Sunday 29th March

Song: Praise my soul

As we listen to the news of the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world we see this continuing rise of new infections and deaths. The statistics seem horrific to us and indeed they are, it’s easier to just look at them as numbers compared with the previous day. But each one of these represents someone in pain, a lost life, a family mourning. There is not much we can do to help the situation, except pray. Let’s pray this together although we are apart.

Jesus, during Your ministry on Earth You showed Your power and caring by healing people of all ages and stations of life from physical, mental, and spiritual ailments. Be present now to people who need Your loving touch because of COVID-19. May they feel Your power of healing through the care of doctors and nurses.

Take away the fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation from people receiving treatment or under quarantine. Give them a sense of purpose in pursuing health and protecting others from exposure to the disease. Protect their families and friends and bring peace to all who love them. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Pray for people at higher risk of developing the disease.

Dear Lord, we lift to You our concern for people who are more likely than others to become severely ill from COVID-19 — the elderly and people with chronic health conditions. Protect them from harm and be their comfort in this time of uncertainty and, for many, preventive isolation from loved ones.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Pray for medical professionals, caregivers, and researchers responsible for fighting the new coronavirus.

God, as more people get sick, healthcare workers and first responders are working longer hours with fewer supplies and with more risk of contracting the new coronavirus themselves. Renew their energy and sustain them on long shifts. Bring Your protection upon them as they work with patients. Multiply their supplies so they have the protective items needed to stay safe on the job.
Inspire and invigorate the research doctors developing better tests to diagnose the virus, create vaccines to prevent it, and identify protocols to eliminate the disease’s spread.

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.

Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

Pray for leaders responsible for making decisions about the new coronavirus.

Father, we seek Your wisdom daily. Be with people making decisions that affect the lives and futures of our families, communities, countries, and the wider world. We pray that they communicate clearly, truthfully, and calmly — with each other and with the public — and that their messages are received and heeded. May truth and empathy be the touchstones of people setting policies for our protection.

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers 

2 Corinthians 1:10-11 (NIV)

Pray for families adjusting to new ways of life.

Holy Spirit, as families adjust to everyone being home as businesses and schools close, we ask that You guide people in their new realities. Give spouses grace for each other. Prompt worn-out parents to speak words of kindness and encouragement to their children. Help children find creative ways to experience the beauty of all You have created and continue learning.

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

Psalm 57:1 (NIV)

Pray for business owners and families facing financial stress.

Jesus, we thank You for Your faithfulness in how you have guided and equipped people in their jobs and have provided in the past. It can be scary and overwhelming not knowing how bills and obligations will be met or to not be able to provide for families. As people feel financial strain during the uncertainty, bring them comfort and peace, reminding them that You are there for them. Provide for them in their times of need.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27 (NIV)

Pray for grocery store workers and delivery drivers.

Lord, we are so grateful for all the people who continue to work each day so that people are able to eat. We ask that You bless and protect them as they serve. Give them grace to handle disgruntled customers during supplies shortages. Keep their bodies healthy as they unload and stock boxes of supplies. Keep their cars and trucks running smoothly as they deliver needed supplies and food people have ordered online. And please protect them all from contracting the new coronavirus.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

Pray for the disease to stop spreading.

Almighty God, we know that everything is in Your sovereign control. We ask that You keep this new coronavirus from continuing to spread. Give government officials the ability to safely handle people arriving from other countries. Help people decide to stay home instead of travelling or going out needlessly. And while it may be heartbreaking, comfort families as they decide to keep their distance from elderly or other high-risk family members.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea

Psalm 46:1-2 (NIV)

Song: Every giant will fall

Read Genesis 43: 1-23 (opens in a new tab/window)

Song: Only by grace

Julian was due to be with us this morning and he has kindly provided the following notes for us to use.

From Fear to Favour

1. It starts with Jacob’s understandable fear – he has lost one son to (he thinks) a wild animal, he has also had one son taken captive as collateral by this strange ruler of Egypt, his family are suffering the effects of famine, they have run out of food again and are being forced to go back to Egypt with his next most precious son.

And yet…He has known God’s care in the past, this is the same Jacob who dreamed of heaven come to earth, who saw God’s provision in flocks and family, who rejoiced in the reconciliation between himself and Esau. Yet here his fears are in danger of overtaking his God.

  • How has God cared for you in the past? What has God revealed to you?
  • What blessings can you recall?
  • How do these things affect our response to very real fears like the spread of this virus?
  • How are we different from anyone who does not have faith?
  • It is in these times we find out how real our faith is – even if it is as small as a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) we can still put it into practice.

2. Joseph is testing his brothers, to see if they have changed, if they still are envious – notice (v.34) here he even gives Benjamin extra helpings of food! It’s not that he is getting some kind of pleasure in making them suffer, it is a test to show him if they have changed; the guilt they must have borne all these years is about to be taken off them – if they only knew how much he loved them – at one point he has to go and compose himself, he is that close to tears.

God uses testing times

It is not that God has brought Covid 19 about – He is the source of everything good. His heart is for reconciliation, just like Joseph, he longs for the whole earth to be made right. That’s true for the whole world and also for us as individuals – If you are carrying around guilt from the past, God can take that off you.

  • So God does not bring evil about, but He is able to use those events to bring about His purposes.
  • What might God be doing? What good fruits might result from this experience we’re all going through?
  • Let’s focus on what God has for us individually, as a group, as a nation in this season. If this is a testing time, what is he asking us to do in response?

3. Joseph shows favour

This was not the treatment they were expecting – they wanted to pay their money and to pay back the extra to get them in the Egyptians’ good books and go home. When they are invited in, they think it’s because they are in trouble (v.18) Yet they get seated with the Prime Minister, not just seated, but seated in age order; they get fed; they get welcomed.

In verse 23 they receive grace – it wasn’t what they deserved, and in fact they were to get far more in the next few days, but Joseph is generous, and that’s a picture of what God has done for each one of us.

It’s all about the grace

We come to God with our offerings, and that’s good, we should do that, but let’s never forget that He accepts us by grace. Whatever things we bring to God, whether our gifts, our talents, our money, we should do out of gratitude, not as payment – we come as hungry men and women who have nothing that satisfies, recognising that He alone has the food that we need: ‘I am the bread of life’ Jesus says.

Most of us are being asked by the government to stay home at the moment, the solution to the problem is out of our hands. That’s a humbling place to be, isn’t it?

We are in a blessed position. We have been shown mercy, we have received grace. As God’s people we have a responsibility to hold up our world in prayer all the time, but especially now, to respond to His prompting through the Holy Spirit and to be the answer to others prayers, to be His hands and feet where we are. We are to move from fear to favour.

Song: We have this treasure

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you
and give you peace;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Song: Saviour of the world

The reading for next week is Genesis chapters 48-50 and the focus for Sunday is 50 v15-21 ‘Forgiven’.

Now for something a bit different:

A Joseph scavenger hunt!

All you need to do is read the bible references, identify the objects, find them and put them all together. Once you have found them all, post a picture on WhatsApp

If you don’t have the item around your home then be imaginative and think of something similar or that represents it or even try and make something.

As you look for each item, think about the different stages of Joseph’s life, how he lived his life and how God was working in his life. Maybe this week, spend some time looking back over your life and see how God has been working in your life to shape you into the person he wants you to be to carry out the work he has for you to do.

I’m afraid there are no prizes – just have fun