Ten weeks into quarantine and we are beginning to see signs of re-entry for various sectors of our society sparking joy in some and fear in others.
The question that remains on the minds of many of us is this: when is the church going to get back together?
Whether churches are in Phase 2 or 3 of the government’s opening plan, we can all agree that it will not be business-as-usual. But what will that mean for us?
Just like we pivoted to virtual community gatherings when the quarantine began, we’d be required to pivot yet again to a “new normal” when it ends. As individuals and families, I believe that we ought to give some consideration to how we see ourselves functioning in this “new normal” reality, making informed decisions for ourselves and our families.
As Christians, this presents an opportunity for us to reflect on how quarantine has deepened our commitment to lives that truly honour God and demonstrate that we are his ambassadors.
When I emerge from this quarantine, I’m hoping that my life reflects one that shows:
- God-dependency - This pandemic has stripped us all of things that we held close to our hearts and that we may have believed were accomplished in our own strength. I pray that this pandemic also strips me of my self-sufficiency as I acknowledge my need for God in every area of my life.
- Gratitude - For many of us, we’ve assumed that all the things we enjoy would always be available and accessible to us, taking so much for granted. I pray that my new normal reflects a life that is grateful for all the blessings I enjoy, even the simplest ones.
- Growth - It’s easy to go through life running on autopilot. I pray that I will come out of this pandemic determined to grow through life as I learn from my experiences and fully apply myself to the mission for which I was created.
Finally, I hope to quit “doing” church and instead move to “being” the church.
Recently I saw a poster that said, “The church has left the building” and it caused me to think about how, generally speaking, we may have been too focused on looking inwardly. Perhaps this is a time for us to focus more of our resources on the needs of the world around us and away from the comforts of church buildings.
I continue to reflect on the question that Bishop Cliff asked of us to contemplate during this pandemic: “What is God allowing to die?”
I may have said in a previous post that when I get on the other side of this pandemic, I hope to be changed for the better – to someone who is more on fire for God, intentionally serving Him first and then to intentionally serve others.
By: Yolande A. Knight
It's the intention expressed in this Sanctus Real song "On Fire"
FOSTERING COMMUNITY THROUGH VIRTUAL PRAYER
I’ve recently acquired my very own copy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together, a must-read for every Christian who desires to do life in a thriving Christian community, in my humble opinion.
I am thankful to belong to such a community at Arlington Woods, which some feared would have been weakened through the physical distancing in this time of pandemic. I am happy to report that the opposite is true; I see a community strengthened through the nightly practice of meeting for prayer as well as intentionally finding ways to connect. I believe the same is true for many church communities around the world; for what the enemy meant for evil, God has used for good and his glory. (Ref: Gen 50:20)
While not every member of our church gathers each night for prayer, the ones who do are interceding on behalf of the entire church. I believe that the earnest prayers offered up for every person who attends Arlington Woods Church, or those who visit from time to time, will have lasting impact in their lives. Because at the heart of every prayer is a desire to see the church community grow closer to God & each other and be more effective in its outreach to the wider community.
But how has it impacted me?
I can think of at least three specific ways these nightly gatherings have impacted me during this time of isolation:
- Enriched Prayer Life - Listening to the variety of prayers by everyone has helped to enrich my own prayer time as I learn from some of the seasoned prayer warriors of our church community.
- Enhanced Faith - To say that my faith has been stirred would be a huge understatement! As we spend time recounting God’s goodness and experience the answers to prayers each night, it bolsters our faith and deepens our trust in God.
- Encouragement to Persevere - I have been challenged to listen, to be comfortable in the silence, to wait and trust God’s timing and to keep running the race even when life gets hard knowing that others are praying on my behalf.
So let me invite you to drop in to one of these nightly prayer Zoom meetings; you don’t have to say anything or even show your face, but I promise, you will be richly blessed by the prayers of God’s people over you as they stand in the gap against this pandemic. (If you are a part of the AWC community, send an email to Alanna for the info to sign in at email@example.com)
By: Yolande A. Knight
One of the viral songs of this season is "The Blessing" by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes & Elevation Worship. Be blessed by the Symphonic Version from Passion City Church.
