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By Daniel Johnson, Nexus ICA Head of Worship Studies

As Christians, it’s vital that we pay attention to how our faith is changing – are we growing? Is that growth healthy? The current change to routine has been great in some ways, as life slows down a bit and you perfect your sourdough bread recipe. Or maybe you’re feeling trapped, and the life and energy has been sapped out of you. Whether you’re thriving or surviving, here are some ways to make sure that you’re staying connected to God, the Bible, and to community.

The most important thing that I have found is that getting your theology right is so vital here. If we can really get hold of what the Bible tells us about our relationship with God, that reality will change things for us. These truths give us freedom to pray to the God who is here with us. Once the lights of these truths switch on in your heart and mind, you’ll discover ways to life in relationship with God no matter what circumstances you are living through.

1. Know that Jesus is with you.

The last thing Jesus said before He went back to heaven was that He is with us (Matt. 28:20). Psalm 23:4 says that even in the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus is with us.* And here’s the thing – Jesus can’t be in the wrong place. So we might be confused and scared, but Jesus isn’t. He is with us. He’s protecting us, walking with us. At the risk of being as cheesy as a buffet at a mouse wedding, Jesus isn’t socially distancing from us. This was the first thing God showed me in lockdown, and it’s kept me going.

*the idea of a psalm being about Jesus might seem confusing, but if the whole Bible is about Jesus – he didn’t just enter the scene at Christmas. Read John 10:1-21 to understand this a bit more. There’ll be more on this idea below.

2. Know that you are in Jesus.

There’s something theologians call ‘Union with Christ.’ That means, basically, that we are ‘in Jesus.’ In Paul’s letters, his most common phrase is ‘in Christ.’ What this means is that we are connected by faith to Jesus just like a branch is connected to a tree (John 15:1-17). All of His love, life, righteousness, power, and grace is in us. Ephesians 2:4-6 tells us that we alive in Christ, and seated with Him in heaven.

3. Know that you are safe in Jesus.

John 10:28 says that Jesus gives us eternal life, and nothing and no-one can steal us from Him. This means that no matter what dangers we are living through, we are safe in Jesus.

4. Know that God is at work in you.

The second half of Romans 8 tells us that God is for us. All of His relentless love, grace, power, care, and life are on our side. God may not be doing what you want Him to do, but He is making all of His purposes and plans come true, even in your life.

5. Know that this world will never be our normal.

1 Peter 2:11 says that we are foreigners here. Heaven is our home. This changes our perspective on our life here and our relationship with God.

The Bible is the Word of God. Eternal truths that echo from heaven to earth. And yet, we find reading the Bible to be a slog. It’s so much easier to scroll through Instagram, even though we know that the Bible is light years better. Here are some ways to stay connected with the Bible.

1. Get planted.

Psalm 1 talks about a person who has planted their life in the Bible, and that this is like a tree that is planted beside a river. Stop seeing the Bible as something you have to do, and start thinking of it as something you need to feed you.

2. See the bigger picture.

Luke 24:27 tells us that the big picture of the Bible is that it is a story about Jesus. It tells about a world created by Jesus, and how God rescued His people in ways that point ahead to Jesus. The Old Testament priests and sacrifices and kings are all signposts and clues. If you start seeing how the Bible tells you about Jesus, it will make more sense.

3. Be taught.

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Bible is the way God teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us for godly living. So make sure you are listening to the Bible being taught, in sermons, ideally by your church leaders.

4. Use the Bible to pray.

Go through passages of the Bible and turn them into prayers. You can do this for whatever mood you are in. Psalm 13 is one of the honest, angry psalms, where you rant at God. Psalm 103 is a very different psalm, that lets you praise God for His goodness.

5. Use resources.

There are more tools than at any other time in history at your fingertips to help you understand the Bible. A great place to start is https://bibleproject.com.

The rules for social distancing are changing all the time, but life won’t feel totally normal for a very long time. God designed us for community. So how do we stay connected?

1. Be with each other in Spirit.

Paul tells the Colossians that he isn’t with them physically, but he is with them in spirit. This means that we can recognise that Christians share the Holy Spirit, and that creates a bond between us.

2. Understand the metaphors.

The New Testament calls the church a family (Hebrews 2:11), a body (1 Corinthians 12:27) and a living temple (1 Peter 2:4-5). These are deliberate descriptions of the Christian life, where our identity is found in Christ and each other. When I tell my non-church friends about the ways my church has stayed connected in lockdown, they wish they had something like that.

3. Connect when you can, how you can.

The rules are different for each one of us. But use them wisely. If you can start meeting with people, great. If you can keep chatting online, great. But stay connected, and prioritise it.

4. Encourage others.

It’s easy during a time of struggle to think about our own needs, but investing others is a great way to bless them and yourself. Others will be lonely too. Give them your time and attention.

5. Long for the day we’ll be back together as normal.

Whenever I think about the first Sunday back, when my whole church is gathered together again, I get tears in my eyes. And it’s such a foretaste of heaven too, when with joy we’ll be with each other and Jesus.

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