Rebalancing Life in this Coronavirus world.

posted in: Jane Reynolds 0

By Jane Reynolds

One of the great things for some of us in this Coronavirus world, is we’ve had more chance to join with our families in worship. For me this means going to ‘church’ in different places around England and Wales. I offer this unashamedly from one of my ‘trips’. My life group has found this helpful and I hope you will too.

It’s not unusually to be feeling a bit confused and out of sorts by all the changes in our circumstances. As Christians we don’t always understand what’s going on inside. We know we have a mighty God who is faithful and true in every way, but Gods plans are not always our plans and he does things his way, and in his time. There are five key areas in all of our lives that have been affected by the Coronavirus . Five areas that are found in Jesus. Up to this point we may have thought they were rooted in Jesus, but these suppositions may be being tried and tested at this time. The may need a little rebalancing.

  1. Connection

God made us to be connected to each other and to him. When He looked at Adam he decided it was not good for man to be alone. Our God is a triune being: Father, Son and Spirit, living in unity together.

Jesus also asks us to be devoted to one another in fellowship. It is therefore natural that we are missing each other and the contact we use to have with each other.

But we are not disconnected, either from each other or from God.

Let us use this time to make deeper connections with our Father God. As we spend time with Him, let us catch His heart for others, those in our fellowships, those around the world. Let us catch Gods heart for the suffering, the lost and the lonely, those that do not know Him and those that do.

Let us plug into the free gift of the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray and teaches us all things: The spirit of wisdom and of grace. May we be changed and grow as we spend time with God, with our families and friends during this time.

  1. Structure.

We have a God of order and design. Without structure comes disorder. Our normal structure of life have changed, making us feel off balance. We can take steps to rectify this. Lets develop new structures and routines make time for exercise and personal prayer. For some we need to guard from over working, for others we need the structure to ensure we remain productive and don’t leave this time with regrets. Let’s make time for personal prayer and reflection, time to have important conversations with friends and family. Just because there is a disorder in the world doesn’t mean we have to be disorganised. Let’s build new routines and bring order into our lives

  1. Safety.

So did you want to stand and fight or fly away when this all started? Did you ignore it, thinking it would all go away, or did you rush to the shops and panic buy? Perhaps you have lost your job security or been placed on furlough. All of us have our health threatened by an unseen force, so tiny yet so powerful. Yet we have a God who is far stronger, who faced death without fear and won that ultimate victory.

Jesus asks us to be ‘strong and courageous’. We say God is our strength and refuge, that He is our security and we can trust Him because He is faithful, He is Jehovah Jireh, my provider. However, many of us felt insecure and frightened as we learnt more about this virus.

We need safety and security to flourish. The truth is the world offers nothing absolute. When we know who God is and what He has done for us, who God made us to be, and who we are in God, then we can stand secure in our faith and praise without fear.

  1. Freedom.

Let’s face it, most of us don’t like being told what to do at times. We feel our freedom has been taken away with the lockdown. Things are frustrating, plans have had to change.

The truth is it is God who brings true freedom. Let us not be pulled down by the loss and confusion of the world at this time. Let us not be foolish but listen to wise council and stay at home. We have more freedom that the apostle Paul who rejoiced in prison. Let us redirect deceptive thoughts that tell us we are disconnected, alone and trapped. We are part of a world wide family and have far more freedom to worship, to make new routines, exercise and enjoy Gods magnificent creation than many others, despite being in lockdown.

  1. Purpose.

God made us with a purpose. We can confuse our purpose with our identity. Some of us are grieving because we feel a loss of purpose, or status as our jobs change, we feel of a loss of identity. However our identity has not changed, we remain children of the living God. Heirs to His kingdom and adopted into His family through Jesus. Neither has our purpose. We were created for good works which we can still do, just in new ways. We were created to worship and fellowship, to love God and each other. During this time we can learn even more what that means and how we can outwork the two key commandments and elements of our faith, loving God and loving our neighbour as ourself, in new ways.

