Freedom – Galatians 1

Readings for this week July 3 -7
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1  –  Setting the Scene

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 1

Galatians has been called the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty; a letter carrying a thunderbolt in every sentence. Probably Paul’s first letter to churches he had established, Galatians was written around mid 40’s AD after his first missionary journey. To understand the letter, it’s important to examine the background, context, and the conflict that sparks such strong language from the Apostle Paul.

Jewish believers from Jerusalem, sometimes called Judaizers, have arrived in Galatia anxious that new believers in Jesus must also convert to Judaism. Judaism was not a religion of works, that is, they believed they were saved because they were God’s people, members of the nation of Israel living in covenant relationship with God. They were, however, scrupulous about how they should live as the people of God. Keeping the Law of Moses – the Old Testament commandments – was essential to please God, but it also marked them out as set apart from the Gentile nations. So when we talk about legalism in Galatians it means ‘a religious system combining Christianity and Mosaism that demanded total commitment to Israel’s law as the climax of one’s conversion to Christ’ – Scott McKnight.

Under Roman law, while Romans had to pray to Caesar, the Jews had some exemption as long as they prayed for Caesar. There may have been pressure for new Christians to convert to Judaism out of fear they would draw the attention of the authorities and could suffer persecution from Empirical Rome.

Was faith in Jesus enough? Was the Law of Moses important anymore? Had Paul taught them correctly – and by what authority? These are the contentious issues that prompt Paul to write his letter. As we delve into Paul’s response, begin to think how you would answer someone today who asks, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

Prayer
Father God, thank you that you speak today as clearly as when Paul penned this letter to the Galatians. Help us to hear your voice, your warnings and encouragement, and your call to be your people who walk in close relationship with you, through the work of Jesus and the presence of your Holy Spirit, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2  – CV

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God  (2 min)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 1:1-5

Paul addresses his letter in the style of the times, yet he is more emphatic than usual about naming his position and how he came by it; “Paul – an Apostle.” Those speaking against Paul questioned his right to dictate the scope and parameters of the gospel. Paul does not mince words but states his credentials. Not only is he an Apostle, but an Apostle chosen, appointed and sent by God alone. No human committee or authority gave him his task.

To the Jews an Apostle meant “a special messenger, with special status, enjoying an authority and commission that came from a body higher than himself.” There could be no higher “body” and no higher authority than God the Father. We might think of an Apostle as something like an Ambassador. He had the authority to speak in place of the one who sent him. To disrespect or question the representative is to question the authority who sent him. This God was the one who sent his Son on a rescue mission – on our behalf. This Son ‘gave himself’ in alignment with the Father’s will. There is no suspicion that Jesus was coerced or an unwilling sacrifice. Father and Son function in perfect unity, with one purpose. Paul brings Jesus’ message, with Jesus and the Father’s authority.

This was Paul’s first and most important self-defence. He knew who he represented, and what task he had been called to do. While our task in this life may not match the Apostle Paul, each and every person who follows Jesus has a part to play in communicating the gospel, the good news, to a waiting world. How might day to day life be different if you had complete confidence that God had chosen you and called you as his representative?

Questions to Consider
Do I recognise a sense of carrying God’s message to others?
What might it mean for me to be aware that I am first and finally answerable to God, as one of his representatives on earth?
Talk with God about what role he has for you at this time.

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you that you choose each of us for tasks that perfectly suit who you have made us to be. May my heart be open to listening for your voice, and help me be ready to obey all you ask of me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3  – ‘Another’ Gospel

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 1:6-9

There are no compliments or notes of appreciation at the beginning of this letter as becomes Paul’s habit in writing to churches. In a no nonsense way he gets straight to the point. He is ‘astonished’ and reading between the lines, frustrated and angry. Paul is not simply angry because someone is coming on to his turf and offering a new slant on his message. Neither is he just feeling vindictive towards an isolated person or group. He warns that if anyone, human or angelic, or even if he himself changes the gospel message, then that person should be cursed. Paul knows that to corrupt the gospel is to destroy the way to salvation.

This alternative message was basically Jesus plus…; faith in Jesus plus food laws, faith in Jesus plus circumcision, faith in Jesus plus converting to Judaism. Paul has no real issue with any of these things in themselves. They are not the issue. The issue is twofold. 1. Salvation is by faith in Jesus alone. 2. Salvation is freely offered to everyone. Being a follower of Jesus was not to be on a nationalistic-racial basis. What’s more, Paul is warning that if the Gentiles chose to adopt circumcision, then they must be prepared to keep all the law. The law was there to lead people to Jesus. Now that Jesus has come, he has promised to write the law on people’s hearts, not hold them accountable to some rule book. Paul is saying that the whole law is done away with, in terms of accountability towards God. In later letters he will say that the whole law is none the less instructive and can teach us about God and his intentions for our lives. The law is not bad; it just simply isn’t the way to have a relationship with God. ‘Paul is for an ethic that is characterised by love. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love …When a person lives according to the leading of the Spirit, that person will always do the fullness of God’s will, of which the law of Moses was but a preliminary glimpse’ – S McKnight.

Questions to Consider
Why is law keeping so attractive to us? Is it because we struggle to really believe that God accepts us and forgives us just as we are?

Prayer
Loving God, thank you for accepting me. Not because of my actions, but because of your love and mercy alone, Amen.

 Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4  – People Pleasing

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 1:10- 12

These passages in Galatians may seem like very ancient and archaic arguments that have little to do with how we live today. But here, Paul puts his finger on a potential motivation which none of us are immune from. That is, the desire to please other people, to be well thought of, and not to go against the tide of public opinion. Paul makes it very clear that at times following God’s will may be in direct conflict with what is popular. But doesn’t the Bible advise seeking wise council, respecting those more mature than us? Absolutely! But there is a fine line between healthy council and submission, and basing our decisions, actions or speech on how it will look to others. It is wise to check from time to time to be sure that we are motivated by wanting to please God and him alone.

One of the most famous speeches in church history is that of Martin Luther, when forced to face charges against the church authorities of his day:

“I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything. For to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

The bottom line of Paul’s argument is that the religious road of the Judaizers – keeping laws to be right with God – was not God’s plan, nor did it come from God. Neither was it based on the revelation of Jesus Christ – who he was, how he lived and what he accomplished in his death and resurrection. And lastly, a life of law keeping did not depend on the Holy Spirit. Paul was clear that what he preached was not learned merely from a book, but was received internally by revelation. Christians are not to be led by rules in a book, but are to be led by the Spirit that lives within them. He is present to guide “in ways that conform to, fulfil and transform the law” – S McKnight.

Questions to Consider
Am I easily swayed by what others might think? What is the fear behind this?
Do I lean towards being led by rules or led by the Holy Spirit?
How might I develop my ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance?

Prayer
Holy Spirit, teach me to hear your voice, be my teacher and my guide, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Rewrite the Story

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 1:13- 24

Paul now recounts his own personal story. And he tells it like it is – no glossing over the unsavoury bits, no omissions or exaggerations. This is his greatest defence against all naysayers; a life totally and radically changed by an encounter with Jesus Christ. Sociologists would say that the preeminent sign of conversion (and we see this throughout the Bible) is a biographical reconstruction. Who I was before is not who I am now. What was most important to me before is not what is most important to me now (see Phil 3:7). For Paul, his whole life is now centred around his relationship to Jesus Christ.

No one can argue with your story – because it’s yours! Taking the time to write out your own story can be a valuable exercise. You might start with, ‘What was life like before? How did I encounter God? What difference has this made to my life?’ Not all conversions are alike; some are sudden and dramatic, while for others it is a progressive discovery of who God is.

