Reflections up to 8th May 2020
Friday 8th May 2020
Your Heart – His Home
We may be familiar with the picture of inviting Jesus into the house of your life. (Revelation 3:20), but in what capacity do you invite Him in? Is He the Stranger you occasionally chat to in the Hallway?
He wants to be more intimate than that. Read Ephesians 3:16-17
Will you invite Him into your Study? He will be able to see what you read and what occupies your thought-life. Psalm 19:14 (GNB) “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable to you, O LORD.”
Paul says, “Let God transform us - - “How? (See Romans 12:2)
Jesus says, “Let me have your mind.”
Will you invite Him into your Living Room, so that you can relax and spend time together, listen to His word and find out what He wants to say? Is it true that, “You will fill me with joy in your Presence” (Psalm 16:11)?
Jesus says, “Let me have your time.”
Will you invite Him into your Work Room, and let Him see the quality of your workmanship. Will you share your work with Him and follow His agenda?
See Philippians 2:13. When is God at work?
Jesus says, “Let me have your hands.”
Will you invite Him into your Rest Room and let Him see what you watch on your screen when you relax? Are these things that build you up? See Jude 20.
Jesus says, “Let me share your leisure time.”
Will you invite Him into your Bedroom, to be part of your private life? “The secret things belong to the LORD” Deuteronomy 29:29, and Jesus tells us, “Your Father who sees what you do in private - - -“Matthew 6:4 (GNB).
Jesus says, “Let me share your personal life.”
Will you invite Him into your Store Room? Is it smelly in there? Are there things from your past that you hide away there? He wants you to release those things to Him, and let them go.
“Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
Jesus says, “Let me have your past.”
A Prayer: Lord Jesus thank you that you want to make your home in my life. Help me to hand over to you the keys to all the rooms so that my life reflects yours. Amen.
Thursday 7th May 2020
Naomi and Ruth lived through times of sorrow and uncertainty.
Read Ruth 1:1-5 to understand the background. Naomi was an Israelite from Judah who was left a destitute widow in Moab, a foreign land. Think about how she might have felt when her two sons died. As a widow, with no other relatives nearby, she must have been totally dependent on them.
Read Ruth 1:6,7 Why did Naomi decide to return to Judah? Is it a bit surprising that her daughters-in-law from Moab set out on the journey with her? Was it out of a sense of loyalty? Perhaps they wanted to accompany her on the first part of her long journey, until she reached her own country. So Naomi would perhaps expect them to turn back at the border.
Read Ruth 1:8-13 Naomi tried to persuade Ruth and Orpah to turn back and stay with their own families. What does this reveal about her character?
How does Naomi view her misfortunes? (v.14 and also vv 19-21; Note: Naomi means Pleasant, Mara means Bitter) Do you have sympathy with her view? Do you feel that way about the awful things that are happening around us now?
Read Ruth 1:16-18 Think of the ways in which Naomi and Ruth were very different. What did they have in common? (Note: In v17 Ruth, a Moabitess, swears her commitment to Naomi in the name of Israel’s God, and acknowledges him as her God.) Put yourself in Ruth’s shoes. Would you have chosen to go with Naomi to a foreign land where you would be a despised penniless alien?
What are the characteristics of a true friend? A true friend does not give up on you when …. Think of some of the situations which can make friends give up.
For Ruth it included sticking with Naomi when Naomi was bitter and miserable.
Have you got a friend like that, who has stuck with you through the tough times?
Are you a friend like that?
Can you think of someone who needs a friend just now in this difficult time? Could you be the friend they need? Can you phone them? Or would they like an encouraging card? Or even a thoughtful gift left on their doorstep? Or ordered on the internet? Would it help them to know that you are praying for them?
A Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus that you are the friend that sticks closer than a brother. You are always there for me. Help me to be a friend like that, and to know how to bring your love to those who need encouragement. I ask you to show me someone who needs your love just now. Amen.
Wednesday 6th May 2020
“God created human beings making them to be like Himself. He created them to be male and female” Genesis 1:27 (GNB).
What does it mean, “ - to be like Himself”? Surely it includes the ability to think and plan, to make choices, to love and to create.
As we create, we reflect the nature of our Creator. We bear His likeness.
Two of the early Bible characters with particularly creative gifts were Bezalel and Oholiab. You can read about them in Exodus 35:30 - 36:1.
What were their different gifts, and how were they useful?
God’s people have used their gifts of wisdom to deal with the issues of their day.
How did Joseph advise Pharaoh to deal with the coming famine? Genesis 41:28-40?
What did Jahaziel advise King Jehoshaphat to do in the face of a massive enemy attack? See 2 Chronicles 20:14-17. Do you remember what happened?
God warned King Nebuchadnezzar in a dream what would happen to him if he continued with his pride and contemptuous behaviour. Daniel explained the dream and gave wise advice. See Daniel 4:19-27. To find out what happened next, read the rest of the chapter.
When God’s people use the wise and creative gifts they have been given by their Creator, good things happen. God’s Kingdom grows.
God does not fine-tune everything Himself! After the Temple had been built and the Ark installed in it, Solomon addressed the whole assembly. Read 1Kings 8:15-18. God is saying that it was not His idea to have a Temple built in Jerusalem. It was David’s idea!.
And it was a very good one!!
God invites us to use the talents He has given us to be creative – have ideas – plan new things – design solutions.
Are there creative opportunities for us in our present circumstances?
God has called us to be co-workers with Him. See 1 Corinthians 3:9
A Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for the gifts and abilities you have given me. Thank you for the freedom I have to use them. Thank you for the way I am working with you to grow your Kingdom. Amen.
Tuesday 5th May 2020
Read John 8:36. Who is it that sets us free?
