Here is 'The Messenger' downloable for free: February Magazine.
Dear brothers and sisters,
As I write this we are in the midst of another national lockdown, and as I’ve said in previous editorials, it is very easy to lose heart or wonder how to serve God in these times. I hope that spending a little time thinking about the famous Old Testament believer, Daniel, will encourage us to keep going in our current situation.
In the several centuries before Jesus’ birth, God’s people, Israel, were conquered, deported, and exiled from their homeland. The prophet Daniel lived through one such deportation. Once Nebuchadnezzar II had ransacked Jerusalem, he carried off all the civilian élites (i.e. the ones who might possibly raise trouble if they were left at home) to Babylon; Daniel was among them. Daniel was clearly a very smart guy (Daniel 1:20 tells us that, along with his Jewish friends at the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar, he was found ‘ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in [Nebuchadnezzar’s] whole kingdom’), but Daniel’s integration into the highest ranks of Babylonian society did not affect his faith and trust in the God of Israel. We’re told:
‘Daniel continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open towards Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and to praise him, just as he had done previously.’ (Daniel 6:10)
Those of you who know Daniel’s story from Sunday-school days will remember that this habit landed Daniel in hot water on several occasions (or rather a fiery furnace, and then a lions’ den). But what strikes me as relevant for our situation, in these days of yet another national lockdown, is that Daniel – deprived of the chance to meet with other worshippers of God, and forcibly removed from the places he was used to worshipping in – nevertheless kept going, worshipping God at home, ‘just as he had done previously’. Separated from his people, ripped from his homeland, and likely never to see the temple again, he nonetheless ploughed on regardless.
Plough on regardless. That’s a good motto for what Christians need to do now, I think. Lockdown has confined us all increasingly to our homes again, and although that doesn’t mean our churches are completely closed this time, it certainly means we are not able to worship in the ways we would normally, and there is a real chance that this will affect Easter… again!
But I want to encourage you to plough on regardless. Plough on, worshipping God in daily prayers and bible reading. Plough on, tuning in to online broadcasts and coming to church if you feel able to. Plough on, loving your neighbour, both in prayer and in service. Plough on, regardless, because the God who has called us is just as faithful to us today as he was before lockdown. So let’s try and remain as faithful to Him in return, even in this less than cheery lockdown. If you need help praying don’t forget there is a booklet available on our website, which we produced for the first lockdown (all those months ago!); and coming at the end of the month will be a devotional to read on every day during Lent (similar to the one we read in Advent!). If you need anything else, then do give me a call, or drop me an email, and I’ll be only too happy to help.
Keep ploughing on, keep growing in your faith, for soon this pandemic will be over.