The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, always begins his television updates by telling us what is happening in Wales regarding the coronavirus. Recently it has been good news. Deaths have been falling week on week and the number of new cases in Wales is reducing. Of course, as he always says, behind every statistic is a person and behind every person is a grieving family. It is important to remember that and I, for one, am thankful that we have a leader who is compassionate as well as careful. But negotiating our way out of lockdown and back to some sort of normal life will be difficult. A government can make laws and recommendations, but will people obey those laws and follow that guidance? What should our response be as believers? This week’s devotional looks at being an example to others by living the gospel message. After all, we always have good news, don’t we?
Brief Devotional: Living the Message
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3 v 17
I have especial reason to like this verse. It has been with me for 41 years since my Baptism as a 17 year old one Saturday afternoon in a small Essex chapel. This is the verse that was given to me as a text for life. So I was pleased to see it again this morning in a book of devotions by John MacArthur. Here is what he says about it.
“Unbelievers might pay more attention to our gospel message if we give them something special to notice. We could start by not lying and always speaking the truth. What if we never became angry in a sinful way but always acted in love; never stole but always shared; and never spoke in a coarse manner but always spoke edifying words? Can you imagine how the lost might react if we never were bitter, wrathful, resentful, violent, or slanderous but were always characterized by kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness? Perhaps they would pay more attention then.
Examine your own actions. Do you speak the truth? Do you have control over your anger so that it operates only in righteousness? Do you share your resources with others? Do you speak graciously? Are you kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving? If you are a new man or woman in Christ, you will live like that.”
You may recognise that John MacArthur is using Ephesians 4 v 17 – 32 in his examples of speech and conduct. Quite a challenge isn’t it? As we come out of lockdown there will be many angry words spoken, many lies told, much bitterness and resentment. As new people in Christ we can and must live differently so that the world may see that only Christ can change the heart.
Here is a hymn by Isaac Watts that puts these desires into a prayer based on Psalm 119
O that the Lord would guide my ways To keep his statutes still! O that my God would grant me grace To know and do his will! O send Thy Spirit down to write They law upon my heart; Nor let my tongue indulge deceit, Nor act the liar's part.
From vanity, Lord, turn my eyes; Let no corrupt design, Nor covetous desires arise Within this soul of mine. Order my footsteps in Thy Word, And make my heart sincere; Let sin have no dominion, Lord, But keep my conscience clear.
My steps have gone too far astray, My feet too sften slip; But I have not forgot your way; Restore your wandering sheep. Make me to walk in Thy commands; 'Tis a delightful road; Nor let my head, or heart, or hands, Offend against my God. Isaac Watts 1647 - 1748
Brief Prayer Requests
This Wednesday we should have been having a joint Prayer Meeting with our AECW Cluster Churches. As we cannot meet face to face, we have prepared a short video of prayer requests from each church which we hope to play this Wednesday on our Zoom prayer meeting. Items for prayer from Bethlehem are as follows:
1. A Matter for Thanksgiving. 1 Thessalonians 5 v 18. A brother was stuck in Nigeria for an extra 5 weeks in March and April. We are thankful to the Lord that he caught the last emergency flight back home to his family. That was a real answer to prayer. Others have been sustained through bereavement, illness and visits to hospital.
2. A Matter for Concern. Hebrews 2 v 1. Like all churches, we have a number of people who cannot join us online. We have kept in touch by letter and phone but we desire to maintain unity in the church. Some have joined us in Zoom prayer meetings who have never been before. We pray that this online presence will be matched by a physical presence when we can return. But we are concerned that some may not return at all. Pray that none will drift away as a result of not having church services during these four months.
3. A Matter for Wisdom. James 1 v 5. We need wisdom as a church to know what, if any, online meetings we should continue during the transition between being locked down and getting back to church. There is no talk at the moment of returning to church, that may still be many weeks away. But thinking ahead, it may be that some will not be able to rejoin immediately, and we don’t want to exclude these. But we also want to encourage everyone, who can, to come back in person at prayer meetings and Sunday services.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday
Wed 24th Psalm 119 v 49 – 72 Thursday 25th Psalm 119 v 73 – 96
Friday 26h Psalm 119 v 97 – 120 Saturday 27th Psalm 119 v 121 – 144
Sunday 28th Psalm 119 v 145 – 176 Monday 29th Psalm 120,121,122
Tuesday 30th Psalm 123,134,125 Wed July 1st Psalm 126, 127,128
Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 22nd June 2020