Relationship with Each Other

Readings for this week January 13 – 17
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Due to the holiday season, the January Daily Readings were prepared in advance of the Summer Series, and therefore are not directly connected with the content of the Summer Series.

The readings for the four weeks of January will follow the four key relationships (God, Self, Each Other, World), addressing one relationship each week. The readings are taken from across our series of Life Together books, hence why some may seem familiar.

The readings follow the same format as before.

Day 1 – Baptised into Community

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 17:22-23

From John’s Gospel today we will read part of the prayer Jesus prayed shortly before his crucifixion. As he prays for his followers we see his concern for his friends, and his desire for all who will follow him in the generations to come.

Jesus knew that a loving unity among his followers would be crucial to the growth and success of the new community. What does he pray? That they would have the same love and togetherness as God does. The Bible reveals God as three ‘persons’ in one God—the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because of this, God is often known as the Trinity or the Triune God. God exists in loving community. The relationship between the three is one of intimacy and self-giving love. The very limits of our thinking only scratch the surface of understanding the closeness of that relationship.

At the centre of everything that exists, in all creation and beyond, is the loving eternal community that is God. Jesus calls us to the same unity in our relationships with each other. We are baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—in the name of the eternal community. Therefore baptism is about joining the community of love.

Questions to Consider
A loving community is the very nature of God. How does this affect your understanding of who he is and what it means to follow him? How does this affect the way your community works?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for making me a child of God, but not a child of God alone. Thank you for the community of your people – my fellow children of God – and for giving me a family to be part of. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Community of the Broken

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 5:3-6

Have you noticed how Jesus turns our values completely upside down? Today we hear him say that the people the world looks down on are actually fortunate. Crazy stuff!

There is a deep truth to these famous words of Jesus. The community of Jesus is made up of people who understand what it means to mourn, people who are poor and weak, and people who are desperate for justice. Everyone who knows they are broken and in need of God’s help is welcome as a member of his family.

We need to share comfort, love and healing as we walk alongside one another. God’s family is not a group of people who have it all together. It’s actually made up of those who know what it means to be broken, hurt, oppressed and down-trodden. In our weakness we can be each other’s strength. God’s way is in complete contrast to a society that promotes power and self-interest.

The people of God are a community of the broken for the broken. We are to offer shelter, comfort and solidarity for all who suffer. That’s what it means to follow the man with the cross.

Questions to Consider
How have you accepted your own brokenness and the brokenness of those around you? How has this transformed your relationships with others?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me be honest and vulnerable with others, and help me grow into sharing in the vulnerability and brokenness of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Triumph Through Weakness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:32-34

Pretending that things aren’t that bad—hiding things from God—can only hurt us and limit what God can do in us. We have to be open to admitting our weaknesses.

This was Jesus’ moment of greatest struggle. He had to face the fact that he was about to be rejected and die cruelly by crucifixion. In talking to God he didn’t hold back. Jesus’ prayer was a raw and uncensored expression of his anguish.

But look at where he is at this crucial time—among his friends. One of his key actions at this time of desperation was to seek help from the community, from the people who were closest to him. He turned to his disciples, his friends, and asked them to stay with him and pray for him.

We need to learn to be honest at all times, with God and each other. This is what God expects of us. We don’t have to hide behind fancy words, we don’t need to pretend things aren’t so bad, and we certainly must not hide our sins. When we share these things with others and invite them to pray with us and for us God does his greatest work. When we stand before our God and our community, exposed and vulnerable, hiding nothing, the journey to complete restoration can begin.

Questions to Consider
Where do you most struggle to be honest with your community? What is the next step for you to make sure you continue on this journey of vulnerability?

Prayer
Almighty God, give me the strength and courage to share myself honestly with others, even when it hurts or is embarrassing. You held nothing of yourself back from us; help us be open and honest together. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Grace of Giving

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Giving isn’t always easy. Paul tells us today that generosity is to be encouraged, whatever our circumstances.

Paul travelled a lot, at times collecting money from followers of Jesus in outlying areas to meet the needs of those in Jerusalem. These churches were also poor, but they gave generously—in fact they gave much more than Paul expected. How much they gave was far less important than their sincere desire to help out their fellow believers.

Paul encouraged others to desire this same kind of generosity. Let’s be honest – giving is hard. We may want to grow in areas like faith, knowledge or love, but do we really want more of the gift of giving? Because it is difficult, we are best to do this together.

Society tells us to climb the economic ladder, often trampling on others as we do so. The practice of giving allows God’s people to enjoy equality (verse 13). God loves and cares for all. We are to do the same, especially for those in need and suffering. Whether we have a lot or a little, is our first impulse to give?

Questions to Consider
Paul encouraged people to put aside money on the first day of every week to save up a gift to give away to the poor. Are you putting money aside regularly to give to others? What could you do about this?

Prayer
Gracious God, show me ways to be more generous with all that you have given me. Help me look beyond myself. Give me eyes to see the best places to give to, no matter where they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Moving Together

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 10:1-12

We don’t have to relocate alone. It is not a case of each individual follower heading out into the world, just him or her and God against all.

As this passage shows, Jesus sent his disciples out together, in partnership with one another. The church’s long tradition of sending communities out to meet other communities begins here. More can be accomplished when we work together in this way. We can offer strength and encouragement and support to each other – and sometimes something as simple as an extra pair of hands.

When Abram moved out, his whole community went with him. They all moved together, just as we should move out together too. Going it alone – like a Lone Ranger figure riding off into the sunset by ourselves – is not what God wants us to do.

Today’s passage is a good example of the way the community travels in order to make community; we go together in order to join others where they are, and to grow the community of God’s people there. And we don’t go alone—though Jesus’ disciples went empty-handed, they went with God. God does not leave us alone, he leads us on, guides us along the way and backs up his word with the power to change lives. A loving community is not static; it must move in order to grow.

Questions to Consider
How has God drawn you into community with others? How have you bonded together as a community, and how have these bonds changed over time?

Prayer
Almighty Father, show me where to go and who to go with. Teach me what true community is and how a true community moves together. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Relationship with Self

Readings for this week January 6 – 10
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Due to the holiday season, the January Daily Readings were prepared in advance of the Summer Series, and therefore are not directly connected with the content of the Summer Series.

The readings for the four weeks of January will follow the four key relationships (God, Self, Each Other, World), addressing one relationship each week. The readings are taken from across our series of Life Together books, hence why some may seem familiar.

The readings follow the same format as before.

Day 1 – Where Do I Sit?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 14:7-11

Jesus was on show—a dinner guest at the home of one of his critics. As he observed the guests jostling for the best places at the table, he told a story.

We all face life with a picture of who we are and our value in society. This is part of the way we were created.

When sin entered the world a lot of things got messed up, one of them being this idea of self-image. Instead of being a reflection of our true status as created beings and objects of  God’s love, our view of ourselves is out of line—either far too high or damagingly low. We are continuously comparing ourselves with others who have the same problem.

Only God can provide us with a correct and healthy view of ourselves. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul reminds us that we should be modest and clear-headed in our opinion of ourselves. Romans 12:3 says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Questions to Consider
How do you see yourself? How do you think others view you and your relationship with God?

Prayer
Lord God, you are one who defines who I am, and your definition centres around love. You have rescued me and renamed me as a child of God. Thank you for your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Free From Sin

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 6:1-7

Today we will read that without God we are slaves to sin. Sin will be our master and tell us what to do. Slaves have no freedom—they have to do what they are told. What is our response to the fact that God has set us free from slavery? Do we keep on sinning? The answer is ‘No!’

The power of sin to rule our lives and slowly destroy us has been broken. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for us to sin or that we won’t sin any more. When we were slaves to sin, we knew the effect of that in our lives every day—guilt, loneliness and separation from God. With Christ as our boss we’re no longer forced to live this way. His death, and the power that brought him back to life again, has freed us from the old way of life that damaged both us and others. This is what God has set us free from.