We reflected yesterday that while we have been set free, we can fail to enjoy that freedom if we allow 1. Sin or 2. Guilt to control our thinking. There is a third enemy of freedom: 3. What People think of us. A constant concern about how people view us can be very damaging to our freedom.
Is this something that worries you? Talk to your Heavenly Father about it.
What are the ways in which the opinion of others can enslave us?
(a) It can stop you speaking the truth.
The Apostle Paul recognised the danger of wanting to please other people with his teaching. He was determined that the only thing that mattered was what God wanted.
See 2 Corinthians 2:17.
(b) It limits your ability to think independently and grow in wisdom.
See John 5:44. Jesus warns His Jewish opponents that they will not be able to understand His teaching if what they want to do is to please each other and not aim to please God. See Proverbs 9:10. Where is true wisdom found?
(c) It makes you blind to the truth.
See John 12:42-43. People recognised that Jesus spoke the truth, but were afraid to follow Him because of what other people would think, and the consequences (they might get thrown out of the synagogue). If we chose the applause of people above the authority of God we will not be able to discern God’s will.
Is God’s approval the thing you want most?
(d) It offends God
See Exodus 20:5 (GNB) “I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals.” In the same way that a husband is possessive of his wife’s affections, so God is possessive of the affections of His people. How will God feel if other people’s opinions are more important to us than His? God has an opinion on everything: do you value it above all others?
Read Galatians 1:10. Paul wants the approval of God above all else. He is not restricted by concerns about what others might think. He has been set free. Have you?
A Prayer: Dear Father, please set us free from slavery to the opinions of others and help us to put you and your Kingdom first. Enable us to rejoice in your total freedom. Amen.
Monday 4th May 2020
A Whole New Life!
We have been set free (Romans 8:1-2) but it is possible to find ourselves in slavery again! What things can put us back in chains?
1. Sin People live according to their identity. If we see ourselves as useless and failures, that is how we will live. If we see ourselves as sinners, that’s how we will live. We are saints who sometimes sin: but we are not sinners! That’s what we used to be but “now God declares us ‘Not Guilty’ – if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in His kindness freely takes away our sin” (Romans 3:24 LB).
Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians described as ‘sinners’!
How does the New Testament describe us?
“Saints/God’s holy people” (1 Corinthians 1:2)
“Children of God” (Romans 8:16)
“Heirs - - of God (Galatians 4:7) - - of Salvation (Hebrews 1:14) - - of the Kingdom (James 2:5) - - joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
“Loved by God” (Romans 1:7)
“Kings” (1 Corinthians 4:8) and 1 Peter 2:9 has more!!
Learn 2 Corinthians 5:17. Live and rejoice in your new identity!
2. Guilt from the Past Sometimes shame of what we have said or done can hold us in chains. But we have been set free from the past, however bad that might have been.
Ours is not the old life cleaned up and improved: it’s a whole new life!
Remember how King David committed adultery and then arranged for the murder of one of his most loyal soldiers (2 Samuel chapter 11). David then pleads with God for forgiveness – see Psalm 51 – and then in spite of the horror of what he had done he was confident, “I shall be clean – whiter than snow (v7) – have a pure heart – steadfast spirit (v10) – be in God’s presence (v11) – with joy of salvation (v12)”. The prophet Nathan tells him, “The LORD has taken away your sin.” (2 Samuel 12:13)
Meditate on Galatians 2:19-20
A Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for the new life I have in Jesus. Thank you that the old has completely gone – dead and buried with Christ. Thank you for this new life I now have filled with the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
Saturday 2nd May 2020
Read Luke 4:18-22. Jesus is preaching in the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth. He is quoting from the prophecy of Isaiah (61:1-2) and saying that He has come to fulfil that prophecy (v21). He has come to set people free! This is His manifesto. It was like the Year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25:8-55) – slaves set free – land and inheritance restored – people redeemed – but now on a permanent and global basis.
Matthew 1:21 explains why He was given the name Jesus, “- - because He will save His people from their sins.”
Why is it important to really grasp this truth and be confident in it?
Read 2 Corinthians 3:17 Where is there freedom?
Read Galatians 5:1a “- - - - Christ has set us free” (past tense – job already done!) – for what purpose?
(A quick summary of the Letter to the Galatians: Chapters 1-4 “You have been set free”.
Chapters 5-6 “Now live free!”)
In the USA there was a Law passed on January 1st 1863 proclaiming that slaves were to be set free, though the constitutional amendment legally abolishing slavery did not happen until December 1865. However, in spite of everything - a Civil War – the assassination of a President – Legislation in Congress) very many people continued to live in slavery! They preferred the security of slavery to the risks of freedom.
Does this happen to Christians?
(We will think on Monday of the things that might enslave us.)
Is it possible to be set free and still live in slavery?
Galatians 5:1b “Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”
Read Romans 8:1-2. We’ve been set free!
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you that Jesus came to set us free from all the sorts of things that tend to shackle us. Help us to know that freedom, and experience it day by day. Amen.
Friday 1st May 2020
“Do you Truly Love Me?”
Paul reminds his Christian friends in Ephesus that they have direct access to their Heavenly Father. Ephesians 3:12 “in (Christ) and through faith in Him we may approach God in freedom and confidence.” In fact the heavenly realms are their permanent residence! Read Ephesians 2:4-6.
Did you know that? What are the implications of this for you today?
In spite of these wonderful truths, the church in Ephesus had “- forsaken its first love” (Revelation 2:4) within the lifetime of the Apostle John. Their doctrine was sound and they were hard-working and persevering but they had lost their love.
How would God feel about that?
What was God’s instruction to His people when He gave them the Law?
Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9
In the time of Jesus there was some controversy among the Pharisees over what was the most important Law. Many thought that keeping the Sabbath was the most important. So they asked Jesus for His opinion. What was His answer?
See Mark 12:29-31. What extra word did Jesus add (v30) to the words in Deuteronomy?
