Features

THE ‘GIFT’ IN THIS VIRUS

(August 1, 2020) Charles Schwab challenges Christians to consider a different aspect to the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected so many lives worldwide …

The ‘Gift’ in This Virus – isn’t that an utterly crazy and irresponsible use of words?

How can the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed multiplied thousands throughout the world, disabled economies leading to job losses along with stress and strain, forced countries and regions into lockdown, thrust normal living into a mess… horrendous for many, decimated tourism and freedom of travel… causing such pain and pandemonium be considered a ‘gift’ from God?

Sounds crazy
How in the world could this idea of ‘gift’ possibly be true from a biblical perspective? Sounds like heresy, the babblings of a religious zealot, the sign of a demented mind, the ramblings of a soul in a theological desert and, at face value, devoid of any biblical warrant.

What madness is this ‘gift’ notion?  Or… could it be a surprising reality for good in the midst of horror? The phrase, ‘the gift of this virus’, came unexpectedly to mind as I emerged from sleep well before dawn… and I knew within to what this strange phrase referred.

The use of ‘gift’ in association with ‘virus’ does not appear in scripture… but I suggest that the idea and its potential are biblical. While illness, fear, death and economic disaster are widespread and accompany this awful Covid-19 virus, God is giving us – Christians and churches – the ‘gift’ of opportunity.

The real ‘gift’
This ‘gift’ of opportunity is one to carefully and prayerfully…

  • Reconsider some things
  • Keep some things
  • Axe some things
  • Discover some new things or new ways that will be effective now and into the future.

(more…)

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE FOR ALL TO SEE

(July 17, 2020) Carol Round challenges us to shine for Jesus…

In Matthew 5:15-16, Jesus challenged ‘Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father’ (NLT version).

Have you found it difficult to let your light actually shine lately? I have. It’s not just the continued increase in Covid-19 cases, either. The pandemic has divided us a nation.

Those who wear a mask to hopefully prevent the spread also follow social distancing guidelines. Then, there is the opposing side, the ones who don’t wear a mask in public or observe social distancing guidelines. I fall into the former group. However, I’m not going to take sides. It does no good because most of us have our mind made up.

This division has led to ugly confrontations. A recent video recorded a woman who was asked to leave a shoe store because she wasn’t wearing a mask. Angry at the employee who confronted her, the shopper threw several shoe boxes at her before exiting the store.

Can we let go of the anger?
I’m angry!

  • Angry at the division in our country (and other nations!).
  • Angry at the way people on both sides have expressed their views.
  • Angry at friends on social media who continue to encourage strife with their divisive posts… I’ve ‘unfollowed’ them!

Allowing the negativity to affect me, I’ve struggled to write my weekly blog posts. I’ve prayed, asking God for help so I can continue to use my gifts for his glory. Sometimes, the words won’t flow. Other times, his Holy Spirit takes over and my fingers fly across the keyboard! (more…)

TROUBLE WILL COME… BUT TAKE HEART

(June 24, 2020) Carol Round shares hope for all troubled by what’s happening around us…

My heart is heavy.

History is repeating itself. I lived through the turmoil of the 60s during the Civil Rights movement. I saw the injustice. Segregated schools and restaurants. Separate water fountains and restrooms left an imprint on my impressionable mind.

What is happening in my own country today didn’t begin with the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. It isn’t the first time hatred has led to an uncalled-for death. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Trouble is all around the world these days! Protesters are calling for change. But change can only happen when each one of us takes responsibility for our own words and actions.

Nothing Will Change Unless We Do
Nothing will change until we, as Christians, quit placing our hope in government to save our country. We must embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ, and not just give lip service to our faith. If we are sold out to Jesus, we should not be conformed to this world. (more…)

FINDING JOY DURING TRIALS

(May 11, 2020) Carol Round reminds us that we can find pure joy in these troubling times…

Joy may seem out of reach for those who are suffering during the current pandemic. I can understand, and I pray for those whose trials are greater than mine.

As I spend time with my heavenly Father each morning, I lift in prayer those who are on the front lines. They include medical personnel, first responders, law enforcement, truck drivers, grocery store employees, and others required to work during this time.

Despite the fact I can’t visit my grandchildren and hug them right now, I consider myself blessed. I work from home, so I’m used to isolation. I do, however, miss attending church in person, having lunch with friends, shopping for non-essentials, and inviting friends over for a meal.

The apostle James’ advice in James 1:2 actually comfort me:  ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.’ (more…)

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING IN EARNEST

(May 11, 2020) Brian Bell shares some personal thoughts and challenges from the book of Haggai

Let me reassure you, the title of this meditation is not drawn from the writing of a work of a similar title by the author Oscar Wilde. I don’t intend sharing about ‘being Earnest’ but about ‘being in earnest.’

Firstly, the adjective ‘earnest’ indicates ‘showing sincere and intense conviction.’ With this definition in mind, I share a few thoughts – an inspiration arising from reading the book of Haggai, NLT (1996 version).

Here, through the prophet God speaks to his people – people who thought they were living in luxury – and Haggai seeks to open their eyes to the Lord’s perspective about their situation when he challenges ‘consider how things are going for you’ (Haggai 1:5).

God’s perspective – the ‘not enough of’ list
Through Haggai the Lord highlights in verse six some ‘not enough of’ items as he sees the situation:

  • HungerFood to eat but not enough to fill you up.’
  • Thirst – ‘Wine to drink but not enough to satisfy.’
  • Insufficiency – ‘Clothing to wear but not enough to keep you warm.’

He also adds two other shortages – (more…)

FILL-UP ON GOD’S WORD!

