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“Lord, you have searched me out and know me;                                                                  
you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.                                
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”     (Ps. 139:1, 6)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

These last few weeks keep bringing to my mind the Exodus experience of the Israelites. I’m not sure we can claim to have endured the plagues before the Passover - although someone may find some similarity in life, even before Covid -19. We had hoped and prayed for a ‘passover’ of the virus. This was not to be. Instead, the threat continues to hang over us as we are confined to our homes. Now there is a longing to leave our homes, to return to ‘normal’- and we can’t. Ironically the Israelites at various times wanted to return to their homes in Egypt, even if it meant slavery again.

Their journey to the Promised Land could have been much shorter (see Numbers 13) but that didn’t happen. In fact that dispute committed them to 40 years of wandering. (Just think about that for a moment; maybe staying home looks more attractive.) Obviously we don’t yet know how long we are to be constrained in our homes and by social distancing by this pandemic. We may wish to be somewhere else, anywhere else, except cooped up at home all the time!

Perhaps the most significant point in my rambling thought is the abiding presence of a faithful God for the People of God. Throughout their wanderings in the desert, the Israelites were accompanied by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night - and led by their faithful guide Moses (The only one who seemed to listen to God). And now we, in this present age of constraint, have that promised presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit with us, every day, always. Consider: the Israelites were stuck in slavery and wanted their freedom (and when they got it, grumbled); we have experienced enormous freedom in life and now we are ‘stuck’ (and perhaps inclined to ‘grumble’). Is that a situation for us to consider, and perhaps invite the Lord’s ‘take’ on our situation?

Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, April 29th) wrote:

Our natural inclination is to be so precise– trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next– that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life – gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God – it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “…unless you…become as little children…” (Matt. 18:3) The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “…believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in – but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

Be comforted and secure in the knowledge that God is with you, loves you, especially today, and everyday. Take time, be still and invite the Lord to abide a while and share your thoughts, all of them, with Him.

This Sunday coming is Good Shepherd Sunday (see John 10:1-10). Consider the role of a shepherd and why you and I need one! (If you get any revelations on that theme, call Tony!)  

With you in the company of our Lord,

Tony Grainger,

From children’s letters to God:

Dear God, It rained the whole of our holiday and is my Dad mad! He said some things about you that people are not supposed to say, but I hope you will not hurt him anyway.                                                                                                                                      Your friend (but I’m not going to tell you who I am)

Dear God, I bet it’s very hard for you to love all the people in the world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.        Jan

Dear God, Thank you for my baby brother, but what I really wanted was a puppy. David