𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐲 – 𝐋𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐚 𝐖𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐡
The view from our front room window has changed since the end of March. The trees, bushes and flowers have “donned” their summer clothes, and the crows’ nest, at the very top of the tree across the road, is now almost obliterated from view by foliage. We still see crows flying around and perching on the chimney pots, but the young have been born and “flown the nest”. People no longer seem to be going on daily walks, as they were then, and the traffic along the road is just as dense as it was before lockdown. On weekdays more children are attending the school opposite, with staggered entry and departure times.
Still, though, there hangs on the railings of the school, the banner painted by the children of keyworkers at the beginning of the lockdown – four beautifully coloured rainbows on a bright blue background reminding us now as then:
“Look after our families. Stay at home.”
As I listen to and talk with people on the phone, I realize how many of us have taken that message to heart. These months have seen people making real sacrifices – struggling with isolation and loneliness; parents working from home, trying to keep up with their children’s education sent to them online; those who’ve been furloughed, and now wondering whether their jobs are secure or whether redundancy is going to follow; keyworkers and “unsung heroes” putting their own lives at risk to care and display compassion; those grieving on their own for a loved one ……… and so the list goes on.
People have shared with me, though, some of the joys they’ve experienced these past weeks, perhaps doing jobs they’ve been “putting off” for ages; reading again books they’d enjoyed years ago; doing plenty of baking and experimenting with new recipes; and more recently, getting together in “bubbles” with families or friends, as social distancing is somewhat relaxed. One friend, in her late 80s, shared in an email that she was appreciating not having to rush through her daily Bible reading or prayer time!!
Many of us have been given the time to relax and put aside the frantic pace of life today, and modern technology – expertly and quickly learnt! – has meant that many people have been accessing church services online and enquiring about the Christian faith.
God is always there to share in our joys, and to comfort and encourage us in times of difficulty.
Psalm 62 is described as a Psalm of Encouragement, sung by God’s people when it would have been so easy for them to despair and seek security elsewhere, other than in God.
Verses 1-2: “𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐦𝐲 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐥 𝐰𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐬𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞; 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐡𝐢𝐦 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐦𝐲 𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧. 𝐇𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐲 𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐤 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐲 𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐦𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬; 𝐈 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐧.”
Verse 8: “𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐦 𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬, 𝐎 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞; 𝐩𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐡𝐢𝐦; 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐟𝐮𝐠𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐮𝐬.”
We are not promised that all will be sunshine and joy in this life, and that we will never have to go through disappointments and sadness, illness and grief, but we are assured that God will be with us through them.
Forty years ago this year – in 1980 – I was in a different sort of “lockdown” in hospital for seven months when I was expecting our daughter, Kathryn, and the Bible verse which sustained me through those months and continues to sustain me now can be found in the book of Exodus 33:14. The Israelites were journeying through the wilderness to the Promised Land, and God reassured Moses with these words:
“𝐌𝐲 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐠𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐭.”
As believers, we know that we are never isolated from the love and compassion and understanding of God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ – always there with us. The Holy Spirit upholds us day by day, giving us the assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us as we JOURNEY through our lives to our rest, our heavenly home already prepared for us.
John 14: 2-3 – at the Last Supper, as Jesus comforts His disciples, He promises:
“𝐈𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐅𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫’𝐬 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐦𝐬. 𝐈𝐟 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐬𝐨, 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐠𝐨 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮? 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐟 𝐈 𝐠𝐨 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮, 𝐈 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐲𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟, 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐚𝐲 𝐛𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨.”
𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐲 – 𝐉𝐨𝐡𝐧 𝐑𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐲
“ … the Lord your God will choose” (Deuteronomy 12.5)
In many places the bible tells us that God exercises choice. Deuteronomy 12.5 refers to the focal place of public worship in Israel, and is a phrase that occurs several times in the Old Testament. God chose where He should be worshipped and that was very important to Him. His people were to meet there and make their sacrifices and offerings together in that one place, a special place of His presence.
In other scriptures we learn that He chooses people. For example in Deuteronomy 17.15 it says “you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose.” It is God who chooses leaders for His people.
Next He blesses abundantly the people he chooses, giving them the security of a holy, spiritual dwelling place, a nearness to Himself and the satisfaction that comes from His provision for us: Psalm 65.4 “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!”. That is all for our good – as Psalm 73.28 says “it is good to be near God”.
He also shows us how to seek Him and serve Him – for example Isaiah 58.6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”. His choice is not the traditional idea of a fast – sackcloth, ashes and a long face. Rather it is positive action to bring freedom, relief and comfort to those in need, both in a physical sense and a psychological sense, but even more so in a spiritual sense. God’s choice for our fasting is to benefit others. That pleases His heart.
God hasn’t changed. He still chooses people, He still chooses leaders to serve His church, and He still blesses and teaches them all. We are some of the beneficiaries of His amazing love and generosity, and it’s for a purpose.
Jesus told us in John 15.16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” We are chosen by the Father and by Jesus His Son for that purpose – to go and bear fruit for His kingdom and His glory: good, lasting fruit – and the blessing that brings is that our prayers will be acceptable before Him.
