Encouraging Articles January 2021

As we come to the end of the first month of 2021 this has certainly been a difficult and tough month for many people. At the beginning of January the UK entered its third national lockdown. We have seen a new variant of coronavirus emerge with the challenges that this brings. Sadly the number of deaths continues to rise and over 100,000 have now died from the virus in the UK.

The NHS are under significant pressure in different parts of the country as they battle to help those affected by coronavirus.

On a positive notice, it has been good to see the vaccine being rolled out and hopefully that will aid in the struggle against this virus.

If we are being honest it can be quite discouraging looking back over January. Therefore I thought it would be good to share some links below to articles written by other Christians, that I have read this month and found helpful. I have included an extract from the article beneath each link to give an indication of the content of each one.

Are COVID-19 vaccines made from aborted babies? What is HEK293?

Adrian Warnock has written a very comprehensive piece on the Covid-19 vaccines and starts by saying: “Some Christians do have genuine concerns about vaccination which I will address in this article. I wish to appeal to believers to consider carefully these matters rather than reflexly reject the COVID-19 vaccines.”

3 ideas for living well in 2021

Chris Goswami gives us 3 ideas for living well in 2021 and says “As we enter what we hope is a less exciting year than the last one, few of us now doubt that we are living in historic times. You may have heard Uncle Albert’s signature line in the comedy Only Fools and Horses: “……during the war …..”. He sits in the corner and says it a lot, and it gets met with a chorus of sarcasm from Rodney and Dell Boy. Well I wonder if we will end up in our old age quipping “during the virus …..” only to be met with a chorus of “grandad you tell us that story EVERY WEEK!” I don’t know, but “the virus” is the defining narrative of our age, the story we will retell for years to come, a period of history on which school examination questions will be set.”

OK Christians, Time to Do Your Job

Jeff Weddle reminds us that it is time for Christians to do their job and says “In our current state of rancour, arguing, shouting, rioting, and clamouring, I have an idea: how about we listen to what the Bible says a follower of Christ should do and quit following the world’s example.

If we did, we would shine like lights in the world. The good news is that what we’re told to do sounds very refreshing and lovely right about now!”

Is Sin Inevitable in the Christian Life?

Randy Alcorn asks if sin is inevitable in the Christian life. “One common Christian misunderstanding today is that grace and salvation in Jesus means God has lowered His standards, as compared to the Old Testament law. That’s simply not true. God has raised His standards for the Christian life—but He has empowered us to live that Christian life through our relationship with Him and His indwelling Holy Spirit. His grace teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness (Titus 2:12).”

Tempted and Unarmed

Garrett Kell reminds us why we need the armour of God. “It was the boy’s first day of junior high. All was going well until three older kids took his lunch, ruffled his hair, and stuffed him in a locker. They snarled at his squeals and high-fived one another as they walked away. What the bullies didn’t know, though, was that the kid in the locker was the little brother of the football team’s starting middle linebacker.

After lunch, the boy told his brother what happened. His brother looked him in the eyes. “Let’s go.” As the boy came to his locker, the bullies were waiting for him, grinning. But he hadn’t come alone this time. He came in the strength of his older brother. That was the last day they messed with him.”

Encouraging Articles

This week I am sharing some links to articles written by other Christians that I have found helpful. I have included an extract from the article beneath the link to give an indication of the content of the article.

Advent in a Global Pandemic

Advent, the season of waiting and preparation before the high feast of Christmas, is a chance to regain spiritual sanity, and create fresh and healthier rhythms personally and as a family and as churches. As we enter the six darkest weeks of the year in this hemisphere, we will pivot midway to mark the greatest and brightest turning point in all history: the birth of Christ. And perhaps this Advent will begin restoring what the locusts have taken this year.

Advent doesn’t pretend the darkness is gone. Our lives may yet grow darker. But Advent looks darkness square in the eye and issues this great promise for our season of waiting: darkness will not overcome the Light. It is only a matter of time. And Christmas is just over three weeks away.

How to Pray for the Advent Season

If you’re feeling stressed and over-taxed this Advent season, if you’re feeling lonely and left out, if you’re longing for how things used to be during the holidays of your past, you can still pause and remember the coming of Jesus, both past and future. Praying through the month of December can prepare your heart to focus on Jesus so you don’t miss the days of celebration and remembrance.

