Christianity

When a Christian leader fails

Over the past few weeks, I have been deeply shocked and saddened to read the reports about the late apologist Ravi Zacharias. As a broadcasting ministry (both here in the UK and with many of our affiliates across the world), we aired teaching from Ravi Zacharias for some years. In the UK, we stopped broadcasting these teaching programmes in 2015 (due to a change in focus for our radio stations) but when Ravi Zacharias died in 2020, we paid tribute to his life (as we knew it) on UCB Radio and on Social Media.

Today, as more about his life and unconscionable actions are revealed, our hearts ache for the devastation and pain this has caused both to the victims and to the many people who will also feel hurt and confusion to read of these terrible events. We continue to pray that God will bring the kind of restoration and healing that only He can bring.

These events have reminded me personally of how much we need God’s grace and wisdom in our lives as leaders. The enemy’s strategy has always been focused on three main areas: to steal, kill and destroy. This is why Paul reminds us of the importance of putting on the full armour of God – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”.

However, although we do wage war against an unseen enemy, this in no way belittles sin. Sin is sin and whether we like it or not, all sin has consequences. I am reminded of the story of David and Bathsheba. David not only committed adultery with another man’s wife, he sought to cover up his sin by murdering Bathsheba’s husband. Although it is very clear in Psalm 51 that David was repentant, he still had to pay the consequences for his actions. 

So as believers (and leaders), how should we respond when we hear reports like these?

1. Firstly, I believe that those who are confused and hurting should be our priority. If we do not know them personally, we can pray for them (God knows their names) and we can ask God to bring transformation, healing and restoration.

2. We can use reports like these as a ‘check up’ for our own ministries. Are we as accountable as we should be? Do we have proper structures in place to prevent misuse of power and misdeeds? If not, if you are a leader, can I encourage you today to put these structures into place. A crucial (practical) part of putting on our armour, is to ensure that there are processes in place to hold ourselves accountable

3. If we have sinned, we have a duty to confess this and put the matter right. We may even have to pay the consequences through loss of a job or status or in some cases, even the loss of family (as King David did) but we must also know that when we are truly repentant, God’s grace has capacity to forgive us. Our lives may never be the same again but we can know that in the sight of God, we have been forgiven.

In conclusion, let me encourage you as leaders to be very aware of what God has entrusted us with. He has entrusted us with the power to influence for good and to do that well, we must understand the full weight of this responsibility and make ourselves accountable, first to God but also to some good and trusted people. 

And if you are on the other side of the coin and have been the victim of someone else’s terrible actions and have been hurt or damaged, I want to remind you that God is a healer not just of our physical needs but our emotional and spiritual wounds too. He has not changed and is still in the business today of restoring broken lives. With the right support from good and trusted friends, prayer and counselling, God can once again restore ‘fullness of life’ to you, so that one day you too will be able to be a positive influence in the lives of others.

If you have been hurt by this or other actions, can I encourage you to share this hurt with someone. You could reach out to UCB’s Prayerline and the team there will pray for you and can point you to organisations which can offer help. You can contact them through our website at www.ucb.co.uk/pray

Christianity

Going home another way

After all we have been through in 2020, I think it is impossible to still be the same! I don’t know about you, but I want to take as much as I can from all that happened last year and allow God to use it for good.

Just before Christmas, I was reading Matthew 2:11, which tells the story of the birth of Jesus. We are told that the wise men ‘departed into their own country another way’. In other words, their plans changed and they went home a different route to the one they had planned.

The wise men travelled miles to see Jesus the King of the Jews, and when they found Him, they responded with joy, sincere worship, and abundant gifts. To be honest, it was quite different from the way many people approach God today! Many people tend to expect God to come looking for them, prove Himself to them, and give them gifts. However, we are told that after the wise men found Jesus and worshipped Him, they went home another way. What does that mean to us today?

1.  When you encounter Jesus in your life, you can never be the same again

Having an encounter with Jesus means our life has to take a different direction, and just as the wise men (after being in the presence of the Living God) were changed, so must we be changed too. After the unprecedented experience of the last twelve months, I do not believe that we can move into 2021 the same way that we entered 2020.

As I look through God’s Word, I am amazed to read story after story of people who experienced an encounter with the Almighty God and could not ‘return home’ the same way. Their lives were turned upside down and their direction changed.

Let’s look at a few examples of people ‘going home another way’.