Another approach is to explore how your past may have prepared you for your present ministry and life. You could look at decisive moments that made significant impact, or encounters with the Holy Spirit. Whatever angle you take to write your own biography, Christ must be preeminent. ‘This discipline, however time consuming it may become, forces each of us to decentralise our own ego and centralise Christ. It teaches us to see our lives as God sees them, as lives transformed by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It teaches us to shape our lives according to biblical categories’ – S McKnight. If we have worked through our reconstructed story it will give us the ability to more readily and easily share that story with others. It’s not just your greatest defence but also your greatest advertisement – Jesus in you, it’s a fascinating tale.

Questions to Consider
Take time this week to frame up your story. Be honest and real, you might find the person who gets the most encouragement from it is you!

Prayer
Father God, thank you for the example of Paul. Help me value my own story and become more aware of your presence at the centre of it, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Hello – Local Week continued

Readings for this week June 26 – 30
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – What We Do at Table

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 2:1-10

‘Eating is a sacred business. Whether it’s eggs on toast in a café, cornflakes scoffed down at the kitchen bench, a sandwich shared with colleagues in the cafeteria, or a leisurely family dinner at the dining room table, eating is a spiritual act. Granted, to define eating in this way has the sound of wistful nonsense. Indeed, sitting down at a table to eat is an activity so grounded in the ordinary, so basic to the daily routines of life, we rarely ponder it beyond the simple inquiry, ‘What’s for dinner?’ However, scratch a little deeper and you discover in eating one of the most meaning-laden activities of our lives, one so immersed in human longing and relationship that it’s a practice of sacred dimensions […]

Whether from an overtly religious perspective or not, it’s important that we value what takes place at our tables, finding ways to embrace them more intentionally and intelligently than we presently do. It is this conviction that motivates the writing of this book. In an age of fast food, microwave ovens and fragmented schedules, the dining room table sits routinely empty in many households, a museum-like tribute to a quaint practice of long ago. Indeed, times have changed and so much of life has improved along the way. But what has been lost? The quest for meaning, intimacy and community seems ever more urgent. The table beckons. It beckons because, at its core, the table is about such fundamentally human things as intimacy and family, identity and communication, reconciliation and romance, covenant and community, redemption and friendship, sustenance and celebration, beginnings and endings. The table beckons because it plays host to so much more than biological necessity.’ (Simon Carey Holt, Eating Heaven: Spirituality at the Table, pp.2, 3.)

Questions to Consider
Who could you invite to share your table with that you haven’t invited before? Who could you share with this week?

Prayer
Loving Father, may my table be a place where people can meet and eat together. May my house become known in my neighbourhood as a house of hospitality. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Guarding Against Exclusion and Isolation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Hebrews 13:1-2

‘Dotted around […] are people who, for a wide variety of reasons feel their sense of connection with the community is in danger of fraying. The relentless demands of caring for disabled, sick or frail family members, or even of young children, can narrow the focus of daily life to the point where the carers find it hard even to hang on to the idea that there’s a ‘life’ going on in the community around them. If neighbours don’t stay in touch […] feelings of isolation and confinement can snowball into a miserable sense of exclusion…

Whatever the cause, social exclusion is a major blow to our sense of identity. It also creates a challenge for neighbours. In some of [our] streets where neighbours have established regular contact with each other, people are alert to any problems of social isolation in their midst; in places where neighbours have not been quite so assiduous about keeping in touch, the very instability of the socially isolated means they don’t attract anyone’s attention. In the most tragic cases, social isolation has preceded a lonely, unnoticed death.

The art of belonging is not just about finding your own place in the networks and neighbourhoods that sustain you; it’s also about creating space for others to join (or rejoin) the circle. Social exclusion is a crime against humanity. While it’s true that people sometimes exclude themselves, our duty as humans is to ensure that they receive every encouragement to reconnect, knowing that the longer they remain excluded, the harder it will be for them to emerge from the shadows.’ (Hugh Mackay, The Art of Belonging, pp.230-1, 232)

Question to Consider
How can you reach out to the lonely and isolated in your community?

Prayer
Lord God, open my eyes and my heart to see the lost and lonely around me, and help me do all I can to help them not be lost and lonely any more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Welcome at the Edge

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 15:7

‘The truth is every local community of any kind is a group of specially connected people. But the very fact of their special connection creates outsiders. An association of Labrador retriever owners, without intention, makes outsiders of poodle owners. And every neighbourhood necessarily creates outsiders by establishing boundaries. The question is, what kind of boundary is it? Is it a boundary of superiority and exclusion, a dangerous place to approach? Or is it the edge of a place that has a welcome at the door?

The challenge is to keep expanding the limits of our hospitality. Our willingness to welcome strangers. This welcome is the sign of a community confident in itself. It has nothing to fear from the outsider. The outsider has gifts, insights, and experiences to share for our benefit. So we look forward to sharing our culture, gifts, and associations with others. “Come on in. What would you like to eat? We have a great community band we want you to hear. And let us show you our new park that we created ourselves.”

The beautiful, remarkable sign of a secure community is that it has a welcome at the edge…there are important connections to be made beyond our borders[.] For beyond them are people who need our gifts, as we need theirs. The only thing we have to fear in our community is fear of outsiders.’ (John McKnight and Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods, p.139)

Questions to Consider
When have you experienced a ‘welcome at the edge’? What did others do to make you feel welcome? How can you do the same for others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, your kingdom is for all people. If there’s a place for me, there’s a place for anyone. Help me welcome the stranger to my table. Thank you for your love and acceptance of all. May I model it in all I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Place for All to Share Their Gifts

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:10

‘Citizens create satisfaction by recognising their individual capacities and skills. We begin to see that the neighbourhood is a treasure chest. By opening the chest and putting the gifts together in many different ways, we multiply the power of its riches.

A competent community builds on the gifts of its people. It knows that a gift is not a gift until it is given. Before it is given, it is only a beautifully wrapped box in a drawer. It is a capacity held in exile. Gifts need to be named and exchanged, not only to create a competent community, but also to create a functioning family. This is a family that has discovered its capacity to produce for itself, together with a competent community, all that is required for a truly good life, a satisfying life.

The tragedy of a dysfunctional family or neighbourhood is that the potential gifts of its members are never given. The paradox is that in the midst of this, we can hold skills that are useful to systems but never find the satisfaction of turning our skills into the gifts that are so needed by our family or neighbour […]

When we decide to build a competent, functional community, we do not need to be divided by differences. In focusing on gifts, we get beneath them, or above them, to something more foundational where people can find common ground. We don’t put people outside our value system; we include them in it. We speak to their gifts, rather than their differing values.’ (John McKnight and Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods, pp.70-71)

Questions to Consider
What skills and gifts do you have? How are you using and sharing these gifts with your neighbours? How can you help your neighbours share their gifts in your community?

Prayer
Loving Father, may my gifts, given to me by you for your glory, be given to others and not left wrapped in the drawer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Risk of Relocation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ruth 1:16

‘Stability in community is always a half-born condition. We are suspended between heaven and earth on a ladder that promises communion with God but is also planted firmly on the ground. To both see clearly the life we are made for and, at the same time, to have to deal with the selfish desires and petty preferences of people where we are is, indeed, agonising. “But there it is,” [Clarence] Jordan says with a different kind of realism. Stability is a commitment to trust God not in an ideal world, but in the battered and bruised world we know. If real life with God can happen anywhere at all, then it can happen here among the people whose troubles are already evident to us.