It may be starting to seem that we have been left with no choices in life, but that is far from true for God has blessed us with the precious gift of free will. We are made in his image so just as He exercises real choices so can we. The question is, how do we use that gift? I will return to that in a later ‘Thought’ but here is one scripture to end with today that I believe is one of the most important for this point, the choice of where we place our faith. In Deuteronomy 30.19 Moses says “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live”. I beseech you, if you haven’t done so already, choose Jesus, choose life.
𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐲 – 𝐑𝐞𝐯 𝐉𝐢𝐦 𝐂𝐫𝐚𝐰𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐝
In recent weeks, we have seen many acts of kindness and caring for others, both small and large. We have seen many heroic and selfless actions.
We may think that we do not measure up to those people. We feel that we could have done more to help those in real need. As believers, we may feel that we have fallen short of God’s expectations of us. This is not how God sees it. Whatever we do, no matter how small we think it is, will be appreciated.
Many people feel that God cannot possibly accept them as they are, thinking that they have to prove themselves to God. The message of the Gospel is that God does accept us as we are, with all our faults and failures. God love does not depend on anything we do. God’s love comes to us by His grace.
We read in 2 Corinthians, verse 9.
‘𝐌𝐲 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐮𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮, 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐲 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐚𝐝𝐞 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬.’’
𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐲 – 𝐂𝐚𝐧𝐨𝐧 𝐉𝐢𝐦 𝐑𝐮𝐬𝐡𝐭𝐨𝐧
𝐖𝐄𝐋𝐋 𝐓𝐇𝐀𝐓’𝐒 𝐀 𝐒𝐔𝐑𝐏𝐑𝐈𝐒𝐄!
It was New Year’s Day 1974. A hike had been arranged from our church, led by the scout master, from Ambleside to Gramere.via Loughrigg Fell. Hikes and rambles were always a feature of my ministry because I had so enjoyed ones arranged from my church when I was a teenager. But going on Jan.1st was a novelty and we were blessed with a good day.
Our nine year old daughter chose this to be her first church hike. As we headed up Loughrigg the climb became steeper and steeper and I noticed that she was having difficulties. It soon became clear she was in real pain. Somehow we were able to get her over the peak and down to Grasmere but the pain continued unabated.
The following day she was admitted to A&E and from there to a paediatrician. There followed weeks of enforced bed rest because of fears that her heart might be damaged. Months later there was a consultation with the chief rheumatologist. He declared that she was a victim of Stills Disease, a form of rheumatoid arthritis. His encouraging words were: “If you are going to get this it is the best form to suffer.” In other words, you won’t be crippled for life. But her knee joints are permanently damaged. She has to cope with stiffness and pain.
Last week Freda and I attended a consultation with her specialist. Since beginning treatment her health has improved tremendously growing in strength, putting weight back on with none of the unpleasant symptoms she had previously. We expected the consultant would have been pleased. Instead he told us that once the first six cycles of chemo therapy were complete he intended to order another three, or even six, more. It was made very clear to us that there is no medical cure for lymphoma. Her life from now on will be one of keeping her blood levels under regular observation varying the amount of medication accordingly. It was not what we were expecting to hear! Both of these health situations came out of the blue.
I don’t share this as a cry for sympathy. Rather to show two examples of what life can be like. In fact what the corona virus has done for all of us whether we have contracted it or not. This epidemic means the world will not be the same as it was for all of us, unless a vaccine can be developed. Life on the earth we so much value can never be taken for granted. Things can change irrevocably in a moment.
This is why the dismissal of the Christian message in our society is so tragic. People, in large numbers, are turning their backs on the one truth that can make sense of life’s realities. When Jesus was taken and crucified every terror was inflicted on Him. It was unimaginable suffering. But He bore it and triumphed over it. He showed that suffering and death are not the end. The Apostle Paul was put on death row because he told the Roman Empire that Jesus was the only answer to life. That all answers are to be found by humbly acknowledging what He has done, and who He is, the Divine Son of God. As he faced execution this is what he wrote:- “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” Romans 8:25
This is the message and truth that our nation, and indeed all the nations, need to know and believe. Suffering is a reality. But there is Someone who has experienced it all and who is there to help us, if only we will humble ourselves and trust ourselves to Him. May you know His love and power.
𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐲 – 𝐑𝐞𝐯 𝐉𝐢𝐦 𝐂𝐫𝐚𝐰𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐝
In one of the set readings this week from Luke chapter 18, we have the story of Jesus healing a blind beggar. Jesus was on the road near Jericho, when he passed this blind man sitting by the road begging. The beggar asked the people near him what was happening, why was there a crowd? They told him Jesus was passing by. He cried out ‘Jesus son of David, have mercy on me.’ The people around tried to stop him, but he persisted. Eventually Jesus heard him and asked him what he wanted him to do for him. It may have been obvious, but still he asked him.
Jesus healed him and his sight was restored. Jesus told him, ‘Your faith has made you well.’
Do we need Jesus to come close to us? Do we persist when our prayers do not seem to be answered? Do we say exactly what we want? Do we wait patiently in faith for God to restore us?