Praying for you

“…pray without ceasing,”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) 

I recently posted on my social media feeds asking for any prayer requests you had. At a time like this in the world, I don’t think we can pray too much! Indeed, Paul advises us in the verse above to “pray without ceasing.” 

In this, my first video post, I spend a few minutes praying over the requests that I have received. I hope you enjoy it. Please do pray along with me. 

Andy praying over the request he has received


If you have anything you would like prayer for, please do get in touch. You can use the contact form in the site menu or get in touch via social media. Feel free to leave a comment to this post also with any requests. I’d be glad to make another video and pray for you. 

God bless.

On (Christian) Blogging

This post lands on Tuesday 31st March, and I think is the 15th day in a row where I have posted. That is a pretty good run, and although I did not start this because of COVID-19, I am carrying on because of it. There is so much negative news going around, and I just want to put a bit of positive material out there!

And so encourage one another and help one another, just as you are now doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (Good News Bible)

Blogging is a funny business, and even more so when you are a Christian blogger! As I mentioned above, I’ve been blogging daily for a couple of weeks now. My post last Friday – A Jealous God– has not been read by anyone at all, as far as I know… and yet a day later, Saturday’s post – Lessons from the Supermarket– has been one of the most read posts I’ve ever put out!

Why? Not a clue! Was it because Friday’s post was terrible and Saturday’s was amazing? I suspect not. It is just one of those things.

When I hit the publish button, I generally have no idea what kind of reception a post might get. Comments are a little few and far between, but that’s ok. I try to trust God to put out the right words at the right time, and let Him do the rest.

One reason Saturday’s post was more successful than others was because someone shared it on their social media feed. It is surprising how effective that can be at geting the word out. I know there are algorithms managing social media in the background, and just because I post it does not mean you get to see it, but occasionally it all comes together.

If you enjoy a particular post or the whole blog in general, please do share it. The sharing buttons are right at the bottom, so it’s easy to do.

Likewise, literally LIKE-wise, please do hit the “like” button if you enjoy what you read. It keeps me, and any writer, encouraged. If we see responses to what we are putting out, then it gives us that little push we need to keep on going.

In a similar way, follow the blogs or channels that you like. Subscribing is not like a marriage; it’s not a big commitment!

I know that at times my posts are a little hit and miss. I might go weeks without posting, and then suddenly I’ll release posts daily for a long period. Life just happens on this side of the keyboard, and as much as I’d like to commit to posting every day without fail, I do just that – fail – at times.

I am not the most accomplished writer in the world, nor am I the perfect theologian. I write about Jesus and the Bible because they are important. In fact, there’s nothing more important.

I keep going because of verses like the one above. In that verse, Paul tells us to encourage one another. That’s what I hope to achieve with this blog. I make no money from it, and it is unlikely fame will follow either (not that I want that!). I do it because of every single reader. If even just one person reads a post and is inspired to build up their relationship with God, then it is worth it.

What can you do to encourage someone today? If you live somewhere where you are forced to be at home at the moment because of COVID, then you might need to be a little more creative. Thank God for the telephone!

My wife is rather good at encouraging people. Just this morning she left a note of encouragement and a chocolate bar out for the postman. As a key worker, he is not isolated at home but out and about, making deliveries and in some ways actually risking himself to ensure we keep getting letters and parcels. Just a little note may give him that boost during this tough time.

So what can you do?

Phone or text every person in your contact list. Send a PM to all of your Facebook friends – individually. Write a letter, the old fashioned way. Send someone a Bible verse and pray for them.

If you are stuck for ideas, then pray about it. The Holy Spirit is excellent at coming up with new ways of doing things. He can certainly point you in the right direction!

Failing all else, click the like button below… that will really encourage me!

Thanks and God bless

How can I #pray for you?

For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the Good News of his Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you always in my prayers,

Romans 1:9 (WEB)


Now I beg you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,

Romans 15:30 (WEB)

Prayer should be as essential to a Christian as breathing. Yet, it is often only in difficult times – such as the one we are all facing right now – that we truly turn our hearts to God in prayer.

