It’s not enough to let God-stuff fill the cracks in the day. We must make time with Him first priority.
— Kevin DeYoung, “Crazy Busy”
This post by Peter Morden was originally published at Seventy Two
I’ve recently read Graham Greene’s powerful novel, Brighton Rock. At the heart of the book is the question, can a person truly change? Can someone who is evil become good? At one point two of the central characters, Rose and Ida, talk about this. In response to Rose’s assertion, ‘people change’, Ida says, ‘Oh, no they don’t. Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock: bite it all the way down, you’ll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.’
On one level, the Bible seems to agree with Ida. In Jeremiah 13.23 the prophet coins a phrase which has become a well-known proverb: ‘Can a leopard change its spots?’ he asks, before seeming to answer, ‘no’. Bad people can’t become good people. This perspective resonates with many other passages of Scripture. Our human nature has been marred by our sin and rebellion and, as Paul puts it in Romans 5, we’re ‘powerless’ in the face of this. Deep down, heart, mind and soul change is something we simply can’t manage ourselves. A leopard cannot change its spots. Wherever you bite into a stick of rock you’ll still read the same thing. We need to pause and feel the force of this. On our own we cannot change.
But this is not the Bible’s last word on this subject. Indeed, it is not Jeremiah’s last word. He says that even though God’s people repeatedly broke his old covenant with them, a time is coming when he will do something wonderfully new. God will ‘put his law in their minds and write it on their hearts’. They will all have a transforming relationship with him. The possibility of a new way of living, one which involves dramatic change, suddenly comes into view (Jeremiah 31.31-34).
Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the coming of God’s Son and the subsequent pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all who call on him and desire to be disciples of Jesus. And this is truly revolutionary. The New Testament church is profoundly counter-cultural, full of people who are putting their old lives behind them and pressing forward, however imperfectly, to live in new ways. They share their possessions, they care for the poor, they reach out to offer new life to others, they love one another and love their enemies too, their attitudes and actions are reshaped, the barriers between races come down, the oppressed are set free. Real change.
This is the final blog in the series ‘Discipleship in Challenging Times’, although the podcasts of the same name continue. The different posts have been challenging (not least for me!). They have covered topics such as racial justice, holding onto God through depression, vulnerable leadership, knowing God in our weakness, reaching out to comfort and help others, staying faithful in the unprecedented times we live in. None of this is easy. We struggle to live it out. But there is hope. That hope includes the daily forgiveness which is freely poured out on us by our gracious God. But there’s more than this. We are new covenant people! There is power to live differently. Ultimately, we are not like sticks of rock. The pattern that’s written through our lives can change. How has God changed you over the last few months? And how does he want to change you over the coming days, indeed, right now?
In many cases, congregations unwittingly have begun to sing about themselves and how they are feeling rather than about God and His glory.
— Sinclair Ferguson, “In Christ Alone”
Steve and Gill (WEC)
Steve has finished some intensive Child safeguarding training last week which went well but was exhausting doing it on line.
Gill has started adapting some of our MK staff training materials to teach on Zoom. Last Monday they talked together in detail about how to teach the first week. Please pray for us as we work out what we really need to include and how much study material to send in advance.
Our street is quiet and peaceful.
Stuart, Lynne and Matthew (Mercy Ships)
Hi and thank you for your continued support, we are blessed to serve with you all. Main prayer points are:
- For clarity when the Africa Mercy will return to active service. It is the intention to return to Senegal to complete our planned surgery – but when?
- For the health of the crew especially those who have returned home temporarily as they need to plan their lives amid all the Covid chaos.
- For us and our planned holiday in the UK mid August.
- For Matthew and for a good start at university in September.
Steve and Ruth (AIM)
We had 2 long days of interviews last week for the new accountant. We now have a shortlist of 3, with one clear winner in my opinion. He is overqualified but is the only one who talked about wanting to serve the people of God and who had done any research into what our vision is at Sanga Sanga. He seemed to be a humble but competent person and a true believer. Now we have to take our recommendation to our Institute Board (on Saturday) and I really hope they agree! Thank you so much for your prayers.
Last week we had a long (5 hour!) management meeting at Sanga Sanga. The leader at Sanga, Rev Batano, doesn’t have strong management skills and no financial ‘nous’, so he leans on the missionaries very much for guidance. He is a Bible teacher at heart. Please pray for him in all his responsibilities.
