Join us on our 40-day-journey to Pentecost… a 40-day-journey of HOPE
You are not alone
Be strong and courageous,
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the LORD your God goes with you;
he will never leave you or forsake you
Pentecost is here!
In all the struggles of the last month and more, the one thing that stands out is that the Holy Spirit makes a difference! Consider the early disciples; Jesus Himself had taught them for more than three years—the greatest leadership training! But still He had to caution them and encourage them not to depend on their own wisdom and strength: “But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (Luke 24:49b). He promised that they would receive the Person of the Holy Spirit to carry out His plan of world evangelisation. After Pentecost, the Spirit brought them a new and vivid consciousness of the actual presence of God. He gave them the gifts of divine joy and peace. He gave them great and continuing delight in prayer and communion with God! Finally, we recall that before Pentecost, the disciples could only ask questions. After Pentecost, throughout the record in the book of Acts, they stood in the authority of the Spirit and answered all the questions of the people concerning God’s plan of salvation through the crucified and risen Christ!
On this Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded that we are empowered to give witness to the entire world of the good news of Jesus Christ. The growth of vibrant Christian faith is most vigorous where it is most resisted and least accessible. LeaDev-Langham through supporters like you facilitates the training of Christian leaders in such contexts. The promise of Pentecost is that the Jesus of the Gospels is doing the same thing today as He did 2,100 years ago. I am praying that the seeds of faith and ministry will spring forth growth in powerful and obvious ways. The ever-renewing Holy Spirit is what we can believe will send the Gospel to the regions beyond and kindle fires in places of darkness and opportunity like never before.
by Russell Thorp Executive Director, LeaDev-Langham
The Covid19 Universals
So what’s changed?
The world over, commentators are predicting that once Covid19 has done its worst, life will never be the same again. It’s hard to disagree. This has been a devastating and disorienting time. For us ALL. Covid19 does not discriminate; that’s probably the only nice thing we can say about it. It really is knitting us ALL together.
Whenever astronauts go into orbit for the first time, they experience the so-called ‘overview effect’. Seeing the whole of planet Earth at a glance transforms them: life’s fragility on this ‘pale blue dot’ is obvious; national boundaries are irrelevant. I wonder if something similar is happening as a result of Covid19. We are ALL in the same boat.
But still, I keep asking. What’s changed? This is where the Bible’s ‘overview effect’ is so crucial. Look at some of the things it says about ‘ALL people’:
(a) ‘’ALL people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field’ (1 Peter 1:24). This is the Covid19 world – we are vulnerable and fragile. As we have always been. If this doesn’t humble an arrogant, self-sufficient world, I don’t know what will.
(b) ‘[The Lord] gives showers of rain to ALL people, and plants of the field to everyone’ (Zechariah 10.1). Theologians speak of God’s generosity to the whole world as ‘common’ grace. And he’s been doing this since Eden.
(c) We should not be idle. He involves his people in being agents of that grace. ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers’ (Galatians 6.10).
(d) When you start digging around for what is common to all people in the Bible, we find the majority of texts refer to humanity’s potential relationship to God. This is his ‘special’ grace, expressed in the covenant with Abraham – but also in the prophets, like Isaiah: ‘On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for ALL peoples, a banquet of aged wine’ (Is 25.6).
(e) The implications of all this are infinite. But, at the very least, it means we have a job to do: ‘Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among ALL peoples’ (1 Chronicles 16.24).
But above all, the Bible’s ‘overview effect’ takes us to God’s universal plan: the greatest universal, Jesus himself. This must be one of the Bible’s most thrilling passages of all. This is, after all, referring to the man who got his feet muddy on the banks of the Jordan River:
‘The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over ALL creation. For in him ALL things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL things have been created through him and for him. He is before ALL things, and in him ALL things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have ALL his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself ALL things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross’ (Colossians 1:15-20).
So, there is nothing—I repeat, nothing—that is out of his hands or beyond him. NOTHING. He is Lord of all, Lord of Lords.
So I ask again. What’s changed? Well. In the grand scheme of things? Nothing!
by Mark Meynell(UK) Langham Preaching Director Europe and Caribbean
Greetings in the strong name of our Lord Jesus! As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between God and humanity as a whole. How does God weigh up in his balance the way his creation fights back against human sin and folly on the one hand, and the awful toll of resultant human suffering on the other hand? If not even a sparrow falls to earth without your Heavenly Father, as Jesus said, what does it do to the Father heart of God to see multitudes of his human creatures stricken down and dying – and that on top of so many other disastrous consequences of human brutality, in Syria, Yemen, the Rohingya, Venezuela, D.R. Congo, and on and on. I have to preach on Lamentations 1 – 2 next Sunday, and it is surely a relevant book for today.
And I’ve also been thinking about the relationship between God and his global church – who exist for the sake of the nations, according to God’s promise to Abraham. For we know that the people of God are the population of the new creation still and already living within this broken and groaning creation, and the Lord knows those who are his. For us in Langham, it is a massive privilege to be called to serve God’s people around the world. And at the same time, it is humbling and reassuring that the church does not depend on anything we can do (or, in present circumstances, cannot do). ‘I will build my church,’ said Christ, and whatever we do as co-workers with God is very much in the ‘junior assistant’ role.
This gives special resonance to the Psalms of Ascent, which seem to exude an awareness of struggle, danger, pressure and threat, yet resonate with confidence that God will ultimately defend his people and guarantee their eternal future. Here are some of their lines:
If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.
Which is not the same as imagining that no individual believers would get hurt, or suffer, or die – the Israelites knew as well as we do that such things happen even to the most faithful believers. We are fragile. We are mortal. But whatever happens to you, or me, or any of God’s children in this life, God’s people as a whole are in God’s hands through all of history, and God’s work will go on until God’s mission is complete. Or as the song by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend puts it:
By faith we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness
Who walk by faith and not by sight
We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight
May that be our determination, and our testimony. Whatever the Lord has for Langham in the days ahead, as we strive to stay faithful to our vision and mission while reviewing our immediate plans, God will take care of his people.
by Chris Wright (UK)International Ministries Director – Langham Partnership
What is biblical lament and can it be at all hopeful? I’ve been thinking a lot about lament since COVID-19 broke out. I appreciated Tom Wright’s call in Time magazine for the church to lament, and my heart has been moved by the stories shared so far by our partners, board and staff on this 40 day journey to Pentecost. Often I grieve over the pain and suffering, pictures of mass graves, and those starving from lack of aid and relief as western ports have been closed. Frustration has crept in because of restrictions on meeting with others. “How long o Lord?” has been a regular refrain in my prayer times. If you’ve been anything like me, you may be wondering about biblical lament. Is it more than just complaining to God?
