Prayers, Music & Media

Prayers and Reflections from the Minister (29/3/20)

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

God of all creation, we glimpse in wonder at your beauty;
in raising and setting of the sun, the mountain top, and the green pastures.
We sense your power in thunder crash, in a lightning flash, in ocean’s roar and the whisper of a soft breeze.
Our Father we praise you.

Holy Son of God, we see your love
stretched out upon a cruel and lonely cross.
We stand in humble adoration at your sacrifice and pure love for humankind.
Precious Jesus we praise you.

Holy Spirit, we see your power in lives transformed, hearts on fire.
We listen for your soft holy voice, comforting us, guiding us, calling us to you.
Holy Spirit we praise you.

From the moment our eyes open, to face the day ahead,
you are with us through good times and bad,
Your presence enough for our needs.

I close my eyes in sleep certain of your protection.  

And when I awake I am filled with gratitude.  

Lord God, your love for humankind present in the beginning of all things extends throughout history and touches even my life.
Your love sees our failings and you give forgives.
Your love feels pain and wipes away our tears.
Your love knows grief and comforts those in sorrow.
Your love sees sin and still loves the sinner.
Forgive us when we fail to live lives that reflect your love.
Forgive us when we take for granted all that you have done for us.
Transform us and empower us to serve you this day and all to come.

Let us join together in the words of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name, 
thy kingdom come, 
thy will be done, 
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom, 
and the power, and the glory, 
for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and to concentrate my thoughts on you.
I can’t do this alone.

In me there is darkness but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you don’t leave me;

I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there’s peace;
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience.
I do not understand your ways but you know the way for me.

O Heavenly Father I praise and thank you for rest in the night;
I praise and thank you for every new day;
I praise and thank you for all your goodness and faithfulness throughout my life.

You have granted me many blessings;
Now let me also accept the hard I have to endure.
You will lay on me no more than I can bear.
You make all things work together for the good for your children.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor, in distress, and afraid as I am.

You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me when all of mankind fails me.
You remember and seek me.
It is your will that I shall seek and to you I shall turn.

O Holy Spirit,
Give me faith that will protect me from despair, from passions and from vice.
Give me such love for God and men so I will have no hatred and bitterness.
Give me the hope that will deliver me from fear and faint-heartedness.

I am so thankful that I have a joy that the world cannot rob me of.  I have a treasure that the world cannot take from me.

I have something that is not in the power of man or evil to deprive me of, and that is the joy of the Lord.

Joy comes from our belief that, no matter what is happening, God is shaping us more completely into the image of Jesus Christ.

Amen

The Lord is my Shepherd and the coronavirus

As we look at the closings of schools, cancellations of sporting events, celebrations being rescheduled and maybe even churches closing, we have to look at “what is at the heart of these unprecedented drastic measures that have been taken?” What is it that we are trying to stop? What is it that we are afraid might happen? What is it that has so many people worrying? Is there really an unseen enemy out there that we can’t control that is out to get us? Are the leaders of this world humbled by the reality, that no army in the world can stop it, and that stockpiles of nuclear weapons can’t deter it. Are we ourselves humbled by the reality that we are nowhere near as independent and confident of the control we have over our lives than we had did just a few weeks ago. Things that we thought were going to be our greatest moments in championship football games, family gatherings and big events coming to Dundee have gone in an instant like a puff of smoke.

All our family vacation plans to a sunny place, our family visit from SA, the theatre and some ancient castles we planned to visit, have all changed with no input from us. For all the boasting of what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, has disappeared.

One of the things I remember growing up as a kid, was how often the older generation would end their conversation with the words, “Lord willing” or “if the Lord wills.” It was only later that I understood they were quoting a well know writer by the name of the Apostle James. James wrote in James 4:13-15“Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.” We had this wonderful plans made and, we thought, nothing was going to stop us from doing it. Then all of a sudden we won’t be doing it because of an announcement by some government official. Those old people knew what they were saying when they said, “If it be the Lord’s will.”

As we are faced with a situation that has bloomed into a crisis, every one of us is confronted with the issue, of “who is our leader at this time?” What do we want our leaders to protect us from? What will happen if they fail? What are we willing to do or become if this thing continues? What freedoms will we give up?

One thing for sure, we must appear to God like sheep scattered on a hill trying figure out which direction to run. Thanks to the spread of information and disinformation on social media some sheep are terrified, and their own fear will kill them.