The Bible encourages us to pray in very many places, and I share a couple of verses above from Paul’s letter we know as Romans.

In the first verse, quoted from the very first chapter, Paul tells his readers how fervently he is praying for them. He says both “unceasingly” and “always” in the same sentence, showing us that this is not some passing, throw away prayer, but a constant remembering of them.

I want to follow Paul’s lead and pray for you in like manner. I will record a video message praying for all the readers, family and friends, and really want to encourage you to send me your prayer requests. If no one responds, that’s not an issue as I have many people I know need prayer at the moment. However it would be great to be able to receive requests from you and pray with you.

You can send your prayer requests to me by commenting on this post, commenting on my social media posts or by using the contact form on the web site. Please confirm that you are happy for me to mention the request on a video, but I’ll always only ever use first names to keep things private.

I have no idea what response I will get. But know that I will pray over every request I receive (unless I get millions of course, and then I might need your help!) and please watch this space for the videos to appear.

Please also share this post with anyone who you think might need prayer at the moment, and encourage them to send any requests they have.

God is faithful, and He is listening. Even though things may seem bad at the moment, please don’t ever doubt God’s love for you and the fact that He is in total control. We who trust in Him have no need to be afraid. Not because bad times won’t come, but rather because He will carry us through them.

Our second verse today sees Paul asking his readers to pray for him also. He has told them how committed he is to praying for them, and asks for that same commitment in return.

While I cannot demand anything anywhere near the same degree as Paul could, I do also ask for your prayers. I need God’s help, mercy and grace as much as anyone and so, even in small ways, please strive together with me in prayer.

Prayer has tremendous power, not because of us, but because of who we pray to. Praise be to the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hears and responds to our prayers both day and night! Amen

Lessons from the supermarket

It has been a while since I was last in a supermarket, I’ll admit… my wonderful wife does nearly all of the shopping for the family and so has had to face the hoards of stockpiling assassins for a couple of weeks now. A fabulous job she has done!

I am no stranger to the supermarket however, and was reflecting on a few things we could all learn from our experiences there. 

Lesson #1 – Put your trolley back when you’re finished

In my student days, our university campus was close to a large supermarket. The staff were all too aware of the havoc unruly students could cause with their shopping carts. Often they would be seen trying to take them back to their student digs, or even using them as a primitive form of transport. 

I remember once being approached by a member of staff, reminding us that we could not take the trolley off of the premises. I was a little indignant, as I had not planned on stealing the precious cart. I recall we took it to the very limits of the property before said member of staff came trotting after us to ensure we went no further. 

Put your trolley back when you’ve finished with it. Once you’ve unloaded it into your car, think of someone else and take it back where it belongs. Don’t just dump it wherever suits you, and definitely do not prop it up against someone else’s vehicle. That’s not ok. 

Believe it or not, it really isn’t the supermarket’s job to go around collecting up trolleys that have been left all over the place. Take a moment to realise that at the moment in particular, they have bigger things going on. 

Lesson #2 – Put any unwanted items back where they belong

Not dissimilar to lesson one, if you pick something up that you later decide you do not want, please put it back where it belongs. 

We’ve all seen it, if not done it, where we pick up an item and then three aisles later realise we no longer need it. Rather than go back and replace it,, we just put it on the most convenient shelf. That’s how you end up with cauliflowers mixed in with detergent. This, also, is not ok. 

Think of the person who has to sort that out later. Supermarket staff have a job to do, and chasing after you to put back things in their proper place is not generally covered. It’s rather lazy and selfish to just leave things lying around for someone else to pick up. 

Lesson #3 – Don’t take more than you need

In the UK, we are extremely fortunate to have so much choice and abundance in our supermarkets. On a “normal day” we can pop in to even small supermarkets and get everything we need, and usually have a choice of items. We don’t know how fortunate we are! 

In recent days, we’ve seen so many people stocking up in case of shortages. Toilet rolls have been a particular prized item, and we all saw pictures on the news of people loading up shopping carts full of hundreds of rolls! 

How many toilet rolls do you need exactly?