I’ve found another piece written by Dr Glenn Packiam about lament massively helpful and I commend it to you. In summary, his 5 things to know about lament are that it is a form of praise, is a proof of the relationship (between Israel and God in the Psalms, and when we lament, of our adoption into God’s family), it is a pathway to intimacy with God, it’s a prayer for God to act and it’s a participation in the pain of others Gal 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ”.
Let’s take one lament verse in Habakkuk 3:2 NLT – “I have heard all about you, LORD. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.” See how many of these points are here in one verse. “LORD” recognises a relationship between us and God, “I am filled in awe” is a praise statement, “our deep need” expresses a standing with others in trouble, and “help us again” is a prayer for God to act. “Remember mercy” could be read as having overtones of intimacy. “Help us again” recognises that God has the power to do just that.
The lament psalms often finish with praise, and lament will not be our final prayer here because we know what (and Who) is coming. So yes, lament can be hopeful because we who lament wait in hope for a mighty God.
by John Corban International Finance Officer – Langham Partnership
Even though it appears that we are among the countries with a lower death rate and a higher rate of testing for COVID-19, we are moving quickly towards the brink of the collapse of our health system. The situation is made worse because the rate of infection continues to spread, with many Chileans not taking the government’s instruction seriously.
We ask for God’s mercy for our country in the coming months, which we expect to be far more difficult than the recent months. We keep praying for the spread of the word of God in this time of suffering and for more preachers willing to share the word of God in a faithful and relevant way in the middle of this pandemic.
In these challenging times, Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians takes on even more relevancy: “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:14-19 – ESV
by Esteban Álvarez Based in Antofagasta, coordinator for work in the south of Chile – Langham Preaching
Greetings from Brazil! I would like to share with you something about the Brazilian reality in this new coronavirus crisis. Our first case of Covid-19 was reported in February 15. Currently we have 391,222 cases and 24,512 deaths.*** Brazilian authorities from the southeast, including the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro started recommending social distancing while we were in the first hundred cases in the middle of March and imposed obligatory confinement since March 24. Sadly, there is a huge discussion and division among politicians and many are using this time to further their own agendas. President Bolsonaro is trying to make the country go back to work and state authorities are fiercely against it. Mainstream media is using the moment to weaken the president. Please, pray for our political and health situations.
We are facing economic problems already. Mass dismissal of employees already started, freelancers are without jobs, entrepreneurs are afraid, and the Brazilian stock market is the one facing the worst fall in the world. Dollar increased hugely in value and the federal government is trying to approve a rescue plan, but as there is no unity among the powers, all of that is very hard to happen. Please, pray for the poor and needy in our country. Pray also for our overall economical situation.
Most of the churches decided to follow the recommendations of the government and have their sanctuaries closed. Some are transmitting their services live on YouTube or Facebook. Others are recording services and sending to their parishioners. Still others are using tools as Zoom to live stream a more simple version of their services. Currently, one can find lots of Christian resources for free on the Internet, because many pastors and Christian institutions are producing a lot of material for this time. The people of God are missing to be together, but for now we are strong and asking God to bring good for his church from all of this. Unite with us in prayer for the health of our churches and religious leaders.
In conclusion, I want to share with my brothers and sisters around the world that all of God’s promises in Psalm 91(and others) are completely true for all real believers, but we need to have the whole history of redemption in mind to understand that. God will not always preserve us here, while we are in the world, but he will definitely and ultimately save us from all pestilence, tragedies, maladies, troubles and crisis. He will bring us to the New Heavens and New Earth and he will wipe off all tears from our eyes. For now we will face this kind of tough situation, as our Lord told us (Matthew 24-25), but as he conquered the world through his suffering, we are called to do too. Then, let us praise the Lord, let us thank him for his sure promises, let us be light and salt amidst these uncertain days, till that great day comes in which we will hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25.21) Alleluia!
by João Aquino (Brazil) Langham Scholar
***Numbers amended and updated as at 27 May 2020. Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/brazil/
At all times, but especially in times of crisis, it is right and natural to turn to the Psalms to find words that can give expression to our hearts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the psalms ‘the prayers of the Messiah’. This is literally true of Psalm 31, whose words Jesus prays as he gives up his life – ‘into your hands I commit my spirit’ (5). But the whole psalm anticipates his experience in so many ways.
David is in trouble – big trouble. He is a rejected, frightened and hunted man who approaches God with all the confusion that fear brings (1-8). He recalls God’s deliverance in the past (1-2); cries for rescue in the present (3-4); rejects the idols that promise much but are a false hope (6); and rejoices in God’s love and protection to this point (7-8). He then lays his present need in greater detail before the Lord. Grief has overtaken him. At its deepest level, the cause is spiritual – ‘my strength fails me because of my iniquity/guilt’ (not ‘affliction’ – NIV, 10). This has broken him physically; he has been rejected by his own and now there is ‘terror on every side’ as a plot to murder him is discovered (13).
Against all this, David places his faith in God: “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God, my times are in your hands’.” (14-15). From this rock David makes his petitions for deliverance. Finally, faith leads to praise and exhortation (19-24). ‘How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you.’ David appears to speak as though deliverance has already arrived – that even in the lockdown of a besieged city ‘He has shown his wonderful love for me’ (21). So then, ‘Love the Lord, all his saints… Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord.’ (23-24).
In recent weeks I have known fear, boredom and frustration. I have also experienced gratitude, thankfulness and opportunity – including the chance to walk with my son (keeping appropriate distance) in the mountains where we live, here in Australia. Terrible fires swept through this area in January. But now, as we walk, new life is bursting from blackened trunks and new pathways are opening up that take us to remote and beautiful places which were inaccessible in the past … a parable, perhaps, of how God may use this time of enforced isolation and suffering, for so many people.
by Stephen Williams (Australia) Regional coordinator in South Pacific
Are laughter and fun scarce during this time of isolation? Are you missing the joy of the Lord? It’s difficult to be joyful in the midst of suffering, hardship and separation. The Apostle Paul exhorts the Philippian church to rejoice, not because of the situation, but because our Lord is near.
