Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Trials

Heroes and villains

World Watch List 2021: the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. The top 5 are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

Christian martyrs

Graham Staines was an Australian Christian missionary in India. In 1999 he and his two sons were burnt to death by Hindu fundamentalists alleging “forced” conversions. A mob of about 50 people, armed with axes and other implements, attacked a jeep while Staines and his sons were asleep inside, and set it alight, trapping them inside and burning them to death. A few days later, Graham’s wife, Gladys, made a public statement forgiving the killers. But hate crimes against religious minorities continue in India. (more…)


Why pray in trials and difficult times?

Premier of NSW Australia, Gladys Berejiklian, at daily 11am COVID-19 press conference In Sydney we’re all going through a tough time with an extended COVID-19 lockdown. Parents will be home schooling for two more months. Travel is restricted with stay at home rules, except for essential purposes. There are rules and restrictions on face masks, physical contact, COVID tests, COVID vaccinations, quarantine, self-isolation, and contact tracing. No visitors are allowed in hospitals and aged care nursing homes. Other services are reduced. Churches can’t meet as usual. And households are spending extended time together without relief. It’s a bit like George Orwell’s “1984” with government surveillance and propaganda. People are isolated, which can increase anxiety, fear and depression. People are working from home. Closed businesses are struggling to survive with reduced cash flow. There is reduced family income. Some are unemployed. There is a reduction in some health services. But our needs are increased because of the stress. How do we get through such tough times? Is social media the answer? Can prayer help us trust God in times like this? (more…)


Thanksgiving in all circumstances

Typical Thanksgiving mealHalloween was last month, and tomorrow is Black Friday, but what is today? Thanksgiving Day! It’s one American thing that we have not adopted in Australia.

Drought. Bushfires. Floods. COVID 19 pandemic. Job losses. Lockdowns. Restrictions. Financial crises. It’s been a difficult year for us. In such situations people ask, “Where’s God in this?” The prophet Habakkuk also questioned God. (more…)


Coronavirus politics

This is an appeal for calm. The number one command in scripture is “Fear not” (33 times in the ESV Bible). But there is a lot of fear. A lot of what’s happening right now in Australia, especially in Victoria, and in the world, is driven by fear. And I think that the political response is also being governed by the fear that people have. Both of those things are not helping us.

This post is based on a message by Martyn Isles of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Martyn Isles, Australian Christian Lobby - The truth of itLock-down

Victoria has the toughest lock-downs we’ve experienced at Stage 4 in 31 local government areas in Melbourne. That’s over 5 million people! There are only four reasons to leave the house: necessary work, necessary goods and services, medical care and compassionate reasons, and exercise. But exercise is limited to one hour per day within 5 km of your home. Shopping is limited to one person per household per day, within 5 km of your home. A curfew applies between 8pm and 5am, which is astonishing in a free country. And it’s the usual stuff with non-essential businesses closed. And most who still have jobs are working from home. But as a result of these measures 500,000 workers have been stood down with more to come. All this is done to save lives. But I wonder whether there is more harm being done than good? Whether we are creating fear where we shouldn’t be? (more…)


Experiencing God’s peace in the storms of life

Here’re four steps that will help you experience God’s peace in the storms of your life. (more…)


Crazy times!

Communal singing is prohibited in church in NSW, Australia!Singing prohibited!

Two weeks ago the Catholic church launched a petition for the limit on attendees at churches in New South Wales (NSW) of 10 people to be increased to the 50 person limit that applied to pubs and clubs, cafes and restaurants. This increase was granted on 1 June as the restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 are relaxed slowly. Now a maximum of 50 people (adults and children) can attend a religious service at a place of worship. But there are other requirements to fulfill like:
– People attending a religious service at a place of public worship will be required to provide their name and contact details when they enter so that they can be used for contact tracing, and
– Communal singing is prohibited! And singing with facemasks is not a current alternative.
And there is confusing advice about how many people can be in a room (Appendix A). We’re going through crazy times! (more…)


Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut

Sledgehammer and smashed nut. COVID-19 control measures are like using a sledgehammer to crack a nutDrastic measures have been taken by governments around the world to control the spread COVID-19 disease. They are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Or making a mountain out of a molehill. The measures are more stringent than are really necessary to solve the problem. They seem to be driven by fear and hysteria (Appendix A).

The control measures are justified by the saying that COVID-19 is caused by a deadly virus. But is this true? (more…)


God and COVID-19

Biblical answers to five common questions

This post comes from Philip Nunn who lives in The Netherlands.