Mark 5:1-20 — The demon possessed man

No man could bind or tame him; he had a legion of demons and was running wildly in a totally possessed state. And then after meeting Jesus, he was totally set free, clothed and in his right mind to the point that he begged Jesus to be able to travel with him. Jesus said: ‘Go home to your friends and tell them the great things the Lord’s done.’

Let me tell you: he definitely went home ‘another way’ – joyful, dancing, praising God, and telling many what Jesus had done for him.

John 8:3-11 -The woman caught in the act of adultery

By law she shouldn’t have gone home at all (never mind another way). She should have been stoned to death. But as she encountered Jesus, He said to her: ‘Go and sin no more.’ And she went home another way!

Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus  

Jesus stood still, lifted his eyes, and called Zacchaeus down from the tree: ‘Zacchaeus, quickly come down; for this very day I must stay in your house.’ Jesus knew the mess that Zacchaeus‘ house was in! And Scripture tells us that ‘Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, “behold Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”‘ Jesus said: ‘This day salvation comes to this house.’ He went home not only by another way but with Jesus. How awesome is that!

All those who met with Jesus, all went home different than they came: the woman with the issue of blood, Blind Bartimaeus, the man at the gate called ‘Beautiful’, the crowds on the day of Pentecost. I tell you that even those in the upper room – they all went home different than the way they came: full of the Holy Ghost and totally transformed.

I believe we will discover in this new year that many are entering 2021 totally transformed because of what they have experienced in 2020. But at the same time, we also have to be aware of the enemy’s strategy to ‘steal, kill and destroy’ if we do not take heed of God’s instructions.

Matthew 2 tells us: ‘So the wise men decided not to go back to Herod as he’d commanded them, but to go home by another way…’ Herod’s intention was to find Jesus – he certainly didn’t plan to worship Jesus as king but rather to kill him and destroy all what he stood for. In this there are warnings for all of us:

1. Not everyone is going to embrace your visions and dreams, hence it is wise sometimes to keep them to yourself to prevent the enemy from killing what God has given you.

2. Remember that the enemy hates your experience of transformation and will tempt you in every way for you to return home ‘the same way’ and deny what God has done for you.

3. Be sensitive to the voice of the Divine Shepherd, for His instruction is for your good: to protect you from the wiles of the enemy.

Don’t ever forget that just as God dealt with Herod – who set out to destroy Jesus and everything that He stood for over 2 thousand years ago – God dealt with Satan, who then too tried to kill him. Praise God that Jesus arose on the third day triumphant and glorious that you and I might be victorious too!

And because of this victory and this transformation experience, we can enter this New Year full of joy, full of worship, ready to fulfil the assignment that we have been given for His glory. Therefore today make sure that ‘YOU GO HOME ANOTHER WAY!’

Christianity

How to pray when evil strikes

Today, I saw this headline: “This is the third terrorist attack France has suffered in just over a month.” My heart sank and as always in the face of such terror, I wondered, ‘How should I pray about this?’

As many of you will have read, France (my home country) has been hit by 3 attacks recently and as Christians, in the face of such suffering and evil, it can be difficult to know exactly how to pray.

Today I am again reminded of the words of Psalm 37.

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. 

So, in the light of Psalm 37, how can we pray? 

Firstly, let’s consider people. Let’s pray for those who are fighting for their lives. Let’s pray for the families and those who have lost someone they loved. Let’s also pray for those who witnessed the attack and for the local residents who have to come to terms with this enormous tragedy. Let’s pray also for the medical centres who are working with the injured.

Secondly, we need to pray for wisdom for national governments as they discuss and debate what happens next, that they choose ways and responses which are inspired by God and not necessarily their own intuition.

Thirdly, let us always go to God’s Word for our answers. His Word (John 1:5) says that the darkness in the world will get darker, but that darkness will never extinguish light. In fact, it says that light (His light) will continue to shine brighter and the darkness CANNOT overcome it. That is where I get my strength and hope.

Let’s pray with passion for our world and all those who are suffering and grieving today.   

And may God’s light, his in-extinguishable light shine ever brighter in the middle of the darkness we see.

Christianity

God will not fail you

In an earlier blog, I shared some thoughts about lessons I have been learning from the story of Moses in Exodus 15. 

Moses had led the people of Israel out of Egypt but their journey wasn’t smooth and had many, many difficulties.   The people had recently seen God do a great miracle by turning the bitter water of Marah into water they could drink and now, they were about to receive an even greater blessing. 

In Exodus 15, verse 27, it says, “Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters”. 