But Jesus also has the power to set us free for something as well. He has stuff for us to do. We are no longer forced to submit to our old way of life, but are free to live each day knowing the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. Sin can no longer keep us from active love and obedience to God. It has been defeated and new life is now possible.

Questions to Consider
There is a time to just ‘stand’ on God’s truth—that through Jesus we are no longer slaves to the power of sin. Have you done this lately? Why is it important that we do this?

Prayer
Loving Lord, reveal to me what it is that you have set me free for, the things that you have set me free to do in your name, and in the service of others. May I use my freedom to create freedom for others, for those still trapped in unloving and unloved ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Downward Journey

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 21:15-19

We constantly hear that life is an upward journey— everything is a stepping stone to the next level of success, popularity or status. As Jesus gives instructions to Peter for his future, it is clear that following Jesus is quite different.

When we follow Jesus we will not be going after status, power or control. Our future may be uncertain and we may be fearful of what lies ahead, but we know we can trust God’s love for us and his desire to transform our lives.

In the upside down kingdom our cultural compass can no longer guide us, only Jesus can. Usually when we talk about growing we mean becoming more mature, more in control of life’s choices and more independent. But following Jesus often means choosing not to climb the ladder of control or success. He calls us to see our brothers and sisters, not as competition, but as people we are to walk alongside and give our lives to serve.

Questions to Consider
Think about following Christ on his downward journey. Does this match up with your idea of success, and the hopes and dreams you have? What are the areas of your life you are most reluctant to let God have control of as you follow Christ on his downward journey?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, give me opportunities to grow in humility. Grow a servant heart in me, and help me surrender into your hands those aspects of my life that I find it hardest to let go of. May I provide compassion, not competition. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Asking and Receiving

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 7:7-12

It is God’s nature to give. And it’s a good thing for us to ask him for gifts that will help us serve others.

With these words Jesus shows us what God the Father is like. God is not selfish, stingy or unwilling to give, and we don’t have to beg him for things. God doesn’t give second rate or unpleasant gifts—he gives only the best, most appropriate gifts that will help us spread his kingdom.

When we see needs in ourselves or in the community that we cannot meet, we can ask God to provide people with the necessary gifts. The more we get to know him, the more we will sense his will and know what to ask for. He gives to us so that we can give to others.

1 Corinthians 14:1 says, ‘Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts.’ It is OK to desire gifts. Often God puts a dream or even a frustration in our hearts about something that could be so much better. And he wants us to ask for the grace—the gifts—to do something about it.

Questions to Consider
What are one or two gifts you long for or see a need for in your community? Have you asked God to provide them? If not, why not?

Prayer
Father God, you are the good father, the one who delights in giving good gifts to your children. Give us the faith to ask for those things that will build your kingdom, heal hurts, restore lives and show love to those who have never known it. May we ask more for others than for ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Developing a Passion

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Jeremiah 20:7-9

We saw last week that Jeremiah was quite reluctant when God first called him to be his prophet. In today’s reading we will see a different side of Jeremiah.

When God called Jeremiah, Jeremiah was afraid, uncertain and reluctant to follow God. He wasn’t sure of God and he wasn’t sure of himself.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. He heard the call, he responded, and then the passion for what God wanted him to do began to grow in him. Jeremiah’s uncertainty gave way to a burning passion that he couldn’t contain.

Jeremiah couldn’t help himself, he just had to speak the words God had placed in him. When he shut his mouth and tried not to speak for a while it ‘became fire in his bones’ – it built up inside him until he could no longer hold it in and it burst out.

It no longer mattered to Jeremiah what might happen to him if he spoke, what other people might say or do to him. He knew that what God was calling him to was tough – and maybe dangerous too – but his passion would not allow him to dodge his responsibility to God. Jeremiah just had to keep walking with God – and he found that as he did so, his passion grew.

Question to Consider
Can you think of something about God’s kingdom that stirs you up?

Prayer
Lord God, please fan the flames of the passion that you have placed within me. Stir me up to make the difference in the lives of others that you want me to. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Relationship with God

Readings for this week December 30 – January 3
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Due to the holiday season, the January Daily Readings were prepared in advance of the Summer Series, and therefore are not directly connected with the content of the Summer Series.

The readings for the four weeks of January will follow the four key relationships (God, Self, Each Other, World), addressing one relationship each week. The readings are taken from across our series of Life Together books, hence why some may seem familiar.

The readings follow the same format as before.

Day 1 – We Are Designed By God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Genesis 1:26-31

We begin our journey in the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible. God is creator both of the entire universe and each one of us. The Bible makes it clear that God is the creator. The earth, the heavens, and everything they contain are the result of his highly skilled design. He created each of us, shaping us before we were born, and giving us life. We are not a random collection of atoms but the personal handiwork of God.

More than that, people are his best work, the ‘crowning glory’ of creation. We are the only creatures made in God’s own image and the only ones designed specifically to enjoy a close, loving relationship with him. God is love, and it’s his intention that we receive love from him, and that we love him in return. In the beginning, people enjoyed an honest, undamaged relationship with God. There was nothing to block that intimacy. The Bible says that God looked at his creation and pronounced it ‘good.’ He set the universe up the way he wanted it to be—a place of immense variety and wonder, and a place where people could enjoy life experiencing all the benefits of a loving relationship with their creator.

Questions to Consider
What new things are you noticing about God’s creation? What new things are developing in your relationship with him?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for the gift of your creation and the gift of my life within the framework of your creative love. I praise you for your goodness and thank you for your desire to be with us and join you in your creative work. Thank you for a love that enfolds me from birth to death and beyond. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Joining the Family

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ephesians 1:3-10

Have you ever thought deeply about the real meaning of Christmas? We celebrate the fact that God became a human being: God joined our family so we could join his.

When the human family chose to rebel against God, we pushed him away. Despite this he made it possible for us to come back into relationship with him through faith in his son Jesus Christ. Through Christ we can become children of God and enjoy the love that God wants to share with us. This was his purpose from the beginning.

Amazingly, God offers us a place in his own family. He wants us to be his adopted sons and daughters. Through sending his son to die for us he has clearly shown that he wants us back. He wants us to be a part of his family, and there is no price too high for him to pay to achieve this. God simply refuses to be apart from us. He wants to claim us as his own.

Jesus became one with us. He was a person—a complete thinking, feeling human being—with all the strengths and weaknesses that involves. God entered directly into the world and met us right where we are in our humanness. By becoming one with us, Jesus made it possible for us to become one with him.

Questions to Consider
How often do you stop and say to yourself “God is really, really pleased to have me as his son/daughter?” What stops you? How can you make reminding yourself of this truth a regular part of your devotional life?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me a family by giving me a place in your family. Help me see myself as you see me, and show me how to see others and love others as you see and love them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – God Talked First

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 22

God communicates to us in a number of ways. King Josiah and the Israelites discovered God’s message to them through the Bible.

God speaks to us through the created world, through his son Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. He speaks in circumstances we face and 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 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. When we read it we grow in our understanding of how to live in light of God’s amazing redemptive love.

Questions to Consider
How has God been speaking to you lately – over the last week, month, year? Are there particular ways that he seems to choose to communicate with you? What particular things has he been saying to you? How have you responded?

Prayer
Loving Lord, may my eyes and ears always be open to you, to see where you are calling me and to hear you as you lead me. You will always be calling to me, guiding me, encouraging me, challenging me – may I always be seeking you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – 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? Today we read about someone who found out.

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.

When Isaiah met God face-to-face, he ended up flat on the ground begging for forgiveness. There’s not much that’s ‘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? What does your image of God say about you?

Prayer
Almighty God, you are worthy of all praise and worship – the only one worthy of our worship and allegiance. May I remain faithful to you in all I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Known and Called

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Jeremiah 1:4-9

God has prior knowledge of who we are, and who we can be. He knows what we need and what we can do, and what potential lies within us.

