1 Peter 4 & 5

Readings for this week February 24 – 28
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Old versus New

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:1-6

We are Christ’s people; we have been saved by his death and his resurrection, and called together to be his people. Therefore, as his people we imitate Christ, and so Peter now turns his attention to telling his readers how they are to live as followers of Christ. Our lives should contrast markedly with those in society around us, who have not offered their entire lives – and way of life – as part of their allegiance to God. And, Peter goes on to say, it will often be this very contrast between our lives and the lives of others that will bring on suffering. We cannot live humble, holy lives in service to our God, surrounded by a world blindly going its own heedless, destructive way, without experiencing the conflict that these two ways of life will generate as they ‘rub up’ against each other.

Sometimes we suffer because we have chosen to follow God’s way of living; we have chosen not to follow the way of sin. We have chosen to forsake the sinfulness of the lifestyle Peter mentions in verse 3. That was the old way of living; Christ is transforming us into a people that have a new way of living, a way in direct, public contrast with the world around us. The depth of our suffering and discomfort can show us the extent to which we have successfully broken with the ‘sin of the flesh’ around us. Peter warns us not to be surprised if those around us who still engage in these behaviours suddenly start to question why we have stopped behaving as they do – and not to be surprised if they ridicule us because of it.

Questions to Consider
How do these two ways of living ‘rub up’ against each other in your life? What happens when they do? How does it feel?

Prayer
Lord God, may I not slip back into the old way of living, but be faithful in the new life you have given me, even when things get tough. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Gifts for the Journey, Gifts for Others

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:7-11

God does not give gifts for ‘sole use owner/occupiers’ only. He is very much into gifts for the whole community, gifts that are meant to be used for others, gifts that show the true nature of our transformed lives in Christ. The gifts that God has given us are to be used willingly to serve others. Peter’s letter makes this quite clear. We are stewards of God’s grace, his agents of hope and love in the world. God has planned for us to have a major part in spreading his grace to people everywhere and he has made sure we have sufficient resources for the task. We know that if we ever find ourselves lacking in our ability to serve others, or struggling to live out the new life we have in him, we can ask our good and perfect king to supply our needs. Our personal experience of God’s love and forgiveness and his words to us in the Bible are key resources we have. He has also given us the gift of belonging to his community.

Even more, God has showered us with gifts and abilities—time, personality, money, possessions and expertise, even things that we might find it hard to even see as being gifts. All that we have is a gift from God, and can be prayerfully and thoughtfully used in serving others. Everything we have is given to us to help us share the gift of Jesus and bring the possibility of new life to all. We are God’s ambassadors of freedom and forgiveness. Everything we have and are is to be used in serving others and demonstrating God’s tremendous love for his world.

Questions to Consider
What gifts has God given you? How are you using them to serve others? How could you use them in new ways?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for the gifts you have given your people. Help me remember that I myself am a gift for others. Help me serve faithfully with all that you have given me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Sharing in His Sufferings

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:12-19

Suffering cuts at the heart of the very way we believe the world should be in two ways. Firstly, nobody wants to experience pain and suffering, and we know that God does not delight in suffering and does not want anyone to suffer. That is not what we were created for. We were created for a life of intimate, loving relationship with God and with others, a life of meaningful purpose, edification and worship. Suffering cuts against the way things should be. Secondly, especially for Christians, suffering doesn’t seem to match up with the ultimate victory over sin that Jesus won on the cross. Why is all this pain and death still happening? Hasn’t he defeated all the powers of death and evil?

Yes, he has, but even so there will be a time of trial and testing for his followers in the wake of his victory. The outcome is certain; God will vindicate his people. We can absolutely trust in God’s ultimate saving, restorative power, that will come in all its undiluted fullness at the consummation of all things, in the final judgement and restoration of all creation – a final judgement, says Peter, that will actually begin with God’s own people, as the extent of our faithfulness to God is weighed and assessed. In the meantime what is required from us is faith and patience, and that, despite what we face each day from a world that refuses to turn to God, we continue to do good to all. This is how we show God that we still trust him: no matter what our circumstances we are still his people and we will act as such.