Secret Sins Will Harm Others

One of the most treacherous lies we can believe about sin, especially sin we consider private or secret, is that we can keep its consequences to ourselves. That we will be the only ones — if anyone — affected. We rarely consider how our sin inevitably influences others in one way or another.

Behold Your God: A Plea to Look to the Sovereign God

To know that God is completely in control of all things is the greatest comfort for the Christian. In these changing and uncertain times, we have an unchangeable and eternal refuge for our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if we are completely honest, this season has brought about much weariness to the soul. We have been pressed and tried on every side. Where do we look to? My friend, by faith, look to the Sovereign Ruler of the skies!

Self-Discipline Is the Gateway to Christian Maturity

Well, there is good news. While some might be more naturally disposed to being disciplined, discipline is not an innate quality some have, and some don’t, like blue eyes or male-pattern baldness. Discipline can be cultivated, it can be grown, and by it we too can grow into Christlikeness. Let’s look at exactly what Christian discipline is, why we so desperately need it, and the practical steps we can take to cultivate discipline in our lives.

Thoughts on Flipping the Bible Open and Reading Wherever You Land (and Recommended Study Resources)

I don’t normally do the “flip the Bible open and put my finger down” method of reading Scripture. However, I used to mock that practice, and I don’t anymore. “Mock” is perhaps too strong of a word, but I used to think, Come on, don’t study the Bible that way. But I’ve often done it and been richly rewarded for it. It’s certainly not my usual way of opening God’s Word each day, but one real positive is that no matter what, you’re still going to end up in the inspired Word of God.

Five Articles to Read

Over the last few days I have come across these five articles which you may find interesting to read:

Radical Commitment

This is part of the Word for Today series from United Christian Broadcasters. The article challenges us to radical commitment to Christ in the following areas of our life: at work, at church and in our relationship with Him.

Jesus is not a republican or a democrat

Adrian Warnock starts this important hard-hitting article with the words:

For the sake of the global cause of Christ may I just appeal to my US Evangelical brothers and sisters, PLEASE do not claim that Christians can only follow one political tribe. I shouldn’t have to say this.”

How Perfectionism Makes You a Spiritual Quitter

Melissa Edgington says some words that we all need to hear:

it has taken me 43 years to begin to learn that there is a happy, spiritually-nourishing medium between praying for an hour a day and not praying at all. Between reading five chapters in my Bible and not reading a single word. Spiritual disciplines don’t have to be feast or famine, and they shouldn’t be. I don’t have to perfectly execute a plan in order to be growing in Christ, learning from His word, communing with Him daily, learning more about who He is and who He wants me to be.

What Are We Arguing About?

Kevin DeYoung tells us that:

My overarching point is this: we need to be clearer as Christians about where our disagreements lie.

The Christian and the State

Paul Carter addresses a subject that has become more of an issue to many this year as we have seen various restrictions introduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic:

To be a Christian is to belong simultaneously to two different kingdoms. If you are a child of God through faith in Christ then you are a citizen of the here and coming Kingdom of God and you are subject to various lesser but legitimate human authorities. How does that work out in practice? What if the demands of the one run contrary to the demands of the other?”

Lessons from the Church’s Responses to the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919

Whilst reading the numerous media articles on the coronavirus pandemic one thing I have come across is a comparison of it with the Spanish Flu outbreak between 1918-20. I must confess that I did not really know anything about Spanish Flu previously. According to Wikipedia the dead toll was estimated to be between 17 million and 50 million, a staggering number.

A good question to ask ourselves in 2020 is: are there any lessons that the church can learn from their response to the Spanish Flu outbreak that would be useful for the current situation we face with coronavirus?

Well according to the Think Theology blog the answer to that question is yes! In a very interesting article written by Kristine Nethers entitled: We’ve Been Here Before: Lessons from the Church’s Responses to the Spanish Flu of 1918-19, she lists 12 similarities and 5 things we can learn from the church’s response 100 years ago.

This is a very good article which I recommend.

The UCB Word for Today

Whilst scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning I came across The UCB Word for Today from United Christian Broadcasters. After reading the one for today, which I thought was very good, I read through some of the previous archive ones and a number of them caught my attention.

I have provided some links below to fifteen of those that I particularly liked. I have also included the opening words of each one too.

Learning the hard way (1) – Samson had incredible potential, but he threw it all away. Why?