God’s call is not a call to unequipped people who have no hope of accomplishing what he asks. God knew who Jeremiah was and what he wanted him to do, and whether Jeremiah would be up to the task.

God knows what he’s doing. Even with our fears and inadequacies we can still follow. What we need to do is listen and obey. It might not be easy. Though Jeremiah was called by God, later on God had to tell him to ‘toughen up’ because things were going to get a lot harder for Jeremiah.

We are not the centre of God’s mission. Whether we think we are suited to what he calls us to is not the point. God has a purpose, a mission, and he invites us to journey with him, trusting him even though we’re not sure of the destination. Like he said to Jeremiah, God says to us: “go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you”. We are called to follow and obey, to go where he directs us, regardless of how tough the task is. It’s okay to be afraid, but we shouldn’t let that stop us. We are called to trust that God knows best.

Questions to Consider
What are the fears that might stop you following where God is calling you? Why these particular fears?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you know me and have called me to play a part in the coming of your kingdom and in calling a lost world back to your embrace. May I be faithful and loyal in answering your call. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Advent

We know the lead up to Christmas is often busy and pressured, but that it is also a wonderful moment in our connection with Jesus.

At that first Christmas there was no room at the inn. A statement that provokes us to consider how much room is there at the ‘inn of our lives’ – our hearts – for Jesus this year?

This simple series of readings and prayers, by the Laidlaw College team, offers brief, bite sized songs, readings and prayers that open the door of our lives to the coming of Jesus for us and in us.

Why not read along as the journey of advent unfolds?

Click here for a pdf of this month’s readings.

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT (December 1)
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Exodus 3:7-15 | Exodus 15:1-21 | Isaiah 7:10-14 | Zechariah 2 | Revelation 22:12-21
We join the cries of the children of Israel throughout Scripture as we call out for our deliverer — Emmanuel — to come and dwell among us. These songs rise up from exile, out of our desperation, in the loneliness of darkness and from the midst of this world’s suffering. We sing and pray because we know Jesus hears, comes, and delivers us. He has come. And he will come again! Come, quickly, Lord Jesus and be present with us.


SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT (December 8)
Wait for You (Worship Central), Wait for the Lord (Taizé)
Psalm 27 | Isaiah 11 | Matthew 25:1-13 | Luke 1:39-45
The Psalmist urges us to expect to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living by watching and waiting. This is not a passive, helpless waiting but rather a prophetic act of paying attention and staying alert, attentive and ready to welcome his presence like the virgins with their oil-filled lanterns excitedly awaiting their beloved bridegroom. Lord, help us to wait and watch for your presence with wide-awake hope and expectant longing.


THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT (December 15)
Lord Have Mercy, E te Ariki, Kyrie Eleison
Deuteronomy 30 | Jeremiah 2:1-17 | Psalm 51 | Ezekiel 36:24-28 | Acts 3:19-21
The living God offers us abundant life by choosing obedience to his way. And yet how often do we — like the children of Israel — forget this offer and choose our own way instead? God in his loving kindness offers inner transformation (new hearts!) if we return to him, confess and ask. Lord, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole hearts. We have not always chosen your offer of life. We turn and return to you again. Lord, have mercy. Give us new hearts and minds so we may truly love you with our whole selves.


FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT (December 22)
Angels We Have Heard on High
Malachi 3:13-4:6 | Isaiah 40:1-5 | Luke 1:67-79 | Matthew 11:2-10 | Luke 2:8-14
Wilderness prophet John the Baptist prepared the way and heralded a message of repentance. The light of the world and mighty saviour, long foretold, was coming to rescue his people. Angels sang out the glorious birth announcement — the good news of great joy to shepherds that the Messiah was born. Lord, help us to notice and hear your messengers who bring good news and sing out our response with all of creation: “glory to God in the highest.”


CHRISTMAS DAY (December 25)
Joy to the World, Te Harinui
Luke 1:46-55 | Matthew 1:18-25 | Isaiah 9:2-7 | Luke 2:15-20
The light of the world has broken into the darkness of this world and nothing can snuff him out! Heaven and nature sing! The angels call out holy, holy, holy. The earth bursts with the glory of God as God himself takes on the limits of human flesh and comes as a baby to dwell among his creation in a great act of love. Jesus, we thank you for coming to us as a baby — dependent, vulnerable, and human. We gather with the saints across time and throughout the world to kneel and adore at the feet of our newborn King!


AFTER CHRISTMAS – EPIPHANY & ENCOUNTER
We Three Kings
Luke 2:25-38 | Isaiah 60 | Matthew 2 | Colossians 1:15-20
God is with us in the person of Jesus — fully human and fully divine. This remarkable mystery was revealed to an old man, a faithful prophetess, surprised parents, and foreign travellers. We too are invited to look to and follow “the firstborn of all creation” and “the salvation of the Lord.” God offers ongoing relationship through Jesus — in which we can expect moments of surprising epiphany and divine encounter in our ordinary, everyday lives. Jesus, we look to you. Surprise us with your joy. Guide us into your presence by the Holy Spirit. Behold our eyes have seen, and we want to see, the salvation of
the Lord!

Our Waka

Readings for this week November 25 – 29
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Nicknames With a Purpose

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:36-37

John the Baptist. Doubting Thomas. Father Abraham. Yahweh’s description of David as “a man after my own heart.” When people pick up alternative titles and nicknames it is usually based on something the person is well known for, some action, event or activity they are closely associated with, or some personality characteristic that shines in them particularly strongly. On occasion, it is a nickname given to them by someone in a prominent position that causes the epithet to stick. Or perhaps the nickname is given because it is such an apt description of them. It seems that Barnabas is one such case of this last phenomenon. A Levite from Cyprus named Joseph, he was nicknamed Barnabas, “son of encouragement”, no doubt because of his faithful obedience, his inclination to serve others, and his willingness to do whatever was needed for the benefit of the early church. His nickname modelled his discipleship.

He was known for exhorting and encouraging others. He was generous in giving to others and in faithfully giving of himself. Barnabas didn’t just offer kind and encouraging words; he also let his actions be an encouragement – and model – for those around him. His words and his actions gelled together into one seamless, continuous act of gracious encouragement. His boosting and reinforcing of others wasn’t just a case of nice words thoughtlessly given. His encouragement contained elements of sacrificial love, the giving of himself in relation to others and for the benefit of God’s people. His encouragement was an essential part of what it meant to follow Jesus and what it meant to help others follow too.

Questions to Consider
What nickname sums up your discipleship journey? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, help me be a continual encouragement to others in all I do. Help me see the ways in which I can support others in what they do and who they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Grace For Each Other

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:10

Covenant begins with grace. It flows from grace. God lovingly, mercifully, graciously rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt – and then gave the people the Law and the Commandments. From an abundant overflow of the natural goodness and love of his heart he rescued them and called them his own, and only then showed them how they were to be his people and what that meant for how they conducted themselves in the world and, importantly, why they were to conduct themselves in this way. Grace came first – it had to; the people were lost and unable to save themselves. They couldn’t be God’s people without first being recipients of God’s grace.

The importance of grace cannot be overstated. We need grace, not only God’s grace freely given to us, but grace for each other too. Whatever the nature of our community, whatever its travails, whatever its strengths, however it structures itself to obey the call of God to be his people, however we faithfully try to go about being his people in the world and for the world, we will need to offer each other as much grace as we can. We will not get it right all the time. We will make mistakes, we will fail each other, we will stumble, we will hurt each other. But thankfully our place in the community of God’s people is not dependent on always getting it right – because we won’t. Our place in the community of God’s people is solely at God’s discretion because he is the one who calls us and he is the one who has shown us, in the person of Jesus, how to be gracious to each other.

