Reflection day 101- Characteristics of a true church (1)
From David Mortimer, one of our church elders
Please read Hebrews 12 vv. 18 – 29
It was really good to come together last Wednesday evening for our Church Members’ meeting. Largely due to it being conducted via Zoom, the percentage of members attending was the highest that I can recall (and that goes back some years!).
It is a real privilege to belong to a local church – if you are not a member of one, examine your heart before God as to the reason why. We live in a day that prioritises the individual, and the spirit of the age says ‘Don’t get too committed’. Yet Christ showed his commitment to us by going all the way to Calvary, and we should aim to show that self-sacrificing spirit of love to Him and to our brothers and sisters.
As is the case in many churches, each year we have a special Anniversary weekend, during which we give thanks to God for our fellowship, looking back over what He has done in the past, and looking to Him for the future. We were due to recognise our 200th Anniversary during the weekend of 18 and 19 April, but that celebration was postponed due to lockdown and the measures associated with coronavirus. Hopefully we shall be able to mark this milestone later in the year.
We usually invite a guest speaker to join us for the Anniversary weekend, and one such was John Benton, who preached at the morning and evening services on 19th April 1998. I recently came across what he said on the above passage, and thought that it was worthwhile sharing in today’s Reflection as well as that for next Friday.
John introduced his sermon with the verse ‘Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…’ (Matt. 6 v. 33), and stated that we should not be looking to our own pleasure, but to pleasing God. We must give priority to Christ’s church.
The readers of Hebrews were likely to have been Jewish-background believers, who had had pressure put on them to give up. The writer urges them not to give up, but to press on. He highlights the superior nature of the Christian church to the Old Testament ways (the old covenant), by pointing out that they are not coming to Mount Sinai in a fearful frame of mind, but are coming to Mount Zion in joyful assembly. There are common factors in both the Old Testament and New Testament arrangements – God is present, the people are gathered. However, the basis of gathering together is different. Now they (and we) are beneficiaries of a new covenant. The church has the presence of God in reality with His people through His Spirit.
John commented that we should assemble together on a Sunday morning and evening in a manner that reflects this truth. He added that we should give our gifts and talents to serve God and to serve His people. He then went on to describe 7 characteristics of a true church, drawing his conclusions from Hebrews 12 v. 28 and into chapter 13. We shall look at these next Friday, but you may wish to try to work them out in the meantime…..
May the Lord help us to see what a privilege it is to be part of His family, and to be worshipping and serving Him within a local church.
Reflection day 102- coronavirus and the dangers of proof-texting
Matthew 4:5-7 – Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘“He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’
It was evidently a temptation for Jesus in the wilderness to prove to himself that he was the Son of God, even though God had declared him ‘my Son, whom I love’ at his baptism a few weeks before. In this particular temptation what is striking is the way the devil uses Scripture to entice Jesus into sin. Psalm 91 is a great Psalm about God’s protection. Jesus (in my view in his imagination after forty days of fasting) was taken by the devil to the top of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus imagined throwing himself off the top of the temple and requiring God supernaturally to save him. Had not God promised his protection in Psalm 91? Wouldn’t the angels lift him up?
Jesus recognised however that this was a Satanic misuse of Scripture. He was not to put himself deliberately in a position of danger he did not need to put himself in just to make God prove he cared. God had already demonstrated his love to Jesus in a multitude of ways. Jesus replied with a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:16 that needed to be considered alongside Psalm 91: ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”‘
This is an important thing for us to remember when we think about coronavirus and the associated risks. We are not to put ourselves needlessly in positions of risk that we do not need to put ourselves in. We are not to behave recklessly and expect God to protect us. We ought therefore to be taking sensible precautions. It is not difficult to find health and safety regulations in the Bible. When I heard of a child falling to their death from a flat roof in Pakistan I was reminded of the command to build a parapet we find in Deuteronomy 22:8.
And yet there is another important thing to consider in connection with this temptation Jesus faced. At a later stage in his ministry Jesus did put himself in a position of danger (indeed certain death) because he knew it was God’s will for him to do so. Ultimately of course he also knew that God would raise him from the dead. Before that however he had to endure all the agonies associated with the cross, physical, mental and spiritual. It was not reckless of Jesus to lay down his life in this way. He chose this path because he knew it was God’s will for him.
