We will be posting a new reflection each Monday, written by different people in church, to encourage and inspire you.
25-May-20: A Meditation. Elaine Young
Do you recall, as a child, being told to “Go to your room!” Or as an exasperated parent yourself, sending your child off to their room to contemplate their wrongdoing?
Both of my children have told me (now that they are adults) that waiting for me to appear was worse than any discipline I might have applied!
In these days of lockdown, we have, effectively, been sent to our rooms.
How are you doing?
Angry at having your social life curtailed?
No coffee dates, no convivial lunches at the pub, no sweating it out at the gym.
Or are you afraid of the future?
Will you still have an income when this is over?
Will you and your family be safe through to the end of this pandemic?
Do you feel you have been abandoned at this time, missing the ebb and flow of human interaction?
You just need a warm hug!
The Israelites were basically sent to their rooms when they left Egypt. Their lives there had been grindingly difficult, but they were predictable. They had their little treats: the leeks, the garlic and the onions. They probably had fresh vegetables grown in irrigation furrows.
And then one terrifying night they went into lockdown as the angel of death passed over them and after a hurried meal, they set off on a journey to a land that many would never see. Fleeing Pharaoh’s wrath they followed Moses into a hostile desert, whining and complaining all the way!
Finally, after two months they arrived at Sinai and God called to Moses from the mountain,
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
Not, “I have brought you into the desert to punish you.” But he brought them to this place to be with HIM.
So can we see this confinement as a call from the Lover of our souls to a deeper relationship at this time, away from the distractions and responsibilities of ‘normal’ life.
Hear him whisper:
“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
He loves you with an everlasting love. Your name is written on his hands.
18-May-20: His Faithfulness. Ian & Joy Revie
We have all faced new challenges recently adapting to change both in our work and home. Often there is sad news and restrictions that we need to work through daily, however one thing we have more of is time and in particular, time to reflect.
As we look at God’s promises to his people time and again, the reflection back is the activity that helps us continue to have hope in God for the future – Faith.
We have been reflecting on how valuable our Housegroup family has been over the years and one of the many good times we have had was at a particularly difficult time over a year ago. We were encouraged to rest on God by reflecting on bible verses that are dear to us, treasured from helping us through previous tough times. These were verses on which we all built our faith and trust in God- promises from God to us in our life.
The result was a wonderful framed collage of everyone’s handwritten verses, and behind each verse was a beautiful story of God’s provision and faithfulness, time and time again, in a variety of situations.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise up on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sun, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become the night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not harm you…plans to give you hope and a future.
Christ is all and in all.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel whose origins are from of old from ancient times.
When I was a child. I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope & love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13
So, we are encouraged as we reflect on the journey of how God has brought us to where we are now.Through it all, His track record of faithfulness remains and we feel strengthened as He continues to be our Way Maker, Promise Keeper, our Light in the Darkness.
11-May-20: Foundations. Roger Williams
After several monthly off-site meetings, I was getting frustrated that nothing seemed to be happening in terms of the construction of our next small care home in Bradford. I should have remembered that the foundations are critical and that, though hidden from view when the building is erected, the whole stability of the structure above, is reliant on them.
I recalled the passage from Matthew 7: 24-27 about being wise and building your house on rock not sand.
A life built on Jesus forms a solid foundation like a house built on rock.
When the inevitable concerns of life come, such as disappointments, difficult decisions, family worries, financial concerns, unfair criticism, I want to have the resources to be able to withstand these and remain strong and act with wisdom. I want to be a beautiful house that radiates God’s goodness despite the pressures that come, and I know that this can only happen if I focus on the foundations being strong. I don’t want to be worried and anxious, buffeted like the house built on the sand, with cracks appearing in the walls as the foundations subside.
Psalm 91 tells us that:
‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord ‘he is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’
Let us pray for wisdom and strength as we seek to build strong foundations as we trust in God. Let’s praise his name, aware that on the cross Jesus did everything to enable us to be united with Him.