Is COVID-19 a warning from God?This corona crisis affects all of us in different ways. Some are feeling tired of being quarantined or are losing patience with their bored children. Others are in hospitals, struggling themselves or helping those who find it difficult to breathe. Where is God in this crisis? What is an appropriate way to talk about our experience with COVID-19? We can learn from how the Lord Jesus dealt with a family disaster as described in John 11. Lazarus had died. When Jesus arrived, Martha went out to meet Him. “Lord” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (11:21NIV). What follows is a theological discussion that ended with a deep revelation: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (11:25-26). Then Mary arrived. She fell at Jesus’ feet. She expressed her pain and frustration with the exact same words as her sister Martha (11:32). Towards Mary the response of Jesus was different. “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” And then, “Jesus wept” (11:33, 35). That is what Mary needed to see: the tears of her Master. Which is more important: the theological or the pastoral approach? Clearly both are. But we need sensitivity and the Lord’s guidance to know which approach is needed in each situation. (more…)


Coronavirus lockdown

A video by Philip Nunn, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
“Making the best use of time, because the days are evil”
Ephesians 5:16ESV

 

 


Grief & loss during the shutdown

Stay at home to control the spread of COVID-19Grieving with hope

We’re living in unusual times. In order to control the spread of COVID-19 we’re staying home as much as possible. People are working from home and some businesses are closed.

Some people have lost their jobs and are now unemployed. There are travel restrictions. Social activities and celebrations are cancelled. There is physical (social) distancing. We have less freedom. It’s almost like wartime. There’s economic gloom with the possibility of a depression. These are unprecedented times for us. (more…)


What does the Bible say about a major disaster like COVID-19?

What does the Bible say about COVID-19?The disease COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world. By 11 April 2020 over 103,500 deaths have been attributed to the virus and secondary pneumonia.

What does the Bible say about a global pandemic like COVID-19?

This post is based on an article by the US theologian and author, John Piper. (more…)


Three lessons from COVID-19

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)The disease COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the world. By 4 April 2020 over 58,900 deaths have been attributed to the virus and secondary pneumonia. Governments have introduced stringent measures to combat it, which are having negative social and economic impacts.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus. It is contagious in humans and is the cause of the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that was designated a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020. (more…)


War on Coronavirus

South Korean soldiers spray disinfectant at Dongdaegu railway stationA message from Europe

The world is at war against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.

This post comes from Philip Nunn who lives in The Netherlands.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. They have been causing problems for a number of decades now. The new version we are currently fighting was first transmitted to humans in Wuhan, China, towards the end of 2019. Since then it has remained in the headlines of all our newspapers and news bulletins. Last month the World Health Organization gave this coronavirus disease the new name COVID-19, and five weeks later declared it a pandemic. Presidents, Prime Ministers and others in authority are now busy closing national borders, events, shops and schools. They are imposing restrictions on our freedom of movement which have never before been used in peacetime. You may still think it is all fake news, you may think the restrictions are too strict, or far to slow and too lax. Like it or not, the world is now at war with this coronavirus! How are you reacting? Are you fearful or frustrated? Is your faith in God strengthening you in this time of worldwide crisis? Perhaps with a little more time on your hands, it may be worthwhile taking some time to consider what the Bible has to say about the spreading of bad things. (more…)


How to respond to the coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19 response measures include: social distance, wash hands, & clean surfacesToday Frank told me, “It feels like I’m in jail”. He is elderly and lives alone. But because of Government regulations, he is unable to attend the men’s social group at his local community centre. So he is now socially isolated because he has few opportunities for contact with other people.

This post is based on a message by Dave Sheath of the Lakes Church at Tuggerah in NSW Australia. It looks at how we can respond to the world-wide coronavirus pandemic. (more…)


Trials, struggles and COVID-19

The global distribution of COVID-19 on 24 March 2020

Another message from Ian Taylor in Winconsin, USA while he is in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What can we do when difficult times come? How can we understand what’s going on? We need to remember that God is still in control.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pt. 5:8-9NIV). (more…)


You don’t have to fear!

Reasons why Christians don't have to fear COVID-19A message from Ian Taylor in Winconsin, USA while he is in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

David: “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Ps 5:3NIV).

David: “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice” (Ps 55:16-17). (more…)


How to be a peacemaker

Sibling conflict in a word where disagreements can lead to conflict, strife and violence

What does the Bible say about conflict management?

We live in a world where differences of opinion are common. But these disagreements can lead to conflict, strife and violence. This happens in marriages, in families, in neighborhoods, at work and in churches. It happens in all kinds of relationships between people.