Question to Consider
When you see or experience pain and suffering, what thoughts go through your mind about Jesus’ victory on the cross?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, give us strength to hang on to your promises when it seems they have no hope of happening. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Shepherd Leadership

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 5:1-7

What makes a good leader? In order for someone’s leadership to be seen positively, what needs to happen? What are the qualities a person needs in order to be a good, effective leader? And whose definition of ‘good, effective’ are we using? Do leaders of different groups and organisations and teams need different skills and traits depending on the group, organisation or team? Or are there common things all leaders need?  The word Peter uses to sum up and describe leadership is ‘shepherd’ – probably not a word that many of the leaders in our world would think of when trying to describe what they do. Authority, strength, command – these words seem more indicative of today’s leaders. Why shepherd?

A shepherd looks after the sheep. The sheep are the primary focus. A shepherd doesn’t think about him – or herself, planning and dreaming about what to do to be a better shepherd. A shepherd simply asks, ‘what is best for this flock?’ Peter, the disciple Jesus told to ‘care for my sheep’, had Jesus himself as his model of what being a shepherd meant. It meant to serve. It meant to love, unconditionally. It meant to put the needs of those in your care ahead of your own needs and to serve them with love and in humility. Jesus is the model against which all other shepherds will be judged. We can do this because of the intimate bond that such leadership builds between shepherd and flock – the same bond that exists been our shepherd Jesus and us, his flock.

Questions to Consider
How have you experienced being led by a shepherd? How are you modelling this type of leadership yourself?

Prayer
Loving Father, you are the one who leads us and loves us through the life of the Good Shepherd, your son Jesus. Help us to be good shepherds of others, the way you are of us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Live Well, Love Well, and Hold On

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 5:8-14

“The whole letter has been insisting….that the way to respond to attacks of whatever sort is with a firm but gentle faith, treating non-Christians with respect, living within the law (except, as in Acts, when it tries to force you into denying Jesus), behaving with humility and patience in all circumstances….you will find that courteous and civil behaviour, acting with respect and gentleness, will again and again win an answering respect from outsiders, even if they don’t understand what makes you tick….

[T]he real point of interest in the closing verses is the one Peter highlights at the end of verse 12: ‘this grace, in which you stand, is the true grace of God.’ Using the letter as an angled mirror in which to glimpse what was going on in the churches to which it was addressed, it’s safe to say that the small groups of believers in ancient Turkey must have been very concerned that the persecution which was now increasing meant that they were on the wrong road; that they had taken a false turning; that they had given their allegiance to Jesus as a false Messiah. Otherwise why would these things still be happening? Peter’s solid reassurance has been based on scripture, based on his sense of how God’s purpose was always going to work out, and based above all on Jesus himself. Hold on to his death and resurrection, he says. That’s the sheet-anchor. He is the true Messiah, and one day he will be publicly revealed as such. This is the true grace of God; stand firm in it. And – the note that we all need, especially when the going is tough: peace. Peace to you from God. Peace to you in the Messiah.”

N. T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone, p.96-7, 98.

Question to Consider
What have you learnt most from reading through 1 Peter?

Prayer
Almighty God, thank you for your promises and for the presence of your Spirit with us as we live into those promises in tough times. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

1 Peter 3

Readings for this week February 17 – 21
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Way of Married Living

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:1-7

This passage – a rather famous one, if often abused or truncated (people focus on verses 1-6 easily enough but frequently seem to forget about verse 7 for some reason) – seems to cause just as much trouble today as in times past, but for almost completely different reasons. First, we need to understand the context. If a man became a Christian, he would, as head of the family and the one in charge, often bring his entire household into the faith with him. Under Roman law he had absolute authority over every member of his household, including his wife, who, if she became a Christian, usually entered the church alone. Hence Peter’s call for wives to submit to their husbands, and conduct themselves with reverence and purity, not because of any second-class status, but for their own protection. In their situation, any attempt to assert their own independent rights would be quite a risky, even dangerous, move.