In times of isolation, it is perfectly reasonable to pick up a few extra items to ensure you don’t have to shop more often than required. But when you take so much all in one go, it usually means someone else will miss out. And there is a possibility that that person needs it far more than you do. 

If everyone just took what they needed, and no more, then there would be plenty for everyone.

Lesson #4 – Be kind

Be kind. Just be kind. 

I saw a story on the news this week about a member of staff manning a checkout. A customer wanted several of the same item, but the member of staff told they there was a policy of only three items per person. There was an exchange, and in the end the customer spat at the member of staff. I need not say how utterly disgraceful such behaviour is. 

Be kind to your fellow shoppers. Don’t push them around or cut in front of them. Be kind to members of staff who really are working hard to ensure everyone can get what they need. 

Is this biblical?

“This is all very well, Andy,” you might be thinking. “But what does this have to do with the Bible?” 

Actually, I think it has a great deal to do with the Bible. 

The Bible is not a book to be studied academically. It isn’t just interesting. It is a guide for how God wants us to live (among other things). We must turn the Bible’s teaching into practical action. 

You could sum up the above lessons into: 1) Don’t Be Selfish and 2) Be Kind to People. there is clear Scripture to support these two points. 

Turn my heart toward your statutes, not toward selfish gain.

Psalm 119:36 (WEB)

And also:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,[a] 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (WEB)

To name but a few. 

The point is, how we live and act in the world is a witness for Jesus. It can be a good witness, or it can be a poor one. 

Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, let’s do our best to represent God well in the world. We are His ambassadors. 

We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (WEB)

Let’s act like God is watching, because He is. Let’s act as though the world is also watching, because they are too. 

A Jealous God

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:24 (ESV) 

God is a consuming fire; a jealous God. What does this mean? 

A consuming fire is a fire which devours everything in its path. It is not contained nor containable. You may have seen the recent bush fires in Australia appearing the news. These fires were unimaginable. Huge swaths of land were utterly devastated by fires which raced unceasingly across the continent. No human endeavour could stop them. The effects of these fires may be felt for years to come. This is a picture of a “consuming fire.” 

While God is of course not like this, bringing devastation in His path, the bush fires were all-consuming for those involved. We cannot have a little bit of God in our lives. It is like saying I am a little bit on fire. 

Likewise, God is a jealous God. 

Jealousy in a human being is an ugly thing, but not in God. We become envious when we feel threatened, inadequate or coveting what we cannot have. God never feels such things. God can legitimately be jealous because absolutely nothing compares to Him.

God is not satisfied being second or third in our lives. Nothing should shift God out of His proper place in our lives. 

In his book “Not a Fan,” Kyle Idleman says that God is not even happy being the first of many, but rather should be the One and Only. 

God should not be one of many competing priorities in our lives. He should not be fighting for out time or attention against anything else; even family, work, hobbies or even church ministry. God absolutely should be our everything, and nothing else should compare. 

Jesus said:

“If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple.

Luke 14:26 (WEB)

This is a tough verse! 

Jesus is not saying, I believe, that we should hate our family. Rather, He is saying that our love for Him should be so far above any other concern, that all other comparisons look like hate. 

God is a jealous God, and our love for Him should be paramount. 

What does this mean for us? 

Ask yourself how serious you are about your relationship with God. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about my own relationship with Jesus, and how it needs much more of my time and attention. 

If God really is “God,” then how can anything else in life be anywhere near as important? 

I was once told that we can assess how important anything is to us by looking at our diaries and our chequebooks. What was meant was that how we spend our time and our money tells us a great deal about our priorities. 

If I spend all of my spare time watching TV, and spending my money on my hobbies then I cannot really claim that God holds His rightful place in my life. Instead, if my time is spent with Jesus, and my money spent on furthering that relationship or building His Kingdom, then clearly I am putting Him first. 

I know it is a challenge, and none of us will get it perfectly right all of the time. In recent days, many of us have been “blessed” with a lot of spare time as our plans have been cancelled due to the C-19 virus. What are you going to do with that extra time? 

God is jealous of you and your time. His fire should “consume” our lives fully. Is that true for you? If not, what can you do about it?