Community is always a risk. We cannot know beforehand who will stay and who will leave. But each decision to stay – every prayer lifted up from our half-born condition – can be seen as an act of faith that our God will give us what we need, as Clarence Jordan said, “in the nick of time.” To trust the God of Jacob is to know that God is in this place, whether we sense yet that the place is holy or not. My well-being is tied up with the health of my neighbour – even my enemy – and the place on earth that we share. No, we cannot halt the tide of mobility through a stubborn insistence to stand our ground. We can, however, trust that our God is a firm foundation, giving us grace to stand even when it seems we will all be swept away. We can entrust ourselves to one another in faith.’ (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, pp.24-25.)

Questions to Consider
How are you mentally and culturally ‘relocating’ yourself and your life into your local community? How are you opening your life up to the input of those around you? Who are you joining in doing this?

Prayer
Loving God, show me my neighbourhood the way you see it and my neighbours the way you see them. Give me the courage to risk community with them, and them with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 

Hello – Local Week

Readings for this week June 19 – 23
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – Who to Tell First

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 4:16-30

This is, for us, one of the most well-known passages of the gospels. Jesus stands in his home town synagogue and reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming the myriad mighty ways God will rescue the poor, blind, lame and oppressed – and then tells them that it’s coming true today in his own person. A manifesto for the world.

But let’s not forget that Jesus first of all brings his message to his home town, to his neighbours, the people he has known and seen every day of his life growing up. These are the families that live in his neighbourhood, the customers he would have interacted with, the people he has grown to know, and love and play with, grieve with and journey through life with.

The gospel of Jesus is for all, a message of love and hope for the whole world – for all creation – and we must never lose sight of that, wherever we go and whatever we do. The message and the love are for all. But as Luke shows us here, it is also for the locals. Jesus knew this and made his first programmatic statement of who he was and what he was going to do in front of his neighbours. This message is for our neighbours too. They are, like we were, the lame and the lost and the oppressed that God has promised to set free. It’s a message for the world as a whole, but also for our neighbours in particular, something that they should be able to see in the lives of us – their neighbours.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of the crowd’s reaction to Jesus? Why did they try to do what they did? What does this mean for us?

Prayer

Lord God, may we never forget that your life-changing, world-changing love is for the people who live right next door. They matter too. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Foreigner Among You

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34

The Law contained many provisions for the care of the outsider – however that outsider might have been defined. As well as prohibitions against certain actions and behaviours, as a way of distinguishing the Israelites from the surrounding pagan nations and highlighting their holy character, the Law also contained instructions on caring for outsiders – again, as a way to separate the Israelites from the surrounding nations and as a way to show their upright character before their God. Looking after others, even those outside the national family, was seen as an integral part of what it meant to identify as God’s people.

Right from the beginning God was careful to make sure that there was provision in his Law for the care of the widowed, the orphaned, and the alien, the foreigner. And he made sure the Israelites knew about it too. It wasn’t hidden away somewhere in an appendix, or a footnote, or on a secret scroll that only the priests knew about. It was right in the middle of the mix with everything else they were called to do as God’s people.

In our neighbourhoods and on our streets there are those who have been labelled as outsiders, who have not been given the respect that so many others are given as a matter of course.  But God has always had a place for them and his people are the ones charged with making sure that they are welcomed into our communities and given a full and active part to play in our neighbourhoods.

Questions to Consider
How are you welcoming the ‘alien’ and the ‘outsider’ into your neighbourhood? How can you more intentionally do this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me reach out to those new to my community, my city and my country. May they always see your welcome to all embodied in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Open Homes

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 10:38-42

Jesus spent a lot of time in people’s homes. He taught people – often the ‘wrong’ people – to open their homes to others – often the ‘wrong’ others too! But the personal, intimate spaces of hearth and home were where Jesus did a lot of his teaching to the fledgling community of his followers. Post-Easter, his followers continued to meet in people’s houses. Although in many places there was still some connection with the local synagogue (and for a while believers in Jerusalem still worshiped and prayed at the temple), the focal point for gatherings was people’s homes. Often meeting in the larger homes of the richer Christians, early church communities would gather for their fellowship, meals, prayer and worship in each other’s houses. To invite someone into the community invariably would mean inviting them into your house. Yes, there were sometimes problems. Paul had to admonish some of the Corinthians for instituting segregation during mealtimes (the richer first) and also for inappropriate behaviour at the table. But the expectation, the reality, was that opening your home up to others was how the church operated.

Are we being open with our homes, or do we only see our homes as a refuge for ourselves, the last place we keep from others? Are we inviting others – friends and strangers – into our homes, to a place at our table, into our places of warmth and comfort? This is where relationships are made and strengthened. Jesus modelled it, the early church imitated it – are our homes focal points of fellowship in our communities?

Question to Consider
How could your home be a focal point of community and fellowship in your neighbourhood?

Prayer
Almighty God, may I be welcoming to others, always looking to invite others over my threshold and into my home. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Community Sorts It Out

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ruth 4:1-12

We all live our lives in a community, however much or little we actively take part in it and offer ourselves and our lives to that community. In falling for Ruth, Boaz, who was looking after Ruth and Naomi after their arrival in Israel following the deaths of their husbands, found himself with a little problem. Ruth’s former husband had some land in the area that is now for sale. A relative of the family has first rights to buy the land, which he agrees to do (see Leviticus 25:25). But according to the law, buying the land meant also marrying the widow. Here was a complicated problem that needed delicate sorting out so that all parties would be happy, including the want-to-be-married Boaz and Ruth. And the community is where the problem-solving ends up taking place.

And so they sorted in out at the town gate, with the town elders. Sitting down face to face, with the village elders witnessing the exchange, talking and sorting out their problems in a public gathering of the locals. Here we see local community in action. There was an issue that needed sorting and so this small community went ahead and carefully and openly dealt with it.

Boaz was part of the community – his life took place in this community, with these people. Decisions he made and actions he undertook would have an impact on others – these others – and he was committed to involving the community in decisions that he knew would have an impact on the community. He knew this was what living his life in this community meant.

Question to Consider
How can you involve your neighbours in the issues in your community?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I seek to see ways in which my neighbourhood community can solve problems and address issues together, in conversation. May I seek the input and advice of my neighbours. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Paul the Neighbour

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 18:11

We often think of Paul as the great missionary traveller, continually on the move around the Mediterranean, visiting cities and towns, sharing the gospel, debating with people, before moving on to the next port of call. And this is true. For someone with limited modes of transport (boat, donkey or horse, or his own feet) Paul must have been one of the most well-travelled people in the ancient world. But he also stayed put for significant periods of time: 18 months in Corinth for example, or a couple of years in Ephesus. In many places he stayed, put down roots, and connected with people.

It was to places like these where he worked and lived side by side with people, that he would later, in his letters, write of his love. Many times he talks of the time he spent with them, how he misses seeing them and how he constantly prays for them – and even prays that God may grant him the grace to be able to visit them again. Much of Paul’s theology wasn’t worked out in ivory-towered isolation, far removed from the situations and events that called forth his written letters as responses. It was forged in the heat of relationship, in the heart of community, as people worked out what it meant to follow Jesus and love each other. The worshipping communities Paul helped found weren’t ones he planted in a matter of days, before moving on to somewhere else with barely a backward glance and only a random letter or two of follow up a few years later. They were communities where he embedded himself and became a neighbour to those already there.

Questions to Consider
How long have you been living where you are now? How long do you see yourself staying there? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, help me be a good, interested and active neighbour. Help me stay committed to my place and my street and my neighbours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)
 

Hello – Praying with Intent

Readings for this week June 12 – 16
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – Wrestling With God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 32:7-14

Prayer isn’t always the nice, quiet and ordered affair we like to think it is. Sometimes it can be more like a wrestling match. Moses knew this well. Exodus 32 records one of the many times Moses and God wrestled over an issue.