What Peter is saying here about husbands and wives is truly revolutionary. This passage is another example of a countercultural way of living, a way in which husbands and wives show mutual love, commitment and respect to each other. This is especially the case when we consider how women were viewed, and treated, in ancient Roman society. They were very much seen as a lower, less worthy, second class sort of human being, with innate characteristics that stemmed more from passion and emotion than from reason – hence the widespread belief in the need for women to be constantly subordinated to powerful, self-restrained, reasoning men. So Peter’s call for husbands and wives to live as equals is yet another example of how different Christian living is meant to be.

Question to Consider
How do these verses apply in today’s world?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may our marriages be arenas for your grace and love to shine through for all to see. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Importance of Like-Mindedness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:8

“Be like-minded.” This is a word that, for many people, often those outside the faith, conjures up images of robots, mindless automatons, and theories about hive minds and clones. For many, like-mindedness implies groupthink and the subsuming of all individuality beneath the outer shell assumed by all members of the group – subsumed, often to be eradicated, in the manner of a cult: no opinions, thoughts, or ideas of your own. But for Peter like-mindedness is of vital importance, grouped here with other crucial characteristics like humility, love and compassion. It is an essential attribute of God’s community of people if they are to be a community of people, united and moving in the same direction as their leader, Jesus. Like-mindedness requires that we be developing and growing the fruits of the Spirit in us and amongst ourselves, as we learn to love each other.

So obviously the squashing and suppressing of our individuality is not what God (or Peter) has in mind. Our God-crafted individuality is still important – it is something that God has made and gifted to each of us after all. But that individuality is in need of repair, in need of transformation through the power of God’s Spirit dwelling in us and moulding us little by little into the likeness of Jesus, and into a community of people who can live together and relate to each other and God in love. The like-mindedness we are called to have is a similarity of thought and disposition that is modelled on the person and character of Jesus – someone who put performing the will of his Father above all other motivations and who served others faithfully unto death.

Questions to Consider
What does like-mindedness mean to you? How are you developing it?

Prayer
Almighty God, you have called me to be with others who love you too, and to work with them for your glory. Help me to do this today. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Standing Out in the Right Way

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:9-16

Christians are supposed to stand out as distinctive. We all know this. As followers of Jesus, the true King of the world, we are supposed to be modelling a new way – the true way – of living, showing the world the true meaning of being human. But too often these days, Christians can end up standing out for the wrong reasons, especially when we are mocked and scorned (which we know we will be; Jesus himself said so) and we retaliate with behaviour and speech on the same level as those attacking us. But when we ‘respond in kind’, when we ‘give as good as we get’, we are failing to model the very behaviour we are calling others out for. We have to walk a fine line between being so much like everyone else that we are indistinguishable from the society around us, with our Christ-allegiance making no discernible difference, and being so aloof, removed and almost ‘holier-than-thou’ that we are invisible because we have isolated ourselves from the world around us.

We successfully walk that fine line when we learn, together as the body Christ, the new way of life that Peter describes in these verses: blessing others in all circumstances, watching what we say, doing good not evil, and seeking after peace wherever we find it. These new practical habits, of mind and of heart, learned and practised in community, will create a people characterised by kindness, mercy, humility, love for all, and united in their worshiping obedience of their king. Thus moulded and fortified, we will be able to face a hostile world ignorant of God, and show it the true way to live without fear.

Question to Consider
What should be distinctive about Christian behaviour?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help us walk the fine line. Help us to be distinctive and yet connected, set apart and yet engaged, yours and yet for all. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Suffering and Assured Victory

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:17-18

It may not look like it, and many Christians’ experience may certainly not feel like it, but our baptism into the community of God’s people puts us firmly under the reality of the Messiah’s victory over the forces of darkness. But it doesn’t always appear so. We must remain firm and strong, and not be discouraged or tempted to turn away because there are times when that victory seems hollow, distant, or altogether absent. As much as we might not want to, we will suffer for doing right. We will suffer for holding to God’s standard of truth and rightness; we will suffer as we fight for justice for the poor and displaced and marginalised; we will suffer as we obediently enact God’s plan and purpose for his defiant world.