LIVING WITH COVID-19
Editorial Note: Susi Steier, a thirty-something young lady living in England and a friend to one of our AW young moms, has graciously agreed to share her story of living with COVID-19 on our blog. She first posted this account on her Facebook page on March 25th. She has since recovered from the virus and is doing well.
Published with permission.
Many of you might be wondering what it’s like to be one of the many suspected cases of coronavirus, so I thought I’d share a bit of my experience with you.
I started feeling ill last Saturday, March 21, 2020. First, I was just unusually tired, but towards the evening I got a mild fever. Then I developed the dreaded cough.
I spent the next day in bed with a fever, but by Monday I felt slightly better. Less fever, more fatigue, more coughing. I get out of breath easily, even when I just speak or eat, and I often feel dizzy. My fever has been up and down since the symptoms started, but all in all they have been relatively mild.
I talked to a friend from church yesterday who works with COVID patients in London and he said that the symptoms reach their peak on day 5-7. So, let’s see how the next few days will go.
Something that kept coming to my mind over the last few days was how God repeatedly calls his people to trust him in the face of danger. In the book of Isaiah, we see the Assyrian army coming, they have already taken the Northern Kingdom and now they’re on their way to Jerusalem. How are they supposed to trust in God when the danger is so real and so immediate? Before the pandemic, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated what it might feel like to trust in God rather than in other people. In governments making the right decisions, in doctors who help the critically ill, in researchers who develop a vaccine, in my own body to fight the virus.
God eventually delivers Jerusalem from the Assyrian army. But even this rescue is only temporary because only two chapters later we see hints of the next enemy, Babylon, who will in only a few years’ time destroy Jerusalem and drag the people into exile.
Will our rescue from the coronavirus be just as temporary? When we finally get through this, what will the world look like? What’s the next danger we need to be rescued from?
In Isaiah, God promises his people a rescue that lasts. A rescue from this broken world to a world where there is no more danger, no more coronavirus or unemployment or loneliness. A world where there is no more death.
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.”
This is so much better than any rescue this world has to offer because it means we won’t ever need another rescue. We often think the idea of a new world, or of heaven, is irrelevant for us, but during this time I’m reminded that heaven is exactly what we all need. We’ll finally be safe and perfectly happy. Isn’t this what we’re all longing for?
By: Susi Steier
Absolutely Susi, our ultimate goal is to be with the Father in Heaven - Enjoy Chris Tomlin's "Home"
“TAKING IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER…AT LAST”
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. (Philippians 4:6 AMP)
My first blog ever… the need to write down what was in my head and my heart came to me during one of my many sleepless nights.
As I write this, I am on a doctor’s highly-recommended sick leave for anxiety attacks and depression. It was God’s gentle nudge for me to give Him control of my life. I trusted God, or so I thought. Yet I’ve always felt that I had to be the strong person and hold everything together, or die trying. Why couldn’t I let someone else take control? Why couldn’t I let God take control? He hinted at it often enough.
I lay in bed during the night trying to count my blessings, a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) action to help me sleep. Instead I found myself counting the many “hats” I had been wearing, upwards of 17. These didn’t just include the obvious - wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, but also the causes, volunteer jobs, and worries I had taken up over the years through my inability to say no or my reluctance to hand things over to God.
Sometime ago, I recall listening to a television preacher whose motto was, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Wanting to “help” God, I took on all the causes that came my way, extra tasks at work, charity work, filling in where there were no volunteers, etc. I was always rushing in and saying, “It’s okay God, I’ll handle this. You go do what You need to do.” What audacity! What blasphemy!