The wrestling can arise for many different reasons. Sometimes it’s because we are struggling to articulate what we are praying about and how we want to pray about it. At other times, it can be because of our passion and drive in what we are praying about, and how heavy the burden on our heart for someone or something is. We will wrestle with God over the things that matter most to us, and to him. No matter how close to God we are, prayer does not always come easily, especially when what we are praying about is not easy or nice, or when what God is communicating to us is not easy to hear.

Prayer is a two-way conversation between God and us. Sometimes one might speak more than the other, but God and we are always involved. Prayer is also full of life. We struggle, trying to get a better hold on God, and also to allow him to get a better grip on us. Prayer comes from our need to share intimately with God, to communicate with him, to hear what he says, and even to have a say in his decisions.

Questions to Consider
Do we really change God’s mind when we pray or is he wanting us to come around to his point of view? How do we know whether we need to keep on wrestling in prayer, or instead say like Jesus ‘not my will but yours be done’?

Prayer
Lord God, help me to struggle better with you. In those times when I find it hard to grasp you and your will, give me strength to never let go. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Never Alone

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 8:26-27

We don’t always know exactly what to pray or how to pray. But God has not left us to struggle in prayer on our own. God is fully aware of our problems with prayer, so he gives us the Holy Spirit to help. The Spirit triggers things we need to pray about and helps us put our concerns into words. The gift of tongues is one way this can happen. When a person speaks in tongues they are using a language given by the Holy Spirit.

As well as being for personal prayer, these tongues are a gift to the community. When a message in tongues is interpreted we are all encouraged. And our dependence on someone else for the interpretation bonds the community together. Often the tongue is given to one person, the interpretation to another, and the application (“what do we do about it?”) to a third. Not only is this a safer way of doing things, but it builds trust, unity and togetherness in the community.

Whether we speak in tongues or not, God’s Spirit is there for all who seek his help to pray. We never have to rely on our ability to know what to say. God’s Spirit has been sent to comfort and guide us. All we need to do is ask for his help. Through his Spirit he shows us how willing he is to help us communicate with him and stay close to him.

Questions to Consider
Have there been times in the past when the groanings of the Spirit or a tongue or a word have been given to you? What happened? How was the body of Christ built up by this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I ask that you would speak to me today about the things you want me to keep on my heart, those groans and sighs and moves of your Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Seek the Peace of the City

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Jeremiah 29:4-7

God’s word to his people was not a temporary one in this case. He didn’t tell them, “Settle here, but keep your bags ready at the door.” The actions he pushed his people to take were long-term actions, designed to show that they were there for a long stay. They were to take wives, have children, build houses, plant crops and fruit – and to seek the peace of the city.

Even though the people were in exile, one of the things God wanted his people to do was pray for the health and well-being of the city and to become fully engaged citizens in their new home. The people may still have been looking towards their far away home in Jerusalem, but now that they were here in this foreign land, surrounded by strange people, God wanted them – and this foreign city – to thrive.

We are to seek the peaceful flourishing of our homes and neighbourhoods and cities too. Our neighbourhoods are one of the foremost places where we live and engage and dwell next to others, where we join with others to foster community. Living in our sheltered little spots is not an option. Getting out and getting involved is what God wants his people to do, and praying for our homes and streets and neighbours and neighbourhoods is exactly what the people of God need to be doing if we are to take seriously his injunction to share his love with his world.

Questions to Consider
How are you seeking the peace of the city in what you do? How are you seeking it with others in your neighbourhood?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, you have put me in a place, a home, a neighbourhood, with other people and other dreams. May I always seek the peace of the city and the joy and blessing of my neighbours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Those Who Intercede

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 17:8-16

Moses interceded for his people. While the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites, Moses was engaging in spiritual combat on the hill above the battle. He raised his hands and prayed over his people, over the battlefield, striving against the powers on behalf of his people. He even had to have others hold his arms up when he got too tired.

Prayer can never just be about the things that matter to us. It is certainly okay to pray for things that we need – God always encourages us to do that and to come to him with our needs – but we cannot only ever stay in a mode of prayer that is so heavily self-centred on our own needs and wants. As we mature and grow in God, and as we get closer to others, we begin to see what weighs on the hearts of God and of others. We are called to constantly and prayerfully intercede on behalf of others – on behalf of the whole world, God’s world. “If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them, and this will lead us to prayer. Intercession is a way of loving others.” (Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p.201).

Yet we are not left to intercede alone. In Romans 8:34 Paul says that it is “Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.” Jesus intercedes for us, helping us as we intercede for others.

Questions to Consider
Why is interceding for others so important? On what occasions did Jesus intercede for us? What does this tell us?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for never abandoning us and for never allowing us to abandon each other.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Even Our Enemies

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 5:43-48

The world is full of enemies, people trying to hurt and kill us. Our way of life is under threat and we need to take stern measures in order to protect ourselves to keep our enemies at bay. They will not destroy us, but we will destroy them. This (sadly less and less of a) caricature is how many people today view the world, and the other people with whom they inhabit it: as enemies, or at least potential enemies; enemies until proven otherwise. It’s us and them and heaven help you if we put you in the ‘them’ camp. There is a shift in the world that sees boundary lines drawn thicker, harder and with less care paid to the potential consequences of doing so, as everyone seeks to defend to the death their little patch or to take someone else’s.

The kingdom of Jesus offers another way. Even if we do have enemies who are trying to hurt us and even if we know who and why, what does Jesus tell us to do? Pray for them. Love them. Bring them in your prayers before our heavenly Father. Jesus said even tax collectors love their mates! But we are to be different, we are to beseech God on behalf of all people, even our enemies. There is no one we should not be praying for, from family and friends, to neighbours, politicians, fellow countrymen and those from other countries, whoever they are and whatever their political, religious, sexual, cultural or ethnic identification. All people are God’s children and he desires that none should perish. We should desire that too and pray for all people.

Questions to Consider
Who are your enemies? How are you praying for them?

Prayer
Lord God, please help me pray for my enemies, as you are the one who can transform them into true children of yours. It is the transforming resurrection power of your Son that is the hope of the world – help me more deliberately seek to pray for this power to transform my enemies – and me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Hello – Entering the Conversation

Readings for this week June 5 – 9
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – The Lord’s Prayer

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6:5-13

When it comes to prayer, it makes sense to start with the prayer that Jesus himself gave us. Relationships don’t grow – or even happen! – without communication, and that goes especially for our relationship with God. Putting it as simply as possible, prayer is the way we communicate with God. We get to know God as we talk about life with him and listen to and act on what he says.

The prayer commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer is an example of prayer that Jesus gave specifically to his followers as a model and guide of what to pray and how to do it. Note how Jesus’ example begins with ‘Our Father’, not ‘my Father’, a reminder that prayer is a community thing, part of our sharing of life together. In fact, if we’re serious about sharing our entire life with God and with others, no doubt we will end up praying about many aspects of our lives and other’s lives – and also for the things that God lays on our hearts. We can pray about absolutely anything and everything.

There is nothing too difficult or complex for us to bring to God. We can ask forgiveness or help, tell him how much we appreciate him, or simply wait in silence. All these and more are part of prayer. Prayer is a two-way process. Not only can we talk to God about anything that concerns us, but he has much that he wants to talk to us about.

Questions to Consider
What does the Lord’s prayer mean to you? How is it and its pattern of prayer a part of your life?

Prayer
Pray through the Lord’s prayer today.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – God Talked First

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 22

When we think of God communicating with us we often think of prayer – and only prayer, and only in specific ‘time-set-aside’ prayer. But while regular prayer is hugely important, God also communicates to us in a multitude of other ways. In today’s reading King Josiah and the Israelites discovered God’s message to them through the Bible, through God’s written, inspired word to his people.