As exiles, our way of living should be different than those around us, and our motivation for life should come from somewhere different: from our position as God’s children. That is what defines who we are above and before all other definitions. To live as his children in a world that refuses to acknowledge God has consequences for us – or it should do. Calling people back to the God who created them and loves them when they don’t want to go back and refuse to listen will see us ridiculed and abused. They will shoot the messenger. But our sufferings can be turned to God’s purposes, not the least of which is our gradual transformation into the likeness of the crucified Jesus, the one we love, the one we follow.

Questions to Consider
Where does your motivation come from? How are you living as a child of God in a world that refuses to know him? What are the consequences?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, the world and everything and everyone in it is yours. We are living as exiles in a world that should know you but doesn’t. May we live lives pleasing to you, but that also stand as testimony to your goodness and the love that you long for the rest of the world to experience. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Trusting in the Final, Complete Victory Yet to Come

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 3:19-22

Back at the opening of the letter Peter mentioned the promises stored up in heaven, the promises for us kept safe by Jesus, until the day of salvation arrives. This is the reality, but it can be a hard reality for us to believe in and hold onto when life is hard, when suffering comes, and when any possible promise seems like a joke in the light of the broken circumstances of the world. Sometimes it can seem like the offer of a promise is just a further taunt, something else to lament, a cruel juxtaposition of what could be – but is so far away as to be invisible – with what is – that is so near and seemingly hopeless.

We must trust that Jesus’ victory will one day be played out, in full, throughout the entire world, for all to see, even if that day sometimes seems just a distant dream. For most of us, living in comfort and security in countries that are relatively indifferent to our faith, if they even acknowledge it at all, we need, at the very least, to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted and terrorised because of their faith. There are those for whom the promise is all there is and the prayers of the saints are all that sustain them. Those who live in places where the reality of Jesus’ victory is particularly difficult to see need the urgent, diligent, faithful prayers of those of us who do not face such hardship and persecution – yet.

Questions to Consider
What role does suffering play in the life of the follower of Jesus? Why? What is the importance of suffering in our imitation of Christ?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, if suffering is in the offering, may you give me the strength and courage to bear it. Be with those in our world whose obedience to you comes at great personal, physical cost. Bless them and their suffering. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

1 Peter 2:4-25

Readings for this week February 10 – 14
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Us, The New Temple

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:4-10

In the Old Testament, the idea of a stone or rock had two particular meanings that Jews of Peter’s time would have been particularly interested in. The first was connected with the idea of God returning to Zion (Jerusalem) and taking up residence forever in a properly rebuilt Temple, and there was a long Jewish tradition of describing the Temple as being built on a ‘rock’. If the right rock, or cornerstone, could be found, then the building of the new Temple – the one God has promised to come and dwell in – can begin.

Secondly, the word stone (eben) is very similar to the word son (ben), and if there’s one thing we know about God, it’s that he likes wordplay. (Jesus made a pun on the same two words in Mark 12:1-12.) How do the two concepts go together? In 2 Samuel 7:12-14 we read of God’s promise that David’s son would build the Temple and would also be the son of God. And the son will build the temple with the proper foundation stone.

God had promised to both send his son and build a house in which he will come and live forever. All people who belong to Jesus, no matter who they are or where they are from – even if they are Gentiles, living far from Israel, in tiny scattered communities – have been welcomed and fully incorporated into the people of God. The Temple has actually been rebuilt and God has come to inhabit it – because his people are God’s new Temple, and he is now living in them, wherever they are. Including us.

Questions to Consider
How are the people of God the new Temple? What does it mean to say God dwells in us?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for loving us so much that you made your home here with us – in fact, even more than that, in us, by your Spirit. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Obedience and Faithfulness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:11-14

Verses 13-14 have been problematic to say the least, and have caused much heartache and head scratching over the centuries. Are we really supposed to submit to every authority instituted over us, to obey and honour all leaders and people in positions of power in our society? What about tyrants and dictators? What about those whose behaviour shows a complete lack of regard for law, morality, fairness? What about those abusing their positions and authority for their own gain? Are we, as followers of King Jesus, really supposed to submit to these people? Aren’t they the very people we should be opposing and rebelling against through truth speaking to power in order to point to the sovereignty of the true King? If we put up with their rule, aren’t we just colluding with them?