Is that significant for you?
Jesus was asked which one commandment was the most important, but He answers by giving two! (v31) Why does He do this? What are the implications for us today?
See Isaiah 62:5. In the Old Testament God was pictured as the Bridegroom coming for His People – His Bride. In the New Testament this picture becomes Jesus Christ as the Bridegroom with His Bride as the Church. Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” The husband/wife relationship reflects the Jesus/Church relationship. Love lies at the heart of it.
Read John 21:15-19. Jesus forgave Peter for his boasting, and reinstated him after his denials (see John 18:15-18, 25-27). The only thing that really mattered was, “Do you truly love me?”
A Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for the Bible pictures of the intimate relationship that you have with your people. Help me to let this truth sink in so that it shapes all that I think and say and do. Amen.
Thursday 30th April 2020
Ephesus was the leading commercial and capital city of the Roman province of Asia.
Read Acts chapter 19 to find out what happened when Paul visited there. Ephesus was the centre for worship of the goddess Artemis (Diana) and of the Roman emperors, who were worshipped as gods.
When Paul arrived he found about 12 followers of Jesus, but they had a very limited understanding of The Way. So Paul taught them about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They were baptised in the name of Jesus. Paul prayed for them and laid hands on them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit (vv1-7).
Ephesians 5:18 tells us “- - go on being filled with the Spirit.” Is that our experience?
Paul taught the Jews in the synagogue for about 3 months, and then had daily discussions with Gentiles in a Lecture Hall (a sort of early version of the Alpha Course!)
(vv8-10). Extraordinary miracles happened (vv11-12), and a very strange incident (vv13-16)!! What were the results of all this (v17)?
Some time later there was a riot! “- - there arose a great disturbance about The Way” (v23). Traders and others were concerned about their businesses and their occult practices being undermined by the followers of The Way “- - the whole city was in an uproar – “(v29). You will smile when you read v32! That’s just what happens in a riot! Two hours of chaos followed (v34) but then the City Clerk brought order in a wise and authoritative way (vv35-41).
What an amazing start to the Church in Ephesus!
Paul stayed there for about 2 years helping many people to come to faith and then instructing them in The Way.
After that, the Church in Ephesus was pastored by Timothy (1Timothy 1:3-5).
Later the Apostle John had responsibility for Ephesus and the other 6 leading churches in Asia Minor. John was banished to the Isle of Patmos by the Roman authorities because of his Christian faith and teaching (Revelation 1:9) and from there he wrote letters to the 7 churches (Revelation chapters 2 & 3).
See his letter to the Ephesians (Revelation 2:1-7). He commends them for their hard work, their perseverance and their rejection of false teaching, “Yet I have this against you: you have forsaken your first love” (v4). In spite of all the care and teaching they had received from Paul, Timothy and John they had lost their ‘first love’.
What did that mean? Why might that occur?
What happens to us if we lose our first love? What will we do about it?
A Prayer: Thank you Father for your amazing unchanging love for me. If I have lost my first love for you, please rekindle it, and draw me close to you. Amen.
Wednesday 29th April 2020
Sat-7 broadcasts faith-filled TV programmes in Arabic, Turkish and Farsi to 500 million Christians across the Middle East and North Africa. In many of those countries, Christians are persecuted (e.g. Afghanistan and Iran) and in others (e.g. Syria and Yemen) war has destroyed their homes, families and livelihoods. Sat-7 brings hope and joy in the midst of suffering and despair. They have provided our 5 headings today to help us all, whatever our circumstances, to choose joy.
1. Every day remember something that has brought you joy and write it down.
Read Psalm 103:8-17.
What has made you smile recently? A sunny day - a cheerful greeting - some good news? Jot it down and it will help you make a positive response to your situation.
Be encouraged! “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
2. Tell someone you love what they mean to you.
The Apostle Paul did this as he wrote to his friends in Philippi. See Philippians 1:3-8
Have a chat – make a phone call – send a message or a card. Our loved ones are a gift and we need to express our appreciation.
3. Reflect on the wonder of God’s creation.
Read Psalm 8:1-9
Joy is found in God’s presence, and where better to appreciate that than in a place of beauty (the garden, the coast, or the place where you walk)? “You have made known to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence.” Psalm 16:11.
4. What are your goals, your hopes for the future? Make a note of them.
Sadness and suffering will pass but joy goes on and on. “- - weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.
Jot down the things that you are looking forward to.
5. Tell someone else of your joy. Joy shared is joy increased.
Read Philippians 4:4-7. “Rejoice! Let you gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious - - -“.
Do you know someone who needs encouragement right now? Give them a call or an email and pass on some joy.
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you that we can choose joy in the midst of hopelessness. Thank you that this is a gift from you. Please be with those who are suffering and in despair today and grant them your supernatural joy. Amen.
Tuesday 28th April 2020
“Open to me - - -“
Read Genesis 28:10-22
Jacob is leaving his family home in haste! Why? He heads north to his mother’s family home. He is alone. One night he has a dream. What 7 promises does God make to him? (vv 13-15)? What 3 things does Jacob promise God? (vv 21-22).
Read Genesis 32:9-12
Jacob is alone with his fears. How does this prayer reflect his relationship with God? In what ways can this prayer be a model for our own praying?
Read Genesis 32:24-30
Again Jacob is alone. What does Jacob want (v 26)? Is it easy for him? Does he get what he struggled for? (v 29)
What do we learn from these encounters that Jacob has with God?
E.M. Bounds in his book on prayer says, “Prayer is the easiest and the hardest of all things.” Is this your experience?
Prayer is what bridges the gap between God and human beings, and God wants that gap closed as much as we do. In two of the three prayers of Jacob that we have read, it was God who initiated the conversation.