 I love how these verses point to a God who is ‘more than enough’.  He had already supplied drinking water for them, but now He led them to an oasis which was an extra, unexpected blessing.  It was waiting round the corner, just for them! 

As we find ourselves in this continuing unprecedented bitter storm, which is affecting not just us but the whole world,  this verse comes back to mind:  ‘The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree.’

Did you know that Palm trees are designed to withstand severe tropical storms?  When the storm comes, they don’t break but instead they bend with the wind and heavy rain.   It looks as though they are breaking, but they are actually just adapting to the wind.   When the storm passes, the area where the Palm tree has almost been torn in two, is actually stronger than it was before the storm.

During this prolonged difficult time that we are all going through, I feel God reminding us that we are like a palm tree in the storm of life.  But when this is over, we are going to fall right back into shape, but we will also be stronger and will be able to flourish more than ever before. 

As believers, let us never forget that the Prince of Peace lives within us.  We can look at our bitter storm and we can easily forget that He who is in us, is greater than the circumstances that we are in.   

As we are facing this raging bitter storm at the moment, I want to encourage you to trust in God’s Word.  He promises to be with us always and He is our Rock even in the middle of the fiercest trials.

Above all, Jesus said “And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” John 16:33 (TPT).

And then in Isaiah we are reminded,  ‘When you pass through the deep, stormy sea, you can count on me to be there with you. When you pass through raging rivers, You will not drown…” Isaiah 43:2 (TPT)

Let us hang on to the truths and wisdom found in God’s Word – he will never fail us.

Christianity

God has already provided the answers

In a previous blog, ‘How to turn a crisis into a testimony’, I wrote about the people of Israel and how they quickly turned from rejoicing to murmuring when they hit difficult times. 

As I have been continuing to look at Exodus 15, I have been reminded that in the middle of a crisis, our response’ to what is happening is very important.  As Moses faced the people, who were angry and irritable because of the lack of water, I love his response.  He could have sought to justify himself but instead he did not reply.  In verse 25, it says that his first response was to go to the Lord, to intercede on behalf of the people.  And guess what, it says, ‘The Lord showed him a tree’.  And as Moses threw a branch into the water, ‘the waters were made sweet’.

As I studied these verses, several things came to mind.

A tree does not grow overnight

Any gardener knows just how long trees take to grow – many, many years.  God used a tree to bring help to the people of Israel, which means that God created an answer, long before there was even a problem.  And I believe he has done that for us too.  Whatever bitter waters we find ourselves in today, God has already gone ahead of us, making sure that the answer is there and ready, just when we face our most bitter crisis. 

The answer was right there

In this particular situation, the answer was right there, in front of their eyes, but they could not see it!  In my experience, I have learned that often God’s answers are so close and yet we can fail to see them.  Just like the widow with the small jug of oil in 2 Kings 6 – the answer to her problem was there in her own house already, but she needed the prophet Elisha to reveal it to her.  Can I encourage you that if you know the Lord as your personal saviour, then the answer to your situation is hidden within you, just as the same spirit that rose Christ from the dead, also lives in you.

A miracle tree

In this story, God used a tree to make bitter waters sweet but that tree also reminds me of the tree that Jesus died on over 2000 years ago.  God threw his beloved son on to a tree, to take the bitter sin of humanity, so that anyone who believes in him, would be able to discover the sweetness of life.  You see, through Jesus, we can not only have life but we can experience abundant life. 

Whatever situation you find yourself in today, whether it is the stress caused by the global situation or you are facing your own private ‘bitter waters’, I would like to encourage you, that the answer to your problems lies in Jesus Christ, who also lives in you.   You might say, ‘David, I don’t know what to do, where to turn’.  Well, my advice is to at least call on his name.  He promises us in Psalm 50, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”  

He who never changes, is able to bring peace to your bitter storm.  Try it…and see what happens.

Christianity

Turning a crisis into a testimony

I have been thinking this week about how quickly things can change!  All around us, the news reports seem to change every day, making it difficult to plan ahead. But ‘change’ is not a new thing and while reading Exodus recently, I was reminded that the people of Israel knew all about living moment by moment. 

In Exodus 15, they had seen with their own eyes how God had released them from captivity in Egypt but now the Egyptian army was closing in on them.  They had been in captivity for 430 years, God had set them free and they were celebrating this incredible victory and yet just 3 days later, tired, drained and thirsty, they started complaining against Moses.  They soon found water but as they rushed toward it, they were disappointed to discover it was bitter and undrinkable.  And so once again they began to complain. 