Like Jesus’ disciple, Peter, whom Jesus restored and whose declaration of Jesus’ identity led to Jesus saying, ‘upon this rock I will build my church,’ let us ask that whatever comes our way in life, we will stand firm and ‘rest in the shadow of the Almighty.’
4-May-20: His Safety. Rachel Bridge
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Psalm 91 (NIV)
Since the lockdown we have all started to go through different emotions of anxiety frustration, etc.
The above Psalm has been in my thoughts a great deal and I have been studying and meditating on it every night since the lockdown began.
I believe it is a Psalm where the very essence of it speaks of:
Overall God’s voice is calling us and guiding us ever closer to himself, wrapping us in his love, warmth and comfort. He’s teaching us to LISTEN TO HIM amidst all the chaos and sadness that COVID-19 is throwing at us, drawing us to his shelter and his safe place.
I do encourage you to take time and reflect on it.
I have felt a tremendous calmness and peace when reading it.
27-April-20: Invisible enemy. Invisible Saviour. Stephen Price
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
Colossians 1:16 (NIV)
If you are as old, or even older(!) than me you will probably remember the name, Gerald Coates. He used to regularly be involved in conversations with non-believers on the Radio. One evening, when his ‘opponent’ was getting particularly irate, Gerald said something to the effect of:
“Okay, let’s just leave it that I believe that everything was created out of nothing by someone, and you believe that everything was created out of nothing by no-one” – an observation which was probably hard to come back at …
The guy that Gerald was speaking to was struggling with the concept of putting faith in the invisible and intangible.
With Coronavirus the entire world is being challenged to have faith that something invisible exists. It has been easy for me to accept the existence of Coronavirus just from watching the media but, now that we have a daughter who is extremely likely to be suffering from Coronavirus, faith in this invisible plague becomes far more active.
Seeing those we love suffering or the people of our church living alone and cut off from fellowship brings the reality of our situation in this world home.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
Currently, the ‘powers of this dark world’ are not only causing suffering but suffering in isolation. This is when we need to remember that as Christians, we are not isolated from God. Not now, or at any point in the future!
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV)
20-April-20: Blessed Is The One Who Trusts In The Lord Emma Claridge
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17: 7-8 (NIV)
I shared with my small group recently about some things that struck me during a recent little break to the Isle of Arran, which we returned from just in the nick of time, although I quite happily could have isolated there!
During these 4 days, I saw 3 rainbows in full (wow!) reminding me of God’s promises and that He won’t leave or desert us – remember how the rainbow appeared after a devastating flood?
“whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Genesis 9:16).
I love that rainbows are now popping up in people’s windows during this time, such a reminder to us all!
Another striking thing, was walking past a really majestic forest of tall pine trees. I was struck by how some of the trees had come down in the previous stormy weather and had crashed down on to other trees. There was no reason why certain trees had come crashing down and others hadn’t, as they all looked the same – good solid, strong trees – but clearly certain trees were either in the wrong position, too exposed, too vulnerable or their roots didn’t go down deep enough.
I have been thinking about this since and trying to work out the significance. I felt that God is saying that we may appear as if we are strong, majestic and coping ok, but unless our roots – ie. our thought processes, beliefs and fears are ground deep enough into Him and His truths, we could be taken out by a freak “wind” or even another “tree” – person / situation / thought / belief / anxiety.
Again, this brings me back to that verse above… who or what are we leaning on?
Ourselves, our friends, family, the media, politicians, blind hope…or a mighty God?
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8).
Both these insights became even more prominent and significant on my return, as the Coronavirus situation developed at such a speed in just a few days and with everyone having to navigate new living and working relationships and define a new normal.
I’m reminded not to try and make sense of this – not to desperately seek some reason, find something to dull the pain, lessen the horror or take away the anxiety… but to fully trust in God and lean not on my understanding in the midst of confusion, hurt and fear and sink my hope into Him and his stream of life.
“It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17: 8)
13-April-20: Chasing After Joy Shelley Johnson
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
(He has sent me to) provide for those who grieve – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
It’s easy to have joy when things are going well and there are exciting things to look forward to. So much harder when life is difficult, uncertain and just plain mundane. Nothing quite saps joy like a mundane, routined, treadmill type of existence.
