150 Days is a Long Time!

This post by weba_admin was originally published at Seventy Two

Nick emailed me in March, “Surely this isn’t going to last that long, I mean Glastonbury is still on!” How naïve this sounds after months of lockdown and coronavirus – but at the time it made sense. I’d announced that I was writing 300 words every day on each of the 150 Psalms in the bible. This would take until August 13th – nearly 6 months. Surely this virus thing would be over before that.

It seemed a good idea at the time. Four of us were trying to grab 5 days of ski-ing in France in early March, just as the French president announced the closure of all resorts, hotels & restaurants. As we sat on a ski lift, realising that our skiing was coming to an early end and we’d be heading home, I had an idea: “I think I might write a daily blog during this coming lockdown.” My fellow skiers encouraged me and asked what about. “How about the Psalms” I suggested? And the idea was born.

So, on March 17th 2020 I embarked on a daily discipline of writing and recording a 300 word reflection on each Psalm under the title “Love in the Time of Corona” (the name inspired by the novel by Gabriel García Márquez). It was designed for people who knew the psalms, and for those who have never read any of them – and may not believe in God. The purpose was to provide a daily diet of something biblical for people who were now stuck at home or whose routine was significantly disrupted. Some inspiration, encouragement and challenge in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.

So off I went. The writing came easily (to quote Robert Louis Stevenson). I simply read the psalm and asked God for an idea – which popped into my head – and I was away. The Psalms are awe-inspiring, challenging, awkward, honest, brutal, gracious – and at times I didn’t agree with the writers. They need wrestling with – they are not always easy – and at face-value they can cause a problem or two. But as I have for years read a psalm every day anyway – they seemed a good place to go – and to encourage this daily practice in others.

What was surprising was how many people read them or listened to the audio. Every day I had comments from a wide range of people – churched and non-churched. Some were reading every day – others just now and again – but loads of people were engaging – and many were finding a way into the psalms that they hadn’t before. It was something that worked in the moment. If I did it next year, I don’t think it would have anything like the impact. It was a consequence of the pandemic and the lockdown that gave it ‘traction’. Like so many things – they worked because of the coronavirus restrictions – online church attendance soaring, Joe Wick’s daily exercises, the clap for the NHS and so on.

Working through the psalms showed just how often the writers felt under pressure and were crying out to God. This was ideal for people struggling in the pandemic.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away. (Psalm 38:9-11)

But, and it’s a big but [this was my catchphrase for the blog] – again and again the writers cry to God, and the answer comes. This was the theme over and over again.

So, which Psalm for the next phase? How about Psalm 18:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

I am very glad I did it, but I was also glad when I reached Psalm 150 and could take a break.

Love in Him,

Matt Frost

The written blog can be found here: Love in the Time of Corona

The audio blog can be found here: Love in the Time of Corona

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Sharing Faith and Prayer Online

This post by weba_admin was originally published at Seventy Two

At Wotton Baptist Church we’re running our Sunday services on Zoom. It has been a good way to maintain fellowship for a church of our size, but the significant number of vulnerable children and families attending mean that we can’t publicly circulate the details of the service.  Consequently we have welcomed a few new folk along during lockdown but we have not seen the explosion in attendance that others using YouTube Premiere or Facebook Live have seen.

Our church’s not-particularly-original but nonetheless genuine strap-line is ‘good news people’.  We are very keen to find new ways to share faith at this time when Tearfund and others are reporting an upsurge of interest in prayer in the community during lockdown.  God independently poked two members of our leadership team about running 24/7s Prayer Course on line to connect with this need.  Tomorrow will see the last session of the course.

To advertise the church’s ongoing prayerful presence, we sent a postcard to all 2500 households in our small town.  The flip side of the postcard (see images) included an invitation to join in with The Prayer Course.  Off the back of this we started a small course (with just 3 seekers and 3 new believers) plus me on Zoom.  It’s been an absolute joy to take part in the course – they want to learn to pray and week by week all 6 of them seem to have grown in confidence and faith as we have prayed together. Despite being aimed at believers The Prayer Course is accessible for anyone who wants to pray and 24/7 are more than happy for it to be used on Zoom.

We’re following lots of other churches in launching an Alpha Course on Zoom in September and I’m hopeful that the three seekers will take the invitation to join in.  Five of the 6 prayer course attendees have already visited Sunday morning zooms on more than one occasion (two of them were Sunday regulars pre-lockdown).

In common with lots of churches, we’ve had a huge increase in local engagement through involvement with community care and in helping and being helped by our own neighbours.  I’m hoping and praying that we can use more Zoom groups like The Prayer Course and Alpha to build more of the good news of Jesus into these new bridges.

Wotton BC are on of the churches working through the Re:Imagine process together. For more information on Re:Imagine, click here.

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Dwelling in the Word: 27th April 2020

This post by weba_admin was originally published at Seventy Two

Romans 8: 31-39

More than conquerors

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No-one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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