(April 04, 2020) Carol Round suggests a Christian angle on ‘stocking-up’ in these times of panic-buying…

Depending on what time of day you go to the grocery or big box store, you’ll find many shelves are empty or almost empty. Some individual’s carts are overflowing.

Discussing this panic-buying trend, a friend and I agreed people were stuffing their pantries and shelves in fear of not having enough.

Shouldn’t we Christians be filling-up on the word of God instead, allowing scriptures to soothe our fears?

After Jesus fasts in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, he’s hungry (Read Matthew 4). Satan challenges him to turn the stones into bread if he is the Son of God. Jesus replies, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

Every Word From the Mouth of God
If you’re like me, this new ‘normal’ in our daily lives has us asking questions. We’re desperate for answers. Daily updates we read or hear about concerning this pandemic can lead to two reactions: panic – or peace.

We must make a choice.

To panic? Clearing out grocery shelves and hoarding for ourselves, or to trust God – that he is our provider and we accept his word? (In Philippians 4:19, we’re reminded that ‘God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus’).

Which will you choose? To find peace, we must spend time filling-up on the word of God, instead of filling up our grocery carts to overflowing. This should also be a time for self-reflection. (more…)

WHAT MAKES THINGS BREAK UP LIKE THEY DO?

(April 04, 2020) Brian Bell asks the question above

In my mid-teens I was studying for what was then an ‘O’ level in English Literature. In the process of that study I had to read William Golding’s book Lord of the Flies.

If you have read the novel or are familiar with it from some other source (such as the film version) then bear with me; however, for those who are not familiar let me give you a very brief summation…

The novel is set on an unknown, unnamed island on which a plane, carrying a group of choir boys, has crashed and none of the adults survive. It then describes how the boys form separate groups and their behaviour begins to disintegrate.

Two of the boys are Ralph and another referred to as ‘Piggy’ – as the process of disintegration takes place, Piggy asks Ralph the question, ‘What makes things break up like they do?’

It was this question of Piggy’s which at that time in my life led me to write an essay basically on the topic ‘God is Left Out. This was selected for publication in the school year book but its assertion that our brokenness resulted from leaving God out did not, so far as I recall, impress my English teacher, who was rather sceptical.

And so here I am, some 50 years later and ‘What makes things break up like they do’ is still a relevant question!

Why? The world is still disintegrating, presently in the grip of Covid–19. And so I share some brief thoughts on ‘break up’… (more…)

WE HAVE A REDEEMER, A PASSOVER LAMB OVER US!

(March 16, 2020) Hope Flinchbaugh shares encouragement in these days of virus panic…

Daily news from around the world regularly reports people panicking over the COVID-19 virus… the resultant sicknesses, deaths, sports events and shows being cancelled, businesses closing, insufficient stocks of various essential and other grocery items in stores… and more.

For Christians it’s a time not to be panicking but to recall we have protection as we trust in Jesus our redeemer and his power.  And as I do so afresh I’m reminded of something that happened back in 2002.

I had accompanied my father – Reverend Glenn Keenan – on one of his missionary trips, this time to China. In meetings arranged by my dad I would play the piano and sing.

One evening Dad drew this chalk picture for the Chinese people.

As Dad drew the picture I played and sang, then he spoke on its meaning. These are the Chinese characters (pictures really) for the word ‘redeemed.’ The characters mean ‘Lamb over me’ – the top is a lamb and the bottom character translates ‘me.’

Isn’t that beautiful? ‘The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, over me.’ Jesus is over every Christian!

Power in the blood of Christ
Just as we left China in October 2002, the SARS epidemic broke out – face masks everywhere, panic setting in. (more…)

GRIEF, GRIEVING – AND GOD’S GRACE

(March 04, 2020) Alistair Pitman shares from his heart how God helped him through stages of grief over losing his late, first wife, Dorothy…

One of the hardest points in the grieving process came around the second month after Dorothy’s passing in 2014. I had been missing sharing with her all that doing life together involves.

Immense grief
I’d also been missing the depth of Dorothy’s love for me, accepting me regardless of my faults and weaknesses!

I had not realised how much I had taken Dorothy’s love for granted. It was always there – I just didn’t realise how great her love for me was until it wasn’t there anymore!

It was her special gift to me, and I really wrestled with this reality. Even close friends couldn’t replace what I was missing. The depth of sorrow I was experiencing was immense… but it was from this place that God really ministered to me.

I went out for a run one day, mulling over how much I missed the depth of Dorothy’s love. Later I arrived back at my driveway still thinking about grief and its various stages.

Suddenly I experienced God’s manifest presence in a powerful way! (more…)

DON’T BE ASHAMED TO SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

(March 04, 2020) Carol Round challenges…

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile’ declared Paul in Romans 1:16.

  • Is it difficult for you to share the good news, the gospel of Jesus?
  • Does fear of ridicule stop you from sharing?
  • Maybe you don’t share because you think only your pastor, or an evangelist like Billy Graham, can be successful in the quest to tell others about the greatest news ever.
  • Well… you’re not alone!

God isn’t looking for all-stars
After her father passed, Anne Graham Lotz described her daddy, Billy Graham like this: ‘When I think of him, I don’t think of Billy Graham, the public figure. I think of my Daddy. The one who was always a farmer at heart. Who loved his dogs and his cat, who followed the weather patterns almost as closely as he did world events. He wore old blue jeans, comfortable sweaters, and a baseball cap, loved lukewarm coffee, sweet iced tea, one scoop of ice cream, and a plain hamburger from McDonald’s.’

Continuing, she added, ‘God is not looking for all-stars. He already has an all-star, named Jesus. He is just looking for ordinary people who will follow the all-star, Jesus, with unwavering hearts. That’s you and me!’ (more…)