 

Let us remember that we are able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Let us be strong and courageous through this time because we were created to have connection, structure, safety, freedom and purpose and that has not changed. We find all that we need in Christ our rock and our salvation. God knows our needs, He gives us our identity and purpose. His mercies are new every morning and we can put our Hope and trust in Him.

 

Jane. With thanks to Dave@Ascot Life Church.

 

Children and Mental Health during Isolation

By Shirley Weston

When it was announced that schools were closing – there was a mixture of emotions – some joy and relief maybe, some resignation, some initial shock.  But for one group of children, the events of the last few weeks have been met with a considerable amount of panic and fear. Calls to Childline have apparently rocketed with a peak number of counselling sessions required following the announcement of school closures on March 18th.

Other children may not have demonstrated these more extreme reactions but , talking to people it appears that isolation from friends, lack of structure, lack of physical activity and confinement with the same people may be leading to various kinds of stress, arguments, boredom, irritability and low motivation.

Inevitably this has had an effect on the rest of the family.    A number of parents have essentially gone into survival mode to try to cope with the situation which may continue for several weeks, dare I say months!

 

What advice is available?

 

Parents and carers, if you are needing some support during this time then these two articles may be helpful and I encourage you to read them:


https://childmind.org/article/supporting-kids-during-the-covid-19-crisis/

https://www.baps.org.uk/content/uploads/2020/03/FACE-COVID-by-Russ-Harris-pdf-pdf.pdf

Of course, I am aware that I am not a parent and therefore don’t have direct experience, but I have tried to put together some ideas and advice by reading articles and talking to a number of families.

The written, online advice at the moment seems to be suggesting key factors at this time are:

  • Structure

It is important to provide some kind of structure to each day with fun planned activities.  Try to ensure children are starting the day at the same time and going to bed at a normal school time.

  • Communication

Allow children time to express their fears and anxieties, be open about what’s happening and give appropriate information.  Set regular times to talk to them individually or together and respond to their emotions as they are expressed during the day in different ways.

  • Modelling

Model (if possible) a good calm attitude in the midst of what’s happening and stay positive.   But also, be honest about some of the things you are feeling and don’t be hard on yourself when it doesn’t go well!

 

Suggestion for Family Activities

  1. Contribute positively

Encouraging children to be part of the solution to the problem can be an important part of helping them to think and act positively.

‘The research from natural disasters suggests that involving vulnerable children in family and community responses to potential danger increases resilience, protects against development of helplessness and may help mitigate against post-traumatic effects’ (Mental health Grace Alliance)

This may include:

  • Writing cards to elderly people or people on their own
  • Planning and cooking meals for people in the home
  • Writing positive messages to display in the windows

My 9 -year-old niece has found a place (a plastic container under a tree) where she can leave cards and gifts for her friends who live in the flats nearby to find when they have their turn to play in the area.  This has been a great source of motivation for her and given her a sense of purpose.

 

  1. Sports and games
  • Set different physical challenges for the children for each day. How many times can they run around the garden? For how long can they stand on one leg?  How quickly can they roll across the lawn?
  • Try some new games – hopscotch, scavenger hunt (find something shiny/ round/ a feather/ three different shaped leaves etc.), tug of war, hide and seek. One of the girls I was in touch with told me how her mum had been teaching her a game that she used to play as a child in Pakistan!
  • Encourage the children to plan their own workout for the rest of the family to join in, or to organise a game or quiz.

 

  1. Positive communication
  • Communicate about a common interest with a friend – my 6-year-old nephew does ‘nature club’ with his friend over skype. They talk about something of interest that they have found in the garden!
  • Communicate regularly with remote family members – allow the children to share pictures or models that they have made and play games remotely. Again, depending on the age of the child, have them organise the game!

 

  1. Crafts and hobbies

There are many things they can do but here are a few:

  • Writing and drawing things in chalk on the paving slabs
  • Giving children an area of garden to work on
  • Baking cakes – trying out new recipes
  • What can you do with scraps of material or things lying around the home? A junk modelling challenge is fun and easy to organise.
  • Encouraging children to take photos and create a gallery on the wall.
  • Researching the songs and names of birds and trying to identify them.
  • Making a cardboard box TV – create characters that they can stage or present (craft puppets can be made for this game too)

 

A time to draw closer to God..

