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A Special Bulletin

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program for a special bulletin.
You have no need to fear.

Yes, there’s a pestilence loose in the world right now.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in your health.

The stock markets are crashing and the economy seems to be dissolving.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in money.

Someone you love dearly may be ill, or may even have died.
I am with you in your grief, but you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in people.

You doubt the government knows what it is doing.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in government.

The media keeps harping on how bad it all is.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in the media.

The medical system may seem to be failing you.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in medicine.

Your church gives no answers about why this is happening.
But you have no need to fear,
Unless you put your faith in your church leaders.

It’s time to put your faith in the place where there’s never a doubt or failure.
Put your faith in God,
Jesus Christ says you have no need to fear.

“Don’t be afraid,” He said. “Take courage. I am here!” *
Yes, even in your self-isolation.

*Matthew 14:27 (NLT)

This piece originally posted 19 March, 2020. To read a true story about how faith in God overcame fear of death and disease, read The Lie Called Cancer, now available through Amazon.

[Photo: Frisky 007 via Wikimedia Commons]

Alan from behind looking into the distance

Absence Makes the Heart Grow

This is based on material written for my recent memoir, The Lie Called Cancer but left out of the book.

A three-minute read

When the UK restricted everyone in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was considered a vulnerable person because of receiving cancer treatment in 2019. I was told to stay a home for twelve weeks and not go out, under any circumstances.

After a week of it, I was still saying Humph! Humph! about the idea of being medically vulnerable, but I’d get over it. It turned out it wasn’t a problem, it was an opportunity to build my faith. It was not only an opportunity for me, but also for the church.

Now, in October, 2020, we are back into another round of restrictions. For many of us it continues to be hard, especially for those who have lost loved ones, are separated from family and friends, feel financial stress, or in a myriad of other ways have had their lives disrupted. At the very least, it’s continually annoying.

When everything in life is going bonkers, when what we count on crumbles, when it’s unclear what the next steps are, we can always count on the one unmoveable: Jesus Christ. I have faith that the long-term effects of these lock-downs will be good.

Lukewarm Christians, in it for religion not relationship, will either be winnowed out or lit on fire. Those of us already on fire will see our flames rise higher. The gospel will be preached. Christ’s kingdom will advance.

By being physically apart from one another, we’ll come to know deeply how much we need one another. Ironically, through separation, we’ll grow in intimacy. The church that emerges from this will be on fire for evangelism; we’ll have a fresh desire for prayer and intercession.

We’ll be eager to share the message of Jesus.

People will ask us, ‘What happened?’ and we will simply answer, ‘God was faithful.’

I’m in the book of Jeremiah in my annual cycle of reading. It’s such an excellent pairing – better than the right wine with a gourmet meal. It’s made for this lock-down season.

‘The Lord says, “Now I will show them my power; now I will show them my might. At last they will know and understand that I am the Lord.’ *

Let me be quick to say that I’m not suggesting that God is responsible for the outbreak of a new virus against which people apparently have no natural immunity. All such things are the work of the devil.

However, I believe God may permit these things to provide an opportunity for growth. He certainly steps into the middle of all such situations to continue His work.

As the aftermath of this crisis falls out, if we look at it through the lens of opportunity, instead of relegating it to problem status, His glory will be revealed. There will be events through this season that will demonstrate His power. At least for those who have eyes to see it.

Finally, let’s not think of it as ‘lock-down.’ Think of it as exile, like Israel’s exile in Babylon. Because good things always come out of exile.

* Jeremiah 16:21 (NLT)

Photo: Rachel Richards

NHS Letter on Coronavirus safety

Time to Repent

I wrote this during the UK Covid-19 lockdown in April, 2020. As London heads back into a time of further restrictions, it bears another look. It’s a three minute read.

I had to undertake some serious repentance this morning.

My thinking was all wrong.

Two days ago I wrote about being deemed a so-called ‘Vulnerable Adult,’ at a heightened risk of a serious run-in should I contract what’s going around.

I wrote, So, I’m now locked in my home for 12 weeks. I have 81 days of confinement remaining, as of this writing.’

For this, Lord, I am sorry.

Here’s where I was wrong.

My mindset had me counting down to freedom. My eyes were only set on the day when I will no longer be confined to my home.

But what is freedom, really? Is it truly measured by my ability to come and go as I wish? Do I define it only by an untrammelled lifestyle? Or is there more to it than that?

What hauled me up short this morning was the reminder that I am not my own. When I gave my life to Christ, I set myself at His bidding and I look to Him for my freedom, not the ability to pass through the door of my flat.

I am so, so wrong to dumb down my definition of freedom to something mundane.

The classic verse on this is Galatians 5:1, ‘For freedom Christ freed us. Stand fast therefore and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.’

Or, put another way, ‘Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free – not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.’ (TPT)

Again it begs the question, how do I define my freedom? If my freedom comes from surrender to Christ, I can hold onto that freedom wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.

There are lots of memes floating about on social media right now about how Paul wrote half the New Testament while under house arrest, and how Sir Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravitation while ‘self-isolating’ from the plague.

That’s all well and good, but puts the focus in the wrong place. That focus is still on doing. We need to focus on being. It’s out of a state of being that all our doing becomes well-anchored, and makes sense.

Remember, God doesn’t call us to a life of doing to earn His love. He calls us to a relationship of love with Him, which stirs our hearts to then get busy and do, which is how we love others.

He calls us to take action out of love, not just be people who love to take action. There is all freedom in the former and less freedom in the latter.

‘Beloved ones, God has called us to live a life of freedom in the Holy Spirit. But don’t view this wonderful freedom as an opportunity to set up a base of operations in the natural realm. Freedom means that we become so completely free of self-indulgence that we become servants of one another, expressing love in all we do.’ (Galatians 5:13, TPT)

Back to my need to repent, and change my thinking.

I’m no longer counting the days to freedom. That would leave me ‘setting up a base of operations’. I’d be hunkered in my bunker, waiting to be let out.

The truth is that I was released from prison the day I gave my life to Jesus.

I have my freedom today. The only question left is, what shall I do with it?

After I celebrate with joy, that is.