Features

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…)

ABSENCE

(February 1, 2020) Brian Bell shares some thoughts on Ezekiel 7:25/26…

When I was in my early school days (a very long number of years ago) it was usual for the class teacher to call out our names from the roll book and we had to answer ‘Present’ for ourselves and of course, if a classmate were missing we heard one of us or the teacher say ‘Ábsent.’

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ While it is a pleasant sentiment, a wise man once said to me it is not really true if there is not a fondness there to begin with.

In Ezekiel 7: 26-27NLT the Lord speaks through Ezekiel about ‘absences.’ I share with you four brief thoughts…

1. Absence of a word from the Lord
‘They will look in vain for a vision from the prophets’ says verse 26… but it was not that the prophets weren’t speaking, they were not speaking God’s word! And how often the Lord rebuked them. (more…)

TIME FOR YOUR BAGGAGE CHECK?

(February 1, 2020) Carol Round has a timely 2020 suggestion…

In Ecclesiastes 3:6 the wisest teacher gave good advice about life – that there is ‘a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away.’

While some people like to clean out their clutter in the spring, this is my time to toss out anything unnecessary. When I start going through manila folders of paperwork and organizing my taxes, I’m also motivated to declutter.

If you notice the store ads after Christmas and through January, there are a plethora of organisational tools for sale. Shelving, storage boxes, and office supplies tempt us to get our life in order.

While going through home office files and closets this month, I faced more clutter than usual. I’d accumulated tax records going back to 2005. Why had I waited so long to dispose of them? I checked online to see how many years’ worth I really needed to keep – my records were way overdue for shredding! (more…)

LIVING LIFE IN VIEW OF ETERNITY

(January 16, 2020) Carol Round challenges…

A recent post by a Facebook friend posed this question: ‘Do you suppose our life here on earth is a training program for eternity?

After thinking about her question, I responded, ‘Yes, I absolutely believe this, Jan! I am so grateful God doesn’t stop loving us when we mess up.

He takes our messes and turns them into a message… a masterpiece to glorify him!

We can try to hide our messes from God but he knows! This anonymous quote says it all: ‘Our life here on earth is going to determine what our eternity is going to be like. God knows the real truth about each of our lives. We may fool our friends about our goodness, but we can’t fool God.’

We can’t fool God
If we think we can hide or run away from God, we’re not fooling anyone. Remember the very first couple who tried to hide from him. Adam and Eve, after eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, had their eyes opened to their nakedness.

Trying to hide their nudity, they covered themselves with fig leaves. Then, when God came looking for them in the garden, they hid from him.

‘One of the greatest truths in life which we all know, but which we all must come to learn, is that there is no escape from God,’ says Pastor Steven J. Cole. ‘Like fugitives, we may run, but we cannot ultimately hide from the God who penetrates even the darkness with the gaze of his light. If we manage to dodge him in this life, we must still stand exposed before him on that fearful Day of Judgment. There is no place to hide from God.’

Staying focused on God
We take for granted our next breath. (more…)

THE GOD OF PARDON, PRESENCE AND PROVISION

 (January 14, 2020) Brian Bell reflects on David’s life experiences

Although I try not to give too much attention to it, it occurs at the same time every year, on January 1 – my birthday – New Year’s Day; it’s one of those more memorable dates in our calendar.

This birthday I was reminded of Psalm 37:25 where David says, ‘I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.’

The Message puts it this way: ‘I once was young, now I’m a greybeard – not once have I seen an abandoned believer, or his kids out roaming the streets.’

While I’m sure this verse wasn’t related to David’s birthday, he reflects on his past: ‘I have been young’ but also on his present ‘…now I am old.’

David’s life experiences – four snapshots

Irrespective of the age range of those who  read this little meditation, whether we class ourselves as ‘young’ or ‘old’, at the most basic level this verse speaks to me about David’s experience of life. It’s in the natural progress of life from birth to its end that we too acquire experience.

Here are four ‘snapshots’ from David’s life experience –

1. Time as a shepherd –
Spent in the hills around Bethlehem and I believe most likely the time when he formed an intimate relationship with the Lord; when he composed many of his ‘songs’ or ‘psalms’ as we know them. (more…)

DARE ASK ME FOR A SIGN

(December 10, 2019) Brian Bell reflects

It’s almost Christmas when Christians and churches celebrate the birth of Jesus who would become the Saviour of the world.

We’ll sing Christmas carols and choruses and refer to those scriptures that come naturally to mind at this time… from the gospels of Matthew and Luke and also Isaiah 7:14NLT, ‘All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).’

As I mediate on this Old Testament verse the background of Isaiah 7 comes to mind – God prompting Ahaz, the king of Judah, who was in a difficult situation to ask him for a sign… ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want –’ (Isaiah 7:11 (NLT).

Now that’s an amazing dare by God – and, equally amazing, when Ahaz didn’t respond was God’s choice of a ‘difficult sign’ (v14).

I wonder… If God were to ask you to ask him for a sign – and you didn’t hesitate to ask – what would come to your mind?

This leads me to several ‘little seed thoughts’…

A Personal Sign
Reading verses 1- 6 of this chapter we get a fuller picture of the situation in which Ahaz found himself. Facing attack and a siege of Jerusalem, in addition to fear he was likely struggling with doubt. And God always knows how best to answer the doubts of his people – remember how God spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19) and how the Lord Jesus dealt with Thomas (John 20). (more…)