Questions to Consider
How have others shown grace towards you lately? Why?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, thank you for showering us with your grace, and showing us how to be gracious towards each other. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Covenant Community

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

We are a covenant community, God’s covenant people. This affects everything we do because everything we are as a people is determined by it. Western society tells us to think individualistically; God calls us to think covenantally, to live and act as a community of people bound to our Lord by love and called together to be his people by grace. We belong to him. We also belong to one another. To use Paul’s language of the body, “We are members of one another.”  Pursuing the Western way of rugged individualism and self-determination is not an option for God’s covenant people. We must take other members of the covenant community into account in all aspects of our lives. We must constantly be asking ourselves how our words and actions affect our fellow community members, how are we encouraging them and spurring them on and comforting them and healing them, all within the context of our God-given task of working for the coming kingdom of our Lord.

It is one thing to come to the point (as most of us do at one time or another) of realising that we don’t have to do it all alone. It is quite another to understand that we shouldn’t do it alone. A corollary to realising that we cannot be our intended selves without God’s transforming, renewing power in our lives, is the realisation that God transforms and renews us as individuals in order for us to be a transformative community. Being part of a covenant community means allowing others access to ourselves for the purposes of letting God shape us through them, and them through us.

Question to Consider
What does this state of affairs tell us about God and how he views us?

Prayer
Loving Father, teach me vulnerability, so that I won’t turn away from or deny the work you want to do in me through others, and so I won’t deny others the gift of what you want to do through me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Carrying Each Other

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 6:2

When God calls us together to be his covenant people we take on many responsibilities, some towards God and some towards each other. One of the most important elements in any community of God’s people is bearing one another’s burdens. All of us are called to bear burdens and all of us will have things that we have to carry. But we are not called to carry them alone. We are called to do what we can to lighten the burden that others may be struggling under. Anxiety, sickness, failure, discouragement, any other problem – we are to lighten each other’s’ burdens, offering love and support as each of us makes our way through the struggles and issues that rise up in our lives. Conversely, we also need to allow others into our lives to help us in our times of need and pain.

Walking with others and bearing their burdens can be costly for us. It can cost time, it can cost both physical and emotional energy, it can use up resources and money. And at the end of the day, even after all this lovingly offered and expended energy and time has been given, there is absolutely no guarantee that our efforts will be either appreciated or even successful. But we are called to love each other, and that call involves making the effort and accepting whatever risks are involved. Christ bore our burdens – and the burdens of the entire world. Disciples of Jesus are called to do the same, with each other, but also with the wider world as a sign of our love for God’s world and as part of our devotion to him and the work of his kingdom.

Questions to Consider
How are you helping others in your community with their burdens and struggles? How are others helping you?

Prayer
Almighty God, bring us closer together as your people. Teach us humility, vulnerability and graciousness with each other. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Looking for the Good, the Pure, the Noble (Yes, Again!)

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 4:8

The Christian cultural cul-de-sac can be a comfortable place. The presence of fellow Christians, Christian versions of every cultural commodity freely at hand – music, films, books, clothing, etc. – everything viewed through the lens of Christian life, however that might be defined. But it was never a place we were meant to inhabit. Some segments of the community of Jesus’ followers would prefer to remain within the safety of this Christian community and its products, away from the evil world and its influence, its corruption of human nature and the world.

But there is much good being created and fought for and strived for in this world, many places where the God-given attributes of humans are being exercised faithfully, even if it is not deliberately or knowingly being done in God’s name and for his glory. There are so many places in this world outside our cul-de-sacs where God is moving and where God’s will for his creation is being worked out that, that an openness to the world is a necessary attribute for God’s church to have. Yes, it can sometimes require discernment to see it, to look beyond the surface and see what is being aimed for. But wherever there are good things happening, wherever human freedom and dignity and worth are fought for and celebrated and cherished, we should be there too. Not everyone sitting around a table where such discussions and dreaming is taking place will be Christian, but every table where such discussions and strivings and yearnings are being voiced should have Christians – us – sitting at it.

Questions to Consider
Where do you see God moving in our world? How can you join in and support what God is doing in the lives of others?

Prayer
Lord God, give me eyes to see the movement of your Spirit in this world, the places you want me to be, the endeavours I need to support. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah 7:8-20

Readings for this week November 18 – 22
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Capital Conversation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:8-10

A subtle shift in the manner of address in verse 8 signals that we have moved from the prophetic accusation against the people in 7:1-7, to a direct address of the nation’s enemy. In the Hebrew, all the nouns and verbs are in the mode of the feminine singular; the enemy nation is being represented as a female figure, as a way of showing the relationship between the two nations in a more dramatic fashion, in this case, as two women speaking with each other. (The quote in verse 10 is a quote from the enemy and is directed back at her, also in the same mode – thus, two women). Much of the language in the remainder of this chapter echoes the anti-Assyrian language of Isaiah 9-10, and so a fairly safe assumption would be that the two women are the personifications of the capital cities of Judah (Zion) and Assyria (Nineveh).

So what does “Lady Zion” say to “Lady Nineveh”? That Nineveh should not gloat over or taunt Zion for Nineveh’s time of destruction will come soon enough. Lady Zion accepts her punishment as just, as coming from God, and as no more than she deserves for her waywardness and sin. But she also claims that God will eventually vindicate her, and destroy Nineveh in part because of her taunting of Zion (“Where is your God?”). For Judah, for God’s people, there will be redemption and rescue, but only after a period of trial and oppression. Though Judah’s punishment is justified, the story does not end there. Even the reality of God’s judgement does not preclude or obscure the reality of God’s love.

Questions to Consider
How do judgement and love fit together? What is one without the other?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me see when stories are not yet over, when there is more still to come, a Godly twist in the tale that offers hope in the midst of pain. Help me be that hope in the lives of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Promise and Threat

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:11-13

We’ve heard from “Lady Zion”. We’ve heard her ringing affirmation that though Judah will be punished – and rightly so – and that she accepts her punishment, that God will also restore her and rescue his people, while trampling her enemies underfoot. But how well-placed is this confidence in God’s mercy? Well, we’re about to find out, because in verse 11 the speaker changes from “Lady Zion”, who now becomes the audience, to the prophet Micah, speaking God’s response to what has been said. However, even though what is said clearly speaks of reprieve and judgement, that a threat is also included makes these three verses rather difficult to work out. It all depends on how the reader fits them together, and how we want to read verse 12.

Read verses 11 and 12 only. Taken together, these two verses seem to be promising that Judah will have time to rebuild her walls (after exile?) before people flock to her (scattered Jews? The nations?). The verses seem hopeful and full of promise. Now read verses 12 and 13 only. Suddenly the picture is more threatening. The return of so many people to the land (foreign invaders?) ends with the land destroyed. Read verse 12 with 11 and it seems to promise a return of scattered exiles; read it with verse 13 and it seems that judgement is coming in the form of foreign invaders. These verses, depending on how we read them and when we read them (pre- or post-exile perhaps?) contain both a real promise and an imminent threat.

Questions to Consider
What do you think Micah expects to see happen to/for his people? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, when things seem uncertain and confusing, remind me of the certainty and surety of your presence and your love. No matter what I go through, you are greater than it all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Distant Consequences

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:14-15

We cannot necessarily see all the consequences that stem from the decisions we make, both individually and collectively. This is especially true when the possible consequences will not reveal themselves for many years to come, leading us to ignore them, or deliberately leave them to be dealt with by later generations. The arrival in Judah of the Assyrian military threat would have come as no surprise to those living in the eastern Mediterranean world at the time. Anyone paying attention to the contemporary political situation, and with knowledge of local history and current conditions, would have seen much Assyrian posturing and positioning for influence and power, and would have been able to guess what her future ambitions would be. But as the results of Assyrian aggression were still many decades away, so calls by the prophets to be wary and to prepare were ignored.