How quickly things had changed for them!  They had gone from rejoicing to murmuring in just 3 days.   Reading this again recently has caused me to ask, ‘is there anything we can learn from this story?’

I believe there is so much we can learn, but it reminds me especially that in a time of crisis, it is incredibly important to stay close to God. 

In verse 25 of Exodus 15, it says that when the people of Israel got to the bitter waters of Marah, God tested them. As always God’s plan didn’t end when He had delivered them from Egypt. He wanted the people to enter into a covenant relationship with Him and to learn to trust Him implicitly. Over the years, I have learned that God is not just a God of one-off miracles but He is a relational God who wants us to experience His presence and blessings daily. 

This is demonstrated in Exodus 19:4-6 where God says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians… and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation”

Often, God’s way of conforming us to the image of His Son is a path that includes reshaping, moulding, training and developing our character.  And often all of those things happen through trials and crises.  I am reminded again of James 1:2-4 where it says,  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”.

Whatever time of testing you’re experiencing right now, you can be assured that it is under God’s sovereign control, just as it was for the Israelites at the water of Marah.  Never forget that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

And so as we stand at this moment in time, facing many changes, let’s not focus on the trial itself but instead, draw close to God and allow him to turn your crisis into a testimony.

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Evangelism, Faith, Healing, Hope, Miracles

Don’t despise ‘small beginnings’. (Zechariah 4-10)

In December 2013, I attended the funeral of a dear lady, who was 99 years old.  She had served God faithfully in the church (which my brother pastors in France) and for many years, her heart’s desire was to see a revival. In almost every meeting, her voice could be heard, ‘Lord, send yet again, a revival!’

I had the privilege of attending her funeral and it was a truly remarkable occasion, where the presence of God was felt so powerfully.  My brother Daniel said to me, “You need to preach in church on Sunday” and the following weekend, which was the last Sunday of 2013, as I spoke, we began to see and feel the expectation level in the church rising up in an unprecedented way. This led to the beginning of a mighty move of God and over the next few years, this move of God would lead to many people becoming saved and experiencing healing.

Sometimes I look back and wonder if the funeral of our dear 99 year old friend, was actually the spark that lit a flame.  Although she did not live to see it, her faithful prayers over the years, led to a new move of God.

I have been thinking about this recently, as I have been closely watching world events.

All around us, large churches which have seen 1000s of members walk through their doors each week, have had to go ‘back to basics’ and meet in small, sometimes online groups.  Throughout the Covid crisis, we have been forced to look at how we do things smaller, rather than how we make them bigger.

And we are learning how to not despise ‘small beginnings’.

Just like our 99-year-old friend in the church, her prayer life may have seemed ‘small’ to some but I believe her faithfulness (even to the end of her life) led to something very big being ignited.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I love to see churches filled with many members, but I also believe there is Biblical precedent for small gatherings too.

In Mark 5, Jesus goes to the home of Jairus to pray for Jairus’ daughter who was very sick. When Jesus arrived there, the Scripture tells us there were many people present, many of them were crying loudly and wailing and Jesus quickly sent them out of the house, so that there were just a few left.

It was in that very ‘small’ moment that an incredible miracle occurred and the little girl, who by this point was dead, was now brought back to life.   Often times, we can devalue and overlook what is seemingly little.

As Coronavirus has impacted churches all across the world and forced them back to ‘small beginnings’, it would be easy to see this as a setback, but what if this is a divine strategy to usher in a move of God like we have never seen before?

Matthew 18:20 says, ‘where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I will be with them’.

The presence of God is just as powerful and real in a small gathering, as He is present in a large gathering.

Even here at UCB, our wider team (of more than 100 staff and volunteers) is not able to meet together in person, but I am hearing stories of UCB teams meeting together online, sharing Bible studies, praying for each other in new ways.

I firmly believe that for us as an organisation, we will not be ‘returning to normal’.  This pandemic is forcing us to think in new ways and to not ‘despise small beginnings’.

Throughout history, God has used small groups of people, to ignite something big.  From the disciples (just a group of 12 men) to people like my praying friend, small groups of faithful people have been powerfully used by God to usher in great moves of the Spirit.

If you are part of something ‘small’ today, can I encourage you to have a bigger vision for it.  By embracing something small and allowing God to use it, you could be part of ushering in a new move of God.

DLH-blog-Smallbeginnings-images

Christianity

Discover the many names of God

Recently, I have been sharing with the UCB team, some of my own discoveries about the names of God.  I have often said, ‘if you want to know who God is, look at His names’.  Throughout the Bible, God is given many names and each of them reveal a precious truth about his qualities and character.    I find it very encouraging, to read these names, as they help me to understand more and more about God’s ‘character’ and what He feels about us, His creation.