Conflict between nations can lead to war. In January 2020 Donald Trump announced a Middle East peace plan to solve the Israel–Palestinian conflict. And after more than 18 years of war in Afghanistan, the US has signed a peace treaty with the Taliban.
Peace has been elusive. These wars go on and on. There are so many barriers to peace. (more…)


A new harmful mutated virus

Many people wearing masks as protection against the COVID-19 coronavirusSo far there have been more than 67,000 cases and over 1,530 deaths from the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is a 2% fatality rate. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus a global emergency that threatened to be potentially worse than terrorism. Previously swine flu and Ebola were declared public heath emergencies. Infection and immunity laboratories are in a worldwide race to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus. But the first vaccine targeting the new coronavirus could be 18 months away. (more…)


Unexpected good

Dear God, from all this pain, please bring unexpected goodIt seems cold and unfeeling to make lists of good things in the midst of all this pain – especially while things are fresh and even still happening. But part of making sense of what’s happened and finding meaning in despair is finding the good.

While the bushfires [wildfires] have burned in Australia the media have reported on all sorts of stories of hope and positivity. Which has been enormously encouraging. For example, bush regeneration that’s already begun, the heroism and selflessness of our amazing volunteer firefighters, the brilliant effort to save the rare Wollemi Pine, the fact that more people are now thinking about how to care for the environment and live with an unpredictable climate. (more…)


How to overcome anxiety

Last night there were 26 emergency-level fires burning across NSW and VictoriaAnother difficult day for communities around New South Wales in Australia. At midnight, with the threat still not over, there are 7 fires at Emergency Warning and 11 at Watch and Act. Last night there were 26 emergency-level fires burning across NSW and Victoria. In NSW, about 3,600 firefighters were battling blazes while hundreds of others were pre-positioned to tackle outbreaks.

A state-wide total fire ban remains in place for Sunday, 5 January. The Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner said, “I don’t know the length but I imagine there would be more than 15,000 km (10,000 miles) of fire edge we’ve got to try and contain”. (more…)


How to overcome fear

Jesus calms a storm

Fear is a response to a perceived threat or danger. Some common fears are of spiders, snakes, heights, flying, dogs, thunder and lightning, injections, public speaking, being alone, darkness, death, failure, rejection, the future, terrorist attacks, nuclear war and germs.

This post looks at when Jesus’ disciples were afraid of drowning in a storm, which is described in the Bible. We will see that because everything is under God’s control, Christians can trust in God no matter how bad the circumstances instead of suffering from fear and anxiety. (more…)


When to praise God

Emotions are a powerful part of our lives. But do we control our emotions or do our emotions control us? For example, do we only praise God when we feel like it?

Job was a wealthy man with a large family who lived before the time of Moses. One day four separate disasters wiped out all his possessions and children. His oxen, donkeys and camels were stolen and his sheep were killed by lightning. This was a total loss because there was no insurance in those days. And his children died when a house collapsed on them in a severe storm.

How did Job respond to these calamities? He would have been devastated and stricken with grief and loss. Did he stop trusting in God in such trying circumstances? (more…)


Facing slander – Psalm 27

What’s the source for our confidence?

How do you cope with your fears and anxieties? Some take time out, or use breathing techniques, or face their fears, or imagine the worst, or look at the evidence, or don’t try to be perfect, or visualize a happy place, or talk about it, or have a meal, a walk and a good night’s sleep, or reward themselves. David, the shepherd who became king of Israel, experienced many dangerous situations. What can we learn from the poem that David wrote when he was facing slander (Ps. 27ESV)?

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? (more…)


Responding to external problems

What keeps you awake at night? According to the World Economic Forum, the biggest risks facing our world in 2019 are climate change, natural disasters, large-scale conflicts and cyber attacks. And many people struggle with poverty. David wrote many psalms in the Bible and it seems as though he spent many sleepless nights. One of the biggest problems he faced was that king Saul wanted to kill him. During this time period, David lived as a fugitive, seeking refuge in various places and moving around to avoid Saul and his men (1 Sam. 18-30). He feared for his life. Also, the Philistines were a perennial enemy of Israel and David faced them in battles. The best known of these is his victory over Goliath.

25 of the psalms are prayers by David for God’s help against his enemies. But most of these (84%) end up praising God and with an assurance that God has heard his prayer and will answer it (see Appendix). And only 8% have no praise or assurance. For example, in Psalm 54 David prays for deliverance from enemies (Saul’s supporters) who are trying to kill him (v.1-5NIV). The Ziphites betrayed David by revealing his location to Saul (1 Sam. 23:19-20). So David writes: (more…)