The Rule of Six

Here in the UK, the government have now introduced a new rule known as “The Rule of Six,” which means that outside of work or other specific situations, no more than six individuals should meet together. This is an attempt at preventing further spread of COVID-19 which is on the rise across the country right now.

Some have questioned the new rules, accusing the Government of having no science to back this up. While true, there are no scientific papers to support the idea of six people being anything other than an arbitrary number, it is more a practical decision. Previous rules were somewhat confusing about who could meet and when. The premise of the Rule of Six is to simplify things. Sadly I don’t think it has achieved that.

Our family is a family of six, which means we cannot all meet up with any other person or group. Some point to the absurdity of being able to work with a group of seven people but then not being to go out to lunch with them.

It is all rather easy to criticise the Government in this situation. They cannot get it right for trying. No one wanted a lockdown, and yet they were criticised for not locking down sooner. There is obvious contradiction in their seemingly random approach, encouraging us to eat out one minute and stay home the next. I do want to point out what a difficult job the Government have and it is right that we believers pray for them continually.

This is all well and good, but not exactly my usual approach to blogging. Typically I stick to the Bible and leave politics out. I make no comment here on the new or previous rules, and so turn to the Scripture in our uncertain times.

Whether deliberately or otherwise, a great sense of fear was created around this virus. We have never locked down before, and many – rightly – understood this to mean how serious the situation was. The subsequent consequences to the economy pose an equal or even greater threat, so steps are being made to try to undo the damage. Fear is not so easily dismissed as it is created.

We were not created for fear. In fact, we see that fear was the very first negative experienced by Adam and Eve after the Fall of humanity.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[d] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Genesis 3:8-10 (ESV)

Having eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve realised they were naked. They were just as naked before, but now, for the first time, took their eyes off of God and turned them on themselves. Sin entered the world, and the first emotion they felt was fear. There is no evidence of fear prior to this.

The Bible has much to say about fear – far more than I can ever say in this one short post. Suffice it to say that fear is not what God wants for His people. Fear often stops us obeying the Lord or doing what we know is right. Sometimes we fear other people and so don’t fully serve God, frightened of people’s judgement or criticism.

Many places in the Bible tell us not to fear. It does not necessarily mean do not feel the emotion of fear, but rather, do not allow the fear you feel to stop you doing what you know is right.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

So how do we conquer fear? How do we master it in these fearful times? I could write a whole book on the subject, but hope these few points help.

We must start from the point of understanding that God does not want us to be afraid. Fear is a very real and powerful emotion at times, but we must harness it, not allowing it to drive us but instead God’s Spirit. As you act and speak this week, ask yourself if the words or deeds are driven by fear or the Holy Spirit.

We must pray through fear. Fear is not an easy foe at times, and so we must stand firm in prayer and draw on the strength of God. If you are facing a particularly frightening time, then please do seek God more and more. Often the thing we fear becomes tiny and insignificant as we compare it to the splendour and majesty of our God!

My final suggestion is to think through the consequences or outcomes of what you fear. For example, a couple of weeks ago I faced a situation which was quite scary. I knew it was coming and was getting anxious about it. As I thought about it however, I realised if it did not work out as I wanted, there were virtually no consequences. at all. Fear and worry about it was a major waste of energy. We play the “What if?” game which can be mentally draining. Many of the things we fear though have little consequence, and even fewer have eternal ramifications.

The world we live in can be a frightening place at times, but you do not face it alone. Fear can be beaten, and we do so in the strength of our Lord. What do you fear right now? Talk to God about it and fight that fear!

Life Happens

It has been a few days since I last posted to the blog, and sadly I have broken my daily posting streak I started when lockdown began. I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t reach 100 posts in a row, but, as the title suggests, life happens!

Sincere apologies to anyone who came looking for a post and couldn’t find one!

On 17th March, I put up a post called Coronavirus, and that seems a very long time ago now! I posted each day for a few days, and that turned into an ambition to post something to the blog every day. Three months in, I did not miss a day until the weekend just gone.

It wasn’t a bad weekend or anything, but there were a lot of things going on in life and I just did not have the time to sit down and write. Something had to give in the end and I’m genuinely sorry it was the blog.

I am sure I am not alone in this. I suppose we have all had times where life just happened, and prevented us doing one thing or another. We love to plan our lives, and yet our plans so rarely work out! I praise God that He is in total control.