When you peel back the layers of our anxiety, what is at the heart of it all? What are we really worrying about. We are worrying about the possibility of dying. Fear of our own death, or fear of the death of those that we love is a genuine concern. Yet as believers we have the antidote to the fear of death. His name is Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Can we really trust what Jesus tells us about death? I think we ought to at least consider his opinion in that we know he died, and we know he rose again from the dead because over 500 eyewitnesses say him at one time. Jesus died on a cross, and he rose from the dead, because he knew each one of us was going to die because of our wrong doing and the evil in our hearts. He knew that we would be afraid of death, because inside we know that we have done wrong, and that somehow we are going to give an account for what we have done. It was out of his love for us, that he gave us the words to remove the fear of death from us. He said, John 14:1-3 "Do not be worried and upset, believe in God and believe in me. There are many rooms in my father’s house and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it was not true.”

 Today, more and more people are being troubled because they are forced to face with, “I could get this corona virus and not even know it.” They convince themselves they will be among the small percentage of people that could die. They can take all kinds of precautions but they still have little to no control over what happens.

How should believers respond to any crisis in which the fear of death is out there? It begins with knowing, our hope is always to be rooted in God. Our most well-known verse in the bible, is where we begin. Psalm 23 tells us. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I want you to know, that God says, we are his sheep and the sheep of his pasture. God knew about the corona virus, God knew about our days, before a single one of them came into being. Nothing has ever caught God by surprise. God did not wake up and say, “I’ve got to change my plans for the Church and for the world, because I forgot to take into account the corona virus spreading in the world in the year 2020.”

This is not the first virus or plague to enter the world. Have you ever considered the possibility, that God wants to use the Church, to show the world who He is by how we react to the corona virus? Are we willing to talk with others about what the fear is with the virus? Are we willing to bring up the topic of death and what’s there afterwards? When our friends and co-workers mention how worried they are about what’s going to happen next, do we join in with how worried we are too or will we remember the words of Jesus in which he said Matthew 6:25-27 "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 life not more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

If the Lord is truly our shepherd, is the Lord free to do with His sheep as he thinks is best. As believers are we to be afraid, or to worry about what the corona virus might do to us? Do we believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purposes? We never know where our faith is rooted, until we run into a crisis.

Past rampant plagues and diseases have been opportunities for Christians to shine in society. Between the years 250 AD and 270 AD a terrible plague devastated the Roman Empire which stretched across Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa. We are not sure if it was the measles or small pox. They didn’t have the hospitals and medicine we have today. At the height of the plague, known as the Plague of Cyprian, St. Cyprian chronicled that 5000 people every day died in just the city of Rome. That’s not including the rest of the empire. It is estimated that 100 000-200 00 people died per day when the plague was at its severest. This occurred at the same time with the wide persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius. The enemies of the Christians blamed the Christians for the plague. There were two problems with the theory of the Christians being responsible and they were persecuted for that reason. The first is that many Christians died from the plague and the second problem was the witness of the Christians of the love of Jesus Christ to their pagan neighbours. Whereas many people abandoned those who got sick, the Christians risked their lives to take care of those who had been abandoned by their families.

A century earlier in the Antonina Plague had symptoms like small pox. 10% of the population of Rome died. The leaders and people including the doctors began to abandon the city leaving the sick behind to die. The Christians stayed in the city to take care of those who were ill.

Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame notes, “an epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity. “By their action in the face of death, Christians showed their pagan neighbours that Christianity is worth dying for.

Do we believe Jesus when Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd? We like to believe that means that Jesus is always going to surround us with good things that will make us comfortable in life. He’s going to lead us to cause us to lie down in green pastures where there is plenty of food for us to eat and be happy. He will take us to where the water is calm and peaceful so that we can drink and it’s not splashing back in our faces. Yes, we enjoy the still and quiet waters. O we have the joy Jesus in our hearts and souls as we feel refreshed coming out of our devotions Sunday services especially when we heard the Minister preached God’s grace and love for us. But then we choose to forget, that’s not the only place Jesus leads us, and that’s not the only role Jesus has for us. What is this talk about walking through the valley of the shadow of death or walking through the darkest valley? Do we still look to Jesus then or is there something else we want to grab on to? This valley does not catch Jesus by surprise because the verses before said that he was leading along the right path when I arrived at this valley. There are all kinds of valleys the shepherd leads us down. The valley of sickness, the valley of loneliness, the valley of pain and suffering, the valley of broken dreams or unfulfilled promises, the valley of unemployment and homelessness, the valley of the loss of a skill or talent, and the valley of the death of someone we love and eventually our own departure from this world. Those are valleys we have no control over and yet the events of life seem to slide us into them whether we are willing to go or not. But then there are those valleys where we can answer to the call of Christ. Jesus, who knows the role of the good shepherd seems to switch hats on us at times. Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers in the field, “therefore I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” Let’s suppose for a moment that this corona virus is being used by God to create a harvest of hearts that are open because of fear, anxiety and worry. Beyond the virus itself, people are going to worry about how they are going to pay their bills with their jobs being shut down, and who will watch over their kids while they work. How many of us are willing to be a lamb sent out among wolves for Jesus in this crisis? I do know that Jesus knew, if he sent out lambs among the wolves, some of those lambs are not going to make it back. Then there are other words of Jesus that sort of put us on the spot when we are all tempted to quarantine and isolate ourselves. What did he actually mean when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he should lay down his life for a friend.” Should we only serve Jesus when it is safe to do so?