Bring God into the situation – He knows what’s going on, He is faithful and loving and good.  Be honest about your own fears but model giving them over to God:   God knows what is happening. He is not surprised and He doesn’t want us to be afraid. In fact, the Bible tells us 365 times that we don’t need to be afraid. That’s enough times to read one per day for an entire year!

 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

 

Encourage the children to pray.  Have them write down the names of people that they want to pray for – you could display them on post-it notes or on a big poster.

 

This may also be a unique time to read the Bible together – encourage the children to learn verses.  There are lots of ways of doing this.  For example:

 

  • Write down a Bible verse with one word on different pieces of paper. Stick them up on the wall/fridge.  Encourage the children to look at the verse.  Gradually remove the different words until they have learnt the whole thing.
  • Set Bible verses to music or get the children to come up with some actions to go with them.

 

There are some great online resources for children’s ministry

 https://www.gocurriculum.com/5kingdomofheaven?utm_source=aweber&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MTC-popup-corona

 

https://www.worshiphousekids.com/

https://ministrygrid.com/gospelproject

 

You are not alone…

 

In conclusion, it is not unusual to feel overwhelmed at a time like this and if you children are feeling overanxious, irritable, demotivated etc. be aware that you are definitely not alone in having to deal with this.  Please reach out to others within the church and outside of it, seek help and ask for prayer.  Connect with your small group, share with other parents and if you have input and ideas please do share anything that has helped you.

 

Refugees and Covid-19

posted in: Filipe Almeida 0

By Filipe Almeida

 

The Covid-19 situation has caused massive suffering for the whole world. A calamity that has prevented many from working for their livelihood. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable people and those in extreme poverty are those who suffer the most in this situation. Refugees are among the most vulnerable. According to the latest report by UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – the world today has about 25.9 million refugees, which, together with displaced persons and asylum seekers, totals about 70.8 million people. Of this number, around 27 million are children and young people up to 18 years old. These are people living in situations of vulnerability, the vast majority living in developing countries where health facilities have fewer beds and ventilators.

 

According to the article “Refugee and migrant health in the Covid-19 response” in ‘The Lancet’, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, announced on March 7 the temporary suspension of resettlement programme for refugees due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, this will cause many to suffer various persecutions and be vulnerable to the Corona virus.

 

Other changes for the displaced have also occurred: According to the article quoted above from ‘The Lancet’, search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean, where more than 16,000 migrants have died since 2015, have been suspended due to the difficulties faced at this time. Before border closings due to Covid-19, few search and rescue operations were carried out. The migrants rescued in this period were taken to the reception center for immediate quarantine.

 

In refugee camps in the Middle East and some European countries (such as in Calais, France), conditions are worrying, as refugees they live in inadequate living conditions and are subject to overcrowding, with the lack of basic sanitation, water and soap. These refugee camps have few doctors and poor access to health information. On April 6, the Greek government reported that two refugee camps in Athens had confirmed cases from Covid-19. These refugee lives that already suffered biopsychosocial consequences due to forced migration, such as mourning, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Ulysses syndrome (referring to loneliness), generalized anxiety, adjustment disorders, cultural shock, among others, now face the global uncertainties of this terrible virus.

 

For refugees living in the city, the so-called urban refugees, access to the basic health system is challenging because there is a language barrier and they face financial difficulties: for many it is because they are in developing countries. It is common to hear testimonies from urban refugees about social isolation and loneliness and with Covid-19 this gets worse. How many may be feeling even more lonely at this time. Many will have taken time to understand the seriousness of the current situation because they are not speaking or communicating well in the language of the country in which they live. How many others will have delays with respect to decisions on legal status or not, as well as other types of legal and administrative services? How sad to think that refugees, along with other vulnerable groups, are at enormous risk these days.