In addition to all those duties, I was dealing with my husband’s illness and unemployment, a wedding, the illnesses and stresses in our family, cancer diagnosis of two friends, and the death of a close relative. It seemed to be one incident after another with the weight getting progressively heavier with each addition. Until, I couldn’t breathe and ended up in the emergency room.
It was at the bottom of this pile of “hats” that I had gotten lost. Though I knew that in my head, I had difficulty transferring it to my heart. My identity was tied to what I was doing for others at the neglect of what I needed to do for myself. I kept identifying myself by what I thought I was doing as a “good” Christian instead of being secure in God and allowing Him to lead my steps.
It was through the weight of all these “hats” on my shoulders that God forced me to bow my head. I had to become weak in order for God to build up my strength in Him and not myself. I had to acknowledge that I was not the one to fix the world. So, while I thought I was giving God my all; I was emptying myself in “activities” and losing myself in the process.
I have spent much of my time-off reading the Bible and sitting in prayer. I am learning to relinquish control to the only One who can handle it all and to truly know that He is in control, and I’m not. I am understanding that I can help when He wants me to, but I can’t take on the world.
I have taken to heart these words from the Casting Crowns song, “Just be Held”.
“Hold it all together... Everybody needs you strong ...But life hits you out of nowhere ... And barely leaves you holding on...And when you're tired of fighting... Chained by your control... There's freedom in surrender... Lay it down and let it go ... I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held”
What an incredible God!
I can just stop doing what I was doing and just be. Now, I realize that the best way for me to serve God is to let go, stop, allow His peace to come over me and be served for a change. I am learning to allow God to direct me where He wants me. He has forced me to rest so I can give Him my best when or where He calls me to serve. It was in giving up all my activities that finally made clear to me that my main tasks right now are to pray, ask for forgiveness, and let Him heal and love me.
By: Bev Charles
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
Our church undoubtedly has a deep understanding of and appreciation for the power of prayer. As such, it provides multiple opportunities for corporate prayer including on Sunday mornings before services, Tuesday nights and Thursday mornings. This week’s post of Jean Gordon's story with the article that impacted her speaks directly to that topic. The acronym P-U-S-H is widely used in both the Christian and secular circles to mean different things. This post obviously takes a Christian perspective and at the end of the article, we are including a link to an old Gospel spiritual of the same title by gospel artist, Dottie Peoples for your enjoyment.
The Editorial Team
Someone shared a story with me as I was at a crossroads in my life many years ago and recently it became very real to me when our family received a phone call out of the blue. The woman at the other end of the phone said that she may be related to our family and that was something we never thought we would have ever experienced. You see 60 years ago my sister had given up a baby for adoption and though the adoption was “closed”, the family had never given up trying to find her and for 40 years we prayed that she would find us. And find us, she did!
So P-U-S-H became real to me again.
I’d like to pass on this story to you in hopes that you would be as encouraged by it as I’ve been.
A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man that He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day after day.
For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.
Since the man was showing discouragement, the adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into his weary mind; "You have been pushing against the rock for a long time and it hasn't moved." Thus he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. Satan said, "Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving minimum effort; and that will be good enough.
That's what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.
"Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in Your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?
The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push, and now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you failed. But, is that really so?
Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have.
"True, you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push, to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock."
At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants when actually what God wants is just simple, obedience and faith in Him.
By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves the mountains.
When everything seems to go wrong ....Just P.U.S.H !
When your job gets you down...Just P.U.S.H !
When people don't react the way you think they should....Just P.U.S.H !
When your money is "gone" and the bills are due... Just P.U.S.H !
When people don't understand you...Just P.U.S.H !
P = Pray U = Until S = Something H = Happens
But, I trust in you, Oh Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands. (Psalm 31:14-15a NIV)
By: Jean Gordon
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS!”
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 ESV)
Have you ever woken up on Christmas morning and said “Happy Birthday Jesus”? Do you find that a strange thing to do? I must admit, I used to find that strange but now, I do it just as joyfully as I do to my daughter who recently celebrated her birthday.