Who can you pray for?

Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

James 5:16 (WEB)

Are you tired of hearing about the corona virus yet? It has been quite a while since the headlines mentioned anything other than the global pandemic! Sorry to mention it again here!

In these difficult times, there is a lot of practical things we can do as the Body of Christ to support each other. If you have elderly or vulnerable family members or neighbours, you might be able to shop for them to save them having to go out.

Our family, led by my wonderful wife, is setting about sending Easter cards or cards of encouragement to all the members of our church (the ones we have contact information for that is).

As you might have noticed, I have been trying to post on the blog every day. I am hoping that even in the difficult days ahead, many will read the blog and ideally be encouraged or uplifted in some way.

What practical things are you doing? What things could you do to bless those around you at this time?

You might be in a situation where doing something practical is just not possible right now. Not all of us can. There is one thing you can do however, and it will make a tremendous difference. You can pray.

Sometimes we think of prayer as a last resort. We do all the practical stuff, and then turn to prayer when we run out of ideas. This really shouldn’t be the way we think. Prayer is our first and foremost response in every situation.

Who can you pray for today? I hope it won’t take you long to think of someone.

my family has a jam jar full of lolly sticks. On each stick, we write the name of a friend or family member. When we sit down to pray, we draw out a stick and then pray for the person named. It is a great way of remembering to pray for different people.

Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer at this time either. There are prayer warriors out there just looking for someone to cover in prayer. Why not be the “squeaky wheel?”

As well as the people you know, please also pray for your government and leaders. They need God’s wisdom and guidance right now to make right decisions and to time them well.

I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (WEB)

Please also pray for your church leaders. Many places of worship have been closed and this presents something of a unique challenge for ministers and pastors alike.

Those working in the medical field will also very much need our prayers right now. In the UK, our health service was stretched prior to the pressures of the corona virus, and so they need our support now more than ever .

I could go on, but there is an unending list of people and situations we can pray for. Prayer is powerful, and we in the family of God can make a huge difference.

Pray without ceasing.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (WEB)

While on Lockdown

Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father;

Ephesians 5:19-20 (WEB)


Don’t be deceived! “Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 (WEB)

I write this at a very strange time here in the UK. It was announced last night that new rules were being imposed upon us to try to prevent the further spread of the Corona virus. Essentially we can now only leave the house to buy food, seek medical help, exercise once a day or travel to work if it can’t be done at home.

Such massive restrictions on our personal freedoms would have been utterly unthinkable only a few weeks ago. Yet, our government believes this is necessary to save lives, and agree or disagree with the measures, we must respect them for this.

Having to stay home for a good length of time is going to prove quite a challenge for many people. Our homes have never seemed so small! But before complaining too much, spare a thought for those who have no home to be isolated in.

Staying at home of course means we have very little human contact now. Thank God it has happened in an age where we have Internet and video calling, as I can’t imagine how people would have coped without such things.

Without that human contact, we must all be very careful about what we allow to influence us. Our only window to the world may now be TV screens, phones, and tablets. An almost constant negative news stream, social media posts and Whatsapp messages may bombard us and leave us feeling worse, not better.

Consider how often you read the news. At this time in the world, it makes sense to stay in touch with what’s going on, but is there much point in checking every hour? My phone is constantly “pinging” as news stories from various apps pop up. Do I really need to know how many people are dying on a daily basis of this virus? I don’t get a feed of cancer deaths, or those killed in road traffic accidents. Check the news once in the morning and then again in the evening – surely that will be sufficient.

I’ve likewise found myself checking social media much more often in the last few days. There are many positive posts of course, and it is a great way of keeping in touch with those you can no longer see face-to-face. There is an awful lot of negative posts too. Many of these are feeding into our fears, and leave us feeling far worse than before. Be very careful what you read. If you follow a page or a person who is leaving you feeling worse, then consider if you need to keep following them.

Paul encourages us, in the verses above, to be very careful about what we allow into our minds. He also reminds us what we should be talking about.

If we only ever listen to negative things, then inevitably this will affect our character.

