“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT)
The global upheaval caused by the Coronavirus crisis has been huge. Nations have been shut-down, airlines grounded, industries closed, job losses huge, panic widespread. Yet in the midst of this crisis and upheaval, we have seen an incredible outpouring of creativity and innovation. From the couple on the cruise ship who heated their hot cross buns with an iron, to hands-free door openers that can be 3D-printed, to face masks made out of air conditioning filters, we have seen companies and individuals pivot and adapt to the changing times with amazing ingenuity. Necessity is the mother of invention. It is also the mother of adaptation.
It’s been no different for the Church. Who would have thought that less than two months ago, nearly every Church would embrace technology to the degree they have in May 2020? Churches have been forced to innovate and adapt to pre-existing ways that were previously untested or untried, whether it is connecting through meeting apps, live streaming or pre-recorded services, or interactive Bible Studies online. But it is not just about finding a different medium to deliver the same content, it’s about exploring new ways to engage and interact with a group of people previously unknown. It’s been a challenging and exciting shift, and a missional opportunity which I have not encountered in 25 years of ministry.
Times like this remind me how amazing God is. His Word is living, dynamic and able to speak into and give clarity in every situation, especially times that are changing. Take these verses from Isaiah for example. They were written at a time when Judah was suffering under Babylonian exile. The people were wavering, discouraged and stuck in the past, pining for what they once had. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminds them of his great works in the past – when he made a way through the Red Sea for the people to cross through safely. He reminds them how he defeated the power of the Egyptians so that they could trust that he would do the same with the Babylonians. Then he says something extraordinary - forget all those things, it’s nothing compared to what I am going to do. Look forward people with expectation of the new thing that God is going to do. To top it off, he gives them a promise - between the past and the future, in times where you are in the wilderness of struggle, I will protect and guide you in the present journey and lead you to the new thing I am doing.
What an encouragement for us in these times. I wonder…can we use this time of suffering, struggle and isolation to dream and be creative like never before? To look around and see the ‘new thing’ that God is going to do? Our God who never changes, whose word we can trust, is at work in changing times. He is active behind the scenes to bring about new life in the midst of death, new beginnings in the midst of closed doors, new opportunities when we are pining for things to go back to normal. He is at work in his Church, through his people, finding creative ways to get the Word out there, inspiring imaginations to come up with innovative ways to use technology to connect and build community in amazing ways. But I wonder…is there more? Keep your eyes open and your hearts responsive to what God reveals in these days…for you may just be a part of a new thing he is doing.
Lord God, take and minds and think through them, take our imaginations and flow through them, take our dreaming and be creative through them that we may be a part of the new thing you are doing in and through your Church in these times. Amen.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Over the past couple of months, we have been living through a kitchen renovation. As part of that renovation, doorways have been removed and the curved archways that date the home have been squared up and replastered ready for a coat of paint. A few weeks ago, I decided to prime the gyprock and repaint the walls using the leftover paint that was still stored in the garage from repair work that happened when the ceiling caved in during a storm (that’s another story)! I checked the colour. I looked at the label. Hogsbristle Half Strength. I was ready to go. I cut in the edges, rolled the walls where it was needed to blend into the existing paintwork and waited for the first coat to dry. An hour or so later, I went to admire my handiwork and discovered two different colours on the wall. The freshly painted walls were darker than the existing walls. I rechecked the label and it was definitely half strength. But a visit to my local paint centre confirmed that while the label said one thing, the contents of the tin were actually another - full strength Hogsbristle! A slight change in the measure of tint added to the paint made all the difference to how it looked on the wall. It was obvious to everyone who saw it.
It got me thinking about our lives as Christians. So often, we want to blend into the world around us. We don’t want to stand out, be noticed, or draw attention to ourselves. What often happens is that the contents of our lives are different from the label we bear. Christ wants the label and the contents to match. Rather than trying to blend in, Christ wants us to be different; to be part of his transforming work in the world. Just as adding tint to a tin of paint changes the whole colour, a life that is tinted with Christ, will be transformed. Christ in you, changes you. Christ in you colours you. Christ in you is noticeable! A tint of the crucified, risen and ascended Christ reduces the darkness of the world around you. A tint of his love in you, transforms the feel of every room you enter. A tint of his mercy and grace in you, poured out on the lives of others will be evident for the whole world to see. Christ wants what is on the label, his life in you, to bring a totally new look to every room and space that he uses you in. Christ in you, is the right measure of tint in every situation!
How has the tint of Christ transformed your life and how can you let it permeate more and more of your life?