Jehovah-raah – The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23)

In Psalm 23, David describes the Lord as ‘my shepherd’.   I love the way David personalised it by saying not the Lord is The Shepherd but ‘MY’ Shepherd.  Praise God He is also our Shepherd too, for God is a relational God. This picture of ‘The Lord Our Shepherd’ reveals some of His characteristics:  He is good, He protects, He guides, He nurtures, He lays down his life.   And in times of confusion or grief, let’s never, ever forget that He is OUR SHEPHERD too.

Jehovah Jireh – The Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14 and Philippians 4:19)

In Philippians 4:19, it says, ‘my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’   We are reminded that Jehovah-Jireh knows our every need because He sees everything including what you need.    If the Lord was able to meet Abraham’s need by providing a ram caught in the thicket that was offered in place of Isaac, He’s also able to meet our needs at just the right time.   Fear not, the name Jehovah-Jireh guarantees that your Heavenly Father is able to provide any need you have.

Jehovah Shalom – The Lord our peace (Judges 6:24)

The Hebrew word ‘shalom’ translated as ‘peace’ not only speaks of the absence of noise, strife or conflict,  it speaks of wholeness, completeness, trustworthiness and happiness.   True and ultimate peace is found in God alone and this comes to us when we focus our lives on God and put our trust in Him.   His Word says, ‘are you weary and troubled?   Well why not place your total trust in Jehovah-Shalom and He will keep you in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3)

Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals (Psalm 23 and Exodus 15)

It was in the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites that God first revealed His name as Jehovah-Rapha.   After crossing the Red Sea, Moses led them into the Wilderness of Shur where they went 3 days without water.   Eventually, they came across the waters of Marah, but they could not drink from the waters for they were bitter.   So the people complained against Moses and Moses then cried to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he cast into the waters.   In a moment, the waters were made sweet.   The Lord does not only heal waters,  He heals people too.  If the Lord was able to heal the waters at Marah so that His people could drink, He is also able to heal us from any disease. (Psalm 103:3)     When we’re weak, Jehovah-Rapha will renew our strength, the same way He did for David (Psalm 23:3 NLT).

Living in a stressful and chaotic world in these unprecedented times, the name Jehovah-Rapha speaks to us that our bitter experiences can be transformed into sweet ones, and yes, we are confronted with new problems every day that make us sometimes want to give up and give in.   But we can count upon the Lord to heal and renew our strength.   Jehovah is the Great Physician who not only heals our physical and emotional needs, but He also heals and restores whatever spiritual needs we may have.

Stand upon God’s promise today! His Word declares that, ‘The Lord is Your Keeper/ Your Provider/ Your Peace/ Your Healer’. Don’t ever allow the enemy to tell you otherwise.

Christianity

How to walk in hope…

As most of the UCB team are now working from home, I have been in touch with them each day, sharing some thoughts that I am rediscovering, in my own times with God. For the past few days, I have been reading Mark 5 and looking again at the story of Jairus and how Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

Jairus was one of the rulers of the synagogues and he was also a loving father whose daughter was critically sick to the point of dying. When Jesus saw the situation, his first words were, “Do not be afraid; only believe” and those simple words, brought Jairus reassurance in his total despair. Instead of giving up and walking away in total hopelessness, Jairus did the unthinkable. He continued walking in HOPE, despite the seriousness of the situation. Is there a way we can capture this sense of hope too, in the middle of the situation our world is facing?

Here are some steps that I believe Jairus took, which helped him to experience his breakthrough.

1) Realisation – Jairus realised the gravity of his situation and he intentionally did something about it. The situation was desperate. His little daughter was not only very sick but she was clearly dying. For me, in this COVID 19 crisis, it’s important that we realise the seriousness of the situation and comply with all what we are asked to do. But it is also important that we take our fears and worries to Jesus too.

2) Desperation – Jairus became desperate. I’m sure that after having tried everything humanly speaking, he then sought to find Jesus. I think I can understand his pain and frustration as every day, as I watch reports from the media, there is only one word which jumps out at me – desperation. Today, can I encourage you, if you feel desperate, cry out to Jesus.

3) Attention – Jairus’ desperation caused him to focus his attention on Jesus.  In the busyness of life, it can be easy to lose our focus, but there is nothing quite like a crisis to remind us that we cannot do this alone and that we need God’s help in everything we do.  If you feel today that you have lost your attention and focus on Jesus, you can turn to him now.   He is the only one who can provide whatever you need in these difficult times.