I think the only way to break this cycle of behaviour and thinking is to put on a garment of praise and thankfulness. Take pleasure and delight in all aspects of your day.
From the butter melting into your toast to blue skies peeping through the clouds. From the laughter of the next door neighbour’s children to the smell of dinner. Take each experience and regularly give thanks to Abba who has given all this and more.
The world we live in, broken as it is, was created for us to explore and know our Abba.
Whilst I know that there are many people who are facing great mountains of fear (loss, finance, illness, etc), don’t allow negative, miry thinking to drag you down and let you lose sight of how truly blessed you are. There is always something, no matter how small, to be thankful for.
Praise and a thankful heart will keep us close to Abba, who in turn will help sustain us through this time of great challenge.
My prayer for you:
May Abba place his loving arms around you.
Open your ears to hear him singing joyfully over your life.
May the seeping despair and lethargy be banished
and may you wear a garment of praise and joy.
I pray that your eyes will be opened
and that you will see His goodness in every aspect of your day!
6-April-20: Trust in the Lord Emma Claridge
“Trust in the Lord and LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING”
Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
“…Don’t rely on what you think you know” (GNB)
“…Don’t try to figure out everything on your own” (MSG)
“…Do not rely on your own insight” (AMP)
The above verse came to me one night (pre-corona, if anyone can remember back then!) when I was praying for some friends of mine living in a foreign country and who were experiencing difficult emotional and personal problems. I didn’t know the circumstances of them needing to come back to the UK, but as I prayed, God almost shouted this verse at me (but emphasised the bit in capitals!).
I passed on what I hoped was a God-inspired word to my friend and she said it was exactly what they as a family needed to hear at that time (which shows that occasionally we can hear God clearly!). However, as time has gone on and the impact of the virus has gripped hold of the world and turned everything on its head, this verse has never left my mind and its meaning has become ever more poignant and insightful into the current situation we find ourselves.
On the one hand, there is the desperation and fear of millions of people trying to work out how and why this is happening and trying to make sense of it, and yet, there seems to be an amazing sense of God moving in His people and encouraging us to “rise up” and meet the challenge presented. How quickly people have responded with meals, generosity, kindness, praying for people, serving on the front line and loving and caring for others in different ways than they may be used to. Truly beautiful to see God’s work in action.
I find myself strangely at peace inside (you know, that “peace that surpasses all understanding”?) – but experiencing a real mixture of emotions, often all within one day! Occasional real deep rooted fear and anxiety, desperate sadness, a longing to see people and to hold loved ones again, a feeling of being out of sorts and missing routine… but also moments of real intense connection with God; watching the world reluctantly slow down and go back to basics; an uncontrollable fire and passion to be used by God and to reach those I live with and love – a desire to truly love and connect with people and share my faith like never before and also seeing the beauty in simple things (a beautiful sunny day, a lovely cup of real coffee, a bird singing).
I almost experience some total joy at these times and find myself almost loving this new reality, tranquillity and stepping off or in many cases “crashing off” (!) the endless treadmill of modern life, until the reason for why we are in this lockdown comes to mind and threatens to disturb my new-found existence.
However, I remain resolute to choose love over fear and not let the what-ifs take over and disturb my peace and my prayer is that this is the same for you.
30-March-20: Even if He does not… Stephen Price
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
When I am confronted with crisis, it makes me go back to the fundamentals of my faith. I believe in God. God gave us free will. We got above ourselves. God redeems us through His son. We are invited into a salvation which allows us to be ‘heirs and co-heirs’ with Christ, who was, is, and always shall be. While we are on earth, we are Christ’s ambassadors.
I love the passage above from Daniel because it seems to put all this into perspective, even though it is pre new-covenant. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say that their God will deliver them but, EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, they won’t forsake God because their faith in their saviour is firm.
I would like my faith to be at that place; to pray protection and deliverance for self, family and friends from the latest pestilence and plague whilst remaining unshakeable in my belief that God has ultimate control.