I noticed a small bird doing something peculiar recently. She flitted upward to sit on a dainty flower on top of its tall, delicate stem. As she perched there, the stem slowly bent over and touched the ground. She then hopped off — delivered to her destination. She did it again and again.
As I watched, I realized that she was playing! Her antics gave me so much joy I found myself laughing out loud.
I had been praying for restoration of my sense of humour, for laughter to break forth, to regain my ability to play during this time of crisis. I believe that brief bird-act was exquisitely designed for me — a small measure of God’s humour and sense of play gifted to me simply to make me laugh.
by Jennifer Cuthbertson (USA) Coordinator for Facilitator Development – Langham Preaching
Beacons of Hope
Over the last few weeks I have met most of LeaDev-Langham’s partner Bible College/Seminary Principals over Zoom. LeaDev-Langham has, through our NZ supporters contributed to the training and development of these significant leaders and their colleges. I am encouraged by their calm, assured trust in the Lord and his Word through this time of crisis. These schools are continuing to train young women and men under new and difficult circumstances using the internet and applications like Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp. Many schools are struggling to meet financial needs due to students not being able to pay fees and a downturn in donations. The genuine care of these leaders for faculty, staff and students as well as the communities through whom they operate reflects the love and light of the Lord Jesus. They are beacons of hope, grounded in the gospel, flourishing in a disrupted and disillusioned world.
Watch how Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) is handling the transition to online teaching as Dr Ivor Poobalan chats about it in the video.
Let the words of Paul encourage us to be beacons of hope in our communities:
Rom 15:4,13 “…And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled… I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
by Russell Thorp Executive Director, LeaDev-Langham
In these difficult days we remember our Langham Scholars who are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Our Scholar John* describes the impact in the Middle East**
O Lord, we encounter death, fear, but into your wisdom we are logging
A new god is claiming to be Lord of lords and King of kings
He destroys bodies and fear is the theme of his paintings
The strong and powerful are locking themselves in their buildings
He prevents us from going to work and we have no savings
We are closing our churches and stopping our meetings
O Lord, we encounter death, fear, but into your wisdom we are logging
This god hates weddings, public games, and social gatherings
He wears many crowns and many kingdoms under his shadow he brings
Covid-19 seems strong and more powerful than the Vikings
He stopped all cars, trains, airplanes, and we are losing our wings
He is everywhere, very powerful, and has the highest ratings
O Lord, we encounter death, fear, but into your wisdom we are learning
We will bow our knees only to Christ, the greatest being
Into his hands we entrust our destiny and embrace his saying
I am the alpha and the omega and there is no need for worrying
His mercy and goodness in this cold season are the best covering
We pray, serve, and love, knowing that in Christ we are not perishing
O Lord, in your face, we encounter love, faith, hope, and a contagious blessing
by John* Langham Scholar – Programme Partner in the Middle East**
Our government became serious about COVID-19… when it suspended all schools… the Ethiopian government has ordered 90% of government workers to stay at home. Churches are also ordered not to gather and have any kind of worship services.
The movement of people from one place to another is limited. There aren’t enough transportation services. People are not working. This has created huge psychological and financial stresses. The price of things has increased significantly. There is a fear that the number of confirmed cases will increase and, if this happens, our country’s health services are not in a position to handle it. We need God’s intervention in this situation to stop the spread of this deadly virus.
I believe that God is sovereign and in control in the midst of these stressful days. He will continue to be a shield and provider for His people. The most important thing is for the Lord to give us ears to listen and eyes to see what He is communicating to us through these adversities. The coronavirus has taught us that life is unpredictable and our plans can be disrupted at any time. As a result, we need to learn to redeem “today” for His glory. We do not know what will happen tomorrow.
by Frew Tamrat Ethiopia – Langham Preaching Movement Coordinator
George Mombi, Associate Dean at CLTC, Papua New Guinea, shares an update, watch the video here…
‘You can’t cry here!’ This phrase expresses the pain of those who cannot worthily dismiss their dead, of those who are not allowed to mourn for those who have died. The most significant impact of COVID-19 to Peru is to have stolen our tears, in a country where the terrorism of the past left us very few. Because of this, we pray: “Lord, today more than ever, the world needs to hear your voice because when we listen to you, life is able to make its way amid death and consolation is made possible during pain. Your voice continues to forge preaching movements among people care and who make Jesus visible, as he walks hidden and silent in every home.” We are encouraged to know that we are not alone. Jesus quarantines with us. The Word of God is not in quarantine, and there is no virus to stop it.
by Alex Chiang, a regional coordinator in the work in Latin America who is based in Lima, Peru
USA, Canada, UK & Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand: These are the six ‘member countries’ of the Langham Partnership worldwide, the family to which Langham Preaching belongs. In each of these places there are teams of people who continue to work hard on behalf of this ministry, as they remain in contact with prayer and financial supporters. Among these countries are the two that are experiencing the highest number of deaths from COVID-19, the USA and the UK – the same two countries that were so central in the founding of this ministry by John Stott twenty years ago. Pray for the leaders of Langham in these countries: for Ben Homan (USA), Steven Van Dyck (Canada), John Libby (UKI), Victor Sun (Hong Kong), Gillean Smiley (Australia) and Russell Thorp (NZ). Pray that they might be granted ‘wisdom and courage for the facing of this hour’. Remember in your prayers the many others who aren’t able to be named in a short prayer bulletin like this one, but who provide an essential service for Jesus in this ministry at this time.
Source: Langham Preaching Prayershot
In Spanish society, people love to be together and to hold one another. Not being able to be with loved ones as they pass away in hospital and being able to gather for any kind of funeral service are deeply shocking experiences. However, in addition to the shock, grief and fear we are now witnessing a new emotion: rage. Medical staff are feeling abandoned by the authorities, with inadequate resources in isolated, improvised Intensive Care units and left to decide who receives oxygen and who does not.
Against such a dark background, the Psalmist’s words are a source of hope: ‘in your light we see light’ Psalm 36:9. The light of God comes to us through the word of God. Church leaders have scrambled to find alternative ways to gather online to hear God’s word and to respond in worship…God’s word is not chained!