God also speaks to us through the created world, through his son Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. He speaks in the circumstances we face and through people we meet. In the story we just read, God had spoken to the Israelites through his written word, even though they had forgotten it. This shows us two things. It shows us that communication with God starts with him, not with us. He spoke first because he wants to share life with us long before we seek him out – in fact, right from the beginning of creation. Even though the Israelites of King Josiah’s time were unaware of it, God had already told them what he wanted them to know.

So much of what we need to hear is right there waiting for us in the Bible; so much of what God wants to say to us he has already said, and says to us again and again each time we seek him through his word. When we read it, we grow in our understanding of how to live in light of God’s amazing redemptive love.

Questions to Consider
What are the different ways God has spoken to you? How has he been speaking to you this week?

Prayer
Lord God, help me understand the ways you want to speak to me, and help me hear from you in more ways through each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Are We Listening?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Samuel 3

It seems like the default factory setting on our view of prayer is ‘speaking to God.’ Most of us find it very easy to slip into the habit of seeing prayer as the time when we talk to God about our stuff, our concerns and dreams. And while we absolutely should and must talk to God, we must also always keep in mind that God is absolutely passionate about speaking to us. As we read earlier this week, prayer is communication – two-way communication.

Even when we don’t listen at first, God is determined to get his message through. The Bible is full of examples of God speaking to people: he spoke to Balaam through a donkey, he talked to Moses through a burning bush, and he got King Belshazzar’s attention by writing on a wall. God has a huge variety of methods. We don’t need to worry about whether God wants to talk to us—he will do whatever it takes to get through to us. What might need work is how well we listen.

God called Samuel several times before Samuel responded to him. God didn’t give up on talking to Samuel, and Samuel didn’t give up on trying to understand what was happening and what he needed to do. We need to learn to know God’s voice and listen to it, as Samuel eventually did. When God speaks, it’s vital that we are ready to hear.

Questions to Consider
What is God saying to you today? What specific words does he have for you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me to listen to you more so I can know more of what is on your heart and be more like you. Grow my heart to be like yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Hold on Tight!

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 15:7

Jesus once said that when we pray in faith we can move entire mountains. Is this simply illustrative hyperbole, or might Jesus have been serious? Either way his point was serious: anything is possible through prayer. When we pray, says Jesus, we can ask for anything we like and get it. But there’s a condition…. we need to be in close relationship with Jesus. What does that mean? The Message says, ‘Live in me; make your home in me.’ The Contemporary English Version of the Bible says, ‘Stay joined to me and let my teachings become part of you.’ When we stay close to Jesus we get to know and understand him, and together we begin to create something wonderful. We can talk with God about anything and everything—big or small, simple or complex.

Jesus says we need to spend a lot of time reading and understanding the Bible. As we read his word, listen to his voice and begin to practice his love, even what we pray for will change. We take on his interests and begin to want the same things he wants. We’ll find ourselves praying first and foremost for the things on God’s heart and the things that concern him. The closer to Jesus we remain, the more we are transformed to be like him, and the more our prayers will also be transformed into his prayers. Our prayers will be answered and we’ll be keen to pray more.

Questions to Consider
What is something you have been praying about for a long time that you feel is unanswered? How does it feel to be still holding on? What do you think Jesus is saying about this?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, give me the strength and wisdom to know when to hold on and keep praying and persevering, and when to let go. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Unwanted Answer

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Samuel 12:15-23

If God is good (which he is) and likes to give his children good things (which he does), and if we are faithful (which we manage sometimes!), surely our prayers would always be successful? But as we all know our prayers don’t always get the answers we want. What happens when things go wrong? What do we do when the answer to prayer is hard to take? Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. No matter how right the request seems to be, or how urgent, our prayers aren’t answered the way we’d like. Prayers seeking God’s healing for the very ill and dying often fit this situation, something that David knew all about that. He watched his child die in spite of his desperate prayers for a different outcome.

Jesus also faced this reality at the Garden of Gethsemane. Although he understood that his father’s plan was not going to give him an easy way out, he still begged God to spare him the pain that was coming. Yet as distressed as he was Jesus found the strength to tell his father, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’ Sometimes we don’t like what God says to us. Living with consequences can be deeply painful. But God still has a plan for us even then, beyond the pain and hurt and confusion. We need to accept this and trust God to comfort us as he walks beside us.

Questions to Consider
In what areas of life do you find it hardest to pray, ‘Not my will but yours be done’? How can you offer these areas to God and submit them to him?

Prayer
Almighty God, help me pray “your will be done” even when it’s hard. Give me the strength and courage to let you be God and king of my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Pentecost

Readings for this week May 29 – June 2
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Why Are We Waiting?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 1:1-5

It’s the most spectacular event in history. Jesus has been raised from the dead. He has returned from beyond the grave. All that he said and did suddenly takes on a new, deeper meaning. He starts to explain things to his disciples, showing how he is the fulfilment of scripture and how his resurrection vindicates him and his message, a message of salvation and redemption and new life that now needs to be proclaimed to the whole world. The urgency of the task is undeniable. The good news must be preached, people must be saved, God must be praised. And so naturally Jesus immediately commands his disciples to….wait.

It might seem counterintuitive for Jesus to tell the disciples to wait, but he knew that the task before them was huge and wasn’t one they would be able to begin (never mind actually accomplish) without help – in fact, without a special ‘helper’ to guide them and give them strength and wisdom for what was ahead. So they needed to wait until all was ready.

Waiting requires trust and patience, but it has a purpose. It emphasises the importance of our dependence on God and submission to his plans and his ways of working. We need to continually take the time to seek God and wait upon his prompting, not as a way of avoiding action, but of focusing our action. Waiting on the Lord together also binds us closer to each other and creates community, which is especially important as the task before us is one Jesus has given to the community of his followers.

Questions to Consider
How do you wait upon the Lord for guidance and instruction? How does your community do this together?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for your guidance and encouragement to us as a people. I know you will always guide us, but help us to remember to seek you first. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Power of God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:1-4

The disciples had been promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. They had had to wait, in obedience to Jesus’ command, but wait they had. And in that upper room what Jesus had promised came to pass: the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Jesus gathered in that room. A momentous event in the history of God and his people.

But it was not just an event for those people. The Holy Spirit is given as a gift to all of God’s people, in all times and all places. So that obviously includes us. Some of the creative power of God himself comes from heaven to earth and does its work here – and does it through us, all of us. The aim is to transform the earth and the people in it through the power of heaven, beginning with the hearts and lives of the followers of Jesus in community – the spirit comes to unite, not divide. And then, filled with the spirit, the community of Jesus is to begin the task of transforming the earth and all that is in it.

We are to be God’s Spirit-empowered people, his co-workers in restoring his creation, sharing the good news of Jesus, healing, prophesying, spreading the message of God’s love, all under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And it is this same spirit that is available to us today.

Questions to Consider
How is the Holy Spirit an active presence in your life? What would be different without his influence and input in what you do?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your spirit. Please fill me again with your Holy Spirit and guide me in my day/week ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – God’s Community Open to All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:5-11

One of the great dangers the people of God face is giving in to the seemingly ubiquitous human desire to only associate with those people who are similar to ourselves – or even worse, to demand that others conform to be like us. But God’s redemptive community is not limited to one race or group or class of people. Visitors to Jerusalem were surprised to hear the apostles and other followers of Jesus speaking to them in their own tongues. The point being illustrated is that no matter what people’s race, nationality, culture or background, God speaks to all, because God is for all. If there is any conforming that should be happening it is all of us, whoever we are, wherever we are from, whatever our makeup, being conformed to the likeness of Christ – a likeness of loving acceptance.