Won’t you give it a try this Christmas and get over the awkwardness?
We are about to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and it would be a fair assumption that we are the ones receiving most of the presents this weekend. What is your present to Jesus?
What do you think is on His Christmas list?
He gives us a hint; in Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15, He tells us to go and tell the Good News to all nations. Do you know how many nations there are? A lot! So we have a lot to do.
Some Christians intentionally choose not to celebrate Christmas because of its commercialism, over-indulgence and belief of its pagan origins. As you celebrate this Christmas, and reflect on the “reason for the season”, remember this: Jesus came to save mankind. To put it bluntly, Jesus came to die.
When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, he told him that Jesus was coming to save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21) And we know that our salvation came from Jesus’ death. His birth was step one in God’s plan for mankind’s redemption.
I believe that it is great to celebrate and exalt Jesus every day and one way that we can keep Christ in Christmas is to remember that Christmas doesn’t make sense without Easter. Easter is the “why” of Christmas; Jesus’ death is the reason for His birth.
As we take advantage of the opportunity that the world gives us to focus attention on Jesus’ birth, let us, as Christians, truly celebrate Jesus this Christmas.
Enjoy this rendition by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - Happy Birthday Jesus!
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, (Luke 1:34 NIV)
None of us may ever truly know why God chose Mary to be Jesus’ mother. Mary herself initially questioned the angel when he appeared to her but she did not remain in that place of questioning. I like that! I want to learn from that. Too many times, I linger at that stage – questioning….. wondering what if, why, how, why not? You get it – all the questions that creep into our finite minds as we attempt to question an Infinite God.
The angel addressed Mary as “highly favoured” and that troubled her (Luke 1:28-29). Have you ever wondered why Mary didn’t see herself as “highly favoured”? I certainly have. And I don’t have the answer but I do have some conjectures. It is fairly safe to say that Mary was an ordinary girl. Historians believe that she would have been as young as 12 years old (or younger) and until this assignment, we do not have any more information about her prior accomplishments. So what would make her highly favoured in God’s eyes?
Today, that term is widely used in society especially within the Christian community and even more so among Christian women. I believe that society has a wrong view of “highly favoured” and not in the way that Mary did. Are you with me on this?
In some Christian circles, highly favoured is thought about in the context of having it all – stuff, position, career, home, family, all in the eyes of how the world defines success. I caution you to think about how you view or use that term especially if you are using it in reference to the angel’s greeting to Mary.
Look closely at Mary’s life and her response and learn from that. Mary was humble, pure, obedient and godly. I believe that her status of being a virgin was symbolic of the point of being pure and her grasp of God’s word at such a young age points to having a heart and mind set on God. (See the similarities in Hannah’s prayers in 1 Samuel 1:11 and 2:1-10). In her overflow of worship, she pours out her heart to God thanking Him for His grace on her. It is so amazing to me to see such a spiritually mature response from young Mary.
Did you notice that the same angel, Gabriel, also appeared to Zechariah, the priest who would have had the training and experience in all things religious, yet his response was one of doubt. The text does not exactly elaborate in that manner but it is safe to assume that if the angel silenced Zechariah, then he had good reason. (Luke 1:8-22)
Mary also questioned Gabriel but she didn’t doubt him. She believed what he said and expressed her faith in that belief. Her faith was honoured. Look at verse 38. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
When you question God, is it out of a lack of faith? Spend some time pondering that.
Mary’s faith was rewarded; not simply nine months later but when she met up with Elizabeth and received confirmation. (Luke 1:44-45)
When God gives you a vision, you ought to tremble because in your own strength you cannot accomplish it. But with God, all things are truly possible.
Mary’s faith was further expressed in the words of her beautiful song, now referred to as the “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55) to which there have been beautiful musical arrangements and songs.