We appreciate your prayers for us. Pray that we retain the hope of the gospel, be imaginative with our ways to keep communicating it and that once the darkness of the storm has passed, Spanish people’s hearts will be hungry for the light.
by Andres Reid Spain Langham Preaching coordinating team in Spain
In this reflection, Femi Adeleye, our Director in Africa, responds to the way the intrusion of Covid-19 into our lives has led to a season of uncertainty, anxiety and various ‘What Ifs?’.
“The What-Ifs of Covid-19: What if the Covid-19 lockdowns and quarantines continue indefinitely? What if governments that provide food/supplies to vulnerable people can no longer do so? What if businesses do not recover? What if we can no longer return to the habit of handshakes and hugs? What if the conspiracy theories are right? What if they do not succeed in developing a vaccine? What if the vaccine is the hidden way to receive the mark of the beast? What if churches can no longer meet as they used to do? These ‘what ifs’ persist because no one is certain about when normalcy will return. The most popular scripture in the past few months for many parts of Africa is Psalm 91.1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty”. We all want to be under the shadow of God almighty.
The Ifs of the Gospel: Our Easter celebrations remind us to bring all the What-Ifs of Covid-19 under the shadow of the Ifs of the Gospel, as found in 1 Corinthians 15.12-19. The ‘ifs’ in this passage are greater than any Covid-19 ‘what if?’. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (15.19).The writer’s response to this big If is: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have died” (15.20).This is the highest declaration of Christian hope. The fact that Easter arrived in the middle of this season of Covid-19 is not an accident. This reminds us to bring all our ‘What Ifs?’ under the shadow of our declaration that Christ is Risen! Our response to Covid-19 uncertainties becomes an affirmation that because Christ is risen our hope is in Him in this life and in the life beyond. We are not to be pitied more than others.
The Renewed What-Ifs: Our hope in the Risen Christ gives us courage to replace the Covid-19 ‘What Ifs?’ with some renewed ‘What Ifs’. What if this time in history has been pre-ordained by God as a divine pause from the pursuits of life? What if it is a divinely appointed sabbath for all of God’s creation to reflect on the maker of heaven and earth? What if it is a time for personal repentance and a renewal of our relationship with God? What of it is a time for family members to get to know one another more and to be reconciled? What if it is time for the people of God to bind the broken hearted and comfort those that mourn? What if the shutdowns and the slowdowns are an opportunity for the people of God to be renewed, restored and recharged for the task of world evangelization? What if it is a reminder of the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ? How true it is that all who dwell in the shelter of the Risen Christ will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
by Femi B. Adeleye (Ghana) – Langham Preaching Director for Africa
CK, Principal of MEGST in Myanmar shares an update…watch the video below
These are extraordinary weeks for the peoples of the world as the coronavirus continues to spread. In this devotion, Slavko Hadžić, Langham Preaching, regional coordinator in Southern Europe, brings a fresh word of encouragement from a familiar passage.
“The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I live, have started to ease the restrictions. However, there will be long lasting consequences. Some people have lost family members. Some have lost their jobs. Churches have been unable to meet. Some people are struggling with their faith. Where do we turn to find security in this time of uncertainty? I find comfort in Psalm 23.
Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. God takes care of me today, even in this insecure time of coronavirus. I miss nature when I am surrounded by the walls of my home. I have worries about the future and the economic crisis which is developing. Just as David knew that God would take care of him, so I experience peace in these troubled times through that same knowledge.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Some years ago, my mother was having a hard time in hospital. She thought she would die before morning. Darkness had surrounded her and she felt like she was falling into it. She started praying. Suddenly, she felt like she had landed in the palm of God’s hand. Later she told me that in that moment all her fear was gone. Sometimes I think about what might happen if I get coronavirus. What if there is no respirator available for me? It is normal to fear the unknown like this, but I rely on God’s word and His promises.
Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Our enemies can be things that work against us. Coronavirus is one of those things. Since becoming a Christian, my life has not always been easy. I have had cancer twice and so have endured difficult chemotherapies and radiations. But I knew that even in those situations God was with me. He was present in my life, good and merciful towards me. This knowledge gave me peace, comfort and security.
Psalm 23:6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. This is the security that I have as believer in Christ: I will spend eternity with God. There will be no death, no pain, no sin, no war, no unemployment – and no coronavirus. Public gatherings and worship celebrations will be allowed and so I will be worshiping Him into eternity.
May Lord bless you, keeping you strong and secure in Him.”
by Slavko Hadžić Langham Preaching, Regional Coordinator in Southern Europe
HOW LONG O LORD?
While reading through Psalms recently, I was struck how often the psalmist cried out, “How Long Lord?’ or similar [See Psalms 6:3; 13:1,2; 35:17; 74:10; 79:5; 80:4; 82:2; 88:46; 90:13; 94:3; 119:84], in the midst of anguish, suffering and/or uncertainty. This is not surprising, given that Psalms is an inspired collection of meditations, poems, prayers, and songs, which reveal the deepest feelings and thoughts of believers in their hidden, inner relationship with the Lord. The prophets also cry out in this emotional way [Isaiah 6:11; Jeremiah 12:4; 47:6; Daniel 8:13; 12:6; Habakkuk 1:2; Zechariah 1:12].
What may be a little more surprising is that Job nowhere asks this of the Lord [though he does ask his ‘friends’ how long they will continue to torment him]. Job’s attitude was different. He demanded that the Lord explain himself, which results in the Lord’s rebuking reply [Job 38-41], and finally Job’s repentance for his wrong attitude towards God [Ch 42].
In contrast to Job’s demanding attitude for an explanation, the psalmists “How long O Lord?” is an earnest and heartfelt plea for God’s assurance, grace, and mercy. Nowhere does the Lord rebuke his people for this kind of cry.
As we struggle with the many and most obvious questions about the meaning of the current Coronavirus pandemic for us, and we struggle with all the difficulties, personal and practical, we can be encouraged to open our hearts to the Lord, and not be afraid to express all our fears and frustrations in the manner of the psalmists. Though the Lord will NOT explain himself to us, he WILL comfort and reassure us that we are his children, and we have not been abandoned. Restoration will come in His time. Our best response is to throw ourselves on Him, into His care, and allow His Holy Spirit to fill us with all the fruit of the Spirit, even while the storm of this present plague sweeps the world. Then we will be able to function; to live positively, and to serve those whose needs are vastly greater than our own. To God Alone Be the Glory!