And doing God’s will can still be risky. I mentioned recently a man called John Hawkins who attended this church as a youth when it met at the old chapel in Townfield Yard. He turned his back on a prosperous career in business in London and in 1895 travelled with his young and supportive wife as a missionary to ‘Zululand’. Within a month his wife had died. It was the first of many blows but he persevered in the work God had laid on his heart. How else would the Great Commission be fulfilled? Compared with John Hawkins, Andrew and Danielle Gullett and their young sons lived comfortably when they went out to Nairobi in 2009 to help with the work of Africa Christian Textbooks. Nevertheless, some American friends they knew there were ‘carjacked’ and almost murdered and their Kenyan next-door neighbour was tied up in his own home and robbed at gunpoint. Were they right to go? I think so. A long-serving and godly missionary in Kenya told me that, alongside trusting in God’s providential care, he did also try to remember that although lions hunted wildebeest there were still a lot of wildebeest. In other words, he tried to keep the risks in perspective. And he and his wife put up with the perennial dangers of driving in Africa and with bouts of cholera and malaria from time to time.
In the UK there are risks associated with working as a policeman or fireman, a roofer or motorcycle courier. Other jobs are physically safe but particularly stressful (I take my hat off to headteachers for example). That is to say, there are well-documented mental health risks. Nevertheless, these jobs need to be done and there are Christians who believe it is their particular calling to do these jobs. And for some Christians around the world it is as simple as taking any job that will feed them and their families. The risk of starvation outweighs the other risks. They know God has commanded them to provide for their relatives.
So we have the Lord’s promises of protection and likewise commands from God prohibiting recklessness. At the same time we have God-given callings that entail a greater or lesser measure of risk.
This particular temptation of the Lord warns us against simplistic proof-texting. Even Satan can quote Scripture. More often than not numerous Scriptures need to be weighed up together. We need to ask God for wisdom to do that, not just now but throughout our lives.
Reflection day 103- A prayer hearing, answering God
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer on behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped. (2 Samuel 24:24-25)
Isn’t the last sentence of 2 Samuel striking for us right now? ‘Then the Lord answered his prayer on behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.’
Of course, we cannot draw direct parallels between coronavirus and the disease that was ravaging Israel at that time. The deadly plague was a result of King David’s sin. He had (forgetting his dependence on the Lord) ordered a nationwide census of the fighting men in Israel. Even Joab, the commander of his army, recognised David’s folly. The Lord’s punishment was deliberately designed to rebuke David for placing his trust in numbers. 70,000 Israelites died in just three days.
Nevertheless, this last verse should remind us of the power of prayer. In the Bible we see that, in answer to prayer, God has stopped plagues and droughts, confounded the plots of enemies and repulsed massive armies. In answer to prayer God has healed the sick, raised the dead to life, set prisoners free and brought exiles home. We ought to be in earnest prayer for our nation as coronavirus continues to kill people and damage our country in a multitude of other ways.
What happens at the end of 2 Samuel is also significant because of the centrality of sacrifice. There can be little doubt that David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to atone for his sin. As Christians they remind us of the ultimate sacrifice – Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
Finally, it was here at this very place, the threshing floor David bought from Araunah in Jerusalem, that Solomon would later build the temple. And there Solomon would pray, in that magnificent prayer we have in 1 Kings 8,
“When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act.’ (8:37-39)
Friends, know that God answers prayer. Let us come to him in prayer through Jesus who is our temple, our great high priest and the definitive sacrifice for sin. Let us lay before him our concerns for ourselves, our nation and the world. Let us, in faith, ask him directly to show mercy and help us.
Reflection day 104- A cure for anxiety
From Paul Barton, one of our church workers
Please read Matthew 6:25-34
Jesus addresses our hearts in 6:21. He wants to bring into focus that our hearts need to be in the right place, a timely reminder to us. If our hearts are right, then we are going to be OK. The Christian realises that the greatest treasure that we can have is to know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour (6:19-21).
Jesus then entrusts His disciples to get their vision right (6:22-23). He wants us to understand that how we look at this world will affect how we live in this world. If our motivation is not upon Christ and we live for now and not eternity, then our lives will be full of darkness. If our eyes are upon the transient things in this world instead of Christ, we will think, live, and respond as if we live in the darkness.
In 6:24 Jesus then challenges His disciples to get our master right. Christ’s disciples cannot belong to two masters. We can only faithfully serve one. This is a natural order because if our heart and vision are upon Jesus then we will serve Him as our Master. Is Jesus your Master or are you serving self?
Jesus has addressed our hearts, our vision and our allegiance and He now address our faith in our passage today.