 

However, on the other hand, it is possible to see practical examples of encouraging solidarity in favor of refugees in Covid-19 times, such as:

 

  • A hotel in Madrid received Venezuelan refugees and homeless people to stay in the quarantine period;
  • World Vision in Chile provided shelter for Venezuelan refugee families who had dengue (tropical disease), providing shelter and food for families to be safe in this time;
  • A group of Scouts in Geneva – Switzerland, are organizing online solidarity movements for refugees.

 

Other encouraging examples are refugees who are fighting the Corona virus. Here are some brief reports:

 

  • In Iran, refugee nurse Moheyman is working 12-hour shifts putting his skills into the fight against Covid-19;
  • Hassan, a Syrian refugee who has lived in London for some years, said it is “an honor, after training, to be part of an army that with cleaning products disinfect the wards of Covid-19”, and adds: “London has been my home since we left Syria and the least I can do is ensure that my neighbors and the incredible NHS team are safe and sound”;
  • Syrian children in Spain made drawings and wrote messages of thanks and encouragement to hospital health teams;

 

In this way, it is possible to see refugees – both children and adults – fighting Covid-19, including some on the front line. It is these refugees, who have been received in a dignified and fair manner, who are cooperating in the countries where they live with professionalism and empathy. Many of these refugees can teach civil society to be resilient in these times!

 

Among the various verses found in the Bible regarding the duty to welcome the stranger, it is possible to find in Jesus’ words very direct teaching:

 

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25:35-36 New International Version (NIV)

 

In light of this biblical passage, what can we do for refugees in the time of Covid-19? In case you know refugees or have them as neighbors. Here are some suggestions:

 

– Connect refugee families with Shirley and Filipe and they will be able to support you in developing relationships and provide them with support (even if it is online);

 

– Pray with the refugee over the phone, if you feel like it, and demonstrate in a natural way that God is our strength and refuge (Psalm 46.1).

 

Another practical response to  Refugees and Covid-19 is to pray. Here are some prayer requests:

 

– For the holistic health of refugees;

– For the provision of shelter and food;

– For governments to have a fair response that shows carewith refugees;

– For foundations, organizations and churches that develop projects with refugees;

– For those living in refugee camps and for health teams and other areas on the front lines;

– So that even if online, people are awakened to develop friendships with refugees and in this way can encourage them;

– So that at this time, many refugees can receive through Christians a message of hope from the Father who gives strength and is the true refuge!

 

 

There are many risks faced by everyone in the face of Covid-19, but in this crisis, the mission of serving refugees and showing the Father’s love is constant! For in the crisis, practice in social causes and service to others must still continue! What reflections like this motivate everyone to move (even if online), for the most vulnerable. Reflections like this, encourage people to reinvent themselves in serving the King of kings, and as part of His kingdom and what He is doing in the world!

 

Filipe Almeida

 

On- line References

 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30791-1/fulltext

 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059602

 

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2020/4/5e79e2410/live-blog-refugees-covid-19-crisis.html

 

https://www.acnur.org/portugues/2020/03/31/acesso-aos-servicos-de-saude-e-essencial-para-conter-a-covid-19-e-salvar-vidas-de-refugiados/

 

https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/greece-quarantines-second-migrant-camp-after-covid-19-case-confirmed/

 

Jesus and his transforming power

posted in: Bible, Filipe Almeida 0

By Filipe Almeida

 

Biblical texts: John 4. 1-42; Luke 8. 43 – 48.

 

In several passages of the Bible, we find Jesus facing people on the margins of society. When Jesus found vulnerable people and people excluded from the society, he demonstrated his power with integral healing. He always looked at the people he met in a relational and holistic way.

 

The basic biblical texts for this reflection show how Jesus fully demonstrated his power to women who were excluded for social reasons. And I believe that because they were women, this exclusion process was more intense.

 

The first example of one of these encounters with Jesus is with the Samaritan woman. We know that the Jews did not relate to the Samaratines and put them on the margins of society and that is why they did not pass through Samaria. When they needed to go to a city whose route was on the way to Samaria, they made the journey if I am not mistaken by the Jordan River so they wouldn’t have to step into Samaria.