Although it may be a natural inclination for us to want to only associate with people similar to ourselves, and to believe that God only speaks to us and those like us, it is an inclination that we must fight. God is inclusive and all-loving and he wants us to be the same as him. In this case God used a miracle to help make his point, but now that we know, we don’t need to wait for whatever miracle God may or may not provide us with. The community of God is open to all and we play an important part in showing this to the world, through our openness and our love for others, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

Questions to Consider
How does the fact that the gospel is for everyone change the way you live? What is there in your words and actions that shows that you believe that God is for everyone?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me to remember that your love is for all, not just those I know or am comfortable around. Help me have the same openness to others as you have to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Remembering the Bigger Story

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:22-36

As astounding as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus were, even to those who had travelled with him for the years of his public ministry, they were not events that just happened out of the blue, completely new and unconnected to anything that had gone before. Peter and the other disciples found themselves re-examining and re-evaluating the story they were a part of in the light of Jesus, and then sharing their new-found understanding with others.

Sometimes, in the busyness of our lives and with the limited view we have, it can be difficult for us to see where we fit into God’s larger story, or even that we fit into this story. But we do. And so does everyone around us, even if they do not realise or acknowledge it. We must always remember the part in the story that other people have to play, even if they aren’t aware of it yet. As much as God is intimately concerned with us as individuals, he is also concerned with ensuring that we remain mindful of the larger story around us. By continually telling and retelling the larger story, we will not only remind ourselves of God’s loving faithfulness to us, but also, like Peter, find a deeper way of sharing the story of God’s love with others so that they too can understand the story, their place in it, and the nature of the loving God who has promised to bring all things to a glorious conclusion, and who wants us to be active participants in what he is doing.

Questions to Consider
How does your story fit into God’s larger story? How would you explain ‘the whole story’ to someone who didn’t know it?

Prayer
Father, help me to always see the bigger story that encompasses my own. Help me show others how they are a part of your story too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – What Spirit-Centred Community Looks Like

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:37-47

Being part of God’s community will change us, as individuals and as a community. The transforming power of God’s spirit working within us – all of us – brings us closer together, transforms our relationships, and gets us more deeply involved in each other’s lives. This isn’t an option. We may enter community as unknowns to start with, but once we have been in community for a while if we are still unknown to each other and our lives a closed door to all others, then something is wrong.

The community of faith we read about in today’s reading wasn’t something limited to maybe once or twice a week. It was a way of life. Their example shows us Jesus’ plan for his community of followers. They met together every day. They got heavily involved in each other’s lives. There were a number of things they did when they met—eating, praying, teaching and worshipping. These central elements of life they did together, and this was the central way in which God’s spirit transformed them and bound them together.

This sharing of meals and possessions, and praying together—these were not the actions of a group of people who only knew each other slightly. They show that true community spirit—sharing the whole of life together— began to happen. They were the actions of people intimately involved in each other’s lives and bound together by faithfulness to God.

Questions to Consider
How is your life an open door to others? How could you be more involved in the lives of those in your community?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me share more of myself with my community and help my community share more of you with the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

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)

Exodus – Ten Commandments (continued)

Readings for this week May 15 – 19
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Tuesday Christian Fellowhip 30th Anniversary: Gifts of the Spirit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Susan Boyle, born with brain damage, has become a well-known singer since her audition on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in January 2009. Susan was introduced and as the judges said later, ‘everyone was laughing at you…everyone was against you…we were all being very cynical.’ Assumptions were made. Judgements were made. However, as she went ahead and sang, she revealed her gift of singing. Support and affirmation were then very evident. May we learn, as Susan Boyle did, the importance of how God wants us to discover and use our gifts. As followers of Christ, we have all been given gifts by God, with no exceptions.

A Reflection by Susan Boyle

God of New Beginnings
I come before You with an open heart and outstretched arms
Seeking guidance as I reach beyond myself
To find your love in everyone I meet and everyone I sing for.
I ask that my arms might embrace your Spirit
And that my eyes continue to see You in others
As I celebrate your love.
I ask for the strength and patience to be a person of peace and an instrument
For justice and respect for all people, especially people with a disability.
I wish to keep my life simple and always keep in mind the simplicity of your message: Your love for all of us.
Through your divine strength I open in a new way,
Committing myself to always try and walk your path and share in your work.
I thank you for the gift of people, the talents of all people and my own gift of music and song.
It is through respecting each other that we experience oneness with You.
Keep me close and never let me stray from You.
Let me always be a person of hope and certain of your powerful and gentle presence.
Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Tuesday Christian Fellowship 30th Anniversary: One Body, Many Members

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:12-30

‘…the church (is) an inclusive body of believers, gifted by many charisms, so that the many members of the body across the spectrum of dis/abilities are understood as ministers of the gospel.’ Amos Yong

We have all been given gifts, every single one of us, whatever our age, our ability, our background. The type of gift can vary, but the fact that all of us have gifts does not. We are, all of us, ministers of the gospel with jobs to do in partnership with God. God has given us gifts so that we can get on with what God has called us to do. He has matched each of his gifts to each one of his people, because he knows who we are – all of us – and knows what he wants each of us to do as co-workers with him in his mission.

We are ministers of God all of the time. How powerful and obvious will the love of God be to the world if instead of ministry to people with special needs/disabilities, it becomes a way of ministering the love of God with them. We are all in this together. We all have a place, we all have a gift, we all have a God who has placed us together to be his body in his world for his glory. And if we remember this and work together in the power of his Spirit, the result will be a church that is inclusive of the lives and gifts of all.

Questions to Consider
What gifts do you have? What gifts have you seen those around you use?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for all the other members of your body you have joined me to. May I always see your people as you see them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Do Not Steal

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:15

This commandment is pretty simple (like most of them actually): don’t steal. If it’s not yours, don’t take it. If you owe it (time, money, compensation, etc.), then give it. If you’re bound by a law, obey it. Don’t take something because you want it but can’t get it on ‘favourable’ terms.

Do not steal is very black and white, but the thoughts and feelings and desires that spur such actions are not necessarily so clear cut. The fear of missing out, the desire to keep up with what everyone else has, a sense of entitlement over what one feels one should own or have access to, a desire to provide for others: there are many motivations for why theft of varying types is such a constant in human affairs. Stealing connects very closely to the commandment not to covet. Often stealing is the practical outworking of the desire to possess something, either something not rightfully ours, or to gain possession of it illegally. Stealing often begins with that envious feeling of wanting something without having to give anything or sacrifice anything in return for it.

But rather than constantly looking out for opportunities to gain and add to what we have (whether illicitly or not) we should be constantly looking out for opportunities to give from what we have. God has given so much to us; we need to counter the acquisitive culture that surrounds us, modelling giving – especially to those in need – rather than getting. Stealing should not be an issue for people always primed and ready to give to others.

Questions to Consider
What does it actually mean to steal something? What are the subtle ways in which was are encouraged to take what is not ours?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, you gave everything to us and for us. Help me always be looking to give to others, not to take from others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Lies, Damned Lies and Alternative Facts

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:16

Nobody lies any more. Our enlightened, sophisticated society has moved well beyond that. ‘Being economical with the truth’ sounds better – it’s got the word truth in it after all. We don’t lie, we misspeak, our words are taken out of context, we are misrepresented, or what we said is simply an alternative fact.

