Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 47: Old dogs can learn new tricks!

REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.

Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 47: Old Dogs can Learn New Tricks!

The name of my friend’s Prime time growth group, got me thinking about change and growth. I have long asked the Lord to help me from being a cranky old man, Christian, husband, father and pastor. You can ask Christine how this is going! Of course you would be welcome to pray for me in this way. I suspect that there are many ways we who are older, can learn new tricks. A desire to grow to be more like our Saviour, might be the key.

Sometimes growth is forced upon us. The pandemic has surely been one such event [along with the usual: differences of opinion, failing health, family and financial concerns etc….]. J I Packer, now free from these, remarked that the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:21-23] are best seen as a series of reactions and responses to people and events. This has helped me to try to respond graciously and patiently rather than react in a way that is neither helpful nor Christlike, to the inevitable bumps that life in a fallen world brings. Some things the pandemic is forcing me to remember are helping me respond rather than react.

That we live in a great country. This is especially so for us in WA. Where good health care and enough wealth makes help for those suffering the most, possible. I must thank God more for this blessing as we don’t deserve it. I hope this is keeping me from moaning and selfish thinking.

That we are only as strong as the weakest link. I get cranky when I see flouting of the laws designed to protect us all, or hear of those rorting the system. I have to learn to make sure I am being honest and working to be a strong link in the system. Prayer and concern for others will keep me from seeing the problems of others better than my own. I need more of the prodigal’s penitence than of his elder brother’s pride.

That generosity suffers, with the old wild card ‘but charity begins at home’, being played. I believe that our dwindling historically international commitment to 0.7% of GNP has been systematically reduced over the years to 0.25%. Some covid-19 overseas aid maybe coming out of this budget. Safety first is rarely the way of growth. Only Jesus 9th beatitude [Acts 20:35], and Eph 4:28 radicalism can trump my tendency to think like this.

Far from seeing the pandemic only as a problem happening in chronological time, I need to be reminded that it may be an opportune time for me to respond generously not fearfully. I was taken by the Barnabas Fund prayer notes for 7th Oct, where on receipt of subsistence rations through BF the response of a Turkmenistan believer was: your assistance was not just food. For some it was like medicine to cure their despair. [Matt 25:34-40; 2 Cor 9:12-15 came to mind]. It would be tragic for me to miss this [God-given] wave of opportunity.

How good it is to recognise just how dependant I am on God and others for everything. Without diminishing the importance of working and doing all we can to provide for ourselves and others, we are totally dependent creatures. No water from above means no life here below. Human endeavour is best done humbly and received gratefully as the poem suggests: Back of the loaf is the snowy flour/ And back of the flour is the mill/And back of the mill is the sun and shower/ And the wheat, and the Father’s will. Such a belief  evokes gratitude to God, primary producers and manufacturers which might help drive away our modern day expectations of growing standards of living, selfishness and pleasure [Prov 30:7-9; Luke 8:14; Phil 4:10-13].

Friendship with others and fellowship with God are the rarest of jewels: gifts to carry us through any and every challenge. Both are to be cherished, nurtured and sustained through thoughtful words, both God’s in the Bible and ours well-chosen [Prov 18:21; Eph 4:29; Col 4:6] and to Him in prayer. The pandemic is a chance to look out to others [Prov 17:17] and upwards to God [Psalm 145:18]. So doing we will counter the tendency to go it alone or to become sad or bitter, thus forfeiting our chance to deepen our relationship with our Father.

To enlarge my vision. The pandemic is global and so we are learning more about nations and people we may otherwise have done. But behind it all is our heavenly Father, ever keen to have us lift our eyes upward and forwards. Only this forward vision [Phil 3:12-16] is large enough to captivate us for a lifetime and keep us from surrendering to the lesser goals of living for the short-term pleasures of earth and our bellies [to cite the wise apostle in 3:13-21]. Here is a way worth living and dying for [4:1]. In terms of our Lord’s command & promises [Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25]. Death to self is the only sure way to live both now and for eternity [Col 3:1-4; Heb 12:1-3]. Though aging, we remain God’s children. Maturity is His loving purpose and our great adventure [Heb 2:10-18].

Peter Brain 27th October, 2020

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