We also need to ensure we are being a positive influence on those around, and particularly at this time. Your words can lift people up and point them to Jesus, and there are a lot of people in desperate need of encouragement right now. You can provide that.

Whatever flavour of social media you prefer, please can I encourage you to think before you click. Is what you are about to post at all helpful? Will it lift others up, or just bring them down?

In the same way, think carefully about what you read. Headlines alone can be misleading, and there is plenty of click-bait out there enticing us in. Before you read it though, ask yourself if this will boost you or hinder you.

Play biblical worship music as often as you can. Music is often uplifting, and especially so when it is full of God’s Word and pointing us towards Him. If you play an instrument, this is a great time to put in some practice and learn some new songs. Share your gift on YouTube or other social media too.

We are on lockdown, but we can still be a positive influence on the world. Church buildings may be closed, but the church itself – God’s people – are open for business as usual.

Where do you stand?

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. 36 I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’

40 “The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[c] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

45 “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46 (WEB)

I know this is a long passage to start this post with, but I wanted you to be able to read the whole thing and let its challenging words sink in. 

Where do you stand? On the left, or on the right? And I don’t mean politically…

When the news about the corona virus first broke in the early part of this year, I’ll admit to being a little flippant about it. I never imagined it would impact the lives of us all in such ways. 

Reading the news and various social media feeds, I see a rather bleak picture and many individuals who are very scared right now. I thank God that this virus is no worse than it is, but certainly appreciate the heavy impact it will have on many families – particularly those who are vulnerable or elderly. 

It makes you think, doesn’t it? Some doctors are urging we discuss and prepare for the fact that this virus may take the lives of those we love. Are we ready for that? 

I mentioned in my post the other day – Coronavirus – that some had claimed this virus was a sign of the End Times. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, the Bible teaches that one day Jesus will return for His people. There are many diverse views about exactly how this will happen, but essentially all Christians agree HE will return sooner or later. There are certain signs which precede His coming and perhaps this virus is one of them. You can do your own study on that. 

Either way though, the Corona virus gives us pause. It is an opportunity to face the big questions in life. What happens when we die? Are we prepared for the return of the Lord Jesus? Where can we turn when it feels like the world is falling apart? 

Do you have adequate answers to these questions? 

The passage above from Matthew’s Gospel is often called the parable of the sheep and the goats. It depicts the end of time when we will all stand before Jesus’ throne and He will judge us. This is known as the Great White Throne judgement. I’m not entirely sure it is right to call this a parable, as it may not be an illustration at all, but precisely how it will be. 

There is much we could say about this passage. One of the scarier elements is that those who thought they were doing well, were not, and those who did no think they were doing so well, were commended. 

So, where do you stand? Are you a sheep or a goat? It is a question we must all ask ourselves, and answer honestly. Ignoring the question is not an option. We must not wait until we get there to find out, as it will then be too late. 

How can you be sure? How can you know whether you will be counted among the sheep or the goats? The passage itself suggests it is not about what we do, as those who did “spiritual” things were counted as goats. 

The answer does not lie in the activities we participated in, nor in our own “good works.” Our best works are going to look rather shabby when we stand before the Throne of God. 

There is only one way to heaven, and His Name is Jesus Christ. The difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep put their lives in the hands of the Good Shepherd. The goats went their own way. 

If you want to find out more about the way to heaven, then check out my post – One Way. 

For the vast majority of people, this Coronavirus will not take their life – praise God. But the questions posed above are still important. None of us can beat the clock, and every one of us will – sadly – die one day. Even if we are the generation to see the return of Jesus Christ, then we sill need to be prepared. Are you? 

So what will it be? Are you a sheep or a goat?

Mother’s Day

As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you.
You will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 66:13 (WEB)

Here in the UK, today is Mother’s Day or sometimes called Mothering Sunday.

It might be a rather unusual one this year due to the continuing impact of the Corona Virus. We might usually go and visit our mothers, or have them round for Sunday lunch, but we have all been advised not to gather in small or large numbers right now. It is a real shame but of course an understandable necessity.