EPILOGUE: It’s striking to notice that the only use of this cry in the NT is in Revelation [6:10], where John sees the souls of all the faithful Christian martyrs, who cry out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Let us also remember that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are, somewhere in the world, every day, joining those martyrs, who are being slain because of the word of God, and the testimony they have maintained [Rev 6:9].
by Tony Plews Associate Director, Special Projects – LeaDev-Langham
Our country is not expected to reach its peak in numbers of infection until much later in May. This poses a big threat to the limited health infrastructure that exists in a country with 220 million people. While the government has initiated ahsas (welfare) programmes to help distribute food to the poor, we are finding that there are many rural areas that are being overlooked.
OTS has initiated a ‘Compassion Campaign’ and distributed ‘food packs’ to more than a thousand families, especially fellow-believers without care, with hundreds more waiting for help. Please pray that our OTS staff, who are also involved so much in the Langham work, will be kept safe as they spread across the country to serve in this way. Pray that our many Langham-trained preachers will provide people with sound and profound teaching at this time.
With Asia** on our hearts, let’s go one verse earlier, to Psalm 34.17, with its promise of the God who hears and delivers: The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. May this prove to be true for many among the rural poor, through the ministry of OTS’s Compassion Campaign.
by Julian* Programme Partner in Asia**
*Name changed to protect identity and **country removed to protect identity
In all the uncertainties of this Covid crisis, it’s not surprising that many are seeking guidance for their next steps. Some have been retrenched from their jobs, and they are seeking new employment or even new careers. Some are not quite sure where their next meal will come from. Others are seeking direction regarding how to reopen their business. Others are considering alternatives for their next year of university education. Others are struggling in marital relationships and are seeking guidance in restoration. Most of our seminary partners around the world are experiencing challenging financial and educational questions, partly because of uncertainty.
One of my favourite passages on divine guidance is found at the place in Acts where the Apostle Paul and his companions are at the front end of their second missionary journey. We read in Acts 16 that they have revisited cities where they found success on the first journey, but now they are exploring the “next steps”.
Paul and his companions travelled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia, and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Acts 16 NIV
The main point, of course, is that we can depend on God to lead us as we are engaged in His mission. But, we also notice, in His guidance, how He closes doors, and opens them. We see that the missioners were not standing still; they weren’t paralyzed by their options or uncertainty. Instead, they began to move, and only as they took the next steps, did God reveal His way.
There are other lessons here for us about God’s guidance as you face these uncertain days. As you meditate on His word, seek His face and wait on His hand to guide you.
by Scott Cunningham Executive Director – Overseas Council
As I consider the people in our preaching movement there are three burdens on my heart. One is for their physical safety, that they will know the Lord’s good hand upon them even if they become infected. Another burden is connected with their spiritual struggles. In this crisis it is inevitable that anxiety will be the unseen reality in the lives of many sincere servants of the Lord. It is not a worry that comes from unbelief, but a worry that comes from care. I know they will not complain and that they will struggle together with God, not against Him. Finally, my burden, together with these servants, takes the form of lament: lament for the pain that the innocent will face and lament over the lessons to be learned that superficial believers will miss.
I long for my people to believe and to live the truth that God is still present with them, despite his apparent absence. For those believers who cry and suffer and die because of this disease, I take them to the cry of Christ on the cross. God’s response is the same. It is an answer without words. As the Father was there in the midst of the suffering of his Son, so he is present in this suffering of his sons and daughters today. And after the Son cried his cry of separation from the Father, he could also cry to the Father, who was there, present with him: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Yes, there is a cross in the world and yet believers carry that cross all the way to resurrection.
by Daniel Oprean, Romania – Langham Preaching coordinator
The strict measures taken by the government to forbid gatherings and reduce the mobility of people has helped in slowing down the spread of the virus. But now the country’s struggling economy is suffocating. Small business owners fear their businesses may not survive, if the situation persists. Employees are anxious about losing their jobs. Those working in the informal sector are no longer able to feed their families because they depend on a day-to-day income. This income has ceased. Hunger is becoming an epidemic in the country. The government is distributing food packages, but it is far from enough. We pray that the initiatives launched by the government and other organizations will yield enough resources to help ease the sufferings of the people.
Please pray that the members of our preaching clubs will hold firm to the truth that whatever the situation, our God is always with us. In days of uncertainty like these, we can be assured of His unfailing love for us, and we can trust Him for our future, just as the psalmist wrote:
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14
By way of encouragement, I was struck recently by the matching ending of two Psalms. At the end of Psalm 90 (a poignant reminder of the fragility of our human existence), Moses asks God to ‘establish the work of our hands’.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17
For we do believe that all the work of our hands is being done for the Lord’s sake and for the good of his people around the world. So we can think of all our work, our busy-ness, our tasks, our responsibilities and schedules, commitments, meetings, etc etc etc – and ask God to ‘establish’ them – to make them strong and durable, and able to outlast our own fragility.
And then, at the end of Psalm 138 (7-8), David speaks out of some time of trouble and danger, and on the basis of God’s presence, power, and faithful love, he prays to God, ‘do not abandon the works of your hands’.
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:6-8
That’s the other side of the picture. We do our work for God. But we ourselves are ‘God’s work’ – he has invested so much into everything that makes us who we are. And no loving artist, or engineer, or skilled designer, will simply abandon a piece of work into which they have invested years of time and effort and creativity. How much less will God abandon us and all that we are and do for him. He’s watching over his investment more attentively than any market trader!
May both prayers be abundantly answered for us this week and in the coming months.
by Chris Wright International Ministries Director, Langham Partnership
1 Cor 15:58 “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain”.
Whenever you see a “therefore”, ask what it’s there for. Why should we stand firm, and give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord? Because in the rest of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes about Christ’s resurrection and how Jesus is the prototype of what will be when “the mortal has been clothed with the immortal”.
