We live in a culture that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
We live in a world where anxiety, illness and death feel close. We live in a time in which community is scattered, isolation is the new normal and rhythms of life are being rethought. Cutting through all this is the Word of God, an ever present help in times of trouble, a great shining beam of light in the darkest of moments. The Spirit of God, our helper, our protector, draws close, comforting us in our time of need. As the early church were dispersed through persecution in the Book of Acts so too are we today sent out into our neighbourhoods through the disruption of a pandemic. And into these places we bring and share hope.
Paul was no stranger to hardship. Many of his letters in the New Testament speak of the persecution he was facing and his inability to see his brothers and sisters face to face. You may be able to relate to his letters now more than ever. But despite his situation Paul reminds us to rejoice in worship, push into prayer and know God's peace through every anxious thought. As Ness unpacks some verses from the book of Philippians let's be open to applying Paul's advice to our own lives, knowing that it is the same God who reigns today.
As we enter into this season of uncertainty it may feel like your life has been stopped in its tracks. The events we had planned may have been cancelled and our regular routines may have disappeared, yet we continue to wake each day. The agenda for your life may have been put on pause, but your life itself isn't. The way we respond to this change is important. The seeds we sow now as we seek first the Kingdom will produce fruit that lasts far beyond this current season. What can you be doing now to ensure you run the long race with God?
Jesus' disciple Peter knew that being able to explain the hope we have in Jesus is important. He had been caught out before. Unprepared and caught off guard, he even denied knowing Jesus despite the warnings. So, in one of his later letters Peter calls for us to be ready. To be spiritually, emotionally and physically ready. We are praying for revival; for God's kingdom reign on earth. Have you considered what that looks like? Are you ready?
It is in times like these that we corporately look to our leaders for guidance and direction. We look to those with authority to help us understand our situation and navigate us through the storm. 2000 years ago Jesus demonstrated a different kind of leadership to the one the Jewish people were used to. Jesus was a King that knew His people. He was a King that was accessible, who reached out to the sick and lonely, and died for His friends and enemies. Jesus provided hope to a people that were fearful and suffering. He was their saviour, and continues to be our saviour today. Listen back to our Palm Sunday talk reminding us that King Jesus reigns.
'Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!' On Easter Sunday christians around the world declare this as truth, believing that Jesus rose again from the grave after defeating death on the cross. That means Jesus is alive today, and to be a christian (that is, a follower of Jesus) means having a relationship with a living saviour that has the power to transform us and the situations around us. On Easter Sunday Ness took us through Luke's account of Jesus' resurrection, unpacking the details of an event that defined history.
The verses from Psalm 23 may be familiar to you. Perhaps you have heard the metaphors before and at the time they have made sense, providing comfort and reassurance to you. But what about now, in this season? How does the Psalm speak to you today? What does it look like to be full of inner and outward tranquillity? In what areas can God restore and strengthen your soul? As Rich guides us through this Psalm take time to dwell in each verse, considering the ways in which the Lord is your shepherd in this uncharted territory.
John 3:2-12, Acts 2:38, Matthew 5:1-10, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
The lens through which we see the world affects the way we live. Perhaps you could label yourself a pessimist or optimist, because you know you are quick to view situations in a certain way. But what if there was a third option; the kingdom perspective. The kingdom perspective isn't about things being good or bad. It's about having hope in a saviour and believing that saviour, Jesus Christ, is asserting His Kingdom reign on Earth. In Jesus' kingdom we are not defined by what is going on around us, but by who is working in us. Redefining our perspective in this season will help us navigate this uncharted territory with purpose and hope.
When the storms of life rage, what do you find yourself standing on? Are your feet firmly anchored to the ground, or do you find them slipping with each gust of wind? When those things we have built our life on are changed, or even removed, we can find ourselves scrambling for firm foundations; for a hope that weathers the storms. By building a life on Jesus' promises to us, which are solid and never changing, we can find that hope.
When Jesus shares a message once, it is important to listen. But when he shares it three times, we should stop what we are doing and take notice. In the gospel of Luke we find three parables that describe the Father's exceptional love for us. They emphasise the value he puts on each one of us, even when we feel spiritually lost. The Father is always looking out for us, scanning the horizon, waiting for us to come home. You are worth searching for, and when you do arrive home there will be a welcome party ready to celebrate.
The road is often used as a metaphor for the journey of life. How perfect then that Jesus chose this spot to speak with his companions. As they walked along, wrestling with recent events, Jesus met them where they were at. He listened to their confusion and provided clarity to their situation. Jesus can do that for you too. Perhaps you too have been going on walks recently, trying to clear your head and make sense of events. Next time you go, why not invite Jesus to talk with you? Whatever stage of life you are at, no matter which part of the journey you are on, Jesus is there, walking that path with you.
Through times of suffering our desire for quick fix comfort can be strong. The momentary relief that comes from abandoning our pain is very attractive. The process of persevering through it however, isn't. Perseverance is uncomfortable. It can produce physical and emotional aches as we dig in deeper and confront our hurt. But we are not alone in that process. Jesus knows what it means to suffer. He chose to take the long road of pain and discomfort for us, which ultimately led to victory over death. Short cuts may allow you to win a sprint, but setting good pace ensures you complete the marathon of life.