This Christmas, take another look at the Christmas story reading through the Luke 1 account and imagine it from Mary’s perspective. See the humble, unassuming, obedient young girl who became the mother of our Saviour. Here is a song that may well have captured Mary’s thoughts to be chosen by God - "Be Born In Me" written by Nichole Nordeman and beautifully sung by Francesca Battistelli.
Then listen to Mary’s song as written by Todd Agnew and performed by Christy Nockels - Magnificat - Mary's Song.
Yolande Knight – email@example.com
“LEFT ALONE WITH JESUS”
But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. (John 8:9 ESV –emphasis added.)
Have you ever been left alone with someone important and experienced that awkward, stomach-churning angst?
I imagine this was the case with the woman caught in adultery as she was left alone with Jesus to face the consequences of her actions, a “crime” that, at that time in history, was lawfully punishable by death.
I can recall being in the presence of a famous person and feeling so awe-struck and nervous that it rendered me speechless and all I could muster were enough words to ask for an autograph. Looking back on that experience, I cringe at how silly I must have appeared to this other human being.
On the other hand, this woman’s “alone time” described for us in John 8:2-11 was not with another human being, it was with the Saviour of all mankind. Imagine her humiliation and embarrassment, not to mention the terror she must have been feeling in that moment.
Like many of you, I’ve read that passage numerous times and missed some of the key points in this story. In a recent reading, some of these factors jumped out at me in a new way. Perhaps you had already noted that this encounter took place in the temple. It is highly likely and glaringly obvious that I must have speed-read over that little detail on all the other occasions that I studied the passage, assuming it to be a street corner encounter. Or perhaps, I was recounting a movie scene that depicted it as such. Either way, it was a startling revelation to me when I took the time to truly study this passage.
And I began to think of its significance.
The temple – that would be like being left alone in church with Jesus Himself! Today, I would be elated for such an encounter. But had it happened in the midst of me committing, not just a sinful act but, a criminal act, I’m certain that I would have opted for disappearance. Especially in the middle of church! Wouldn’t you?
There she was, in the temple, with Jesus, alone, just the two of them – that’s what the text says. All her accusers having mysteriously vanished! I have always found it fascinating that all the accusers left – oh the power of His Presence! But how unsettling yet how truly comforting! Do you see it?
In spite of her discomfort, the woman didn’t run away. To me that would have been the easy and obvious way out of that situation. So why didn't she run? Could it be that she sensed the love and compassion of Jesus toward her? Could it be that she saw forgiveness and redemption in His eyes? Because NO ONE has an encounter with Jesus and leaves the same!
Can you see yourself in this story? Can you see how EVEN in the midst of our messes, God still loves us, desires to be close to us and reaches down to rescue us? If we let Him.
This woman didn’t run away; she remained in His presence and allowed God to change her. Sometimes I wish we could see the rest of the story because you just know that there’s more than was recorded. Her story didn’t end there. We can only imagine the impact this woman’s changed life had on her family, and on her community and within her sphere of influence. God expects the very same with us; that our changed lives will make a difference where we live – in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods, communities and our world. Your story doesn’t end here.…wherever here may be for you. Ponder that.
I want you to think about the honour of being alone with Jesus – not to be condemned, but to be loved and valued. We have the awesome privilege of meeting with Him every day; don’t take it for granted. It’s so easy to allow our “To Do” lists, our stresses, our successes, or our trials to get in the way of spending time with God. The very things that we are supposed to take to Him can so consume our time that we miss out on the greatest benefit of being in relationship with Him, that of being alone with Jesus.
In this season of your life, you may be having a mountain-top experience or you may be going through yet another valley. There is one thing I know for sure – that God is with you. And not only that, He is for you and He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. He so desires for you to spend time alone with Him; He's waiting for you to remain in His presence.
Heavenly Father, Thank You for the privilege of coming to You in prayer today. I humbly bow before Your throne of grace and ask Your forgiveness for the times I have failed to come. Help me to see that my need for You is more than I know. Help me to experience the fullness of Your life-changing Presence in a fresh and powerful way.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org