So much of who we are – our character – is contained within the words we use, the words we offer to the rest of the world, and to God. To take them lightly and use them flippantly is to take other people lightly and to treat the gift of communication that God has blessed us with flippantly. If all we offer the world is falsehood, prevarication and dissimulation, then that is all the world will give back to us in return. We may wish the world wasn’t like this but it is.

We speak our minds very freely and readily these days, especially with so many platforms and forums and opportunities to do so. Perhaps, rather than speaking our minds so openly, we should be holding our tongues patiently. If we speak truth, we will stand out. When everybody is acting in one way it may seem silly to act in another, but that is what Jesus demands of us: that we speak clearly, simply and truthfully in all we do; that we offer to God and his world the truthfulness of our words and our character, in his service for the benefit of his creation – whether his Creation recognises it or not.

Questions to Consider
What are the small ways in which we let lies slip from our tongues? What are the consequences? Why is truth so important?

Prayer
Almighty Father, stay my tongue. Conform my mind and heart to yours. May I only speak the truth in all I say. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Breathless in Pursuit of It All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:17

The word covet literally means ‘to pant after’, a meaning that wonderfully illustrates just how important and all-consuming and ‘needful’ chasing after possessions has become for many people today. In a consumer society such as ours, coveting is almost second nature for many people. With nothing bigger than ourselves to answer to or contribute towards, and with no acknowledgement that the fact that we are even able to desire anything is because of the desire for God he himself implanted within us, there is only the mindless pursuit of toys and objects and people. What we consume is not as important as that we consume. Anything goes.

This commandment speaks to our desires, our longings for things and people and possessions. It speaks directly to the state of our heart and certainly does not need actions to accompany it in order for us to succumb to the sin of covetousness. The ubiquity of things around us, and the ease with which we can acquire them, can make it very easy to lose sight of the fact that it is God who is our Provider and Sustainer. Not ourselves, not others, but God. Luke 12:15 also records Jesus’ comments on covetousness: “Take heed and be aware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” So what does our life consist in? In finding our true home in God, our true calling to return to him and be his people. “In him we live”: that is where our desire finds its true rest and satisfaction.

Questions to Consider
How can we keep ourselves immune to the consumer culture we find ourselves in? Why is it so important that God’s people not be covetous?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, the desires I have can only truly be met and satisfied in you. May I only ever ‘pant’ after you; let all else pale into appropriate insignificance next to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Exodus – Ten Commandments

Readings for this week May 8 – 12
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Rules for a Reason

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:1-11

Laws. Regulations. Commandments. You must do this. You must not do that. For most of us, however useful and necessary rules may be, they are not popular. It is far easier to see them more as an encroachment on our freedom (however we define freedom) than as guaranteeing our freedom. So it can be quite natural to see the Law in a negative light and to see Judaism as a legalistic religion based around keeping (but continually failing) and obeying the harsh Law imposed from above by God. This has been an image Christianity has had for much of its history. But it is wrong.

God had already acted before the giving of the Law and the Commandments. He had graciously rescued his people from slavery. He had acted out of the natural goodness and love of his heart to rescue his people, re-establish them before the nations as his own, chosen people and then offer them a further sign of his love for them by giving them the Law. The Law was a many-layered gift. It would show that the Israelites belonged to God, it was a glorious gift designed to set them apart, to show up sin when it was present and to deal with it by refining and remoulding the Israelites so they could be holy before God, a sign to others of the blessing that comes from knowing and obeying the Lord. The Israelites weren’t accepted by God because they kept the Law (or even because, failing, at least God was happy they tried); they were saved and accepted by God first, and showed their love for him by entering into the covenant relationship he offered them, complete with obeying the Law as a sign of their continued commitment to God and to his covenant with them.

Questions to Consider
What is your view of the Law and of the Ten Commandments? Why? What is the relevance today?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for calling all people to be your people. Thank you that you love to give good gifts to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Mother and Father

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:12

The Ten Commandments given by God do not just cover our relationship with God and consequently our relationship with our self in relation to a correct view of God and ourselves. They also deal with our relationships with each other at the social level, but also, as in today’s passage, at the level of the family.

For many people today the commandment to honour your mother and father is easy to do, as they have a lifetime of good, loving relationships to look back on, whether their parents are still alive or not. Honouring mother and father is not an issue for them. But for many others, the injunction to honour their mother and father is a painful, perhaps even perverted, commandment that raises a host of troubling issues and distressing memories and feelings. Does anyone who has suffered abuse – of any type – still have to honour their parents? How is this meant to happen? What does ‘honour’ actually mean under such circumstances? Or maybe someone who lost their parent(s) at an early age through illness or accident might struggle with the absence of those parental relationships from their life. Other people simply do not get on with their parents and the command to honour them appears as an inconvenience, an imposition pushing them in a direction they do not want to go. God is our heavenly Father (and Mother too). He is a parent who does love and cherish his children – all his children – even when his children struggle to love and honour him or love and honour their own parents.

Questions to Consider
What does honouring your mother and father mean for you? What is so important about this commandment?

Prayer
Almighty Father, may we, as your people, honour our parents and also show others what it means to do so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Don’t Try and Wriggle Out of It

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 15:3-6

Jesus himself had something to say about the commandment to honour your mother and father, directed particularly at those (Pharisees in this case) who interpreted this commandment in such a way that allowed them to keep the letter of the law while violating the spirit of the law. Designating something as ‘devoted to God’ got people off the hook of having to use it to help and support their parents; because God ‘needed’ it, it didn’t need to be given to or used for the support of parents. Jesus’ point is simply: don’t prevaricate, don’t look for loopholes, don’t try and avoid the responsibilities that come with your family relationships. Our life together is too important for that.

Honouring our parents is a crucial building block for the healthy functioning of our society. Stable functioning societies require stable, functioning families and the honour and respect that God wants us to have for parents is a key requirement for this to happen. If we are not showing the love that God has for all in our relationships with each other – especially within our families – then we are failing our God and each other.

The commandment to honour your mother and father is one that comes with a promise attached to it: “so that your days may be long.” Honouring God through honouring our parents is a vital part of showing the world what God’s love looks like.

Questions to Consider
Why is it important that we honour our familial obligations? Why is it wrong to try and dodge them? What are the consequences?

Prayer
Lord God, whatever my family situation, what my relational circumstances, may I always be an ambassador of your love and a model of your concern for all people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Murder in the Heart

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:13

In Hebrew, as in English, there is a distinction between to kill and to murder. The death of human beings in war or as capital punishment should always be considered as not part of God’s ideal for human beings (as God would prefer that none perish, and that all should live life abundantly). But under certain circumstances (usually related to legally and/or morally justified wars or punishments, whatever we may think of them), killing is considered justified. After all, in the previous chapter of Exodus there was a prohibition against the people setting foot on the mountain, or else they would be put to death. But murder (when there is no legal or moral reason) was never justified.

Jesus had something to say about this commandment too. And, again, rather than nullify it or declare it no longer necessary, he exposed the deeper meaning undergirding it, upholding and affirming it at the same time as widening the scope for its application. Now it is no longer just related to the act of murder, the actual taking of another life, but is also connected to the thought behind the act, the hatred or anger that causes a person to hate someone in their heart. The internal person matters too. Judgement is not just limited to the external, visible acts that someone commits but the thoughts, intentions and feelings behind them. This is a commandment that reaches into the deepest parts of ourselves, the parts that help shape, influence and determine both our thoughts and actions towards all others.