What was it the Christians had during the plagues in Europe that caused them to head toward the sick and dying to help them, when everyone else were running away from them trying to save their own lives? Could it be they loved Jesus more than they loved their own lives? Could it be they believed the promises of Jesus even in the face of death itself. Were they trying to love their neighbour as themselves?

Do we understand our witness might be the final thing separating this person who is ill from entering eternity hopelessly lost, dying in their brokenness with no chance of a Saviour to stand beside them in the gravest of times, even in death?

Whatever it is, I want it for my own life, I want it for the people of this Church, today’s body of Christ. We have a hope promised to us that goes beyond the concerns of this world, beyond the corona virus.

The psalmist did not stay in the valley of the shadow of death. He went on to write, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” It’s good to use all the hand sanitizer you can, but that’s not where your deliverance is. Your deliverance is in the fact that God is with you.

But because God is sovereign, and we have voluntarily given our lives to Him through Christ, if God desires to use us through receiving the corona virus, then we say, your will be done. The psalmist says God’s rod and staff they comfort him. God’s rod and staff comes in many different forms. Listen to the many forms we find in Hebrews 11:35-38 “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might be raised to a better live. Some were mocked and whipped, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

How many of you would choose the corona virus over being whipped, sawed in two or stabbed to death by the sword for the cause of Christ? Is God still in control or not. Does God choose in his mercy who will live and who will die? Is God free to decide, how our lives would best glorify him? The Apostle Paul once wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Is that where we are in our hearts today? Do we really believe that Jesus is going to be there for us? I know some of us say, but I’ve got others depending on me so I can’t just die. It is an illusion to think we can determine how long or short on earth our time is going to be.

If we quarantined every person in the world that has the virus, we still are no more in control of our lives than we were before the virus ripped the world in turmoil and anxiety. For we are still going to ultimately die and still will have to give an account of our lives to God. We just won’t have the news media and social media constantly reminding us that we should be worried because we could be next.

How does God expect to use us in response to the worry and fear that has spread through our nation and the world? Will we see this as an opportunity to reach out and serve those who are affected by this situation directly or indirectly? Will we show a confidence in Christ for our future that the world has not known by not joining in the panic? Will we become bolder in our witness of God actually being in charge of our lives? Will we be willing to continue embrace, those who are being cast aside? It won’t be long before we start to look at people a certain way and decide that person probably has it and so I’m going to keep a little bit more distance. Inside we are actually thinking that person is less in the image of God than I am.

When Lepers had to be isolated by going through the streets yelling unclean. Jesus voided the isolation ban and went to touch them. When sinners were declared to be religiously unclean, Jesus went and he touched them so that they could be healed. The woman who had a disease for 12 years, said, “if I could just touch the seam of his garment, I can be healed.” We lose something in the body of Christ, when we can no longer reach out and touch each other. Yes, I do recognize that this virus spread through contact and I ask you to have the curtesy not to touch those who refrain from it, I can just hope we will embrace each other when this difficult times has passed. We must take all measures to keep safe but if we isolate ourselves from others, especially our fellow believers and the needy, because our wellbeing is our greatest priority, it will be true of us what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15: 19 “If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in the world.”

This will pass and we will look back and see the impact the Church has made, either big or small. May we be inspired by the Holy Spirit to answer to our call and be the light in the darkness casted by this time of worry, anxiety and a people in turmoil.

God Bless  

Some of the historical data quota is from Eric Metaxas in a Breakpoint Article “Running Toward the Plague: Christians and Ebola” and the “Letters and Papers from Prison” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Where do we find God in the midst of a virus and death?

Where is God in the midst of the plague? Habakkuk 3 says, Contagious disease goes ahead of him, and plague follows after him. He stands up and shakes the earth. He looks, and the nations jump in fright. The ancient mountains are shattered. The age-old hills are flattened. But He goes on forever.

According to Habakkuk, God is not the God of the plague but the God not absent in the plague. It goes ahead of him and follows after Him. He’s right in the middle of it.

During my early twenties, I got a disease that caused immense pain, and till this day, no doctor could tell me what is was. It came over night and disappeared over night, two years later.  Years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and as some of you would know it’s not a walk in the park.

Why did I get it? Might I say that it was God’s will for me to get it? That God wanted me to suffer? Why would I say that? Maybe because I’m a sinner, and God never redeemed me from suffering in this world.