For Judah at the time, the crisis was concerning, but not daunting – no need to act right away, there was still plenty of time. Seen from the perspective of later generations (like those in exile following Judah’s destruction), the failure of the people to act and respond would appear as at best short-sighted, at worst selfish. God’s people are not immune from choices and their consequences. Many things in our world at the moment are crying out for attention, things that will have far reaching consequences. Are we listening to God’s guiding voice in order to focus on the things we, as his people, should be focusing on? Are we being responsible and stepping up and stepping into what he is calling us to?

Question to Consider
What do you feel God’s people are ignoring today?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, forgive our inaction and apathy; stir us into motion so we can truly be your people, wherever you are, loving who you love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Fear of Yahweh, Hope in Yahweh

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:16-17

We move from Micah’s prayer of intercession to a pair of verses that seem to delight in the terror the nations will experience in the face of God. What causes the nations of the world to fear? Essentially it is in response to God coming to Judah’s aid, vindicating his people and restoring them to their former glory. There are echoes in this description of the original conquest of the Promised Land by the Israelites and the responses of the nations to the conquest. In places like Deuteronomy 28:10 and 31:2-6, as well as Joshua 2:9 and 2:24, specific mention is made of the conquered people trembling or melting with fear. The actions described in Micah show the nations in the grip of a paralysing fear, unable to speak, full of shame, eating dust and fleeing their cities – all because of God.

God has power over the nations, and the nations will ultimately see this power manifested in the ways in which God comes to the aid of his people. As well as a reminder to the world of God’s power and sovereignty, it is also a reminder to Judah that their only hope is in God – there is no other source of rescue or salvation available to them. It is a further reminder of the need to cleave to God in all things, at all times, as his protection is their only hope, as their own past history – and God’s reminders of this history – attests. The only possible response to this God and his saving acts in history for his people, is love, obedience and gratitude, for all he has done, and for all he yet promises to do.

Questions to Consider
Why will God coming to the aid of his people provoke fear in others? What is the purpose of this? Have you ever seen this happen?

Prayer
Gracious God, thank you for all you have done for us and all that you promise to do. May we be worthy of your love and provision, and may others be attracted by your love for your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – One Final Promise, To Be Embodied One Day…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:18-20

The book of Micah contains much that God (through Micah) would have greatly preferred not to have to say to his people, and many things that the people of Judah would have preferred not to hear from God. Many of the accusations God levelled at Judah were, though accurate, incredibly harsh and graphic in their presentation; some would have been downright offensive and unbelievable. (Why would the God who caused the Temple to be built destroy it? Why would he lay waste to Zion? Impossible!). Micah is a very sobering book to read, a reminder of the impossibility of ignoring God without catastrophic consequences.

But that is not the final word. Throughout the book the prophet presents hopeful interludes of promises of deliverance, restoration and peace, signs that, even in the midst of their sin and rebellion, God still loves his people and will not abandon them, come what may. It is therefore fitting that the collection of Micah’s sayings and oracles ends with a celebration of God’s mercy, extolling the virtues of his grace and forgiveness. His anger does not burn forever, and he does not forever remember his people’s crimes. He is merciful, he is kind, and, just as he has always done and will continue to do, he will wipe away his people’s transgressions and remember their sin no more. Circumstances and consequences are not as powerful as God’s enduring love for us. Though destruction was still to come and its consequences were still being lived out, the final word is God’s final word: a word of mercy and love.

Question to Consider
How are verses 19-20 fulfilled by the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for your promise of hope and mercy, and for embodying that hope and mercy in the person of your son. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah 4

Readings for this week November 11 – 15
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Change of Pace

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:1-5

We now come upon an interlude that, tonally, contrasts markedly with the preceding chapters of Micah. The first three chapters of Micah spoke of condemnation and judgement: the people, including the religious and political leaders, had turned away from God, corruption was rife, society was corroding, and therefore God’s just punishment was coming. The message of the book has been fairly bleak up to this point. But now we move to an editorial interregnum of hope and peace. The promises given in this chapter may be for a day that is far off in the distant future, but they focus on two central themes: the importance of Jerusalem (thus showing that even Micah’s shocking announcement of Jerusalem’s destruction is not the end of the story), and the inclusion of all the nations of the earth among the people who will flock to the city to meet God there.

The nations will recognise God as a great teacher, one who teaches how to live life under his guidance. Because of God’s presence in Jerusalem, the word of God – his wisdom – will flow from the city to all who seek it, and who seek him. He is the ultimate judge, who judges wisely and fairly, and for the benefit of all and the purpose of bringing peace. The inhabitants of the land will be at peace with the surrounding nations. God was never going to abandon his people. Punishment was not to be the end of the story. Consequences would have to be endured, yes, but restoration, peace and the flourishing of the nation – and the nations – was God’s ultimate plan.

Question to Consider
What is the contrasting picture between this chapter and the earlier chapters of Micah?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for your message of hope, even in the midst of destruction. Help us hold to hope and trust in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Swords into Ploughshares

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:3

“[A]n Anglican bishop in Mozambique decided to do something about the proliferation of arms in his country towards the end of a civil war that decimated the nation. He went to every province and asked people what they thought might jeopardize peace in the future. One person responded: “Guns, we have so many guns in our hands. Both sides have been very generous in dishing out guns just like that, so when peace comes are those guns going to be just left alone?” The bishop was not prepared for this question but after much prayer and reflection he received his theological answer from the books of Micah and Isaiah. The following day he announced that disarmament from a biblical perspective would begin, and he issued a request that guns would be returned to collection centres throughout the land. The guns would then be made unusable and exchanged for instruments for production. Since this program started over one million guns and other weapons have been collected and transformed. The program was called “Turning Swords into Ploughshares.” To inspire the future generation, children were encouraged to bring their toy guns to church, where they were smashed, and they were given in exchange toys that did not inspire violence.

“A particularly powerful illustration of the same principle emerges from World War II…An American army chaplain made a set of communion cups from machine gun bullets by extracting the lead and the gunpowder and turning the resulting cases into receptacles for wine, representing the blood of Christ. When he shared communion with a Japanese minster after the war, the lesson was not lost. Bullets that were intended to harm and kill became instruments of life and peace and reconciliation. Whereas the machine gun bullet was once intended to produce blood and death, it had been transformed to contain a drink of everlasting life.”

Stephen G. Dempster, Micah, p.260.

Question to Consider
How can we actively and practically bring peace to our world?

Prayer
Loving Father, may we bring peace to this troubled world by being active agents of justice and reconciliation in every corner of your world. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Remnant

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:6-8

For Micah, his message – God’s message – is not just about warning and judgement, and the future arrival of devastating catastrophe. There is also a message of hope, words of support and promise for the remnant community that survives the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying off of the Judahite survivors into captivity and exile in Babylon. As well as this double message of judgement and hope, there is also the fact that the book of Micah (as well as a significant number of other books in the Hebrew scriptures) were collated and edited together at a later date, often only reaching their final form long after the prophet has delivered his oracles. They were collected and edited by a community that was in exile, that had already undergone the very catastrophe Micah was warning about.

God promised, through Micah, that he would not abandon them, even though they would suffer through the punishment their spiritual hubris had brought down upon them. Before, during and after, he would be with them, no matter what happened. His faithfulness to his people was not in question, even if theirs to him was. The fact is the compilers of the book of Micah were living in exile, yes, but this was the very time God had promised his people that he would be with them. They were living witnesses to the fact that God had warned them of the catastrophe that had fallen upon them; but they were also witnesses to the fact that God had not abandoned his faithful followers. He was still with them and would remain so. He can be trusted. His promises do come to pass.

Question to Consider
What does talk of a remnant that will be restored mean to you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, God of restoration and renewal, remember me when your kingdom comes and all is made new. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Importance of Faithfulness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:9-12

Is destruction and ruin always needed before deliverance can come? And if so, for whom is such destruction earmarked? All those not God’s people? God’s people too? Anyone found to fall short of God’s requirements and who ignores his commands, no matter who they are and what people they belong to? These questions, today, should give us pause, and halt us from giving a glib, unthinking answer that automatically assumes that only God’s enemies (and the enemies of God’s people) are being referred to.