Writing a blog is actually quite time consuming – I’m sure fellow bloggers will agree. I don’t tend to write opinion pieces and largely try to focus on biblical topics. That requires a bit of thought and study, and so it may take a bit of time to prepare and write a post. While on lockdown, I gained a fair bit of time not spent on commuting to work, volunteering, and helping get children to and from various events. Now the lockdown is starting to ease in the UK, some of those things are coming back and my time is becoming more limited.

For example, I volunteer with our village’s local magazine which was suspended during COVID-19 restrictions. We are now hoping it can return in the summer, and so I am starting to pick up that volunteering again.

I’m sure the same is true for you. All that time you gained during lockdown is now starting to reduce as life – hopefully – begins to return to some new normal.

It is probably now a little ambitious for me to try and post every single day, as much as I would like to. I have seen some growth in blog readers and followers over the last few months and I do not want to let anyone down. I have to be realistic about my time however, and I certainly don’t want to put out posts which are not up to scratch!

After some thought and prayer, I will aim to post on weekdays, leaving weekends off. As well as my usual writing, I will try to incorporate an audio podcast and video as well each week (so perhaps three written blogs, a video and a podcast each week). That is still a fair time commitment, but I am hopeful I can maintain this in the coming weeks. If I return to the office any time soon, then I may have to review!

I am always happy to get constructive feedback, so do tell me what you think. I love writing this blog, and I really want to complete writing another book. Knowing the demands on my time, I need to create space in order to do that.

How are you finding the transition through the lockdown? Life changed dramatically when the restrictions came in, and I feel it will change again as it is reversed. What have you learned from this time of life? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Have a great day!

The Isolation Test

Every Christian can act like one when they are home alone. But when we are trapped in the same four walls with our close family, not able to go out as we wish, it can be a lot harder to be a good witness for Christ. 

How are you coping with the Isolation Test?

I’m not quite sure how long we have been in lockdown now, but I know it has been over a month since I was last in a moving vehicle. I have not left the house since the weekend, and then only to walk our two dogs around the village where I live. My four children are fed up with being cooped up and all they want to do is run around.

For us, the sounds of children bickering about their latest make-believe game may be grating, but for those who live alone it would be a welcome noise.

How are you coping with the extended lockdown period? I call it the “Isolation Test”. And some days I’ve not doing a great job of passing it!

I saw on the news this morning that a charity in the UK are saying that as many as 1 in 6 relationships could break down as a result of this extended lockdown period. Those couples who thought they were in good shape have been shaken or broken by this strange time. We all need space at times, and even our closest friend or spouse can be a source of irritation if we indulge our selfish side.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIVUK)

Paul has some very challenging words to say about love in these verses. Love is not easy, and especially so right now.

Love is patient

They say that patience is a virtue. I say it is a critical Fruit of the Spirit which we all need to live a successful Christian walk. You cannot defeat a patient person.

My own patience has been somewhat lacking in recent days. Working from home with childcare and all social events cancelled has made it much harder to bear this fruit. Yet, we are in a very blessed position compared to many, and my focus should be on that fact and not on what I feel I am missing out on.

It is all too easy to fall into the temptation to be impatient. Impatient with children. Impatient with spouses. Impatient with technology, supermarket staff or social media. We all need a healthy dose of patience right now, and we can only find it in walking close with the Lord.

Love is kind

Kindness is another fruit we need right now. It is so easy to forget others and focus on our own circumstances. Alongside all of the bad news stories we hear, I’m so pleased to hear of other stories of kindness. Kindness to key workers. Kindness to neighbours. Kindness to those in desperate need.

Be kind to those you live with. They are likely finding it just as difficult as you are. Go the extra mile and do it even when you really don’t feel like it. Ask God to give you ideas about innovative kindness.

Love is not self-seeking

Love is not self-seeking. This statement alone stops me in my tracks. Love – God’s kind of love – is not about serving ourselves. Love is outward facing. It focuses on other people and sometimes doesn’t even consider itself.

When I lose my temper, it is nearly always because something or someone is getting in the way of what “I” want to do. While this is understandable at times, it is very humbling for me. I clearly have a long way to go in crucifying my flesh and dealing with my pride. I tend to fail the isolation test when I don’t put others before myself. I am guessing that I am not alone in this.

Selfishness is an ugly thing, and one we do not like to talk about or focus on. Yet it is something which affects us all to some degree. The more we deal with our selfishness and pride, the more loving we will be.