There is a lovely picture in the Song of Songs where the Bride is sleeping when the Bridegroom arrives. He knocks saying, “Open to me - - - “(5:2). We get a similar picture in Revelation 3:20 of Jesus saying, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
What is prayer for you? Is it a battle to get through to God? Or is it an opening up and allowing Him to come in? This is what He wants to do.
A Prayer: Father God thank you that you want to share life with us. Thank you for the way of communicating by prayer. Help us to open up to you. May we be like Jacob and not give up. Thank you that it is your will to bless us. Amen.
Monday 27th April 2020
He carried our Sorrows
God’s view about divorce is very clear – see Malachi 2:16 – but this did not prevent many divorces taking place in the time of Jesus. The Law said, “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house - - - “. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) The Pharisees were divided about what “something indecent” meant. One school said it meant only adultery, but another school said it could be anything trivial like burning the supper!! So they asked Jesus what His opinion was – see Matthew 19:1-12.
Even some of our Bible heroes did not perform well in relation to their women folk. See what Abraham did to Hagar, the mother of his son Ishmael (Genesis 21:14-20). It was good that God was looking out for her and saved her!
Jesus met up with a Samaritan woman who had been rejected by five husbands and was being ostracised by her community. Imagine her grief and sense of rejection! But Jesus changed her life – and the lives of many in her town. See John 4:1-42 for the full story.
In many male-dominated cultures the women are treated appallingly today. Here is the story of Feriyal, a lady from Iran.
“I had been to Turkey for fifteen days where my husband tormented me the whole time and betrayed me before my very eyes. I felt completely distraught. Opposite my room was a church, and one day I asked Jesus Christ to help me and bring me peace. No-one knew how I was feeling in those days except for my wonderful God. I spoke with Jesus and asked for His protection.
After I returned home, one of my sister’s friends – whom I didn’t know at all – came to see me and saw how I was. I somehow knew that she was a Christian. She told me that she had come to see me because Jesus had told her to come and help me. Then I knew that Jesus had truly touched me and was helping me.”
See the amazing prophecy about the Suffering Messiah in Isaiah 53. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (v4 RSV).
We hear that there has been a significant increase in alcoholism, violence, and domestic abuse during these days of lockdown. It’s hard to imagine some of the grief and suffering going on behind closed doors. But our Heavenly Father knows about it and Jesus has experienced the pain of rejection and abuse Himself. We pray that more people like Feriyal will find Jesus coming to bring help and hope, peace and protection.
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you have shared in this world’s pain and shame. We pray for all those who are suffering right now. May they learn that you have carried their sorrows, and that you bind up the broken-hearted. Please bring them peace. Amen.
Sunday 26th April 2020
Tree of Life
Read 2 Chronicles 1:7-12
Solomon had just begun to reign over Israel following the death of his father David. One night God appears to him and asks what gift he would like to be given. Solomon replies, “Give me wisdom and knowledge that I may lead this people”. God is pleased with his choice of gift and promises to give him that – and other things as well!
Solomon had a genuine free choice. He was not a puppet. So God was actually making Himself vulnerable to the desire of Solomon.
If God were to come to you and ask what gift you would like, what would you say to Him? If something is important to you, it is important to God.
Read John 16:23-28
Jesus is encouraging His disciples after the Last Supper. They are anxious, but He says that their grief will turn to joy, and He tells them, “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (v23) “- - - the Father Himself loves you because you have believed that I come from God.” (v27).
What did Jesus mean, “to ask in His name”? Have you asked God for something recently in the name of Jesus?
Notice that this promise is given in the context of faith in Jesus Christ and friendship with God. As we develop a friendship we discover the things that please our friend. So it is as we develop our friendship with God. We get to know His heart, and so want to please Him with our requests.
Read Proverbs 13:12
“- - - a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”. What other things in the Bible are described as a ‘tree of life’? See Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 15:4. After the Fall, Adam and Eve were barred from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22, 24), but those who belong to Jesus Christ have right of access to it (Revelation 22:14).
This is not referring to a time in the future after our life on earth has ended. Eternal life has already begun for those who are in Jesus Christ. John 3:35 “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”; John 5:24 “- - - has crossed from death to life”.
See also 1 John 3:14 and 1 John 5:13.
What is your reaction to knowing that you have access to the tree of life right now? Remember that Jesus promised us “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10).
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you that you want to give us life in all its fullness. Help us to grow our friendship with you so that we know what is on your heart, and share with you the desires of our heart. Amen
Saturday 25th April 2020
Heaven in Ordinary
Read Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
The Preacher is telling us that in eating, drinking and working – the things of ordinary everyday life – we find satisfaction. This is a gift of God.
George Herbert in his poem “Prayer” refers to “Heaven in ordinary”.
Do we recognise heaven in the ordinary things of life?
In John 6:35 Jesus describes Himself as “the Bread of Life”.
What point was He making?
What ordinary everyday thing was the Stranger doing in Luke 24:30 that made Him recognisable? Was there more than simple recognition happening?
Sharing a meal with other people is part of everyday life, but it is also at the heart of our faith as we remember Jesus as He told us to. Read Luke 22:13-20. What would the disciples have been remembering during their Passover feast?
What do we think about when we reflect on that meal?
What happened in the early church? (Acts 2:42, 46; Acts 20:7-8). Where did they break bread? Can communion happen in an ordinary home today?
Eating food is part of the ordinary, but it is also special because it is part of God’s provision for us. He answers our prayer, “Give us today our daily bread”.
In the UK we throw away 7 million tonnes of food each year – 5 million tonnes of it still perfectly edible! (That’s worth £9.7 billion – or over £350 per household.)
What is your reaction to that? Is God honoured if His provisions are wasted?
If we are being encouraged to shop less now, during the pandemic, could this create positive habits for the future?
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you so much that in the UK there is plenty of food available day by day. Teach us not to take this for granted, but to be truly grateful.