As interesting as that question is, and as important as the answer may be to us, the issue is really more about our obedience and faithfulness to a God who has always been – and will always be – faithful to his people, even if such faithfulness requires administering occasional judgement and correction on his part. Perhaps deliverance and restoration do require destruction – but only because, however dire the consequences of our actions and however just judgement may be, God will always be true to his word, he will punish iniquity, deal with sin – and still restore his people. The real question is: what will his people do in the meantime? How will they live? Micah presents two possible ways in which people can respond. One is a litany of vice, selfishness, Godlessness, oppression, injustice and corruption. The other way is a simple call to justice, kindness, mercy and love for God and neighbour. Those who follow this way need not fear destruction. God will have the last word.

Question to Consider
What do you think you would like God to remove from your life so you can become more obedient to him?

Prayer
Almighty God, may we always follow the call to justice, no matter where it leads. May others know us for our kindness, justice and mercy. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Past, Present and Future

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 4:13-14

The book of Micah, and the rest of the Book of the Twelve, is a good example of the coherence of God’s prophetic message and of its relevance and importance beyond the specific places and times it may be directly referring to. Past, present and future are all woven into the tapestry of Micah and the other Minor Prophets. Past events, present concerns and warnings, the arrival of prophesied future punishment as well as promised hope and restoration – all combine together and influence each other and illustrate the coherence of God’s message. It is this coherence, and the lessons and instructive wisdom that we can glean from these messages – about the nature and character of God and about ourselves – that make the prophets important for us today.

Reading about the past informs the present. We learn that current circumstances have a history. There is a discernible path that leads to where we are today. The readers of Micah in exile could see that previous generations had refused to listen to God’s message. The decisions of the past affected the(ir) present. They would have read about how God delivered on his promise of judgement, at the same time as experiencing God’s promise to be with them in exile. And their decisions in the present will affect the future. How will they live now? Will they choose to remain faithful? Will they remain watchful against corruption and injustice? Will they listen to the words of God and live as he has called them to? Will we?

Questions to Consider
How are the prophets and their message a part of the regular rhythms of your life? What do we learn from them about God and ourselves?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may your words sink deep into my heart; may they manifest themselves in my love as a sign of your transforming power in my life and of your love for all people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah 3:1-12 & 6:1-16

Readings for this week November 4 – 8
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Shouldn’t You Know Justice?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 3:1-4

Rhetorical questions need no answer because the answer is obvious, it is inherent in the question. Clearly the nation’s leaders should know and do what is right, but they do not do it. They have failed in their duties to lead properly. In fact, so badly have they performed, so warped are their values, so corrupted is their leadership, that Micah inverts the famous call of Amos 5:15 to “Hate evil, love good” and accuses them of hating good and loving evil, coupling it with a (metaphorical) accusation of cannibalism. This horrific image is designed to show the leaders’ behaviour in the most graphic way imaginable. This is what they are doing to their own people. Rather than shepherding their flock, they are feasting on them; rather than dispensing justice, they are fleecing them, abusing their power in the name of greed.

Rhetorical questions need no answer, but the prophet provides one and twists the knife further by coming at the question from the other end. Shouldn’t the leaders know justice? Shouldn’t they be judged for their crimes against the very people they are supposed to lead, guide and protect? Shouldn’t they be punished for their iniquity? Shouldn’t God’s justice be visited upon them? Again, the answer is obvious: yes they will be judged and will feel God’s wrath poured out upon them as judgement for the way they exploited their people, the poor, the widowed, the orphan. They will know God’s punishment and they will be in for a shock when that punishment comes and God does not intervene to rescue them.

Questions to Consider
How much do you think the leadership of a nation defines its character? Why might this be important?

Prayer
Lord God, you spoke truth to those in power, through your prophets and through your son. You call us to do the same. May we do so fearlessly and always in the service of those damaged by the abuse of power. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Lone Voice

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 3:5-12

It is not easy to be a lone voice calling for justice in the midst of corruption, exploitation and injustice. Confronting those in power when they abuse their power is never easy. But standing on the side of justice – and at the side of those oppressed by injustice – is what God calls us to do, just like he called Micah to do. When other prophets and priests were leading the people astray, Micah stood up and proclaimed the justice – and just punishment – of God and denounced those in positions of power. So powerful were his words (treasonous even, from the leaders’ point of view) they echoed down the years to the time of Jeremiah, one hundred years later, when that prophet, also confronting a corrupt leadership cabal, was similarly threatened with death. It was only the words of Micah, quoted back to the king (3:12 in particular), that turned the king from putting Jeremiah to death.

The words of Micah echo around us as well, today, and, if we are listening properly, present us with a series of questions in need of answering. In the midst of the clamour and clatter and comfort of our lives, do we still have the ability to hear the voice of God calling for justice? When our own entrenched ideas and beliefs are challenged by God, do we respond? Do we fail to see suffering? Do we block out injustice? Do the cries of people in distress fall on deaf ears? Or, like Micah, when God speaks, do we listen, obey, and act, no matter the cost to our prestige, popularity or comfort?

Questions to Consider
What is the difference between Micah and the false prophets? How does this difference help define who we are in our society?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, remove the blinders from our eyes and the walls from our hearts that stop us seeing injustice. Push us to look harder and deeper at our world and its people, to see how you see. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Indictment as History Lesson

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 6:1-5

Again we begin with the call to “Hear”, as we return to the themes of Micah 1-3, and God calls the courtroom into session once more. God has a complaint against his people, a lawsuit to bring against them of cosmic proportions, as attested to by the call to plead the case before the mountains and the hills. The arrival promised in chapter 1 has now eventuated: God is here, bringing suit against his rebellious, unfaithful people, calling upon them to tell him how he has offended them, only to immediately present them with a litany of past historical occasions in which he rescued them from destruction and delivered them from slavery into the promised land – a land that is now seriously under threat, not just from invading Assyrian armies, but also from the possible punishment that would follow a guilty verdict from God.

It is interesting that the majority of the accusation against Judah is taken up with a recitation of God’s salvific acts on behalf of his people. It is more a history of redemption – liberation from slavery, guidance in the wilderness, deliverance from Balaam’s curse and the gift of the land itself – than a list of indictments. The point is that this history lesson is meant to remind the people of God’s great love and provision for them, the way he has walked with them, guided and protected them, and given them the gift of the covenant with him. This, in turn, should have led them to a life of covenant faithfulness, walking in the ways of God, to be holy as God is holy, a nation blessed so that others could be blessed.

Question to Consider
What would such a history lesson from your life look like?

Prayer
Loving Father, remind us of your saving power. Remind us of the times when you were with us, when you saved us, when you guided us and answered our cries. May we be slow to forget. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – True Worship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 6:6-8

What is true worship? How are we to approach God? Micah gives three examples of what a person should bring before God, each building on and escalating the intensity of the one before. Burnt offerings, thousands of animals and streams of oil, leading finally to the offering of the first-born child: the value increases each time as does the sacrifice required of the one performing the sacrifice. But God does not want more and more of the same ritualistic actions that can be found in any society, and, despite the people’s sins, were no doubt still being ritualistically offered in the Temple at the time. Ethical behaviour is far more important than sacrificial rites, regardless of where such rites originated.

Notice how just as the three offerings mentioned increased in value, so are the answers to what God requires of us presented in the same way: a movement from acts of love for one’s neighbour (doing justice and loving kindness) through to acts illustrative of loving God (walking humbly with him). We are called to move from a life concerned with performing rituals that offer things to God, to a life given over in its entirety to God, a life filled with loving kindness towards all. These verses are not religious pieties. They are not feel-good spiritual bromides. They are the summation of what it means to be truly human – truly made in the image of God – from the one who made us and calls us to be his embodiment in this world. This is what is required of us as his people, in order to ensure that all people can flourish.

Questions to Consider
What doers God NOT require? Why? What is our modern equivalent of these things?