How do we do that though?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24 (NIVUK)


 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:24 (NIVUK)

Crucifying the flesh means putting it to death. It means that each and every day we deny its desires and wants, and we put love first. Every time we feel that temper rise, we deny it and put the needs of others first. It is hard, but will only get harder if we choose not to do it. Likewise, the more we do it, the easier it will become.

There are no miracles or shortcuts to cure selfishness. It is a step-by-step, day-by-day process. We will only conquer it by consistently putting it down over and over again. And we will all have to do that for the rest of our lives.

Testing times

There is much more we could say about the words from 1 Corinthians on love. In fact, we could do a whole series of studies on it. For today, suffice it to say that passing the Isolation Test will be in no small part to do with how loving we can be to others.

It is an extremely hard time for many people, and so I do not write this to condemn you or make you feel worse than you perhaps already do. I have found it hard to be a good witness during the last few weeks, but that conviction drives me onward to want to do better.

I cannot behave better just because I want to, as my own strength of will isn’t enough and is too easily swayed by circumstances. I need the guiding hand of God to bring about lasting change in my life. I must renew my mind in His Word and allow Him to do the work of crucifying the flesh. Every moment of every day i must surrender to Him. It’s not easy, but God loves us.

I pray that you are able to not just survive this time of social distancing and isolation, but that you can bless others while you do.

Still on Lockdown

Since being on lockdown here in the UK, time has lost some of its meaning. When the lockdown was first introduced, I wrote a post about it. I genuinely don’t know if that was a week ago or three! Today’s post is something of a follow up to that one. 

The post was called – While on Lockdown– and you can have a read of it by clicking the link. 

In that original post, I wrote about us all being very careful about what we allow into our minds during this rather trying time. I advised everyone to avoid too much negative news and influences that would cause us to worry rather than build us up. 

So many of us constantly read the news, and it is rarely positive. If not on the news sites, then chances are we are exploring social media and this is hardly ever more positive. We must be so careful about this. We absorb this negativity in and it cannot help but do our spirits and minds deep harm. Many have commented on the dangers to mental health of an ongoing lockdown, and feeding that with negative influences will only make things worse. 

I suggested a few ways in which we could limit the negativity, and increase the positivity. Limit your news exposure. Turn off notifications from your favoured news app. Don’t engage with social media which only serves to drag you down. 

I did suggest some positive steps too. Aside from Christian disciplines of prayer and Bible study, try to listen to biblical worship music that will trun your heart to praise. Encourage other believers, and friends and family, and in so doing, be encouraged yourself. 

We have all heard the claim that we have more time now we are not going out all the time or commuting to work. This may be true, but what are we doing with that time?

Most of us are filling it with screens. And the one thing we are not doing – is nothing. 

Do nothing. That’s my advice. 

Hopefully you know me well enough by now, if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, to know that I mean something more by this. 

Chances are that, with the extra time you now have, you are filling it with something. Maybe you are wise enough to not be filling it with any old show from Netflix or diving deep into the YouTube rabbit hole… but what are you doing with it?

May I suggest something?

Firstly, an idea from the apostle Paul. 

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

2 Timothy 2:7 (ESV)

Think. Spend some time just thinking. When was the last time you did that? 

Your brain needs exercise as much as any other part of you. Use it! 

Don’t just let the first thought that comes to you drop into your mind. Think with a purpose. Think about God and His Word. That is what the Bible means when it says “meditation.” 

Meditate on the Word of God. Imagine ourself there, right in the scene, as the narrative is laid out before you. What would it have been like to be present as Jesus fed the five thousand? How about imagining being one who was warming himself by the fire as Peter denied Christ? 

Your mind is a wonderful thing. More often than not these days, we drown out our thoughts with one activity or another. I’m not advising you to be passive, for that is dangerous, but I am urging you to think actively. Discipline your mind and point it in the direction you want it to go. 

If you are not used to it, then you may need to constantly review what it is you are thinking about. Your mind will wander, and you will need to drag it back to the right path over and over again. 

Alongside this, I would recommend you turn off your electronics. Put your phone away, turn off the TV and leave the tablet out of sight. Sit in a comfy chair, inside or outside is fine, and just be still. 

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

When were you last “still”? If you are like me, then it has been a while – a long while. 

I have four children living in my house, and so stillness is not something I’m all that familiar with! Yet it is incredibly valuable. 