 

Jesus at all times broke the established patterns so that the kingdom of God was properly and fairly signaled. In this way, Jesus passed through Samaria and there he met a Samaritan woman. Jesus meets a woman who, due to being a woman, would already face barriers and challenges, but in the case of this woman, social oppression was more serious. In addition to being a woman and Samaritan, she had already had five marriages and the man she lived with at the time was not her husband, that is, this woman was an excluded by the excluded people.

 

Through sincere dialogue, at a time when Jesus shared life, this woman recognizes the most transformative message that anyone can receive. She believes in Jesus as the Messiah and receives the water of life in such a significant place.

 

This same woman is unable to contain herself and shares with all her community that she had met Christ. This woman was an unlikely person to signal something important, but her life is transformed by Jesus and someone “unlikely” signals Jesus’ power to an entire community. (John 4. verses. 29, 30 and 39).

 

This passage makes me think of how Christ does the same with us today. He did the same in my life! He transformed me (and changes me every day), and he uses someone like me to share Christ in a community too.

 

Another example of a transformative encounter with Jesus, was with the woman with blood flow. In this passage we have a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She had spent everything she had with the doctors, who could not cure her. As a woman, like the Samaritan woman, she already suffered many restrictions. In addition, she, according to the Law, was unclean and anyone who touched her or touched something she had touched was made temporarily unclean. For this reason, she did not participate in temple activities and was probably socially despised.

 

After she touched Jesus she left the crowd so that no one would notice her.  After being healed she had to come back because of Jesus’ question (“who touched me?” – Luke 8 verse 47). For this woman to have come close to Jesus was very difficult, to have exposed herself in this way was her last hope of being healed and she risked disappointment. She went to Jesus and did it. What an example this woman gives us to reach out to Jesus and ask for his help after we don’t know what else to do or maybe after trying everything by our own strength.

 

She was not healed because she touched Jesus, but because she had faith. The woman knew that she would not go unnoticed by Jesus, who had the power to heal her, just because He knew all things.

 

I believe it was important for this women not to go unnoticed so everyone knew that she no longer needed to be excluded from society. Once again this woman proved to be courageous and once again she demonstrated faith in Jesus. At that time, the whole society, including hypocritical leaders, could understand that this woman could start her life in society again.

 

The healing that Jesus gave to that woman went beyond physical, but it was also spiritual and social as Jesus repositioned her in front of everyone. I believe it is also an emotional cure, because a woman excluded as she was 12 years ago, should be in deep sadness and from that day her emotional could have a process of restoration.

 

Jesus demonstrated his healing and transformation directly in the lives of two women in different ways. Jesus cared for the excluded from the excluded. Jesus used the lives of these women to let communities know about his kingdom, his love and salvation. How can we apply this today in our lives and from there apply it so that lives may know the transforming power of Jesus through our lives?

 

Filipe Almeida

Taking God’s Word Seriously

Linda talked in her recent preach about the need for the church to draw closer to God at this time.  Some of us are in a position where we have more time on our hands and it occurs to me that this is a wonderful opportunity to get to know God’s word better!

The Bible is sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), a lamp for our feet (Psalm 119:105), and endures for ever (Isaiah 40:8)  We are encouraged to use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training (2 Timothy 3:16), to listen to the word of God and to obey it (Luke 11:28)  and to meditate on it day and night.(Psalm 1:2).

When I visit families in Luton who I hope to support and encourage I often reach for a Bible text or story and find myself not quite remembering where it is or struggling with the details.  Of course, we can also always ‘google it’ but it’s not the same as having the word at our fingertips.  So, let’s use this time to get into the Bible!

If you enjoy discussing things, then I recommend doing this with friends.  In addition, I, like many people, can be very lazy when it comes to reading the Bible so doing it this way has also helped to keep me accountable!

I have two plans that I am finding really helpful.  One of them involves following daily online Scripture Union notes.  My friend and I read the Bible passage together over WhatsApp and then use the questions and reflections as a basis for discussion and prayer.