Please help us to use wisely all the everyday resources that you give us. Amen
Friday 24th April 2020
Read Genesis 1:20-21
In these verses you get the impression of superabundance – “let the water teem with living creatures” (v20); “every living thing with which the water teems” (v21); “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas.” (v21).
God made bountiful provision for human beings in the world He had made for them.
The LORD’S repeated promise to the descendants of Abraham was that they would occupy “a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey” (e.g. Exodus 3:8).
What was the report of Joshua and Caleb after they had explored the land (Numbers 14:7-9)? However, the other men sent to spy out the land were overwhelmed by the problems they saw – the powerful people, the fortification of the towns, and the stature of their soldiers. (Numbers 13:28). They all saw the same things, but their attitudes were different.
What sort of world do you live in? Is it a world of insufficiency and problems?
Or is it a world of plenty?
In the world of insufficiency the supplies are never adequate. People keep a tight hold of what they have. They are reluctant to share, and begrudge those who have more. There are many problems and much to complain about.
In the world of plenty there is more than enough for everyone. We live generously and give freely. We recognise that our God is a God of abundance. We follow Him and share what we have with those in need.
Psalm 36:8-9 (GNB) “We feast on the abundant food you provide; you let us drink from the river of your goodness. You are the source of all life.” Is this your world?
Sharing meals together is frequently reported in the Bible..
How many occasions can you think of in the Gospels where Jesus is having a meal with others (inside or outside)? Was there scarcity or abundance? Were there other enriching things happening at the same time? Does this have lessons for us?
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you for the abundant provision you have made in your bountiful world. Please give us hearts to appreciate and enjoy your lavish provision. Help us to seek out the needs of others and be generous and open-hearted as you are. Amen.
Thursday 23rd April 2020
Always Praying: Always Joyful
See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 (these are two of the shortest verses in the Bible!)
“Always be joyful. Always keep praying.” (LB)
It is easy to be happy in some circumstances, but the Christian’s joy is not dependent upon circumstances. It is based on what Jesus has achieved, and therefore applies to all times and situations. Note that Paul is giving an instruction: “Be joyful!” This is not optional.
He says the same in his letter to the Philippians. Read Philippians 4:4-7.
This is no glib advice from Paul. At the time of writing he was in chains in prison in Rome with a very uncertain future. But still he says, “Rejoice always”.
What if we don’t feel like it? If we are sad, angry, anxious or frustrated how can we rejoice? Read Psalm 33:1-3. Sing a song of praise - focus on something beautiful – memorise a verse from the Bible - remember something special. It is a matter of deliberate choice.
And pray! We become increasingly like the One we worship. In our new nature as God’s Friends we will want to please Him with our thoughts and desires, and these develop from our close relationship with Him.
Read John 16:24. God wants to answer our prayers “so that your joy will be complete/full/overflowing”. One way that joy comes into our lives is by having our prayers answered.
Jesus was joyful. It was a pleasure to have Him at your party. Think of some of His stories. Think of the way that the ordinary people crowded round Him. One reason He was so jubilant was that He saw His prayers constantly being answered by His Father.
“Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21 Msg). The word used here suggests “jumping for joy”! Jesus made an impact on those close to Him, even from an early age! Elizabeth reported, “The baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44) when Mary pregnant with Jesus arrived.
The joy of Jesus is infectious, and His followers must catch it.
A Prayer: Heavenly Father thank you that you delight in the prayers of your Friends as they share with you the cares of your Kingdom. Please fill us with your joy at all times so that we reflect what life in your Kingdom is like. Amen
Wednesday 22nd April 2020
Servants and Friends
Take time and read slowly Psalm 16.
Make a note of phrases the particularly strike you.
Unlike Servants, as Friends of God we have access to His Presence at all times. (v11) “Your Presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure for ever.” (GNB) We have an intimate encounter with God and get to know His heart. This gives us confidence in our identity. We are who the Father says we are, and the opinions of others do not unsettle us.
The contrast between ‘Servant’ and ‘Friend’ comes over clearly in the account of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary.
Read Luke 10:38-42
Jesus turns up at their house with a large entourage of approximately twenty people (twelve disciples plus others). We do not know if they were expected, but they were welcomed (v38). Martha sets about organizing the food, etc., while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet (not the acceptable place for a woman in that culture!) listening to what Jesus had to say.
Mary wants to please Jesus by being with Him, while Martha wants to please Him by service.
Martha gets upset with the pressure of all her work and asks Jesus if He doesn’t care! (Sadly ‘Servants’ do get stressed and blame God for their workload!) Martha wants Mary to help her, but Jesus says, “There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and I won’t take it away from her.” (v41 LB)
‘Servants’ try to do more for God to please Him: ‘Friends’ please Him by spending more time with Him. ‘Friends’ work from His Presence: ‘Servants’ work to try and qualify for His Presence.
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you that Jesus calls us Friends. Please help us to appreciate that we live in your presence all the time. When we feel stressed by our workload please remind of this and bring us back to closeness with you. Amen.
Tuesday 21st April 2020
God wants our Input
Read Genesis 18:17-33
God plans to bring judgement on the town of Sodom where there were incredible acts of evil and debauchery. However, He first discusses His plan with His friend Abraham.
Abraham argues with God that He should not destroy the city if there were 50 righteous people in it … or 40 … or 30 …. or 10. He says it would not be just to kill the righteous along with wicked, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (v25).
(You can find out what happened in chapter 19. The city was destroyed, but the righteous people were safely brought out.)
Why did God discuss His plan with Abraham? What does this tell us about their relationship?
Read Exodus 32:7-14
While Moses was on Mount Sinai collecting the Ten Commandments from God, the Israelites lost patience, made a calf out of gold, and worshipped it! God has a plan to destroy them (v10), but He discusses this with Moses before He does so (v9).