Covid-19: the President recently announced that schools could open and that Tanzanian airspace would be opening up in June. Amazingly, the country hasn’t been engulfed in the virus – praise God. But now we see fewer and fewer people wearing masks, as if there is no danger. We are still trying to be cautious, wearing masks, maintaining distances and avoiding groups.
Steve is doing well, although his stomach issues came back last week – we pinned it down to eating tomatoes. Please continue to pray for our health and safety.
Finally, please pray for our colleagues in AIM’s Eastern Region office in Nairobi. One of their staff, Sammy, who had been with them for 18 years, died very suddenly last Friday after leaving work. He had had a heart condition all his life. He was one of their finance people who I liaised with regularly. He leaves a wife and 4 children. The staff team there is devastated – pray for God’s comfort on them.
Blessings on you all.
- Please pray for the safety of our street school children and their families.
- Please pray for the safety of the BMS Kolkata team
- Please pray for new communities which are opening so that we can begin schools and fellowships
- Please pray for all the new people who are finding the Lord during this time of crisis
- Please pray for some of the believers who are being baptized even in this lockdown period but also pray for the lockdown to be over so that we can see much more baptisms take place of the new believers who are waiting to do that eagerly
- Please pray for the trainings of our leaders happening online.
For this is the time to Praise the Lord, Delight in his commandments and we will not be afraid but our hearts to be steadfast and trust in the Lord. This is the time to be secure in Him.
I would like to go back to my title that God is not on lockdown (Ben’s latest newsletter). He is alive and working among the nations more now than ever in the midst of the greatest altar call that he has given to the entire world. As I am seeing what’s happening around, my mind goes back to Psalm 112 Blessed are those who know the LORD.
Oasis – Refugees
Three weeks ago the Oasis was allowed to open their doors to refugees again for the first time since Covid-19 hit Austria. Due to continuing restrictions they have had to do things much differently. To ensure they could abide by the social distancing and hygiene rules they’ve postponed all their usual daily programmes. Instead, they are opening in shifts, welcoming any refugees that come by, but restricting to a maximum of six people in the room at any one time. This has proved successful as several refugees have come for prayer, to get Bibles and Christian literature and discuss the Christian faith. Others have called in for practical things like clothing, baby items and other household items, or just for a cup of tea and a chat. The team has also placed a book table outside the Oasis where anyone passing can pick up free Christian literature in their own language.
The camp had relaxed their quarantine rules and allowed refugees to leave, but last week another 13 CV-19 cases were identified so the camp is back on lockdown.
- Please pray for refugees and workers in the camp, particularly those who know the Lord.
- Pray that God gives the Oasis team wisdom as to how best to minister to refugees in these constantly changing circumstances.
- Pray for the continued health of all the Oasis team and volunteers. Praise God none of them have succumbed to the illness.
With thanks from the Oasis Team.
Rhiannon (AIM work updates)
The third of 3 face to face meetings in Spain was cancelled (due to be at the end of April), looking ahead with these meetings; the leader is on home assignment for 1 year (supposed to be gong to the States this month, not sure if that’s happening). Because he will not be in Africa, the Leading from the inside out training won’t run this coming academic year. He has said that if he is still in the position of leader then he would definitely want me to be involved, likely to be sept 2021. As far as the big conference in Kenya in November, Eddie is going to contact the organiser to find out at this stage what the plans are. If it does go ahead one thing that could be a difficulty is that arrangements might need to be made close to the date, not sure if we will be able to get a team together at a late date. Plus, finances might be a bigger issue if people have not been earning during lockdown. At the moment, no news on that one. Eddie may have had a reply by the time you meet so might shed more light on that one xx
The government, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, is working extremely hard to ensure that all citizens are safe. Health prevention guidelines have been disseminated and re-emphasised … Social distancing and health hygiene are also being emphasised. Even with all this, it is a personal responsibility. We are on our knees praying for wisdom and safety for each other. God is our refuge.” Lenny Mugisha, Compassion Uganda National Director
- “We will keep monitoring the situation in the slums and respond to needs as they arise. We appreciate your prayers for strength and courage and for God to protect the children and their families.” Ken, Compassion Kenya Social Worker
- “My prayer for the health practitioners [in our country] is that they don’t contract the COVID-19 as their health is important to that they can serve patients better. I pray that this pandemic ends quickly.” Jeanette Nikuze, Compassion Rwanda graduate and pharmacist (above)
- Our partners in Ethiopia are praying that God will heal people who are ill with COVID-19. Please also pray that our Father God will provide wisdom to the people in government as they try to mitigate the spread of the virus and its social and economic impact on the country.