The truth and reality is that I live in a sinful body and a sinful world. I also live under the curse of death and I don’t have a perfect immune system.

What did I expect? I don’t know, but what happened to me is “normal” when I consider that I live in a broken body and in a broken world.

Can I have faith that I won’t get the coronavirus if I’m a believer? Could I be sure that I’ll be safe as long as I pray? Then we would have to conclude that Christians couldn’t get sick from a disease or plague. That does not seem right and it’s not true.

Look at the plagues from Exodus. The first three plagues struck Egyptians and Israelites equally, the blood, the frogs and the gnats. It wasn’t until after the gnats that God kept the plagues from hitting the part of Egypt where the Israelites lived. How should we understand this?  Maybe we must remember that the Israelites lived in Egypt and it was the Egyptians that were punished by the plagues? Maybe they had to be humbled to be willing to follow Moses.

I don’t believe that God wants any of us to suffer.  We suffer because of our own sinful human nature and the choices we make.  And in our suffering, we can remember what C.S. Lewis once said about pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Sometimes I need God to shout at me too. Sometimes I need to be brought to my knees to remember what a helpless sinner I am and how much I need God’s grace and protection. Suffering makes me appreciate when I have no pain. Suffering motivates me to pray more, to seriously consider my sins and to yearn towards heaven.  Suffering shows me how weak and helpless I really am.

We are, as a country and even as an entire planet, consumed by discomfort, suffering and fear of death. As I am writing, our stock markets are falling, our freedom is being taken away and it’s all gloom and doom.

Let’s look at it from a spiritual perspective.

We might realise and consider our own mortality.  We might realise that we cannot rely only on ourselves, on our own bank accounts and abilities.  We might realise how much we need God and how much we need each other.  We might realise how selfish we are.  We easily focus on ourselves, our own desires and pleasures, big or small, not realising that happiness cannot be achieved in such a way. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey asks how many on their deathbeds wished they’d spent more time at the office – or watching TV?  The answer is, No one.  God asks us to look after each other, to make time for each other, to love each other, as He loves us.  Only then will we experience true happiness as we will then experience heaven on earth.

As a church, we could also reflect on our sins.  We spend an enormous amount of time and energy on procedural and administrative matters, leaving barely any time for mission, outreach and equipping ourselves to reach spiritual maturity.  With spiritual maturity, we will become capable to minister other people according to God’s assignment for us.

How should we respond to our suffering?

We should repent as God expects us to do.  Suffering has a unique way of digging into our souls. It is interesting to note how often God used plagues in the Old Testament to, either save or call His people to repentance.

It is our human nature to stay clear of repulsiveness and fear.  Jesus loved us so much that he did the opposite.  He walked into our plague ridden world to save us from eternal death. When soldiers arrived to arrest him, to torture and kill him, He did not run away to hide.  He faced his destiny courageously and boldly in order to pay the price for our sins and to once again, make us one with God.  The only way He could save the world, was to sacrifice Himself. Surrounded by sin, hatred, evil, pain and death, He became our Saviour.

He continues to reach out to us in our sinful and dying world.  With the signs of the waters of baptism and the bread and wine of His holy supper, he tells us that our sins are still forgiven and we are still loved by Him. When we have our gracious God, touching our hearts, we don’t have to be afraid of any plague. Our sins are forgiven! Heaven is ours!

It’s against our human nature to embrace death, but death will happen to all of us in the end. 

We will die.

Our only comfort is that we will have eternal life through Christ. 

A virus can’t take our soul. Should we not be confident that in the midst of death, God is with us?

He remains merciful and forgiving in the midst of suffering. He is, indeed, still offering us a free salvation in Jesus, no matter our age.

Let us support each other through this difficult time.  Let us make time for each other.  Let’s be concerned over each other.  Let’s be creative in ways to maintain contact with each other and let us support each other through this difficult time.  Only if we do this, could we call ourselves the Church of God.    

If God is indeed the God in the plague, which Habakkuk says He is, we can respond in two ways. We can try to hide in fear, or we can seek Him all the more in the midst of it. When God gives us the promise, “I am with you”, He does not do so only when we are in good health and in good times. He promises to be with us always, even through the valley of the shadow of death, to the very end.

God, please grant us the strength to believe this,
to live this,
no matter how and when we die.
Amen
 
 

 

Northern Lights over Iceland (drone footage)

 

The Lord is my Shepherd

 

Stuart Townend  Psalm 23  The Lord's My Shepherd

 

Keith & Kristyn Getty

Facing a Task Unfinished 

See, what a morning

See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce, "Christ is risen!"
See God's salvation plan,
Wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, "Where is He laid?"
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It's the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honour and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with power and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

(Words and Music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2003 Kingsway Thankyou Music)

O Church Arise

 

 

Texts for Life

Easter Service 2019