Jesus gives us, as He did His disciples in our passage today, a timely reminder. Lockdown restrictions have and will be eased this week and He is teaching us that our lives are not about ourselves. Life does not consist of eating, drinking and merriment. As His disciples we do not live for ourselves, but we live for God. Read again v25 – Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Life is not about us but living a life that glorifies and honours God.
In v26 Jesus says – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Birds build nests for the purpose of laying eggs and rearing their chicks. God feeds and cares for them as they do that. If God can take care of a bird then He can take care of you. We can’t add time to our life so why worry about it? Why let ourselves become anxious (v27)?
The flowers and plants grow in a field and they don’t have to concern themselves about that. A red flower does not work to make itself red. The rape seed growing in the fields doesn’t work at being yellow – God did that, vs28-30b. But there is a problem – v30c: you of little faith? Why does Jesus question our faith? He knows our faith fails and falls. He knows that it is sometimes fickle. How can we believe in His saving power for our salvation but then worry about our food, drink, clothes and our health? Brothers and sisters, our lives are in Christ’s hands. The lives of our loved ones are in His hands. The day we were born was in His heavenly diary and so is the day we will die. May the Lord help us to understand these truths. May our faith not be little but large because we rest completely in Christ. May your faith be increased as we come out of lockdown as a church and seek to worship Him together in a ‘Covid Secure’ environment.
Jesus says to you today and for your future walk with Him – So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Saints, don’t be worried about the future because you will miss today. 1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Reflection day 105- The relief and joy of forgiveness
Have you ever had a big bust-up with someone and later, after, the initial anger and self-righteousness have subsided, felt tense and miserable? You know they are legitimately angry about how you behaved. You know that the bust-up was partly, mainly or even wholly down to you. You know you have upset and hurt them. And this is someone you loved and, more than that, someone who loved you! You have damaged or even wrecked a precious relationship. Can things ever be right and good and close between you again?
And then somehow you’ve come to the conclusion that you have to say, ‘Sorry’. You’ve knocked on their front door or walked into the room where they’re standing. With your head hung down and perhaps your eyes wet with tears you’ve said the word, and meant it. No, ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’, ‘I’m sorry.’
And then? And then reconciliation. They might use these exact words, they might put it differently, but then, ‘I forgive you. I love you.’ The tension breaks and it’s like rain falling on a hot and humid summer’s evening. There are hugs and kisses and loving smiles. You talk again.
Now if there’s one person above all you and I need to be right with it is God but thankfully forgiveness and reconciliation with God are at the heart of the gospel. Zechariah foresaw a dawning of salvation which centred on ‘the forgiveness of their sins’ (Luke 1:77). John the Baptist ‘preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 3:3). John proclaimed ‘good news’ and so did Jesus the Messiah whom John had been looking forward to (Luke 3:18, 4:18,43). In Luke 5:8 Simon Peter falls at Jesus’ knees and cries, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ but Jesus calls him to be one of his followers. In the same chapter Jesus says to a paralysed man, who knew that deep down there was something more serious than his paralysis, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ (v20) And then, still in the same chapter, Jesus calls a tax collector called Levi and eats and drinks with Levi and his friends. He tells those who criticise him, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (vs31-32). In chapter 7 Jesus tenderly said to a woman with a history who had heard the good news and come to repentance, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ (v48)
Jesus blood is poured out on the cross to establish a new covenant, in which God categorically promises, ‘I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more,’ (Jeremiah 31:34; Luke 22:20) and he tells his disciples after his resurrection at the close of the gospel, ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem’ (24:47).
It is a great thing, like the Prodigal Son, to be in the arms of a loving, forgiving, generous Father (15:20). If you are a Christian thank God for this and if you’re not, turn to God and know his love and forgiveness today.
Reflection day 106- Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves
‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:8-9)
Today’s reflection is different to most I’ve written. I want to speak up for the unborn, 200,000 of whom never see the light of day in our society when they could have done. I want to speak against the evil of abortion and I want to ask you to make this a matter for prayer. Since this reflection goes up on our Facebook page, I also want to say something to any woman who reads this who has had an abortion, to any man who has put pressure on a woman to have an abortion and any medic who has helped carry out an abortion.
I am not going to set out in a short reflection why a developing baby in the womb is a real human life but David writes in Psalm 139,
‘For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.’ (vs13&14)
The majority of women who fall pregnant in our society are excited even if they are in some measure also apprehensive. They talk, and other people talk, about their ‘baby’. We also, almost universally, think that a baby, once born, although still absolutely dependent on his or her mother for milk and care, and though still developing in all kinds of ways is a real human being.