Prayer
Almighty God, sink these verses deep inside us, transform us, and turn us into walking embodiments of true worship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Judging Injustice

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 6:9-16

God has finished arguing in court against his people. Now he moves on to the punishment that is coming, a punishment that will fall heavily upon the people. What God has called his people to – the ways of kindness and mercy and humility proclaimed in verses 6-8 – has been ignored, and contrasts with the behaviour they are accused of in verses 10-12. Their punishments will fit their crimes: those who gorge themselves, those who store things up for themselves, those who seek to enjoy their harvests – all will be disappointed. They will go hungry. What they save will be lost. What they plant will not be harvested. What they look forward to will be taken away. All of these things, so crucial to the life of the nation of Judah, will be taken away. Destruction and exile will follow, as the consequences of sin and rebellion.

God’s word is for all of us. He speaks to all of us. In this chapter of Micah we have seen that God has had something to say to everyone: king, priests, prophets, leaders, the general population. His message of compassion and kindness and justice is directed at everyone; living these values out is the way to be human. But God doesn’t just proclaim how we are to live and then walk away and leave us to it. He watches. He empowers. He guides. He remains with his people. And therefore, when his people stray, when his priests and prophets and leaders oppress and exploit his people and perpetuate injustice, he acts.

Questions to Consider
What is an appropriate response to God’s accusations against his people? How do you respond when God calls you out on something?

Prayer
Loving Lord, thank you for loving us enough to correct us, and loving us enough to want us to join in your saving work. Teach us wisdom, love and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah 2:1-13 & 7:1-7

Readings for this week October 28 – November 1
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Judgement is Coming

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 2:1-5

We begin with what seems like a traditional woe oracle that very quickly becomes an oracle of judgement. Micah is railing against those who greedily plan and plot the destruction of the lives of others. His cry is not against random crimes but is rather levelled at systematic plans that are deliberately and intentionally hatched as part of a calculated attempt to steal and to oppress. What these people covet – houses, fields – they scheme for and then take. They are blind to the consequences of their sin, especially the effect it has on others. They have made an enemy of God – a enemy they have no hope of defeating – and verse 3 shifts to the judgement that God is planning to visit upon them, God’s plotting against them echoing their own earlier scheming. The powerful will soon become powerless.

We are called to serve others and to work for their well-being and the health of the entire community. We are always to act in the cause of justice, never in the cause of self-interest and illicit gain. We must continually scrutinise our own motivations and actions and make sure we are not manipulating people and situations for our own gain, or supporting actions and systems that oppress or impoverish others. There is also, beyond the level of our possible individual culpability, the issue of wider social systems and structures that also need to be critiqued and held up to the scrutiny of the gospel and God’s call to justice.

Questions to Consider
How often do you scrutinise your motivations for what you do? How do you alter a bad motivation?

Prayer
Lord God, may I not shy away from the self-examination that reveals the true motives for my actions. Show me the truth of myself and the truth of who you are and how I am to act. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Stark Choice

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 2:6-11

Micah is God’s prophet, sent to deliver God’s message to his people. Micah now issues a stern challenge and rebuke to those who would ignore God’s message and even attempt to stand in his (God’s) way. Those we read about yesterday, those who plan and plot to steal from others, and who tyrannise and coerce them until they get what they want, they are the recipients of Micah’s challenge here. He is speaking on behalf of those who are suffering the depredations of the rich and powerful. Although scholars debate where exactly each of the multiple speakers in this passage begin and end, the challenge to those in power is clear: they accumulate wealth through nefarious means; they use their power to persecute others rather than pursue justice; and they live their lives as if they believe God doesn’t care about what they are doing and couldn’t stop them even if he did.

Micah’s offer to them: flee, for destruction is coming. The upright will hear God’s truth in Micah’s words and find guidance for how to live. For others, destruction is coming, but even then, as we will read tomorrow, that isn’t the end of the story either. The challenge to us is to make sure we walk upright before God and before our fellow human beings. We cannot retreat into a sealed Christian ghetto. Integrity, honesty, compassion, self-sacrificial love – these are to be the hallmarks of God’s people, even in a society in which the rich and powerful do otherwise; especially where they do otherwise.

Questions to Consider
How would Micah’s message go down in today’s society? In today’s church?

Prayer
Heavenly father, help me not only to hear your truth but to live your truth together with others, as your people, as a beacon of love and forgiveness in your rebellious world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – But There is Still Hope

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 2:12-13

This brief message of hope interrupts the message of judgement, telling of Yahweh himself coming to gather and lead a remnant to safety. These brief couple of verses suggest that deliverance is at hand for a handful of survivors, the remnant of verse 12. With Yahweh at their head, he has come to gather the survivors together, to lead them to safety. The fact that they are referred to as a remnant – survivors, if you like – suggests that judgement has come and they are now on the other side of it. It is highly unlikely that trouble has been taken to gather the survivors together in order to inflict further punishment upon them. Yahweh gathers them like a flock in a pen and then leads them out from the pen.

Another theological point is being made: judgement and salvation both come from God. The prophetic call, both here and throughout the Book of the Twelve (the collection of the books of the Twelve minor prophets – minor due to length, not importance), is one that calls the people to change their behaviour and turn back to follow the ways and precepts of their God because the fate of the nation hangs in the balance. They are called to change, and once it becomes clear that they won’t, judgement comes, judgement that cannot be avoided. The guilty will be held accountable for their behaviour. Injustice and exploitation will be punished; the wicked will be judged, and the poor and oppressed led to safety.

Questions to Consider
How does it feel to know that judgement and salvation both come from God? What relationship is there between the two?

Prayer
Loving Father, may we walk in solidarity with the poor and oppressed; may we only ever be agents of love, leading them to the safety of your embrace, to a just and fair world. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Prophet Laments

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:1-6

We jump forward to the beginning of the final chapter of the book of Micah, but as we will see, there is thematic reason to do so at this juncture. Chapter 2 saw God, through the prophet, scold his people for their sinfulness and promise destruction if they – the rich and powerful in particular – did not change their ways. We now skip ahead to the first part of chapter 7, where, appropriately enough in the light of what has gone before, we find Micah lamenting over the state of the nation and its people. All of society is in confusion and disorder. Again, injustice is highlighted as a significant issue and, again, the nation’s judges and officials are raked over the coals for their wickedness and impiety. But in an additional twist, Micah also decries the fact that, as well as the leaders’ failings, it seems that not even friends and family members can trust each other anymore.

Micah is lamenting. He is saddened, distraught even, over what he sees around him. He is not pulling his punches over the state of society and the iniquity of its people, and he holds nothing back in his condemnation of a society in which no one can trust anyone else, at any level of society, from government down to family and friends. But what he sees around him is cause for sorrow. He knows how things should be, he knows how people should be treating each other and who they should be positioning themselves towards but he does not see it. Anywhere. At all. What can he do other than literally cry to God?

Questions to Consider
Have you ever despaired over your neighbourhood/city/nation/society? Why? What resulted?

Prayer
Holy Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours. May love move me to tears and to action. May I look with compassion upon and act with love towards your hurting world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Prophet Waits

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 7:7

People could be forgiven for seeing in the litany of 7:1-6 a reflection of our society at this moment in time. Division, suspicion, oppression, injustice, lack of trust, dismissal of anything even tangentially related to God – we see a mixture of these elements, and more, spreading across the world, it seems with gathering speed. When faced with a society that has abandoned God and lost any sense of community, any sense of meaning and proportion, what are we, as people of faith, to do? Turn our backs and abandon society? Retreat into our own Christian enclaves and ghettoes and wait for God to move? Passively resist? Give up?