It is easy to lose sight of hope in the face of adversity. For example, I remain deeply concerned about my ancestral homeland of Lebanon – rocked by poor government, financial crises, and now the looming threat of COVID-19 spreading through the squalid refugee camps where social distancing is impossible. I wonder how our partners like *Esther can remain so committed to working with the refugees despite such enormous obstacles. It’s easy for us to lose hope and become discouraged if we take our eyes off our Help.
But in 1 Corinthians 15, we find reasons for that maintaining that hope:
1. Because the Jesus who suffered his passion, died and was buried did not stay dead but walked out alive from the Easter tomb in glorious victory;
2. Because the church has a Saviour to whom all authority has been given, and whose presence is guaranteed with his people through the Holy Spirit; and
3. Because His people have a job – to labour for the extension of His kingdom on earth in every field of endeavour, in every season, place, and time until Christ returns to make all things new and put all things right.
Our work matters. Whatever God has called you to, be it accounting, caring for your kids, working 9-5 in public or private enterprise, or serving your local church, give yourself hopefully, and completely to the God who owns that work knowing that it is not in vain, and let’s hold onto our “sure and certain hope”.
by John Corban International Finance Officer – Langham Partnership
The New Normal. With this current pandemic, we are needing to be creative in adapting to new challenges. For example: the way we communicate (there is much less face-to-face conversation and much more reliance on social media); the way we do things (like many of you, I am using Zoom much more, with weekly sessions for facilitators from across ten states in Asia**)); and the way we connect with those in need (there are so many more initiatives to help the poor and the hungry). We have more time available to us, including time for family, for God and his Word. We are learning to live with the basic essentials of life and trying to cope with new levels of uncertainty and isolation in life. Maybe some of this ‘new normal’ will remain with us.
The Old Normal. My heart skipped a beat when Asia** announced that it would extend its lockdown. This is because the lockdown came when I was separated from my wife and children. They are on another continent, 13,000 km away from me. For me, I would love things to go back to the way they were: the family to visit, the jobs to do, the economy to grow, the streets to walk, the shopping to enjoy – and the gathering with other believers in church buildings for worship. So much of the ‘old normal’ was good – but not all of it. Recently I saw a map of Asia** in which the levels of pollution from three months ago was compared with pollution levels today. The difference couldn’t be greater. The air is so much cleaner. God’s earth is so much healthier.
The Ever Normal. People are asking, ‘Where is God in this pandemic?’ He is here with us. He does not change. Walking through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ has always been a possibility for his people – but God’s ‘rod and staff’ will protect us. He does not change. God did not prevent Daniel’s friends from going through the fire, but He was with them in that fire. He does not change. The corporate worship of the people of God has moved from the tabernacle to the temple to the house-church to the cathedral and now on to the online service. God is here with us, always, to receive our worship. He does not change. This is our ‘ever normal’. Our unchanging God.
We have just celebrated Easter. The Lord is risen. May we live in the power of His resurrection through the New Normal, the Old Normal and the Ever Normal. Alleluia!”
by Peter* Programme Partner in Asia**
*Name changed to protect identity and **country removed to protect identity
Waves and the Virus: Which is Greater? (Rev 1:15)
John has been exiled on the island of Patmos, a 28 Km square island in the Aegean Sea. He was “in the Spirit” on Sunday, worshipping God, and all of a sudden hears the voice that he likens to a trumpet and to “rushing waters” (NIV). Was John startled? Frightened at first? Excited once he realised who was talking to him? However, we do know how he responded: “I fell at his feet as though dead.” How would we have initially responded?
During this pandemic, it is easy for our vision of God to shrink, and our fear of a microscopic virus to grow. The challenge of Revelation 1, the challenge that is hopefully being preached in every pulpit around the world, is that God is greater than the virus.
However, if wealth and physical safety are what we truly hold most dear, then the virus may be a real threat. Perhaps what we should be doing during this pandemic is asking ourselves what is truly most important to us. If we are consumed with fear, then maybe that is an indication of a spiritual problem.
We have been in lockdown now for quite a while. We are being careful when we go out for exercise or to shop at the supermarket. But the virus is not what I fear. I fear my vision of God shrinking and being overwhelmed with the problems of this world. What I want is for my vision of God to be bigger than a microscopic organism. I want to see past this horrible pandemic and look for opportunities to encourage people to not live in fear but to reassess what is truly important. As I said, if our lives are about wealth and physical health, then there is something to fear. But if our lives are truly about the Lord, then this pandemic is just another opportunity for us to stand out and be different from the rest of the world.
Our programme partners are wrestling with meeting the needs of everyday life and ministry. As we journey through from Easter to Pentecost, lets share what we have with them. Maybe that will be through prayer or financial support. Let’s stand out and make a difference for the glory of God.
by Russell Thorp Executive Director – LeaDev-Langham
Author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek says, “A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.” When I joined the LeaDev-Langham team I was going through a difficult time personally, but the sense of value and connection I felt being part of this team was transformational for me.
As human beings we thrive in environments of trust and encouragement. As I reflect on the situations our programme partners face across the world, in places of persecution and pressure, for them to be planted in a training environment of encouragement and growth must be truly lifechanging for them to become all they are called to be.
As Jesus restores Peter on the seashore, when He appears after His resurrection in John 21, He says “Feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep.” In this beautiful moment of Peter’s redemption after his threefold denial, Jesus calls him to care and tend for his flock. To be placed in that environment of care and support is critical for growth.
As we support the work of LeaDev-Langham to fulfil the Great Commission across the earth, we are sowing into places of trust, encouragement and affirmation to those that truly need it.
by Jamie Higginbotham Projects Coordinator – LeaDev-Langham
The Mayor of one of the most populous and poorest cities in Colombia expressed that ‘My greatest concern is not that people die of Covid-19, but that they starve.’ The economic impact of the national quarantine decreed by the government is great, particularly for the informal workers who live from day to day, from street sales. Unemployment in Colombia is high and although national and local governments are taking measures, these seem to be insufficient.
This situation has taken us all by surprise. We are all looking for answers. Join with me in praying that each escuelita coordinator, each facilitator, each pastor and leader related to this preaching movement will be shepherded by the Lord and His Word at this time, and then find the most suitable strategies to shepherd the people and churches whom they serve as pastors/leaders.
In my own search for answers, God has led me to the Psalms. Yesterday and today I have been meditating on Psalm 11. Look at David’s question and answer:
‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ (v3)
Then he found the answer: ‘In the LORD do I put my trust’ (v1).