Yet tragically more than 1 in 4 pregnancies in the UK ends in an abortion. This reflects the casual way sex is approached by many men and women, a reluctance on the part of men and women to show commitment towards one another, a low view of both motherhood and fatherhood, a confused view of rights and of course the idea that that life in the womb is not a real human life.
We have suffered in our country the worst epidemic that we have known in living memory and yet in this time there has been no call from any senior politician that I am aware of to pray. In contrast the Government has imposed abortion on Northern Ireland and introduced legislation into Parliament that significantly weakens marriage across the UK. We are provoking Almighty God.
If we are Christians all this should grieve us, move us to pray and stir us to speak up for what’s right and against what’s wrong. We should also seek to support those women who wish to continue with their pregnancies but desperately feel they need support.
To any women who has had an abortion, any man who has pressed a woman to have an abortion or just deserted her and anyone else complicit in an abortion I would like to say honestly and lovingly:
i) Whatever mitigating circumstances there may be, recognise that what you did was wrong;
ii) Understand too that all of us who are Christians have done things we know are very wrong. Some of us may have been guilty of idolatry, murder, adultery or the kind of greed and contempt for the poor that Jesus condemns in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16). Others of us were restrained from certain sins only because of circumstances outside our control. Whatever, the Bible says we have all sinned, all rebelled and all stand under the just condemnation of God.
iii) Forgiveness is available to you and to all. Manasseh, a notorious King in the OT, ‘sacrificed his children in the fire’ as part of a horrible pagan ritual. And yet later God humbled Manasseh and this led Manasseh to earnestly seek the Lord in prayer. The Lord heard him and restored him and Manasseh went on to live a changed life. His story in 2 Chronicles 33 remains one of the great examples of God’s love and mercy in the Bible, an example that is there for you, me and everyone.
Reflection day 107- The dying criminal
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with [Jesus] to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
43 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ Luke chapter 23
Martin Goldsmith, a Jewish Christian, who worked for many years as a missionary in majority-Muslim countries tells us that many Muslims who read Luke’s gospel found v43 highly objectionable. Whatever good things they might agree Jesus did and said he surely would never say this! Here we have a serious criminal and Jesus promising him a place with him in heaven – and that very day! This was not right. The criminal should undoubtedly go to hell.
This reflects a Muslim view of salvation. On the day of judgement Allah will weigh your good deeds and bad deeds in his scales. Only if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds will you be admitted to heaven. For this criminal time had run out. Even if his change of heart was genuine, he had no time to do good things to compensate for the bad things he had done. There was no way such a man could be saved.
Clearly then the gospels present a different view of salvation. For a start Jesus frequently condemns religious people for their hypocrisy. Their good deeds are for show. Scratch the surface and you will find underneath anger, lust, deceit, hatred, idolatry, greed and selfish-ambition. None of us are as good as we might like to think we are – in fact we are not good at all. And then, in meeting up with those who had led openly sinful lives, in eating and drinking with them, speaking to them, telling them the gospel, Jesus demonstrated that it was possible for them to be saved.
Still no encounter makes it clearer that salvation is by grace (the unmerited love and kindness of God) rather than works than this one. This man was saved because he recognised (amidst the blood and gore of the cross) that Jesus was the Messiah, God’s appointed King. He was saved because he acknowledged his sin, repented and trusted in Jesus in the final hours of his life. He couldn’t be baptised but he was ready to speak up for Jesus while others poured scorn upon him.
So, are we like the self-righteous passers-by, who despise Jesus, who do not think Jesus can possibly be the King and Saviour God promised?
Are we like the other criminal who continued to the last in his sin, hurling insults at Jesus with the breath he had left?
Or are we like the criminal who called on Jesus, and trusted in his grace?
In heaven that criminal would see the big picture more clearly and understand it was for his sin that Jesus hung and suffered on the cross. In fact the reason heaven is so precious to Christians is that they are with Jesus.
Friends, we are not likely to die of coronavirus but, unless Jesus returns in our lifetime, we will all certainly die – of some illness, of ‘old age’, in some accident. Do we know where we’re going? Have we confidence and peace today?