- “Please pray for our leaders, anyone sitting on the decision making table to have wisdom to provide contextual solutions. Also pray that the Church will be the Church. The Church should not operate from fear.” Richmond Wandera, Compassion graduate, Ugandan Pastor and Compassion UK Trustee
See this useful link for those in prayer partners praying for coronavirus.
Our local church partners are already on the frontline, providing crucial hygiene and sanitation assistance. Nations in lockdown, widespread uncertainty, hospitals struggling to cope – we’ve seen with our own eyes how devastating Coronavirus can be. But for people living in extreme poverty, the impact will be far worse. Please pray .TearFund
Bible Society- Malawi
So far there has been a limited number of confirmed cases. Please pray that this will continue as the health system will not be able to handle any outbreak such as the Coronavirus. Pray that Christians will help others to look to God for hope and that we as Christians will look to God for help.
Lord Jesus Christ
You, who hugged the leper and healed the lame,
Be with all those who are reaching out to you at this time.
We think especially of all who already pay a high price for following you:
those who are poor, and running out of food,
those who are hated by their community and are always the last to receive help – if they receive it at all,
those to whom the fear of Covid-19 is just the latest in a long list of fears which they must carry every day
Encourage and protect the pastors who lead their flocks,
and the Open Doors partners who bring help.
Bring courage to those who are afraid,
Strength to those who are weak,
Comfort to those who mourn,
and hope to us all.
This post by kathylarkman was originally published at GRACE PLACE
We praise You because Your Word helps us to see who Christ really is. Thank you for the centrality of Christ! As we pray the Word today, open our eyes more and more to the reality that the Christian life IS CHRIST. Cause our hearts to know and understand that CHRIST is supreme over EVERYTHING. Thank you that Christ is the visible image of You, our invisible God. Thank you that we can know that Christ existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Christ, You created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. It is amazing to realize that Christ made the things we can see and the things we can’t see- such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. O Lord God, everything was created through Christ and for Christ; that Christ existed before anything else, and Christ holds all creation together. Thank you Lord, that we can see through your scripture, that all the details of our lives find their goal in Christ. Only Christ is the one who can fix and reconcile the world to You.
Praise you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three in one!
Again we rejoice! Christ is the head of the church, which His body. He is supreme over all who rise from the dead. Christ is first in everything. We praise you Lord for You in all Your fullness was pleased to live in Christ. Through Christ You reconciled everything to Yourself.
It is so amazing! You made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. What a perfect and wondrous plan!
Capture our hearts dear Lord through your Holy Spirit; help us to uphold Christ’s supremacy with our words and attitudes. Help us to take hold of the fact that everything in heaven and on earth is related to Christ and can only be understood through Him. Make it so dear Lord. AMEN
Our peace is found in believing that things that are not good can be caused to work together for good.
— Amy Carmichael, “Gold by Moonlight”
Eddie reflects on Philippians 3:9. So I do the odd bad thing… Why can’t all my good actions cancel that out?
This post by A Little Odyssey was originally published at A Little Odyssey
So having been told that leave was cancelled the next problem was how to end the season of surgeries well with minimum impact to the patients recovering from operations and the heartbreak of telling those waiting that our mission in Dakar needed to end early. Most of our day crew, recruited locally for the period of the field service, needed to be dismissed whilst retaining the translators and other key day crew until we could leave Dakar. Remaining day crew were told they needed to move onto the ship or our dockside tents and not return home until the Africa Mercy sailed. It was a sobering moment to realise that we had not said goodbye to many of the locals we had come to know so well. Thank goodness for WhatsApp.