Moses reminds God that they were His people and the He brought them out of Egypt. (v11 – contrast with v7)!! He reminds God of the long-term plan to bless the descendants of Abraham (v13). As a result of this conversation God does not destroy the people (v14).
What is happening here? Does God change His mind?
Or is God prompting Moses to plead for his people?
God wanted His friends Abraham and Moses to be involved in the decision-making process. Throughout history God has invited His Friends into His counsel.
What happens on earth is influenced by their work as intercessors.
God’s plans are sometimes more fluid than rigid, and the way they flow depends on what God’s Friends are praying for.
What is this saying to us today?
A Prayer: Loving Father thank you that we are your friends and that you want our input into your plans. Please help us to grasp the significance of this, and to recognise the responsibility it puts on us. Thank you for the examples of Abraham and Moses. May our conversations with you be thoughtful and wise like theirs. Amen.
Monday 20th April 2020
Friendship with God
Read Exodus 33:12-17. This is a conversation between Moses and God.
Who initiates the conversation? What requests does Moses make?
What the two things that God promises Moses (v14)? Are they related?
The basis for this conversation was their friendship (“The LORD would speak with Moses face to face as a man speaks to His friend.” (v11)
Can you think of other Old Testament characters who were described as Friends of God? (Job 29:4; Isaiah 41:8 – Who is the Servant and who is the Friend? What is the difference?)
Towards the end of His ministry Jesus changed the status of His 12 disciples: - “I’m no longer calling you servants, because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” (John 15:15 Msg.) Their status has changed, and the reason given for this is that Jesus has passed on to them information He has received from the Father. They now have inside information. They are intimates.
This does not affect their need for obedience! “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14. If obedience is still part of the relationship, what has changed?
If a servant does not do what he is instructed to do: that is disobedience. But if a friend fails to do what he is asked: the result is disappointment. This means that the whole spirit of the relationship has changed.
There has been a shift from “command → obedience” to “instruction → response”. What is important is the relationship, not the task.
We have moved from, “What shall I do for Him?” to “How will my response affect Him?”
A Prayer: Thank you Father that Jesus calls us His friends. Thank you that you share with us your thoughts so that we are part of your Kingdom plans. Please help us to understand how our responses impact you and draw us ever closer into this relationship.
Sunday 19th April 2020
Creation reveals the Creator
Outside the window of where I am now, there is a breathtakingly beautiful sight: a wild cherry tree totally clothed in blossom. It makes me think of the Creation account in Genesis 2:9 “And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”
Just think for a moment of the innumerable things of beauty that we have around us every day – but do we have eyes to see them? Or are our minds too preoccupied with the pressures of life?
Read Philippians 4:8. What are the things that the Apostle Paul tells us to think about? Make a list of them.
Are these the things that fill my thinking? Or do negative thoughts sometimes take over my mind? What will I do about it?
Beautiful things like the cherry tree, and the loving actions of so many people in these difficult times, help us to know God better.
Romans 1:20. “Ever since God created the world, His invisible qualities, both His eternal power and His divine nature, have been clearly seen. Men can perceive them in the things that God has made.” (TEV) Everything created reflects its Creator.
If I am to know life in all its fullness I need to spend time in wonder: to immerse myself in the beauty with which God has surrounded me. How will I plan to do that?
But there is more! The Preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God’s world is beautiful, but of itself it is not completely satisfying. It is too big for us to grasp, but its joys are not enough! Since God designed us for eternity, the things of time will never completely meet our needs, but they whet our appetite for something more.
A Prayer: Loving Father, please open my eyes to the beautiful world around me. Help me to be still and revel in the wonder of your creation. And please help me to recognise that this world is just a preparation for the real thing that is to come. Thank you for your eternal plans, and that you have put eternity into our hearts. Amen.
Saturday 18th April 2020
Quiet! Be Still
Psalm 107 is an exhortation to praise the LORD for His unfailing love, because He has rescued His people from many crises – lost in the desert; hungry and thirsty; imprisoned in darkness; sickness, etc. You might like to read the whole Psalm, but focus on vv 23-32, where the LORD God rescues His people from a storm. Note that “He stilled the storm to a whisper” (v29) “Then they were glad when it grew calm” (v30).
Have you been in a storm? How did you feel? What was it like to be calm again?
Jesus brought calm to His friends on more than one occasion.
Read Mark 4:37-39. What did Jesus say? What was the result?
On another occasion Jesus walked on the water to His disciples who were struggling to row against a fierce headwind. Mark 6:49-51. They cried out in fear, but Jesus said to them, “Take courage! I AM. Don’t be afraid.” What was the significance of Jesus saying “I AM” (which is the literal translation of the Greek of that verse)?
(See Exodus 3:14). “He climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down.”
The storms of life – the pressures we experience - are not only those caused by the weather!
Who is it that has the power and authority to calm the storms in your life?
The Bible has many verses which tell us to “Be still!” Can you think of any? Here is The Message translation of Jeremiah 2:25. “Slow down! Take a deep breath. What is the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, ‘I can’t help it. I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit’.”
What are the ‘alien gods’ that I hang on to? Is it the god of pleasing people? Or being perfect? Or keeping busy? Or is it the god of bitterness? Of anxiety? Of insecurity?
Listen to the LORD’s command now, “Quiet! Be still.”
We need to do this for the sake of our own mental health and for the good of our relationship with Him and with others.
When I am still, I can reflect on whether I am living “life in all its fullness” – a life connected to God, His people and His world.
A Prayer: Loving Father please free me from busyness or perfectionism or anger or fear or anything else that takes up too much room in my life. Teach me how to live life to the full, to bring abundance of life to others, and to walk closely with You. Amen.
Friday 17th April 2020
Your Kingdom Come
Read (aloud if you can) Psalm 96:1-13
What different words are used to exhort the people to praise the LORD?
