives us opportunities to turn to Him and away from the things that draw us from him He is the great I AM,  he is the Alpha and Omega, Creator of all.

 

The Sovereignty of God

God is all-governing and all-wise. He is sovereign over the coronavirus. This is good news—indeed, it is the key to experiencing the sweetness of God in his bitter providences.  His sovereignty means that he can do, and in fact does do, all that he decisively wills to do.

The coronavirus therefore is not a surprise to God, in fact our God could stop it at any time, therefore He is allowing it.  However He governs it, He will bring an end to it. It is a bitter season but again and again in the Word of God we read of men and women who lived through bitter seasons and drew closer to the Father.  He uses all things for the good of those who love him.  This is a time ordained by God. God governs it. He will end it. No part of it is outside his rule or reign. Life and death are not a game of chance they are in his hand.

Job did not sin with his lips (Job 1:22) when he said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)   The Lord gave. And the Lord took. The Lord took Job’s ten children.

In the presence of God, no one has a right to life. Every breath we take is a gift of grace. Every heartbeat, undeserved. Life and death are finally in the hands of God:

Therefore, as we think of our future with the coronavirus—or any other life-threatening situation— be reassured, know peace as our future is in the hands of a holy, righteous, good God.

James tells us how to think and speak in this manner:

You ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

If he wills, we will live. If not, we won’t.

Your life, your destiny is not left up to chance.  God has ordained every day of your life and this season is no surprise to him.

It reminds me of a song we used to sing with children at church – The wise man built his house upon the rock and the foolish man on the sand. When the storms came the house on the sand fell flat but the house on the rock stood firm.  Let’s together build our lives on The Rock. Jehovah has not and does not change as seasons do.  He is our refuge and our safe place.

Reflections

  1. What image of God do you tend to hold in your mind?
  2. When you picture God as the rock, what does this mean to you?
  3. Think back to a time when you have experienced God as a place of refuge and safety.

 

Prayer

Pray for yourself and those around you feeling unsettled and uncertain in this season that they would know God as the Rock worth building a life on.

Reflections from John Piper’s Coronavirus and Christ – Part 1

posted in: Coronavirus and Christ 0

Download the book from: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/coronavirus-and-christ

Come to God who is your Rock and solid foundation.

If the Coronavirus Pandemic is going to serve as a reminder of anything it is this – Life is fragile and we are not in control! The fact of the matter is that the current pandemic has shaken people to their very core, exposing the true nature and durability of their foundations. Those who have chosen to build their lives upon the destructible foundations of family and social relationships are left vulnerable as they can’t socialise with friends or even spend time with family members during this season. Those who have chosen to build their lives upon their careers and job security are worried and fearful, wondering whether they will have employment to return to when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Many others who have placed their security and confidence in their financial wealth have been shaken as they are wondering how on earth they will survive on their furlough income, and for the many thousands of people who are self-employed they don’t even have that as a fall-back! Stock markets are crashing. People’s investments/savings are diminishing, and others are worrying about the possible threat of the economy sliding into recession.  All things considered the foundation of financial security is looking very unstable indeed. There are in fact innumerable other things that people have built and continue to build their lives, hopes and dreams upon that are beginning to collapse before their very eyes.  The question that we- as believers ought to be asking is this…. as seemingly indestructible foundations are shaken and collapse during this pandemic, are we confident in the sure and solid foundation of Christ, our rock who cannot be shaken – EVER?

Trusting in Christ, not playing percentages

In the first chapter of his book – ‘Coronavirus and Christ!’ John Piper mentions the    occasion when he was diagnosed with Prostate cancer.  All the talk was about odds. Odds with waiting to see! Odds with medications, odds with other procedures and odds with radical surgery. Even though John and his wife took the numbers/percentages seriously, non the less, they were able to look each other in the eye and say, ‘Our hope is not in the odds, our hope is in God’.  In this pandemic, I have heard many people (mostly non-Christians) talking about odds/percentages; ‘chances are that I’ll recover quickly; I’m young and healthy.’ ‘If I continue steadfastly with self-isolation and maintain social distancing I’ll be ok!’ Chances are many of us won’t contract the virus, but whether we do or don’t our confidence and hope is not in – the percentages! But in the God who will never leave us or forsake us.