Lord Jesus, more of you and less of me. Add the right measure of tint to my life that as you pour me out in the world, it may be visibly noticeable and bring light and life to every place. Amen.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
One of the blessings of the COVID-19 isolation time is that many people have found time to do projects around the home that have remained undone for a long time. For me, that was fixing the half-a dozen mowers/brushcutters given to me, that were taking up too much space up in my garage. I just hadn’t found the time needed to fix them and move them on.
Small engines can be temperamental at the best of times. When they haven’t been used in a while, they can be downright frustrating. You pull and pull and pull and it gives you nothing. Sometimes you might get a brief sign of life but then all you end up with is a sore arm. It doesn’t matter how many times you pull the start cord, berate or kick the machine, it will not roar into life. But on a lot of small engines, they have a little button called a primer bulb. When you press it down, usually three times, it draws fuel from the tank into the carburettor to give a bit extra petrol to enable combustion and kickstart the engine so that it can roar into life.
It’s this action of priming the engine that comes to mind as we try and get life kickstarted again. It was like Covid-19 suddenly starved the engine of our lives of fuel and we came to a sudden halt. Now after a couple of months of being stuck in the garage, we are ready to get out and get the engines running again. But kickstarting the engine can sometimes be hard. Maybe you have settled into a different routine with your time - working from home, curling up on the couch with a remote in the hand – and there is a reluctance to go back to the way things were? Perhaps, you are being cautious and the wisdom you share is simply because deep down you are afraid something might happen and you’ll get sick? Or that no sooner than you restart and build some momentum, that your life will shutdown again? Business’, charities, churches and individuals are facing those very issues all across the globe at this present time.
One of the mowers in my garage had been sitting for so long without use, that the fuel had caramelised in the carburettor bowl. It simply would not start. But a good clean out of the fuel system, new fuel and three pushes on the primer bulb, and the mower roared into life. Could God be using this time to prime the engine of your heart so that you are ready to serve and love in a new way? Could God be letting you rest for a while; transitioning and cleansing your life in order to launch you out into the world, where the lawn has grown long in this time of uncertainty? Get ready, for there is work to be done, a harvest to be reaped and there is no engine that God cannot fix and get going again. Your primer bulb may just about to be pushed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, your starter cord pulled, and your life about to ignite with a power that will get you moving. Are you ready? A brand new day is here, the garage door is lifting up, and God has chosen you to be a part of bringing new life to the world.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ignite my life with power and love that I may go and complete the work you have prepared for me to do. Amen.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:3-4
“Nation on fire”. “Fire…fire…fire…night of terror…” “Violence erupts…” “Global anger grows…” “Anger still burns on the ground…” These are the headlines that we have woken up to each day over the last week in response to the death of George Floyd in the U.S.A. The impact has been widespread and worldwide. We have witnessed both the refining and destructive properties of fire as we have seen people on fire for justice and reform on the one hand, but with retribution and violence on the other. We have heard words of healing and peace that unite and bring together and careless words that have opened wounds, inflicted hurt and caused division.
Globally, there is simmering tension between countries, nationally, there is a divide between States and Territories over how to navigate the Coronavirus pandemic and now on top of that we have a recession to deal with. We are living in a world that is full of deep and painful hurt, repressed and expressed anger, silent and voiced suffering.
Against this backdrop, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at the first Pentecost takes on renewed significance. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church was filled with courage and boldness to speak truth into a world of hurt, anger and suffering. Aflame with the Holy Spirit, the disciples were pushed out of the confines of their four walls to do life with all cultures and proclaim the good news of a crucified Saviour who loves us equally and draws us together in unity. Empowered by the Spirit who gives wisdom and understanding, believers were able to present the Gospel in a way that the hearers could connect with and desire in their own lives. Fuelled by the Spirit, the early Christians came alongside and advocated for those marginalised, in need, and experiencing injustice, to reveal a God who cares, is present and acts with justice to restore and reconcile the world to himself. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church became a witness to the power of love that alone can transform the ugliness of the human heart into something that is beautiful and brings joy and delight to the world.
More than ever, the world needs a Church that is on fire with the Holy Spirit; aflame with passion, fuelled with love, and burning with conviction and a desire to proclaim the truth of a God who alone brings life and peace and gives hope and certainty. Will you let him set you on fire for the sake of the world he passionately loves?
Come Holy Spirit, set me on fire that I may move with passion for your Kingdom purposes and be a part of your transforming work that brings healing, reconciliation, peace, justice, truth, forgiveness and unity in this world. Amen.