I don’t know what we should make of it all. One minute we’re told to stay 2 meters apart, and the next only if you can. One minute we’re told face masks don’t do any good, and the next we have to wear them in shops. And not just any old face covering; it has to have three layers of fabric (I’m not quite sure how we can breathe through that without steaming up our glasses!). And pubs are allowed to open with no restrictions on customer numbers, but in Scotland churches are restricted to no more than 50 people at a time regardless of size, with no singing, and the wearing of face masks. All very confusing.
The Bible says we should pray for our government. They certainly need our prayers at the moment! What does the Bible say about praying for our governments? Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2; it says, “First of all, I ask you to pray much for all men and to give thanks for them.Pray for kings and all others who are in power over us so we might live quiet God-like lives in peace.It is good when you pray like this. It pleases God Who is the One Who saves. He wants all people to be saved from the punishment of sin. He wants them to come to know the truth.”
So, when we pray for our governments, God is pleased. And we pray for a reason – so that we can live “quiet God-like lives in peace”. And I’m sure that, in answer to our prayers, and through His grace, He will lead and guide our rulers in what they should do. But this same passage points out that God wants everyone to be saved from the consequences of their sin. And, believe me, there are consequences. If we reject God and His moral laws in this life, we are committing ourselves to an eternity without God in the next. His moral universe gives us the right to choose how we live in the current world, and that choice extends into how we will live in the next world.
So, I would appeal to everyone reading this blog – if you are a Christian, pray for our governments like you have never prayed before. They need your prayers. And if you are not a Christian and would like to know more about how to become one, please get in touch. It will be the most important decision you have ever made.
So we finally went to the shops on Wednesday, the first time since March. Though it was a bit strange being able to leave lockdown, it was good to wander around a shopping mall. Sadly there were a few shops shuttered and one or two which have obviously closed their doors for good, but the biggest change was that most people were wearing masks. Visibly. A variety of colours, styles, and effectiveness. And we realised how much we rely on seeing a person’s whole face to gauge their reactions, emotions, feelings. The new normal I suppose.
But don’t we all wear invisible masks? You know, that response we give to the question, “How are you today?” And we respond, “Fine”. We have our “mask” on. That shutter we raise when we want to hide what is really going on inside of us, hiding the hurts, hiding the anger, hiding what we don’t want others to see.
The Bible says quite a lot about wearing masks. A well-known verse is in 1 Samuel 16, where it says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” We can’t hide what is within us from God’s penetrating, all-seeing gaze.
How is your heart today? Are you hurting inside, feeling down, struggling with your thoughts and emotions? But however you feel, you have that assurance that God sees your heart, and He knows what you are going through. Allow His Spirit to flood into your heart today, bringing healing and wholeness, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4).
During this pandemic lockdown, several people I know are grieving for the loss of a loved one. And in the next village an elderly couple have died from the Covid-19 virus within a day of each other (they had serious lung illnesses). But whatever the circumstances, any death of a loved one is a devastating experience. Whether we know it’s coming or not. In Matthew 5, Jesus made this profound statement, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” However, He wasn’t just referring to the obvious loss of a loved one, He was also referring to any circumstance in life that causes us to experience grief-like symptoms. Such as a financial shock, loss of a job, an unfaithful spouse, the discovery that your children are taking drugs and so on.
Jesus never said that life would be easy, but He did say that He would be there for us. Bringing comfort and all the spiritual resources we need. In Psalm 46 it says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” He is there for us no matter what we are facing into today, tomorrow, or whenever.
If you are reading this today and need to know that Jesus is there for you please get in touch – I would love to pray for you.
Near where I live there is an area of woodland, that’s largely unspoilt, and neglected, at least until tree cutting back and thinning has to take place. It’s mostly deciduous with some mature members surrounded by growths of new saplings. Recently the local council upgraded some of the paths and made it more accessible to the locals like me. A real blessing!
Every morning early I try and have a two mile walk through the wood, engaging with God in prayer for the issues that are topical at the time. But also thanking Him for the wonders of His creation. This morning a very small bird, a wren I think, flew across my path and landed on a branch close by, looking at me suspiciously. And a butterfly, a Red Admiral, flitted amongst the wild flowers. And I thought again this morning, how can anyone believe that this happened by chance. That a series of chemical reactions could have conspired to produce such wonders. I don’t have enough faith to believe that, but I do have the faith, the certainty, the assurance that there is a master Creator behind it all. And then I thought about how this is a creation blighted by sin. Where God’s wonderful design has become corrupted by the enemy’s schemes. It must have broken His heart.
Just off the path there is a bed of nettles. They are particularly vigorous at this time of year, which is bad news if you unwittingly stumble into them. They are what I call the thugs of plant life. Unfriendly, arrogant, self-centred, decidedly unpleasant to be around. But located in the middle of this patch is a clump of bluebells. And what a contrast – they are beautiful to look at, with a vivid blue hue, delicate bells hanging in a fragile humility, gently swaying in the breeze, just getting on with their purpose in life.
In another place on my walk there are the remains of an old railway platform, crumbling away into obscurity, the remains of an industrial period in the West of Fife, when coal was an important part of the local economy. And growing on what’s left of the platform, in-between some young trees, there are some wild strawberries. I’ve no idea how they found their way there, probably through seeds carried there by birds or the wind, but a growing colony has been established. And like the bluebells, they are getting on with their purpose in life, producing fruit in its season, after which they will die down and wait for another spring to fire them up into fruitfulness once again. Both the bluebells and the strawberries, the wren and the butterfly, are secure in their role within God’s plan for them. They may have aggressive plants growing next to them or predators that want to eat them, but while they can, they do what they do best – being bluebells, or wild strawberries, wrens or butterflies.
One of my favourite passages of Scripture is Psalm 139. The first six verses are:
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
Apart from the wonderful knowledge that wherever or whatever we are in life, God is with us and we cannot escape from His presence. And He knows our thoughts, our struggles, our moods, what we are going to say. In fact there is nothing about us that He doesn’t know about. He even has the hairs of our heads counted. We might feel that life has dealt us a poor hand. We might have made many mistakes, made wrong choices, wish we lived somewhere else, or had better neighbours. We might wish we had done better at school, or married someone different. But we are where we are and we can be secure in the knowledge that God is here with us. He is the God of the second chance. The third chance. The umpteenth chance. While we stay close to Him, we will know His presence. How do I know? Because He says so – read the verses again.
But it’s verse five that drives me to my knees. Every step I take, He’s right there going before me. And just in case I weary of the journey, He’s right there behind me, gently urging me on. The NIV translation says He hems me in. But here’s the thing, He places His hand on my head, bringing all the blessings I’m willing to accept. How do we miss that, when we feel miserable, or depressed? When we think we are unworthy, just rubbish, in a pointless existence? But that’s not how God sees us.
The bluebells, the wild strawberries, the wren, the butterfly – they are all secure in their existence, doing what God has ordained for them. And in the process they bring blessings to those around them.
So as we reflect on this Psalm, we can be secure in the knowledge that our loving heavenly Father is right there beside us, helping and encouraging us. Our neighbours, like the nettles, may be anti-social and aggressive. But like the bluebells, He helps us to shine with His presence amongst the difficulties of life. We might be feeling down and depressed, but just pause a minute – is that His hand I can feel gently touching my head? It’s definitely there – His Word says it is. Watch out – there’s a blessing coming!