The other one is a plan from the online Bible app.  There are a number of plans available and the one we have chosen involves Francis Chan videos based on the book of James (its brilliant, short and punchy and very challenging!)  We do this in our own time and are invited to record our thoughts which are sent as a message to the other person.  If a day gets missed neither of us will be judgmental about it but it certainly helps me to get into a good routine.

Of course, there are many other ways to get into the word together and as individuals.

  • Choosing a book to read and study with a friend or as an individual – Nehemiah, Esther, Philippians, I John for example.
  • Meditating on a Psalm or an individual verse
  • Memorising some verses. I once tried to learn the amazing prayer at the end of Ephesians 3 (verses 14-21)- not very successfully!

I would also encourage people to look at the Bible as a whole.  There is so much value from seeing the whole story, not just focussing on the ‘nice bits’ and seeing how Jesus is reflected throughout the Old Testament as well as the New.

Today one of my dear Muslim friends sent me a ‘Surah’ from the Quran that she hoped would encourage me during my time in isolation.  I responded by thanking her and sending her a couple of verses from Scripture which she emphatically agreed with!  I hope and pray that these words will be light and life giving to her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Prayer Guide

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– Introduction –

 

What comes to mind when you think of Easter? Most people associate this holiday with lots of chocolate and bunnies. But as Christians, we know that this season in the year is a time to reflect upon the most significant event in all of human history, namely the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that happened 2,000 years ago.

This booklet is designed as a way of praying everyday as you reflect upon the Passion story, from the Jews celebrating the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, to these same Jews crucifying him on a cross a week later.

We have structured each day in an easy-to-read format with three parts. First, read the passage from the gospel of Mark. Then, read through the short reflection. Finally, we have included some prayer points at the end to help guide your prayers.

We think that because many of you might be spending this year’s Easter season at home, perhaps being isolated, that this might be a great way of coming together as a church body through prayer.

Our prayer is that this might lead you into a deeper communion with God as you prayerfully reflect upon what Jesus has done for you.

 

 

 

> Sunday 5th April <

 

Read Mark 11:1-26

Palm Sunday. This was a day that marked the beginning of the events leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross, but back then, this was a day of celebration for the people of Israel. As the people were spreading their cloaks and palm branches on the road, they cried out – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:5). The people of Israel had been living under the tyranny of Caesar and the Roman empire for a long time now, and here comes a man whom they believed would put an end to all of this – Someone who could lead them and rule over them as a stronger king. But, Jesus rides in on a colt. He had no chariot, no sword, no armies. Jesus comes to the people humbly – “See your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). The people were correct that Jesus came to be king and put an end to their misery, but not in the way that they had expected. Jesus’ way of ruling over them would be a way of humility and love. A way of serving, that put others before themselves. This was counter-cultural and against people’s very nature to do. As you begin reflecting on this week, start by taking the posture that Jesus took as a humble servant. Look out for opportunities where you can live like Jesus, showing his love and grace to others – living a life that is counter-cultural, not what people expect.

 

> Monday 6th April <

 

Read Mark 11:27-12:12

Have you ever had that feeling when maybe your birthday is coming up and you know that people are planning something for you? Or perhaps you’re one of those who knows what you’re getting for Christmas and it’s just not going to be a surprise? Well, Jesus had a similar feeling. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders were planning something behind Jesus’ back. They would meet in huddles regularly and whisper about what they were going to do. But Jesus knew about this, and it wasn’t good. In fact, these people were planning on killing him. This was two days after his triumphal entry, Jesus was walking in the temple courts – the day after he emptied the place out with the moneychangers. He saw them and spoke a parable to them. You know, one of those riddles that always confused Jesus’ listeners? But here, the teachers of the law knew exactly what this parable meant and that it was about them. Though this made them angry, they knew that the crowds were still in high favour for Jesus, and so they had to escape. Jesus did not let his enemies get in the way and distract him from his task. He was focused. Jesus knew that his time was short and couldn’t afford getting in the way of God’s plans. In the same way, let’s think about what God has called us to do. God has got a plan for every one of our lives, and so let’s not get distracted by the things of the world or what people might say about us behind our backs, but be focused on the mission at hand, just as Jesus was. Remember, at the end of the day, our life is short and how we live it carries eternal consequences.