4) Position – When Jairus found Jesus,  “he fell at Jesus’ feet”,  which was a sign of acknowledging a higher authority as well as being willing to humble himself.  In whatever you are facing, I urge you to approach Jesus and change your position as Jairus did, demonstrating humility and acknowledgement of His authority. Let’s also not forget that as Christians, He has given us the same authority to deal with any situation we face.  

5) Compassion I love the way that Jairus in his actions and his prayer demonstrates his compassion. You might be wondering, ‘what is the real definition of compassion?’ My own definition is, “having the awareness of the needs of others, which prompts a compelling desire to meet their needs”. How great it is to see compassion being displayed across the UK, with hundreds of thousands of people volunteering to help the NHS, their neighbours, strangers they have never met before. These people had compassion stirred up within them and now they are going out, to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

6) Intercession – Jairus did not approach Jesus for himself, but went to stand in the gap on behalf of his much loved daughter. I am so impressed by the many prayer initiatives emerging throughout the UK and around the world at the moment. Let’s continue to stand on behalf of the many whom cannot pray for themselves, throughout this time and boldly believe for healing. Jesus is still the same as He was yesterday, today and forever.

I hope these few thoughts from my own study, encourage you, as much as they are encouraging me.

Christianity

When the disciples were in isolation…

Right across our world, we have not just a physical pandemic of sickness, but we also have a ‘pandemic of fear’.  Right from the start of Genesis, fear has always been used by the enemy of our souls, but praise God, His Word has so much to say about how we can face fear, with faith!  As we are approaching Easter, it is a good time to reflect on the death of Jesus and how, even after his execution, the close disciples became imprisoned in fear and went into hiding and isolation.  And one could even say ‘and rightly so’, because there was a very real threat to their lives.

John 20:19 tells us that on the evening of the first day, they were together, not just hiding in a room, but in self isolation ‘behind locked doors’. It must have been a very distressing time. Their best friend and Saviour had been publicly executed and they must have been very shocked by all they had witnessed. In fact in fear for his life, Peter had denied knowing Jesus and now, they were all hiding behind locked doors, isolated from the whole world.

This picture hidden away in a room, is an illustration to me, of what the enemy tries to do in our lives – he wants us to isolate from each other.    I am not in any way belittling the pandemic we are currently facing, but I believe the enemy knows that fear is his greatest weapon in all of this.   With just one news headline or a phone call from a friend, repeating something they have heard, whole families and communities can become paralysed by fear of ‘what might happen’.    It might be the fear of the coronavirus or any other ill health, of losing your job etc.    It does not matter, it all has the same outcome – it holds us back from all that God wants us to do. It was the same for the disciples in this account in John.     Just a few days before, they had been enjoying a Passover meal with Jesus and now they were in hiding, trying to preserve their lives. They were unable to move forward, they were in total isolation.


The amazing part of this story is that when Jesus appeared to them, He asked them, ‘Why are you frightened?’.

In Luke 24:36,  Jesus asked them, “Why do you doubt that it is really I? Look at my hands! Look at my feet! You can see that it is I, myself! Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost! For ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do!” As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see the marks of the nails and showed them the wounds in his feet.

Luke 24:41 says, ‘Still they stood there undecided, filled with joy and doubt’. Even when Jesus appeared to them in power and wonder, after being so brutally killed, they were still not sure whether they could believe their eyes!

In whatever situation we find ourselves in, even if we are in total isolation, Jesus has promised to be with us in every situation for His Word declares, ‘I will never leave us nor never forsake you (Heb 13:5).

From my own experience I found His manifest presence to be the strongest, when I have been in the middle of the fiercest, raging storms of life.

The journey of faith is not always an easy one and sometimes even when we know and experience Jesus in the middle of the situations we face, we wonder if He really will save us.

This story speaks to us of the heart and mercy of Jesus. He appeared to the isolated disciples in the middle of all their doubt, confusion, and then he ate a meal with them. As they listened to all that he said, the Word of God tells us that they, ‘opened their minds to understand at last the Scriptures’.

I believe that faith is a journey. We do not always feel full of faith, but we can make a decision to trust in all that God has said to us.

Faith is not the absence of fear, it is the mastering of fear.

For me, the story of Easter speaks to us of hope, of life and of Jesus meeting us in the middle of our confusion, and reminding us that we have nothing to fear.