Start exercising – As you move into your forties, fifties, and sixties, you’ll tend to become more sedentary.

Everything we need – Peter writes, ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life’ (v. 3 NIV)

Get your approval from God – It’s always nice to be appreciated for the work you do, and when that doesn’t happen, it can affect your sense of self-worth.

Recall God’s loving kindness to you – The story’s told of a little boy who was asked, ‘Do you say your prayers every night?’ He replied, ‘No, some nights I don’t need anything!’

Don’t look back – Before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, angels of the Lord rescued Lot and his family.

Soak your mind in God’s Word – Are you discouraged because you keep committing the same sins over and over again?

Don’t give in to despair – When difficulties come to us in life and in our relationships, as they inevitably will, it’s easy to succumb to the ‘dominoes of despair’.

God will forgive and restore you – Have you ever heard of the Great Boston Molasses Flood?

The need for rest and renewal – When you’re physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained, you become vulnerable.

The need for repentance – There’s a difference between confessing your sin and repenting of it.

Retrain your mind – The thought patterns you establish put you on autopilot.

Where is God when it hurts – If you could ask God one question and be guaranteed an answer, what would you ask?

The most important thing – Here are two enemies that threaten your spiritual life:

Keep learning – It’s been said that we forget more than 80 per cent of what we learn in school and college.

One of the nice features of The UCB Word for Today, on their website, is that there is also an audio version of each one, in addition to the written version. Like most online devotions you can sign up and have them emailed to you directly if you wish. Although these devotions are relatively short I’m sure you will agree they contain some excellent encouragement for our walk with Christ.

The Christian response to coronavirus

There has been one subject dominating the news for the last few weeks: coronavirus. In fact the majority of the news on television seems to be about this. Some might originally have argued that the whole thing was being exaggerated by the media, whilst others would have the opposite viewpoint. What should be the Christian response to coronavirus?

I came across some blog posts and website articles on coronavirus and thought it might be interesting to post links to them as they are worth reading as we ponder this matter. (UPDATE – I will continue to add to the links below as I find more articles that I feel will be of interest to others)

The first link is an article looking at the Cholera Outbreak of 1854 and how Spurgeon responded to this. This can be useful in thinking how we should respond to coronavirus. To summarise Spurgeon’s response was:

1. Prioritize local ministry
2. Adjust as needed, but continued meeting if possible
3. Visit the sick
4. Be open to new evangelistic opportunities
5. Entrust your life to God

The second one is an interview Adrian Warnock did with Richard Johnston, the founder of ChristianMindfulness.co.uk

Adrian writes that coronavirus is just the latest trigger for anxiety. Christian Mindfulness is one tool we can use to help us cope when things seem too much to handle.

The next one is an interview that Tim Challies did with Pastor Andrea Artioli who pastors a church in Mantua, Italy. His church has been instructed by the local authorities that it cannot meet for at least the next two weeks.

This is an interesting interview as Italy is currently the country in Europe which has had the biggest outbreak of coronavirus.

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) is a Christian charity which aims to rebuild lives and restore hope in the Middle East.

On their website they have an article called Imagine having no health care at this time in which they advise us of their urgent prayers requests which are:

• Please pray that we will be able to keep supporting all those who rely on us during the Coronavirus outbreak.
• Pray for all the FRRME Staff; in the UK and especially in the Middle East, including Abdulrahman, our Iraq Programme Manager and Helena our Jordan Country Director. Pray for God’s protection over them.
• Please pray for Father Faez, the congregation of  St George’s Baghdad and all those who attend the St George’s Clinic. Pray that God will protect and support them in this worrying time.
• Pray for the refugees who use the Olive Tree Centre in Madaba, Jordan and all those who attend our partner churches. – That they will have access to accurate information about the situation.
• Pray for the refugees who use the Olive Tree Centre in Madaba, Jordan and all those who attend our partner churches. – That they will have access to accurate information about the situation.
• Pray that sufficient funds come in so that we might meet the urgent needs of the vulnerable in Iraq and Jordan
• Please pray for our government and others around the world. May God guide and support them as they seek to contain the outbreak and reassure the population.
• Please pray for the scientists who are working to produce a vaccine.

Hopefully these website and blogs postings will help us to look at this matter differently to the mainstream media and in a way that is appropriate of our Christian faith. I trust too that it will guide us in our praying.