 


 

> Tuesday 7th April <

 

Read Mark 12:13-44

Remember those days in school (you don’t have to count!), did you ever notice or get jealous of those really intelligent ones in the class, the ones who just knew every answer to every question? You know who you are if you were one of those. Well, in today’s reading, these teachers of the law were just like them. But instead of getting everything right, they just got everything wrong. And by the way, you DIDN’T correct these people. They knew it all. Tell them your favourite Bible verse and they would tell you exactly where it is found in the Bible. But Jesus, when confronted by these teachers, answered their questions in a way that made them think that they’d got it all wrong. And it was true. These people had got it all wrong. In fact, from age 12, Jesus was already in the temple courts listening, asking questions and answering their questions (Luke 2:46-47). Jesus knew that these people had missed something that was staring right at them. But, there was one teacher who came to Jesus and actually got his theology spot on. He knew something that all of these other teachers had completely missed, that to love God and to love others is “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” He saw that behind all of the ceremonial rituals that they were only a temporary solution and that there was something deeper at play within all of this – that to love was greater than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) – This one knew his Bible. As Christians, we can be like these teachers of the law without realising it sometimes. We can get so used to going to church on a Sunday, singing songs, and if a non-Christian were to hear us praying, might need a dictionary to undertsand some of our words. And this can happen so gradual in our lives, where our passion for God can start to become cold and shallow. And so, let’s remember, like this one teacher who approached Jesus, to recognise that love is more important than our traditions and rituals, and that there is something far greater at play.

 

 

 

> Wednesday 8th April <

 

Read Mark 13:1-14:11

Have you ever looked at something that has just left you awestruck? Perhaps you’re one like me to take great delight in God’s creation, or maybe you’ve visited a famous landmark that left in complete silence, or you might have felt like this looking at the score to your football team being defeated. I can imagine that when the disciples were overlooking all of these buildings in Jerusalem, that they were in awe, being overcome by their beauty. I mean, they had a spectacular view of the incredible temple that Solomon had built. But, when they expressed their feelings to Jesus about this, rather bluntly he said to them, “well, they’re not going to last are they?” (v.2 paraphrased). Wow! What a way to ruin the moment. If Jesus were to do a Strengths test, he wouldn’t have ‘Optimistic’ at the top. But, Jesus was looking ahead. He used this opportunity to tell his close followers about future events that would happen. One of them being about the destruction of the temple, which eventually gets destroyed in 70 A.D. Jesus was preparing his disciples for an extremely difficult time that would come. He wasn’t being pessimistic, but realistic. For Christians living 2,000 years later, we still face times of suffering. Jesus did not promise that we would have an easy life, but that suffering is an inevitable part of it. God, however, is not one to leave us alone. In fact, he comforts and encourages his people. One way he does this is to remind us about his coming return, that Jesus will come back one day and restore all things (Acts 3:21). As Christians, we can take great comfort in this promise, that our home is in Heaven where there will be no suffering. But in the meantime, let’s be ready for Christ’s return. This means not to give up, but to keep persevering in faith. It means being ready to meet Christ. Why don’t you take a moment now to ask yourself – If Christ came back today, would I be ready?

 

 

 

> Thursday 9th April <

 