Questions to Consider
How do the Ten Commandments strengthen and grow each of our four key relationships? Why is this important?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me be obedient and submissive to you in those times when you are moulding and shaping me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Ongoing Creation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:14 and Matthew 5:27-30

This commandment is clear: no adultery. Period. There is no circumstance in which it is permissible. There is no argument or extended explanation needed or given; it is wrong for someone to have sex with anyone other than their spouse. Otherwise relationships and families disintegrate, along with the God-given dignity and divine image inherent in each human being. We are not meant to use each other in this way. But today in our society at large you would never know that our culture rests significantly on the Judeo-Christian heritage, including the Ten Commandments. And adultery is a word with a fast-fading definition as people engage in sex with anyone they want, when they want, for whatever reason they want, as if it is merely an act among many, like walking or sitting or eating.

While the act of adultery is destructive enough in and of itself, Jesus also expanded this commandment into the internal spaces of our thoughts, intentions, feelings and, in particular, our desires. The idea of looking at someone and lusting after them, even though it is an invisible inward act, is wrong. The intention counts for something – counts for a lot from Jesus’ point of view. Life is about growth and transformation into the character of Christ through the shaping of the Holy Spirit, so that our will becomes conformed to his, so that our actions can show his love for the whole world to the whole world. Our thoughts need to be transformed and renewed – they are the invisible driver of who we are and what we do. They need to be Spirit inspired and directed.

Questions to Consider
What is our society’s view of adultery? What are the consequences?

Prayer
Creator God, you created me and that creation continues every day as you call me to be transformed more and more into who you want me to be. Make me more open to your prompting and your shaping of me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Easter – Passion for Christ (continued)

Readings for this week May 1 – 5
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – What is Worship?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 12:1

One of the central things that marked the Israelites out from all of the surrounding nations was their worship of one god – the One God. They were to have no other gods before him. The only thing they were to worship – ever – was God. To worship God means to be completely devoted to him and to make him the focus of your life. Our lives are God’s. We are his—our time, energy, actions, thoughts, resources, hopes and dreams—everything.

Paul reinforces this idea with his use of the phrase ‘living sacrifice’. What does he mean by ‘living sacrifice’? Unlike other sacrifices which are a one-off event, a living sacrifice is ongoing. When we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we give God our ordinary walking-around existence. We are his to use however he wants. This is worship. This is the worship that God called the Israelites to offer and the worship we are called to offer too.

It can be easy to think that worship only includes the times when we are consciously ‘worshipping’, perhaps singing songs in a service, praying, or serving people around us. Those times specifically set aside for worship are definitely important, but worship is so much more. It is our whole lives offered continually to God. He wants everything we do to be done because we love him.

Questions to Consider
How is your whole life an act of worship to God? How are you a ‘living sacrifice’?

Prayer
Lord God, help me lay more of myself down before you. In my waking and sleeping, my walking and sitting, my silence and talking, may I always honour and worship you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Honest Worship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 6:1-7

What does a worship encounter with God look like? It’s all very well for God to call a people to himself and proclaim them to be his people and he to be their God and to worship him only. But what does a worship encounter between God and someone actually look like? Today we read about someone who found out.

In the Ten Commandments, God very clearly ruled out worshipping other gods, and making idols and graven images for this purpose. We cannot make our own gods. And just as much, we cannot dream up our own picture of what God is like and worship that made-up image. For example, if we think we can approach God without owning up to our sin, we are just kidding ourselves. Worship requires us to be real before God, it’s not just a ‘feel good’ experience. We must be real about who the God we worship is, and real about who we are as worshippers. When Isaiah met God face-to-face, he ended up flat on the ground begging for forgiveness. There’s not much ‘feel good’ about that! But it was real.

We need to approach God humbly aware of our sin, but also knowing he loves us. He will neither abandon us nor ignore our worship. If we feel God’s presence, it is not because we somehow rise up to him, but because he chooses to come down to us. When we worship God without trying to cover up who we really are, we see ourselves clearly and can also see God as he is.

Questions to Consider
The Bible is full of different pictures of God—creator, lover, comforter, teacher, judge, provider, protector… What is your image of God? Why?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may my worship and my life be wholly yours in all their messiness and humanity, given with all my love and honesty. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Name of the Lord

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:7

To those who follow the way of Jesus, the words ‘God’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ have special meaning: they are the names of the God we love, follow, emulate and obey. In Jesus we see the embodiment of the Creator God, the one who loves us and gave himself for us. These names are not random names representing a concept or an idea, or some sort of generic life principle. They are the names of the God we have a relationship with, and who offers himself in relationship with us.

The commandment not to take God’s name in vain uses a Hebrew verb that means ‘bear’, as in the taking of an oath or in the making of a pledge or vow – in other words, not to use the name of God falsely or lightly. For much of modern society the name of God is an expletive, an exclamation of pain or frustration or anger, a verbal expression of unhappiness or disgust about something. In these instances it is usually a pointer towards a person’s internal state of mind – if they are really thinking at all about what they are saying, which they usually are not. Our use of God’s name shows how we really think about him and about ourselves as his children.

If we love God, his name will pass our lips in the form of praise and worship and love. Even in the hard times when we cry out to him in pain or anger, his name should still be the name on our lips, even if we are struggling to see where he is in the circumstances of our lives.

Questions to Consider
Why is God’s name a swear word for so many people these days? What should our response to these situations be?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I always treat your blessed name with the reverence and love you deserve, even in those times when I am at my weakest. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Holy Sabbath

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:8-9

For many people today, the concept of the Sabbath is completely alien to them. The idea of a day off is nothing strange, but for a lot of people that concept has simply merged into the idea of ‘the weekend’ – a couple of days where perhaps they don’t go to work or school, or they don’t follow whatever regular rhythms of life they have during the week. And there are many for whom the idea of even a regular day off is unknown. In this increasingly busy world of 24/7 everything, and the never sleeping global village, and rostered-on-and-off shift-work, sometimes a day off is just the day you actually get to sleep before getting up and continuing with the next week.

But God commanded that we observe the Sabbath, that we have one day a week where we stop and remember him – and remember ourselves as finite created beings dependent on him. Human beings need to spend time – ‘slow’ unhurried time – in rest and in worship each week. Doing so shows how important God is to us.

Did God need a day off, did he need to rest after his creative exertions? No, but he knew we would. He set the model for us to follow, a model that was given with love and understanding of what we would need in order to live fruitfully and creatively in relationships with him, ourselves and each other.

Questions to Consider
What is the Sabbath to you? What does it mean? What does your Sabbath day consist of? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for the Sabbath. Thank you for knowing what we would need in order to best be your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Day of Rest

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:10-11

This particular commandment to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath day to the Lord, would have had special resonance for the newly freed people of Israel. They had just spent 430 years in the land of Egypt, most of those years spent as slaves. They had been beaten, abused and driven hard by their slave masters. Several times their treatment by Pharaoh had involved being on the receiving end of his explicit instructions to his slave drivers to work the Israelites harder, to increase their work load and to deliberately make their living and working conditions worse. To have their God specifically institute a day of rest would not only be a sign of God’s love and care for them, but also a reminder of the blessings of freedom and of no longer being slaves in Egypt. The stipulation that the Sabbath day was also to apply to the Israelites’ own male and female slaves was a further reminder of God’s goodness to and concern for all.

The Sabbath day is a day of rest, a reminder to the people of the situation they had just been rescued from by God – and it is also therefore a day set aside for the worship of this loving, almighty, miracle-working God. Observing the Sabbath reminds us of God’s creation of the world (as verse 11 says) and therefore of God as Creator – and as our Creator. But it also reminds us of the God of history, who works in and through the events and people of the world for his glory.

Questions to Consider
How is the call to keep the Sabbath day holy enacted in your life? What makes this day of worship different to the worship we offer each day as living sacrifices?

Prayer
Creator God, we praise you for who you are as Creator, and for all you have done for us as our God. May we always be thankful for all you are and all you have done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)