 

Deuteronomy 31 v.6 (NIV)

‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’

 

God Has Spoken

Our God is not on mute in this season and He has spoken. When He speaks from His word, we can trust and rely on it completely because there is no disconnect between who God is and what He says.This is what God actually said:

 

 

  ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain

          Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for   

          us so that that whether we are awake or asleep we

          might live with him.  (1 Thess. 5:9-10)         

         

What God says is that, even though we are sinners and have not lived one single day of our lives without falling short of God’s standards of love and holiness, He has spared us wrath and condemnation by taking all of our sin, guilt and shame. The punishment for all of it fell on our Saviour Jesus Christ. He ‘’died for us.’’  Therefore, we are free from guilt, free from punishment and secure in God’s merciful favour. ‘’Live or die’’ God said, you will be with me. That is very different from playing the odds! This is a firm rock under our feet. It’s not fragile. It’s not sand but rather a 100 percent guarantee for all those who put their trust in Christ.

Our Rock for Eternity and for now

One of the things I think God is wanting to remind us of during this season is the fact that, although our rock is eternal and our ultimate hope will be in our future resurrection living with Him for eternity in glory, God wants us to experience it now. Its tangible, it’s very real and very powerful!

 

A SOLID FOUNDATION

Quote: ‘’ the same sovereignty that could stop the

Coronavirus , yet doesn’t, is the very same sovereignty

that sustains the soul in it.’’ (John Piper)

It doesn’t really matter very much what I or anyone else thinks about the current pandemic and what the possible outcomes might be. However, it does matter what God thinks. He is not silent about what he thinks. (1 Peter 1:24-25) “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’’  Jesus said that God’s words in scripture ‘’cannot be broken.’’ ( John 10:35).   His words therefore are a firm foundation for our lives. When He (God) gives counsel about the coronavirus, it is firm, unshakable and lasting.

 (Ps 33 :11) Therefore, in the best and worst of times, we can know an unshakable peace and joy. God is not just wanting us to grit our teeth and endure this season but rather to experience his joy and delight in it. (Jer 15: 16).

 

Our faith is not a leap in the dark but a walk in the light

Many people think that the Christian faith is no more than a blind leap in the dark, but the bible tells us that the foundation of our hope is TRUST, not only in a set of beliefs, or a moral way of life, but primarily in the person and work of JESUS CHRIST. He alone is the only one who – in this season of uncertainty and painful waiting for ‘’better days to come ‘’ can still our hearts with peace and comfort, reminding us that whatever the outcome of this pandemic for us  we can stand firm on the solid rock and unshakable foundation of Christ.

 

Reflections

  1. What are your specific fears and worries at this time?
  2. Are you tempted to put you confidence in percentages/odds at this time?
  3. What bible truths or passages are you standing on at this time?

 

Prayer

Pray that you and those you connect with experience real hope in this time and know that the rock under your feet will get you though this season.

Ramadan in Lock down

Many of our Muslim friends and neighbours are about to enter a very important time in their religious calendar – the time of fasting known as Ramadan. As many of us are aware, this is one of the 5 pillars of the faith, an essential way of expressing their devotion to God through the discipline of refraining from water and food from sunrise to sunset over a period of 30 days.

This will be a different kind of Ramadan though – one which is done entirely from the home.   Some rituals which are a key part of Ramadan will be missing.  This includes praying in the mosque and the collective act of worship demonstrated by that, as well as the social interaction enjoyed over the ‘Iftar meal’ at sunset when the fast is broken. I have had the pleasure of being at a number of Iftar meals, have sat on the floor in people’s guest room, breaking the fast with dates (in the tradition of prophet Muhammad) and enjoying the benefits of South Asian hospitality.

According to the Manager of Makki Mosque in Manchester

 “The hardest part for us will be the social aspects.  Each year we take part in gatherings for breaking the fast meals with friends, family and the wider community. These will be in our own homes this year.  We often share food with friends and neighbours. This will continue but with carefully observing social distancing and ensuring ‘no-contact’ drop-offs.”

One of the biggest challenges might be having to spend the traditional Eid celebration which comes at the end of the 30 days of fasting, with immediate family only.   Many of my Muslim friends go in and out of each other’s homes during this time giving and receiving food as well as gathering to eat in large groups with the wider family that is valued so highly in the Pakistani tradition.

In a similar way to Christians working out how to respond to the current climate, Muslims have been urged to see this as time of self-reflection, a time to show love to those in the community and to demonstrate godly qualities during a time of testing.

This could also be an opportunity for us to reach out to our Muslim friends and neighbours.  Let’s send messages of support and love for them and show them that we are aware it’s their fasting month and that it might be strange and difficult for them.   Why not tell them that you are praying for them and ask for any particular requests?  My Muslim friends always respond positively to this!   We can also ask  how they are doing and be open and honest about our own struggles.   It’s an opportunity to talk about faith in the light of what’s happening in the world. It’s a great way to show the love of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 33