I am not sure if the current situation will help or hinder this Mother’s Day. How can it “help” you might ask? All I am thinking is that as we mostly not able to visit our mothers today, will we make a special effort to call or video chat with them. Facing these tough times may make us realise the important things in life, and surely family is high up that list.

The verse above from Isaiah compares God to a comforting mother. Most of Scripture pictures God as Father, but there are verses which suggest the tenderness only a mother can bring. For instance, we discuss Psalm 91 yesterday where God was compared to a mother hen drawing her chicks under the protection of her wings.

I don’t know what kind of relationship you have or had with your mother. Perhaps it was wonderful, or perhaps not. Either way, she played a part in your life to a greater or lesser degree. Take time today to thank God, and if possible, her as well.

Also, take some time to reflect on your “spiritual” mothers and grandmothers. When I think back over my life in the church, I remember certain women of God who made a special impression on me. Their care, wisdom, grace and love have taught me much over the years. Perhaps there are those in your own life who fit this bill. It would not be inappropriate to let them know what they mean to you today.

To all of the mothers, grandmothers, female carers, whether natural, spiritual, adoptive or otherwise – may I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day! I pray God will bless you and you will be shown how much you mean to those around you this day.

What about the animals?

Jonah 4:11 (NLT) But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

As I write this, I’m overlooking a sort of forest woodland. In the last few minutes I have seen an abundance of nature! I’ve seen ducks, squirrels, deer, rabbits and even what I think was a stoat.

Due to the Coronavirus, the woodland has largely been abandoned at the moment. I suspect that the sudden drop in guests will quite badly affect the wildlife here. Over time I am sure they have become somewhat dependent on the food given to them by visitors. This area will be closed to the public for several weeks leaving the animals to fend for themselves for a while.

While the sudden drop in available food will be a bit of a shock to them, I am not overly worried about them. God cares for people, but He cares for His creation also.

There have been a number of posts on social media about panic buying and stockpiling. As a result, many food banks and charities have seen a dip in food donations. This is not limited to charities offering support for people either, and a number of animal rescue shelters are struggling too. The Coronavirus is affecting the whole world in myriad ways.

The verse above is quoted from the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. In fact, it is the closing verse of that book. Most people recall that Jonah was once swallowed by a big fish, but in case you don’t know the rest of the story, here is a brief summary.

God called Jonah to preach to the non-Jewish (Gentile) city of Nineveh. Instead, Jonah heads in the complete opposite direction and boards a ship to Tarshish. A great storm swamps the ship, and in the end Jonah confesses to the crew that he is the cause of their struggle. Ultimately they have to throw him overboard to still the storm.

It is at this point – more or less – that Jonah is swallowed by the fish. The fish later spews up the reluctant prophet on to the shoreline, and Jonah finally goes to Ninevah as he was instructed.

Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah and preach because he was afraid the people would listen to him… He knew that if they heard his message, they would repent and turn back to God – and God would forgive them. Imagine that?

After he gives his message, he goes and sits outside the city to see what would happen. The sun is burning hot, and he grows weary. God causes a vine to grow up beside him and offer him some shelter. Later however, a worm comes along and eats the root of the vine so it withers and Jonah loses his shade.

It’s something of an odd story right? Indeed it is, but it is really about who is in charge. God is running the show throughout, and He gives Jonah the vine and quickly takes it away to demonstrate to Jonah that he has no control in the situation. God wants Jonah to realise that He cares for the people of Ninevah.

The book of Jonah closes with the verse above. God tells Jonah He is right to care for the 120,000 people living there. We don’t know what happened to Jonah after this, but let’s hope he learned a lesson!

Perhaps 15 years ago, I had a dog who was very poorly. They had a particularly bad night, and we had to contact an emergency vet. The next day I happened to be reading this closing chapter of Jonah. I’ll always remember that because I recall very vividly this final verse. As well as the 120,000 people, God specifically mentions the animals also.

The word animals here is sometimes translated as cattle, so perhaps refers to farm animals or bovine species. Whatever it refers to though, it is clear that God cares for the animals also.

Animals are a part of God’s creation. While they are not as important as people, they are important. We have a responsibility to take care of them, and must certainly not mistreat them.