(e.g. v1, 2 – “sing”; v3 – “declare” - - - - - -)
Why is the Psalmist so confident and enthusiastic? See v10
That’s a lovely verse to remember in these troubled times! Try learning it!
Throughout the Old Testament people were looking forward to God’s rule being established – to His Kingdom coming.
The Pharisees asked Jesus when that would be. Read Luke 17:20-21
(The Pharisees believed that it was a matter for God to determine, and that their job was just to wait patiently for it to happen.)
What was the answer that Jesus gave? What did it mean?
The Greek words could be translated “among you” or ”in your midst”. Jesus was in effect saying, “I’m here, present with you, bringing God’s Presence and Power to planet earth in a dynamic way.” The King was in their midst but they did not recognise Him! Or the Greek words could be translated, “within you” – that is the Kingdom of God works in human hearts to produce new people whose lives reflect Kingdom values. Or the words could be translated, “within your grasp”, meaning that God’s Kingdom was there for them to reach out to and grab hold of. All three possible translations are true and instructive. And they show that we have a part to play.
In 1 Corinthians 3:9 Paul tells us that “we are co-workers with God”.
Does this amaze you? Why would God want to work with us? Could He not do things better – infinitely better – without our help? He chooses us because he loves us and makes us part of His plans.
We are His sons and daughters establishing His Kingdom of grace, mercy, forgiveness, healing and peace here on earth. We have a vested interest in it because we are heirs of the Kingdom: it’s our inheritance (James 2:5).
A Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for sending Jesus into our world to show us what your Kingdom looks like. Thank you that you have made us heirs of your Kingdom. By the power of your Holy Spirit may we play our part in building your Kingdom, so that your will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.
Thursday 16th April 2020
The Creator of the Universe knows Me
Read Psalm 139:1-16. God knows each of us intimately and in detail. He knows my thoughts (v2); where I go (v3); what I am going to say (v4). I can’t escape from His presence wherever I may go (v7-12). It was God who created me in my mother’s womb (v13-16).
Is this scary? Or surprising? Or comforting? Tell God how you feel about it.
God is telling us how important we are to Him. Each of us is special. Sometimes people put themselves down by quoting John the Baptist who said, “He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30). But God does not want us to decrease! He wants us to flourish.
In context we see that John was passing the baton of responsibility for the establishment of God’s Kingdom over to Jesus. Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies, bringing forgiveness and reconciliation, and enabling people to enter His Kingdom. Now Jesus has handed the baton on to us and we are hugely important! We must not belittle ourselves. This is not boasting – we are well aware of our weaknesses – but it is recognising why God has made us, and the authority and responsibility He has given us.
Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
What do you think Jesus meant by that? What is a life of fullness to you?
This is the good news that we have to share with our community, and to demonstrate in the way we live. Life in all its fullness is not about becoming less like you: it’s about becoming more like the ‘you’ that God created. For some this may involve healing the brokenness and hurt from the past; for others it may mean abandoning the false image they have presented of themselves; and for others it may require taking off the labels that have become attached to them by society.
Be honest with God and allow Him to deal with any issues that hide the real ‘you’.
A Prayer: Loving Father, thank you making me the person I am. Thank you that you understand me completely. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit so that my life reflects the fullness that Jesus promised, so that honour comes to you who made me. Amen.
Wednesday 15th April 2020
Majestic Creator – Beautiful Plans
Read Psalm 8:1-9 very slowly – savour each sentence – let it sink in.
It is good to get our present condition into perspective.
To understand where we are, and to have some idea of where we are going, we need to understand where we began.
Look at Genesis chapter 1 and see God’s comments as He created the universe. He made Light – “that’s good” (v4); Land and Sea – “that’s good” (v10); Plants – “that’s good” (v12); Sun, Moon and Stars – “that’s good” (v18); Sea Creatures and Birds – “that’s good” (v21); Wild and Domestic Animals – “that’s good” (v25); Human Beings – “God saw all that He had made and it was very good” (v31)
It was all “good” until human beings were created – then it became “very good”!
Why? What is special about human beings?
See Genesis 1:27 “God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.”
Our story did not begin at the Fall – it started in the image of God.
God made us with abilities like His own: to think, to plan, to create, to love, to enjoy.
We are in His likeness because we are His children. We have His DNA. His blood flows through our veins. And because we are His children He says to us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3.
His love for us was so great that He would rather send Jesus to die for us than have Heaven without us.
We were made to be a responsive part of this relationship, and in spite of the Fall we still have that potential.
In Ephesians 3:19 the Apostle Paul prays for his friends, “May you come to know His love – although it can never be fully known – and to be completely filled with the very nature of God”
In Ephesians 4 Paul is concerned that the believers should be built up - v13 “and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Wow! That’s our goal! The fullness of life that Jesus offers is not about rejecting our humanity: it’s about filling it with the very nature of God – as in the original plan.
Is that your goal?
A Prayer: Loving Father thank You for your beautiful plans. Thank You that you have given me abilities like your own. Thank You that you want a close Father/child relationship with me. Please help me to grow to maturity and become more and more like Jesus. Amen.
Tuesday 14th April 2020
Knowing the King and Ourselves
“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10
If we are going to become increasingly close to our God – to know Him more and more – then we will have to take time to “be still” in His Presence. This will be a deliberate choice.
God has designed each of us uniquely for a relationship with Himself. Any tasks that we do for Him are important, but they are only effective if they follow from our closeness to Him. If we don’t take time for that, then we have got our priorities wrong and our efforts will lose their effectiveness.
Read Proverbs 3:5-8. What are the 5 key instructions here? - And the 3 lovely promises?
Read Psalm 103:7. In Hebrew poetry the thoughts in a 2-line verse may be complementary (each line is saying similar things with different phrases) – or they can be contrasting (the second line is in contrast to the first). What do you make of this verse? Are the two lines complementary, or contrasting? What of us? Do we know the ways of God; or only His acts?