Something I have learned is that God will not raise His voice. For me at least, God is rarely willing to shout over my circumstances and make Himself heard over my din. He wants me to sit quietly, and listen hard for His voice. And every single time I do, I hear Him clearly. 

Do you want to hear from God? Then may I suggest you cut out the background noise before you try to listen. 

If normal life is just plain busy, have you found lockdown life any different? Chances are you’ve exchanged one form of “busy” for another. A busy life often makes a good relationship with Jesus rather hard. 

Look at Martha and Mary’s example from the Bible. 

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

While Martha was “busy” getting everything done, Mary was just sitting at the feet of our Lord. Now Martha is sometimes unfairly criticised here, and actually we need hard workers to succeed. However, when we are in the presence of Christ, the work can be put to one side for a time. 

By all means, use any time you have gained due to COVID restrictions. Learn a language, or how to play an instrument. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but have never had time for. But don’t try to fill every waking hour. Set aside some time to be – to just be – and then just “be” with Jesus. 

You won’t regret one minute you spend with Him. 

#Prayer video #3

Watch as Andy gives a quick update on some of the prayer requests we prayed over in recent videos. Some good news and some bad news unfortunately. But we rejoice that we can pray and praise the Lord together in this way.



Prayer is a wonderfully powerful thing that we can all do. If you have anything you would like prayer for, please do get in touch so Andy can pray for you. You can comment below, or use the Prayer page to send a note. 

If you would like more videos like this, then please hit the Like button and even better, leave a comment. You can subscribe to the blog to follow the latest posts, and please also share with anyone you think might be interested. 

Don’t Give Up Giving

Giving can be a tough subject to discuss, and particularly at the moment with all the other issues going on in the world. However, a Christian who does not give is like a Christian who does not pray. Christians should be generous givers.

There are many individuals and groups struggling because of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown. Churches are not immune to this, and I am conscious that many churches will see a large drop in gifts and offering to them. Churches depend on this giving, and so I want to encourage you today to not stop your giving just because you can’t physically be there.

Of course, if you have lost income because of the virus and its restrictions, then you must change your giving accordingly. No one expects you to be able to continue giving based on an income you no longer receive!

Let’s see what the Bible says, and do a short study of this passage from 1 Corinthians.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. 2 On the first day of every week, let each one of you save, as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come. 3 When I arrive, I will send whoever you approve with letters to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem

1 Corinthians 16:1-3 (WEB)

Paul, writing to the Corinthian church, gives some basic instructions about their giving to the work of the saints. He gave the same instructions to the churches of Galatia, and so I think we can apply it to our own church as well.

On “the first day of the week,” which was a Sunday, the people of the church should set aside the amount of money they wish to give. I believe that Paul chose the first day of the week for a reason. He wanted them to put God, and the offering to the work of the church, at the top of their priorities.

For many of us, giving is something of an afterthought. We arrive at church, rush in during the worship, and then scrabble around our pockets or purses to find a few coins to toss into the offering basket. This is not the way to give in a way that honours God.

Rather, Paul is encouraging them to prepare for giving, to pray about it, and to save the money in advance. In a similar way, we should be setting aside the money we want to give to our church and do that at the top of our budget. We should give first, then save, and finally spend.

Now we are not meeting together, we should not simply forget to give at all. We should be setting aside that money as before. If you can give by online means, then you can continue to give like that. If that is not an option for you, you can still save that money ready for when you can meet again.

Another version of the Bible translates verse two like this:

On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.

1 Corinthians 16:2 (NLT)

This is perhaps much clearer than the WEB version above. What Paul is saying is that we should give according to our means. Those who have more, should give more, and those who have less should give less. When Paul wrote these words, there were no set salaries like we have, and people’s income fluctuated depending on their trade. We tend to be paid the same amount each week or month in a salaried role, so it’s a little easier to manage our giving.

Those who are self-employed or who do not have a steady income can give depending on how much they have earned that period. Those impacted by COVID-19 may have had their salaries cut drastically, or may have even lost their jobs. Paul is telling us to give in accordance with what we have earned.

There is a lot more we could say about giving, but let me repeat my main point today. Don’t give up your giving. Just because you cannot be together as a church does not mean they no longer need your gifts. Pastors and ministers still need their wages, bills still need to be paid, and churches depend on its members.

Be a generous giver, especially in these difficult times. Churches want to be there to help those in need, but without your support, they cannot keep going let alone help others.