Spare a thought this week for all those affected by the Coronavirus. We must prioritise helping people with various needs at this time. We, the church, may not be able to gather together in large numbers, but we can and must continue to be Jesus’ hands and feet on the Earth. Call an isolated family member. Check on an elderly neighbour. Let’s do what we can to share God’s love in this difficult time.

As well as those things, and if you’re not overstretched, do consider whether there are ways to take care of God’s creation also. You might consider grabbing a can of dog food to pass on to a struggling pet owner. Perhaps you could walk a friend’s dog. Maybe, like me, there is a nearby animal shelter who could do with a helping hand at this difficult time.

Like many, I’m deeply disappointed to read stories of fighting in supermarkets and immoral seller hiking up prices. There are plenty of positives stories also, and we – the church – should be leading the way in that.

How can you be a blessing to those around you at this time? And remember, God cares about the animals also.

Lent is Coming

It’s only about a month until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

I know that Christians mark Lent in many ways. Some observe fasting, while others start a spiritual habit.  I knw many who like to read a new book or follow Lent study throughout the period. And here comes the shameless plug…

If you are looking for something to read and study over Lent, then please consider getting a copy of my 40-day devotional – A Journey with Jesus.

It is available from your local Amazon store, both in paperback and Kindle.

It’s also available in large print for those who prefer.

I hope you enjoy it, but more importantly, I hope you grow closer to God as a result.

Chosen To Be Holy

Ephesians #3

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”

Ephesians 1:4-5 (ESV)

A while ago I was forced to reassess something extremely important in the Christian faith. I had to face the challenge of the sovereignty of God. And these verses played no small part in that journey.

I once believed that although God was supreme, He did not control every single little action in the universe. I believed that our response to Him was somehow our choice – an act of our free will. The more I think about that, the more ludicrous it sounds.

The Bible teaches that God chose us, and not the other way around. As hard as that may be to get our heads around sometimes, it must be true. The alternative goes something like this, and I hope you agree it makes little sense. When I was a sinner, and had nothing to do with God whatsoever; while I was far off and living (and enjoying) my sin and sinfulness, somehow… some way… I decided to turn from that sin and come to God…

That cannot be correct.

Instead, while I was in that sin and quite happy there, God reached down and saved me from and in spite of myself. He essentially saved me against my will because no sinner willingly wants God in their lives. I had no will to escape the sin that I was in. Nor did I have the power to do so. The truth is that God chose me and He chose you as well.

These verses clearly tell us that God chose us and He did so before the foundation of the world. He chose us before creation. He chose us before we did or thought or said anything. That means that his choice had absolutely nothing to do with us. He chose us because it was His sovereign will to do so.

When we hear this truth, we often ask the question: “If He chose us, then why not choose someone else?” That is to say, if the choice is His, what about the ones who reject Him? This is a difficult question, and when we realise that God chooses some and not others, we feel it is somehow unfair. I’ve said it before, but fairness is not what we want from God, rather we want grace and mercy.

It is a miracle He chose any of us at all.

Why did He choose us? To be holy and blameless before Him.

I’ve always believed that God saved us for our own sake, and of course He does, but i’m no longer convinced it is His primary reason for doing so. Rather, I am starting to think God saved us not for us, but primarily so that He would have a spotless bride to present to His Son.

God predestined us for adoption, as the verses above say, and put simply, that means that God decided in advance to bring us into His family forever. Adoption is such a wonderful picture because legal adoptions cannot be undone, and also entitle the adoptee to everything that a natural child would have access to. Adopted children are as equal as natural ones, and the word “sons” here is important because the son (in that culture) had a greater claim than a daughter.

The point is that this adoption does not make us somehow second-class children. We are not somehow lesser children to God because we are adopted, rather instead the text makes clear that we are welcomed and celebrated in God’s family.

God specially selected you to be His very own, and He has brought you into His adopted family. I hope, like me, that makes you feel very special indeed. Even if the entire world rejects you, you can be assured that God will never reject or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Rejoice in God’s love for you today, and know that this love will never change. You are His adopted child!