|Waiting for the pilot|
Quarantine Whilst we have been here and observed the chaos around the world we realise we have been blessed to be isolated with a household of Mercy Ships family not needing to socially distance ourselves. We have organised many shipwide activities including a British cream, quiz nights, cooking competitions, music nights and many more. But now we are hearing of the Spanish authorities beginning to relax lock down it is not clear what happens next, crew are continuing to depart the ship for home as repatriation flights become available.
|1st baptism ever on the AFM!|
Please pray for us. As we enter the next period of uncertainty pray a peace as life on board seems very remote for the provision of life changing surgeries. Pray that we continue to keep the Africa Mercy ready to bring hope and healing to the poor who otherwise have no access to life giving surgery.
|Our view of Mount Teide|
— If you’re not listening to Jesus’ words in Scripture because you think there is too much Christian service to be done, might it be that you think He needs your work more than you need His words? John Hindley, “Serving without Sinking”
This post by Ross Maynard was originally published at Seventy Two
‘I can’t wait to get back to normal’, is a sentence I’ve heard so much lately. It fills me with two very strong emotions. The first emotion is a deep sense of longing. This emotion agrees whole heartedly with this statement. I long to be back to normal. I long to have more freedom. I long to meet and hug friends and family. I long to go to pubs and restaurants. I long to walk to work. I long for my old daily routines.
This longing, this desire to go back to normal is quickly followed by a deep feeling of unease. My longing for normal is a longing for comfort and a romanticised view of the past because of some of the challenges of the present.
- Our ‘normal’ utterly ruins the environment and the beauty of our natural world.
- Our ‘normal’ destroys family and community, with a work obsessed individualism.
- Our ‘normal’ fosters an economy centred on consumerism, rather than fairness and the collective needs of all.
- Our ‘normal’ is violent. Violence in the home and violence between nations, communities and neighbours.
- Our ‘normal’ is creating an environment in which mental illness is thrives.
- Our ‘normal’ sees the Western church lost in the whirlpool of a quickly changing world.
Our ‘normal’ is not good enough. I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’! We have been gifted an incredible opportunity to imagine, question and act.
We can IMAGINE a new normal: God’s normal. Imagine if we could honour those who lost their lives during this horrific pandemic by creating a better world? A world more like the kingdom of God.
Imagine if our world now, in the present, was more like the future, like heaven. NT Wright puts it better than me:
‘[Jesus’ kingdom vision] … is a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God’s promised future; because that future has arrived in the present in Jesus of Nazareth. It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up. Try it and see.’
Can we imagine our present ‘normal’ as if it were the future ‘normal’: God’s normal? Can we imagine our present ‘normal’ incorporating the great visions of the Kingdom of God painted beautifully in Isaiah and Revelation?
‘He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.’
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Until our normal looks like the Kingdom of God, as embodied in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we’ve got work to do. Until heaven and earth become one and the brokenness of our world is fully restored to God’s original intention, we’ve got work to do.
As we imagine what God’s normal would look like on our earth, we can begin to QUESTION our own. We can ask the ‘why’s’, the ‘what’s’ and the ‘how’s’.
- Why are we investing so much time in Sunday services? Is church become all about Sunday’s? What could church look like when we can meet again?
- How are we going to continue to use technology and social media positively? Could we keep doing some meetings on Zoom? Could we continue to invest in our social media presence to influence change?
- Why do people believe the Christian faith is irrelevant? Why is this normal? How can we change this?
- How do we respond to racial inequality and discrimination, once again highlighted by the murder of George Floyd?
- How do we make sure that all the homeless who were given accommodation during the pandemic, have shelter after this is all over?
- How do we make sure that the cleaner air and water that we’re seeing across our damaged earth, because of lockdown, continues after this is all over?
None of this imagining and questioning is anything if done alone and if it doesn’t lead us all to ACT.
- Could we gather groups of people to ask these questions in regard to our churches, but also in regard to the broader issues facing us as a country?
- Could we join Tearfund in their Reboot campaign. They have loads of resources available to help with the very things we’ve been exploring.
Finally, of course, all of this imagining, questioning and action will come to nothing if not absolutely saturated in prayer.
Father forgive us for accepting what is considered ‘normal’
Be with us
May we be your tools to carve out a new normal
‘I can’t wait to get back to normal’, but not the normal we have now. I want a new normal. Our God calls us to his normal. ‘It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up. Try it and see.’