Faced with this current global upheaval, we are asking ‘What can we do as a church?’ and ‘What are we to do as preachers?’ Our response must be ‘In the LORD I put my trust!’
by Dionisio Orjuela (Colombia) Langham Regional Coordinator, Central America From Preaching Prayershot
Even nations with the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction have been rendered helpless by this invisible enemy that reminds all that we are not as invincible as often thought. Much more can be said about this invisible virus that is no respecter of boundaries, status or nationality. However, the critical question now is how we respond. Churches and governments have tried their best to provide some guidance even if some are so flawed.
For now, may I offer the following words? “Be not afraid!” It seems so long ago that we celebrated Christmas but at the advent of Christ after what is often described as 400 hundred years of ‘God’s silence’ the first word that the angel of the Lord spoke to shepherds watching their sheep at night was “Do not be afraid” See Luke 2:8-10, esp. v. 10 “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” It is the same words that our Lord Jesus said to the women who first saw him after his resurrection “Do not be afraid,” said Jesus. “Go, tell My brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see Me.” Matthew 28:10 Why should we NOT be afraid? Simply because it is the same word of our Lord who never changes to us. This is the same God that assures us through the words of Psalm 91:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91: 1-4
by Femi B. Adeleye (Ghana) – Langham Preaching Director for Africa
When we are not able to grieve because we cannot be with our loved ones, we can weep in the presence of the Lord. We know that Jesus will be with us, weeping as he did when his friend Lazarus died. Jesus weeps for every doctor dying. Jesus weeps with every family member who loses a loved one.
In our isolation, we are not alone. Jesus too was abandoned by his friends. He felt abandoned even by God when he was on the cross. We do not have to deny our feelings of isolation. Rather, let us try to turn them into a means of intimacy with Christ. With Christ, we can cry, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
The hunger in Lamentations is also a reality today. Many are struggling, especially day workers. This should prompt us not only to pray but to help as we are able. It should also lead us to ask our leaders what they are doing.
Human leaders do not like lament. They want to silence all questioning and dissent. But the fact that these questions are preserved in the Holy Scriptures means that they are also there for our edification. They are there for our growth.
Lament is there for our growth – but not just for our growth as individuals. Lament is also given to teach the church to be actively engaged in society.
by Frederico Villanueva (Philippines), Commissioning Editor – Langham Publishing and Scholar Care Coordinator – Langham Partnership
BUT WE SEE JESUS
6 What are mere mortals that you should think about them? …
But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority. 9 What we do see is Jesus, who … was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.”
Hebrews 2:6, 8-9 NLT
WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL
Human destiny is seen in Psalm 8 in terms of our ‘being only a little lower than the angels.’ The writer to the Hebrews agrees but realistically adds ‘But we have not yet seen all things under their authority.’ This pandemic shows not everything is under our control. It’s a mess. For our ministry, theologians can’t cross borders at the moment!
Fortunately, the New Testament writer goes on, ‘What we do see is Jesus.’ Jesus is the one who fulfills our destiny, ‘crowned with glory and honour.’ Jesus is the one who is in control. Beyond his suffering that first Easter, Jesus has triumphed. He is our Man in heaven.
If we see Jesus today, we share in his triumph. He will bring us ‘to glory.’ Everything is under his authority. Jesus is in control.
He is able to help us when we are being tested
Hebrews 2:18 NLT
by Ian Payne Executive Director – Theologians Without Borders
Where is God in the midst of trials and suffering? This is a question that many of the young adults I work with at university ask at some point as they work through what they think and believe about the world around them. Perhaps some of us, too, are asking this question in this moment as we face the seeming enormity of Covid-19 and the long recovery we have yet to go through.
I was reminded recently of the centrality of the Trinity even in our sufferings when reading these well-known verses in Romans:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5
We know that suffering is an inevitable part of life for all of us. The challenge is not to shut ourselves off from it, but to walk through it in the knowledge of who God is and what He has given us. Easter and Pentecost are dramatic illustrations of the answer to that question that we are all faced with at some point. Where is God? He is here with us. He is the Creator Father who loves us. He is the suffering Christ who bore our griefs and sorrows. He is the comforting Spirit who counsels us, intercedes for us, teaches us, helps us, and points us to Truth.
Amen to that. Lord, thank you that you call us beloved and that you truly are God with us.
Jessica Palmer LeaDev-Langham Board Member
The word “hope” is very common in day to day speech: “I hope I get that job”, “I hope the All Blacks win”, “I hope I don’t get sick with Covid-19”, “I hope they find a vaccine soon”.
The common thread with all these expressions is that the hope has an uncertain outcome, it is a wished for outcome with no guarantee of success.
What a contrast to Christian hope, which Peter calls a “living hope”, and which we possess as a consequence of the resurrection of Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:1-7).
Because of this “living hope” believers are certain of their ultimate status before God and are enabled to face “all kinds of trials”. Let us therefore face the challenges due to Covid-19 in the light of this “living hope”, which energises us to continue to spread the gospel message. Crucially we need to continue to support our partner schools in Asia-Pacific so that they may bring this “living hope” to more and more people in their countries.
by Denis Browne LeaDev-Langham Board Chair
1 Peter 1:1-7 NIV
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Praise to God for a Living Hope
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the world. As Paul writes in 2 Cor 5:17
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
The extent of the change can even be described as a “new creation”! This isn’t just an adjustment, or a re-tuning. It is as epoch-making as the act of creation itself!
With the world-wide pandemic, we’re living through events that have changed our world in lots of ways – in this case for the worst. It has brought home to me that what God has done in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus should bring to us – each day – an even stronger sense that “there is a new creation”. Everything has been transformed by God through Christ, in the power of the Spirit. This is to be both our current experience of on-going new life, and our hope for complete transformation of all creation at Christ’s return. May this be the newness in which we live!
by Paul Trebilco LeaDev-Langham Board Member
DESPAIR, HOPE AND JOY
Only a few days after one of the worst days of their lives, two men were trudging slowly from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Heads down, defeated, talking intensely.
All their dreams and hopes for a new Israel had been brutally dashed on a Roman cross. But…there had been rumours of an empty tomb. No… surely not! What could that mean?