Reflection day 108- Characteristics of a true church (2)
From David Mortimer, one of our church elders
Please read Hebrews 12 vv. 28 – 13 v. 19
In last Friday’s Reflection we started looking at what makes a true church, a subject preached upon by John Benton, the guest speaker, when he visited us for our Church Anniversary in 1998. We noted last week that we are beneficiaries of a new covenant. The church has the presence of God in reality with His people through His Spirit. We should assemble together on a Sunday morning and evening in a manner that reflects this truth. He added that we should give our gifts and talents to serve God and to serve His people. He then went on to describe 7 characteristics of a true church, as follows:
(i)A community of worship (12 v. 28) – the church is to extol God, to declare our love for Him. Our reverence is to be mixed with thankfulness and joy.
(ii)A community of love (13 vv. 1 – 2) – we must love one another, the stranger and the outsider, as well as those suffering for the faith (v.3).
(iii)A community of purity (vv. 4 – 6) – two great threats are sexual immorality and the love of money. We should keep ourselves holy, putting God first.
(iv)A community of the Word of God (vv. 7 – 9) – we should live out the word of God in our lives, to seek to be like Christ. The word of God should be central in our lives.
(v)A community of sacrifice – we should be ready to face derision and rejection for Christ’s sake (vv. 12 – 13); we are to live sacrificially, praising God (vv. 15 – 16), in our personal relationships and in the church.
(vi)A community of discipline (v. 17) – we should obey our leaders, because God has put them over us. We should obey them so that their work is a joy, not a burden ‘for that would be of no benefit to you’.
(vii)A community of prayer (vv. 18 – 19) – the church is to be characterised by prayer (it is not a secular organisation). We should pray for God’s wisdom.
These exhortations were challenging 22 years ago, and remain so today. May God help us to reflect upon and pray through the practical implications for our own fellowship.
Reflection day 109- The comfort of God’s sovereign wisdom, power and love
As our country gradually unlocks, we are walking in many areas of life a narrow path, seeking to keep ourselves from recklessness on the one hand and fear on the other.
We have in the Bible a Proverb like this,
‘The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.’ (22:3)
and a Psalm like this,
‘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.’ (91:3-6)
May God give us grace and discernment.
Below are the words of a beautiful hymn which dwells on God’s sovereign wisdom, power and love. The hymn was written by John Ryland junior (1753-1825), a Baptist minister and friend and supporter of the missionary William Carey.
1. Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
Ever gracious, ever wise!
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.
2. His decree, who formed the earth,
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place and time,
All appointed were by Him.
3. He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb;
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by His wise decree.
4. Times of sickness, times of health,
Times of poverty and wealth;
Times of trial and of grief,
Time of triumph and relief.
5. Times the tempter’s power to prove,
Times to taste a Saviour’s love:
All must come, and last and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend.
6. Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till He bids I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love thinks fit.
Reflection day 110- The church’s one foundation
‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ (Matthew 16:18 – Peter means rock and Hades is the realm of the dead.)
I have mixed feelings about today. I am looking forward to meeting together this evening physically for the first time in, well, 110 days plus the two before we began sending out these reflections. I am looking forward to seeing people ‘in the flesh’ again and hearing their ‘Amens’. But on the other hand the meeting is going to be very different to even a ‘normal’ Wednesday evening prayer meeting. There are the very thorough health and safety arrangements that have been put in place, in particular the social distancing that sets us so far apart from each other. We are not going to sing a single hymn. We are asking everyone who prays to use a microphone. We cannot hang around for half an hour to chat. Above all many people cannot join with us. Most are shielding and even if they were able to come out we could not all meet together in the same place at the same time. That would be neither legal nor sensible. In the OT when the foundations of the second temple were laid in 536BC (the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586BC) some people were shouting for joy while others who were older were weeping loudly because they could remember how the glorious first temple looked. I feel those different emotions within my own being today.
And what of the future? How long before we can all meet together, shake hands, hug, sing, chat? How long will this go on for? Beth tells me that there are going to be no school choirs in September. Are we going to be allowed to sing carols together at Christmas?
All of this is concerning and can keep you (and me) awake at night.
But surely our comfort is this. Jesus has promised he will build his church. He is building it now. He vowed that even the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Death itself, his death, the martyrdom of his followers would not, could not stop him building his church. A godless media, an epidemic, persecution by the authorities cannot stop Jesus building his church. He is risen, alive, powerful and as loving as he ever has been. Samuel Stone wrote (with 1 Corinthians 3:11 and Ephesians 5:25-33 very much in mind),
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy Bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
Thank God for that today. Thank God for Jesus Christ.