If we think that we can cope with things on our own, then where is God in our lives? But if we admit our vulnerability and our weaknesses then we are open to God’s intervention in our lives, plus we can allow others to serve us which can be enriching for them.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, - - and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10.
The great King David acknowledged, “And today, even though I am the anointed king, I am weak”– and the result was a great swell of public support for him.
2 Samuel 3:39
A Prayer: Loving Father help me to be still and know you, and learn your ways. Help me to acknowledge my weaknesses and discover your strength in my life. Amen.
Monday 13th April 2020 ( Easter Bank Holiday)
The King brings Peace
When Jesus appeared to His disciples on the evening of the first Easter Day, the first thing He said to them was, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
There were many reasons why they did not have peace: - They were afraid of the Jewish authorities; they had not believed the reports of the women that Jesus was alive (Luke 24:11); they had repeatedly fallen asleep instead of praying (Mark 14:32-41); they remembered deserting Jesus in His hour of need (Mark 14:50); Peter had denied Him; and apart from John and the women they had not stood by Him at Calvary.
Fear, unbelief, failure, shame, lack of prayer and commitment haunted them – as they haunt us. So Jesus comes to us, as He came to them, and says, “Peace be with you.” And in case we didn’t get it the first time, He says it again (John 20:21).
How many times does Jesus have to say that to us for it to sink in? He gives peace.
True peace is an elusive thing. In the world we see frustration, anger, chaos and violence. And it can be the same thing when we look inside ourselves. Jesus addresses this.
Read Matthew 11:28-30. What 2 things does Jesus tell us to do to find rest?
Read John 14:27. What does Jesus give us - - - and leave with us?
He also gives us two clear, “Do nots”. What are they? They are instructions to be obeyed! We have to decide to obey in each challenging circumstance we face.
Pray for those living in turmoil today. It may be external (Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, DRC - - -) or it may be internal. Pray that they will experience “the peace which is far beyond human understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Psalm 131:2 is a lovely expression of peace: “I am humbled and quieted in Your presence. Like a contented child who rests on its mother’s lap, I’m Your resting child and my soul is content in You.” Is that how you are in Your Father’s presence?
A Prayer: Loving Father we pray for a world where there is so much stress and so little peace. By your Spirit please work in the hearts of individuals to bring rest. Thank You Lord Jesus that you do not want our hearts to be troubled. Thank You that you want to give us your deep peace today. Amen.
Sunday 12th April 2020 ( Easter Day)
The King is Alive! – Resurrection Joy!
When Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus on Friday afternoon, they bound His body in strips of cloth enclosing 75 pounds weight of spices!! (John 19:39-40) That is a lot of myrrh and aloes! In fact this would be the sort of quantity that would be used in a royal burial – they were burying a King.
A group of women loyal to Jesus (some of them are named in Luke 24:10) watched the burial (Luke 23:55) and decided that Jesus should have an even more special burial!! - So what did they do? (Read Luke 23:56 – 24:1)
Is this what you would have done if you had been there? How special is Jesus to you?
Read Matthew’s account of the resurrection – Matthew 28:1-10. Note v 8 – “they were afraid yet filled with joy.”
See also Luke 24:41 “And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement - - - “
The women were filled with joy, even though they were afraid. The disciples were struggling with doubt and amazement, but they had joy.
What impact does the Resurrection have on us today?
Worries and fears surround us, but does the truth that Jesus lives give us joy in the midst of everything?
Jesus did not need any help to get free from the grave clothes and heavy load of spices that bound Him. His resurrection body just passed through them. It was not so with Lazarus a couple of weeks earlier. (Read what happened in John chapter 11, especially verses 38-44.) When Jesus raised him back to life, what instruction did He give to those nearby?
When our friends come to new life they are going to need help to get rid of the old encumbrances and discover joy in their new life. Are we ready and equipped to help them find freedom and joy?
In John 16:24 Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.”
A Prayer: Loving Father Thank you that you raised Jesus from the dead. We pray this Easter that your followers will experience new life in place of death; hope in place of fear, and joy in place of despair. Amen.
Saturday 11th April 2020
The King is Dead – is there any Hope?
After the crucifixion of Jesus many of His disciples were fearfully hiding away behind locked doors (John 20:19). They feared that the religious authorities having killed their Leader would be after them next. They had lost hope.
To us now this is a bit surprising, because Jesus had repeatedly explained to them what would happen. Mark 8:31-32. He began to teach them - - that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this. Mark 9:31 He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed - - - . They will kill Him and after three days He will rise. Mark 10:32-34 “The Son of Man will be betrayed - - they will condemn Him to death and - - - will mock Him, and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise.”
Three times in three chapters, and the disciples still haven’t got it! Because of this they were fearful and without hope.
What about us? Are there important truths that we have heard about that have not sunk in? Because of this we lack confidence and joy and hope.
Read Psalm 62:5-6. Where can we find rest – and hope? What stops us from being shaken?
Here is a prayer written by Rachael Adams:-
I come to you, God and I place before you my dreams,
My hurts and fears, my failures and my doubts.
I lay them down at your feet where I know they are held.
It may look foolish to the world; it may not make much sense,
But I know the bigger story: I know what’s to come.
In this world of fear, I choose hope;
In this world of anger, I choose forgiveness;
In this world of exclusion, I choose love;
In this world of distraction, I choose you.
We don’t have to conform to the pressures of this world. We see the bigger picture: we know what is to come. We can choose how we respond. Read Romans 12:2. What does that mean for you?
A Prayer: Remind me of your truth Lord, especially in the waiting – when times are hard and I’m struggling to hear your voice. Fill me afresh with your Presence; remind me of your great plan, and let the truth sink in that I need only you. Amen.