And then… a third person, unrecognised, joins them on that dusty, lonely way.
The stranger walks with them, listening and sharing. Later he joins them in a meal at Emmaus. Then… the greatest moment of the two travellers’ lives, surely! The stranger breaks bread and in a flash, they recognise Him and see all their hopes and dreams alive again! What an incredible moment – despair gone, hope realised, joy overwhelming. Christ was risen!
And for each of us, not only does this story have historical importance, but it reminds us, or it should, that dark days are part of the human story, we can’t avoid them. And that God himself knows what it is like to experience that darkness. But also, that wherever our walk, whatever ‘dusty’ road we travel, there is another Person ready to join us on the way and remind us that in Him our despair and darkness can lead, ultimately, to great hope and great joy.
by Grant Adams LeaDev-Langham Board Member
MESSAGE of ENCOURAGEMENT – a reflection on shadow
As a child, I remember using the shadows created by my hands to form different animal shapes on a wall. As an adult, when I stand on top of a mountain, I marvel at the difference the shadow of a cloud makes to the view of a mountainside. Depending on the speed of the wind, the movement of the shadows changes the view of the landscape. Shadows can also bring a darkness and a coolness, as the warmth of the sun disappears behinds the clouds.
In our lives there can be shadows that bring a darkness into and over our lives. They can change the landscape and vibrancy of our lives. As we face the shadow of the corona-virus, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by it’s many personal, regional, national and global implications. It brings a darkness to our landscape. Our personal lives change, our work routines change, and our connections with church, family and friends change. It is a huge shadow.
But in the Bible a new meaning is added to shadows. I was reminded of it recently as Psalm 91 was read to us as part of our online church service.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ (Psalm 91: 1-2)
There are other references like this one: I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed (Psalm 57:1). Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 17:8). Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 63:7).
Rather than shadows being only about a heaviness and a darkness, the shadow of the Almighty is a place of refuge and safety – and a place of music, as we sing! We are given the promise of resting in the shadow of the Almighty. This is the kind of shadow from which we do not want to move away because this shadow means so much more. It points to our home, our shelter with the Most High.
We are living in uncertain times, full of changed realities and challenging experiences. But we who dwell in God’s shelter can rest in his shadow. We can trust in our refuge and fortress. It is not always easy, but as we trust, we must also take our responsibilities seriously, for the benefit of our communities, our societies and our world. Let’s take one day at a time together, bringing the shadows of our anxieties and concerns into the shelter and shadow of the One who is in control and in whom we can most assuredly trust.
by Ruth Slater Associate Director – Langham Preaching
To hear a personal message from one of our programme partners in Indonesia…click here or on the link below
Do you remember the Maths’ textbooks of your childhood? They had pages and pages of questions filling you with uncertainty, before providing, at the back of the book, the answers to those questions. It was always wonderful to turn to the back and find we got the answer right.
In these years with Langham Preaching I’ve loved the challenge of helping preachers appreciate the different types of biblical literature. One of the more difficult types is known as the Wisdom Literature, including books like Job and Ecclesiastes. One person likened these two books to that Math’s textbook: lots of questions, filling the reader with uncertainty, but then with the answers in the back – notably Job 42.1-6 and Ecclesiastes 11-12, where the solutions to the problems can begin to be found.
I’ve been thinking a bit about Maths’ textbooks and Wisdom Literature as the COVID-19 crisis grips the globe. Life right now is filled with questions, with uncertainties and with suffering for so many. However if I could go to ‘the back of the book’ I would find there a God, so grieved by it all, but who has proved his control and care through it all.
by Paul Windsor Director Langham Preaching
To hear a personal message from Paul…click here or on the image below
Covid-19 forces us to seek God and this can be a healing journey for our dry spirituality. Sabbath is a time of rest, to gather with family, to worship – and a time to develop our relationship with God. In this increasingly progressive world, we can be easily compelled to forget God because everything is available for us. We shift our gaze to worldly power, wealth, reputation, achievement… This pandemic shows us that we are limited and helpless. This is the time for us to return to God.
by Marianna* Programme Partner in South East Asia
Our societies are divided. We have this tendency to be selfish, racist and discriminatory in so many ways. This pandemic forces us to recognize that we are all the same. We are equal. No one is immune to this virus. This is a time for Christians to show some social responsibility. Let’s support our governments’ programmes for social distancing and self-isolation, not because of fear or lack of faith, but because of our commitment to our fellow human beings.
by Marianna* Programme Partner in South East Asia
Covid-19 is pushing us home to be with family. In the world today, many people lack time with family. Children are busy at school. Parents are busy at work. This is a time to restore family relationships. This is also at the heart of the sabbath. God gave the Israelites time to gather with their families and to worship together. This time can be seen as a grace given from God, a time to restore relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters and spread, from there, throughout communities.
by Marianna* Programme Partner in South East Asia
In a fast-paced era where this is no time to stop and reflect, people are stressed because they have no opportunity to rest their minds. As a result, their emotional and mental well-being are disturbed. In Creation, day after day, God provides a pattern for pausing, stopping and reflecting. At the end of each day He stops, looks back at what He has done and reflects on how ‘everything was good’. Let’s allow this pandemic to help us stop, not just to recover physically, but also to process everything we have experienced in heart and mind as well.
by Marianna* Programme Partner in South East Asia
A JOURNEY OF HEALING
We live in a very difficult time, Corona has caused so many deaths and chaos. This is a time of grieving, however, in the midst of crisis and hardship, we can still have a healing journey.
The Corona Pandemic forces those of us who have workaholic tendencies to rest. It’s not easy to rest. Even God needs to force the Israelites to rest with the Sabbath law. While working as slaves in Egypt people worked nonstop, they worked to death. After the exodus God forbade them to work on Sabbath. Sabbath is a time of rest and physical recovery from a heavy workload. Sabbath is a gift from God, so that we can rest and restore our body and soul from exhaustion. Hopefully behind this Corona Pandemic we can see the heart of God. He who loves us, He understands our physical needs, therefore He gives us time to rest.
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise. Jeremiah 17:14
by Marianna* Programme Partner in South East Asia
*Name changed for security reasons
Lord, Thank you for reminding us that you never leave us …no never.
Fill our days with the purposeful pursuit of Your love flowing through our lives.