Tuesday Christian Fellowship – 30th Anniversary

Readings for this week May 22 – 26
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Tuesday Christian Fellowship 30th Anniversary: We’re All in This Together

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 16

Paul first visited Philippi on his second missionary journey.   The story of his stay in Philippi is told in our Acts 16 reading today.  This chapter describes some of the very different people Paul met in Philippi: Lydia, a business woman; a slave girl; a Roman prison guard; city magistrates.  No other chapter in the Bible shows so well how the Christian faith relates to all people, whoever we are. In his journeys around the Mediterranean world Paul met an abundance of different people, of different ethnicities, different walks of life, and he shared the gospel with all of them, revealing God’s love for all of them to all of them.

And they’re not perfect people. They are a rag-tag bunch of people brought together by God, their only commonality being the Jesus preached by Paul. They messed up, they got things wrong. The very same people and communities that Paul meets with and shares the love of God with are, more often than not, the same people and communities he later sends exasperated letters of advice, admonition and rebuke to. But despite all this, they were all in it together. In the midst of their brokenness and weakness was Jesus, binding them all together, teaching them to love one another, no matter who they were.

May we all be encouraged, as people of all abilities, to humbly acknowledge that to be human is to live with brokenness and limitation – and that to experience true community we must first learn to receive other people as God’s gift.

Questions to Consider
Who are the people you find it harder to love? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, may I always accept others, no matter who they or where they are from, just as others have accepted me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Tuesday Christian Fellowship 30th Anniversary: Known by God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ephesians 2:8-9

There is nothing that we have that can influence God to accept us or to love us more. We are mistaken if we think there is something that we possess – whether something we have acquired through effort or something inherent in our nature since birth – that makes us a deserving recipient of God’s love, other than our created humanity.

‘At a very basic level, the assumption that our relationship with God is in anyway dependent on the presence or absence of human capabilities is a theological mistake.  In Ephesians 2 vs 8-9, the apostle Paul makes this statement about the means of our salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Faith itself is not a human achievement but a grace-full gift.’

-John Swinton

God embraces us with His love, whoever we are, whatever our ability, whatever our background.  Wherever we have come from, whatever we have done, whoever we are, we can receive God’s love.  We can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from our relationship with God, not via our intellect, not from knowing about God and being able to express this clearly, but by being known by God. He is the God who wants to know us and be known by us.

Questions to Consider
How are you known by God? How is this fact revealed to you each day? How has this changed the way you live?

Prayer
Loving Father, I am known by you, deeply and intimately. You know me better than I know myself. Thank you for always holding me close. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Dividing Line

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 John 1:8-9

‘If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?’ -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

The Bible has little to say on the origin of evil. There is no definitive explanation. There are hints, incidents, stories and characters that seem somehow involved, and yet a coherent, theologically watertight, philosophically consistent explanation eludes us. The Bible simply accepts the reality of evil and all its effects and consequences without trying to explain how it arose. And we know from our own experience that we are capable of evil – sometimes great evil – and that evil exists in this world in many horrible, devastating, insidious ways. No one would dispute the presence of evil in this world (even if they wouldn’t necessarily call it that), and no one would dispute that human beings are responsible for so much of the sin and horror that afflicts our world.

But though evil is a given, though its origin is shrouded in mystery, though its effects seem overwhelming and unstoppable, evil has been defeated. Though the effects are still with us, and its reach is still long, on the cross of Jesus Christ evil was defeated. We must remember that. We must tell and live that story, until that final day when the remnants of this defeated evil are finally, gloriously, washed away in God’s consuming love.

Question to Consider
Why is the problem of evil such a stumbling block for belief today?

Prayer
Almighty God, your love overcame sin and death and evil. May my life be evidence of that reality for others in the midst of their pain. Amen

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Self-Defined or God-Defined?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ephesians 4:22-24

Our true self is defined by God. Of course, most of us have our own definitions, our own view of who we are and who we can be – a varied combination of memories, desires, intentions, and actions. We believe we are self-determining. We are each an autonomous, self-willing person in charge of our own destiny and free to be absolutely anything we want to be. We create ourselves and our destiny.

But this is not so – or not supposed to be so. We are God’s through and through. We are created beings, limited in our abilities, dependent on the loving goodness of our creator, and made for relationship with him and each other. The fact that we have fallen away from the true nature of ourselves as selves created and sustained by God, and have embraced the I-Me-Mine culture around us, does not alter the fact that we are God’s. Our true selves – our ‘right-relationed’ selves – can only find expression in God.

“Life is what you make it.” “Be what you want to be.” “Create the ‘you’ of your choice.” These are the mantras of those who desire to be their own gods. These are the sentiments responsible for so much of the selfishness and greed in our world, and consequently the source of so much of the pain, sin and suffering we see and experience. But “In him we live and move and have our being.” “Created after the likeness of God.” “Imitators of Christ.” These are the principles guiding the people of God.

Questions to Consider
How do we imitate Christ? How do we show others the destructive folly of trying to be our own gods?

Prayer
Creator God, all I am is yours. I am nothing under my own strength, but in you I can be so much more of what you want me to be. Give me the courage to always submit myself to your love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Forgiveness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 20:22-23

Forgiveness was central to the mission of Jesus. He came to forgive sin, not to condemn people because of it. He loves everyone and wants us to know forgiveness and be saved. In his last few hours with his disciples he tells them (and us) how to continue following him.

We continue the work Jesus started when we take his message of salvation and forgiveness to people around the world. To help fulfil this mission Jesus authorised his followers to do much more than tell people that God is prepared to forgive them. We are authorised to hear each other’s confessions and forgive each other’s sins! In a way, Jesus stepped back from the process and declared that the forgiveness of sins was a community activity. This is one of the most wonderful gifts God has given us: the privilege of setting others free!

Confession and forgiveness are so important that God links them to his forgiveness of us. We need to show each other the very same mercy and forgiveness that God shows us each time we mess up. As our community journeys through life together, our lives are interconnected. Failing to forgive damages the whole community. Equally though, when we forgive each other the community is restored and healthy relationships are maintained. Through our voices the word of forgiveness is heard across the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can announce to people the forgiveness of their sins with confidence.

Questions to Consider
How does it feel to know that other people’s forgiveness is dependent on you? How can you become more involved in spreading forgiveness?

Prayer
Gracious Father, thank you for your grace shown to us and your forgiveness bestowed on us. Help me be a better steward of both to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)