Read Mark 14:12-72

“Abba, Father” (v.36). I want to focus in on this verse today, because I believe it gives God’s people a real comfort in a time of great distreess in our world. As I’m sure all of you are aware about the current COVID-19 outbreak, that fear is gripping the nation and the world. This can actually be very telling about what we proffess to believe and what we live out, with our real feelings being forced to the surface. Now, if you heard Elizabeth’s sermon on the church website this past Sunday, you will remember that she preached from John 15 about the True Vine. She spoke about what God might be doing in the church right now with this global pandemic, whereby God is causing the church to be crushed so that he might build us up. In John 15, Jesus said that there will be seasons in our life where we will be pruned, or rather, crushed for his purposes. But, in order to know what pruning looks like, we need to know the gardener who prunes us, namely the Father. And I believe this passage today speaks about this. Jesus was crushed to the point where “[his] soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Although Jesus was going through much pain throughout this intense time of trial, he entrusted himself into the loving hands of his father. When we get crushed, we know that Jesus was crushed just like us. Jesus knew to the extent of death what it was like to be crushed, yet in that moment he turned to his Father. He knew that he could go to him about anything, no matter how difficult it might seem. As Christians living in this season of turmoil, let’s remember that we have a loving Father who is bigger than any virus or disease that might come our way. Let’s not fear but be a people of hope and peace. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. ” (Hebrews 10:23).

 

> Friday 10th April <

 

Read Mark 15:1-41

I’m sure we all know this day as Good Friday! You’ve probably grown up calling it that, maybe without even thinking about it. But why do we call it ‘Good’ Friday when it was the day that Jesus died? It seems ironic doesn’t it? Well, the word ‘Good’ actually comes from an old English meaning of it –‘Pious, holy’. So in actuality, we’re calling it ‘Holy’ Friday which now seems more fitting. This day was a holy day. It was the day when Jesus finished his task on earth, whereby he took on the judgement of our sin and died in our place. How humiliating this death was though. He was mocked by the people, had a crown of thorns put on his head and hung on a wooden cross, naked for all to see. I can’t imagine what it was like and I don’t think anyone can. This was a death like no other. “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last” (v.37). And, who was there to witness this? A handful of women and a centurion man. None of the 12 disciples were there, even though they had followed him around for three whole years. In fact, all of them had said how they would not fall away or disown him, yet here they had all lost hope and given up. As you reflect on this day, try and imagine yourself there in this story. Put yourself in the shoes of those who were there. I think so often, we can skip over this part in the story and jump to the resurrection too quickly. But, Jesus had a very real death and as Christians, it is important to remember this. Jesus, in fact, gave us a way of remembering his death. We’re told to eat bread and drink wine as a symbol of his body and blood. Maybe you might want to do this now or some time today. Turn off any distractions around you and be still, reflecting on the death of Jesus Christ who died in your place.

Prayer Points:

·        Thank God for his death on the cross, through which we can inherit eternal life through his blood.

·        Thank God that even though we don’t always follow him that he still pursues us.

 

> Saturday 11th April <

 

Read Mark 15:42-16:19

“He has risen! He is not here.” Hallelujah! Jesus has risen. Today’s reading brings us to the end of this holy week, where Jesus has risen from the grave. Jesus has defeated death and sin has been conquered once and for all. Because of this, we can confidently say: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Just like Jesus had risen from the dead, so his chosen people have risen from death to life and will rise again in Heaven. Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” This was a very real, historical event, where Jesus rose from the dead and is now very much alive, sitting at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2). Why don’t you spend this day celebrating the resurrection of Christ and what has been achieved for you. – “That even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 2:5).

Prayer Points:

·        Thank God that death could not contain him.

·        Thank God that you are now a holy one in Christ if you have put your trust in him.

 

 

 

> Sunday 12th April <

 

Happy Easter! I’m thinking that your morning routine of going to church has most likely been disrupted, but be assured that you don’t need to go to a church building to still celebrate this day. Perhaps you might want to be creative in how you celebrate with others. I know of many who are connecting with people through social media and online gatherings to worship God. Or, perhaps you might want to listen to some worship music on YouTube. These moments remind me that even if Christians cannot meet in a church building, this does not stop what God wants to do in his church. As you go about today celebrating Easter, you might be hiding chocolate eggs in the garden, or you might be looking forward to devouring that chocolate bunny. But, remember that there was no bunny there at Jesus’ tomb (as far as I’m aware). Spend this day reflecting on this past week for everything that Jesus did for you. And when today’s over, let’s not forget celebrating the truth of what God has done for us and continues to do.

Prayer Points:

·        Thank God for sending Jesus to die for us so that we might be restored to him.

·        Pray for opportunities to share this gospel message to those who might need it.

 

 

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