In response to a society in which no one trusts each other anymore and which no longer trusts in God, trusting is exactly what Micah chooses to do. In contrast to a society that has turned its back on its God, cast away his commandments and his covenant, and abandoned even the pretence of relying on his provision and care, Micah vows to wait for God, his saviour. Why? Because God has already spoken through the law and the prophets what is good and what is to be done, something that, through Micah himself, God has beautifully reiterated, as we shall see next week, in Micah 6:8: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. We need to wait on God, and while we do so, live the lives that he has called us to. Lives illustrative of and committed to justice, lives informed by kindness, lives lived humbly before our God, trusting that through our faithfulness and his spirit, those around us will see his light and his love shine through us.

Questions to Consider
Where do you see God moving in our world to remedy these problems? How are you a part of God’s solution?

Prayer
Lord God, guide us into a way of life and a way of love through which others will see you manifest in all we do. Shine your light and love in us. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Micah

Readings for this week October 21 – 25
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Micah’s Message

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:1

Although, as with all the prophets, the focus is on God and his relationship to his somewhat wayward people, we begin with a little bit about Micah himself. He was a prophet to the nation of Judah, during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, which gives an approximate minimum period of 35 years or so in which he was prophesying. We do not know whether we have all the oracles he spoke over this time, but even what we do have is memorable enough. Micah’s message would have been terribly shocking to his audience for the simple reason that he was the first prophet to prophesy the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He was definitely a prophet with a message that people would not have wanted to hear.

As we will see as we make our way through the book of Micah, these messages promising destruction and judgement alternate with messages of promise and hope. The book contains both negative and positive words for the people of Jerusalem and Judah. The challenge that God brings to his people in the present is necessary if they are to have any chance of a hopeful future. At the end of the book, the reader is left with a sense of hope for the long journey ahead and the certainty of God’s promise to and presence with his people, yet they are also left with dread at what will happen before these promises come to fruition. There will be punishment and destruction before there will be restoration and renewal. But Yahweh will be present through it all.

Questions to Consider
What do you know about the book of Micah? Have you read it before? What do you know of the importance of the prophet’s message?

Prayer
Lord God, speak to me through your word – encouragement when I need it, correction when I need that too. May I always listen to what you say, even when I don’t like it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – All Those With Business Before This Court…

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:2-5

We begin with a legal summons, a sort of “Hear ye, hear ye, this court is now in session,” only with all the earth and its inhabitants called to witness the arrival of Yahweh from his celestial abode. Micah makes much of the fact that Yahweh’s arrival has potentially devastating consequences for the earth – his arrival is not something to be taken lightly and shows the seriousness of the situation; the earth cannot hold or contain his presence, and yet still he comes anyway. The weight of his presence causes the mountains to crumble and the earth itself to burst open. He is a terrifying presence, so powerful that human resistance to him is futile. And he is coming to earth to deliver judgement.

And here is the most shocking thing of all: Yahweh’s judgement is against his own people! ‘Jacob’ refers to Israel, as the reference to Samaria reveals: it was the capital of the northern kingdom from the time of Ahab until 722 BC when both city and kingdom were destroyed. Their sinful idolatry and disobedience has provoked him to come down, to call the world to witness as he testifies to the perfidy and wretchedness of his people. Yahweh accuses both Israel (Samaria) and Judah (Jerusalem) of rebellion against him. He treads upon the high places in verse 3 and they are destroyed; in verse 5 he tells us why – because of Jacob’s trespass. Judgement is coming to Samaria – and with it, a warning to Judah of the fate that awaits her if she does not turn away from wickedness and return to God.

Questions to Consider
Why does Micah make so much of the consequences of God’s arrival? Why is he judging his own people like this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, remind me of your awesome power and majesty and your righteousness and faithfulness, especially in those times when I feel the need to go my own way rather than follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The City and the Temple Not Immune

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:6-7

People cannot turn away from God with impunity, no matter who they are. The destruction of Samaria is the judgement of Yahweh against his own rebellious people. They have sinned and Yahweh will punish them. But Samaria’s demise is also to serve as a warning to the people of Jerusalem as well. Holy city of Zion it may be, but she is not immune to the wrath of Yahweh, especially when she too has turned from her God and embraced idols and false gods. What punishment Yahweh pours out upon Samaria will also be visited upon Judah and Jerusalem. Samaria is the first step in a process that will envelop both Israel and Judah, eventually including Jerusalem and the Temple itself as well, as shocking as that is.

Nothing is mentioned of the people and their destruction. Only the destruction of the city is described, and in such a way that no one can doubt the completeness of the wrath to fall upon it. It will be as though the city never existed. The ground will be swept clean, just like a farmer clears his field; the rocks will be removed, making the ground ready to be planted again (hinting at both God’s restoration of his people and the renewal of his people into faithful followers this time around). Special attention is paid to the way the city worshipped false ideals and sold herself to other lovers – prostituted herself, in other words – and abandoned her God, thus reinforcing the reasons for God’s destructive judgement falling upon them. Just because they were part of God’s chosen people, didn’t mean they were exempt from possible punishment.

Question to Consider
What had God commanded Israel to do in Deut.7:25 and 12:3? Did they?

Prayer
Loving Lord, you chastise those you love in order to bring them back to your embrace. Be gentle with me when I stumble and sin. Thank you for your perseverance with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – God and Us and Them

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:8-12

Some people today ascribe all the disaster and destruction that occurs in our world to the hand of God, and see natural and national disasters as proof that God has been provoked into action against those considered to be his enemies, those flouting his rules and disobeying his commands. There is an ‘us’, and there is a ‘them’, and God acts against ‘them’ when his wrath is triggered. Others invoke the name of God only when our science and technology fails to provide an adequate explanation for these phenomena. Disaster and destruction are seen as aberrations; God is good, gentle and loving and so the destruction we see and experience is simply the unavoidable consequence of living in a fallen, imperfect world.

But it is interesting that we see judgement announced against God’s own people, against the ‘us’, not the ‘them.’ We cannot label disaster in the world today as simply God’s wrath against ‘them’, against those we perceive as God’s (and our) enemies. And yet, neither can we dismiss God from the equation as irrelevant and obsolete in the face of our technology. The judgement we encounter in Micah is powerful, monumental, bordering on cosmic, not to be dismissed by people claiming to follow God simply because it seems like an old-fashioned and outdated concept. Instead, this is where our theological reflection begins: reflection on the nature and character of God, on our actions and their possible consequences, and what such warnings mean for us. Who is this God? Why does he do what he does? How are his people supposed to behave?

Questions to Consider
In v.8 what does Micah say he must do? What does this tell us about how he feels about what is happening?

Prayer
Almighty Father, give me your heart for those who turn away from you. As I grieve for them may I pray for them and reach out with your love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Setting Things Right

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1:12-16

Micah does not show God coming unannounced and for no reason. Micah assumes that the judgement against Samaria is justified and is therefore not a surprise to people – their idolatrous, rebellious behaviour is obviously reason enough for God’s wrath to fall upon them. But it does not come out of the blue, as if God simply arbitrarily decided one day to destroy them. He appears because wickedness is in the ascendant and all previous attempts to get people to alter their behaviour and repent have failed. God comes to set things right. They were warned – many times – and given ample opportunity to change course. They didn’t, and suffered the consequences.

Also, God’s coming tips the world and its systems on its head. His appearance and his action are not designed to keep things as they are; it is not his intention to preserve the status quo, but to announce judgement against the powerful and the wicked and the wealthy. As we will see throughout Micah, many of the accusations God makes against his people are aimed at the wealthy and those in power, who make decisions based on self-interest, who deliberately blind themselves to the plight of the poor – a plight often caused or exacerbated by the greed and idolatry of the wealthy and powerful – and who perpetuate systems of oppression. God’s people are a covenant people, a covenant that at its heart calls for love of God and love of neighbour. The book of Micah shows us what happens when people betray these commands, and how God acts to rectify and restore things to the way they should be.

Questions to Consider
What would you do if God gave you a message like this? Why?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, you speak and act on behalf of the oppressed and the neglected. May I do so too in all I do, speaking out against injustice and siding with those on the margins. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)