Peter wants us to submit to the ruling authorities, but in a way that allows the way we live – the good life Peter describes in verses 11-12 – to shame those that criticize and ridicule us. We need to play our part in establishing God’s rule on earth by showing that there is another, better way of living, a way that is far more revolutionary than actual revolution: truth speaking to power through Jesus mirrored in our lives and actions. Anyone looking at us, from any position in society, should see a genuine way of being human. The world needs to see that our conduct is right and admirable. Yes, we will oppose injustice and oppression, but with our whole lives, every word and action, not just through protest but through God’s life in us.

Questions to Consider
How do you live our Peter’s command in verses 13-14? What does this look like? What should it look like?

Prayer
Lord God, we are yours first and foremost, but must still live in a world that refuses to know you. Help us do this with faithfulness and integrity. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Soft Difference

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:15-17

“It might be appropriate to call the missionary distance that 1 Peter stresses soft difference. I do not mean a weak difference, for in 1 Peter the difference is anything but weak. It is strong, but it is not hard. Fear for oneself, one’s identity creates hardness. The difference that joins itself with hardness always presents the other with a choice: either submit or be rejected, either ‘become like me or get away from me’. In the mission to the world, hard difference operates with open or hidden pressures, manipulation, and threats. A decision for a soft difference, on the other hand presupposes a fearlessness which 1 Peter repeatedly encourages his readers to assume (3:14; 3:6). People who are secure in themselves – more accurately, secure in their God – are able to live the soft difference without fear. They have no need either to subordinate or damn others, but can allow others space to be themselves. For people who live the soft difference, mission fundamentally takes the form of witness and invitation. They seek to win others without pressure or manipulation, sometimes even ‘without a word’ (3:1).

To be a Christian means to live one’s identity in the face of others in such a way that one joins inseparably the belief in the truth of one’s own convictions with a respect for the convictions of others. The softness which should characterise the very being of Christians – I am tempted to call it ‘ontic gentleness’ – must not be given up even when we are (from our own perspective) persuaded that others are wrong or evil. To give up the softness of our difference would be to sacrifice our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.”

Miroslav Volf, in 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, Vinson, Wilson and Mills, pp.132-3.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of this idea of soft difference? Why?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I be welcoming, loving and gracious to all, but faithful and obedient to you as I offer your love and grace to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Suffering and Silence

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:18-22

It should come as no surprise that in the past this passage was very popular with southern slave owners in the American South, and was one they regularly quoted in defence of slavery and their personal right to own, and exploit, other human beings as property. We’d love for Peter (and Paul and Jesus) to have unambiguously stated that slavery is wrong. But they didn’t. Not because slavery (of whatever stripe) isn’t wrong – it is – and not because they didn’t believe in the God-given worth of each human being, slaves included – they did. But Peter probably couldn’t imagine a world without slavery, or foresee a time when it wouldn’t exist, so integral to the economy and society of the ancient world was it. This might seem like collusion with evil: our current climate (now) knows all about people being unable to speak freely of their experiences of abusive, humiliating events perpetrated by people in power over them.

Claiming that when slaves suffer they are actually imitating the suffering endured by Christ is a bold, powerful statement to make, and points to the potential redemption of an awful situation and offers meaning to the harsh everyday existence slaves endure, offering dignity and grace to those who are enslaved and suffering. But we must be careful not to move from this to thinking that God requires this suffering, this enslavement, or approves if we silently accept it and turn away. God can redeem any situation; nothing is beyond his love. But the fact that it needs redeeming shows that it is not his perfect, pleasing will that prevails – yet.

Question to Consider
How are we to respond to the reality of modern slavery and inequality?

Prayer
Almighty Lord, guard me against the apathy and complacency that so easily ensnare us and stop us from fighting on behalf of others. Help us rage with compassion for your world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Centrality of the Cross

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:23-25

The cross is scandalous – or at least it should be. The world set right by someone’s public torture and humiliation? That should give us pause. The world reconciled to God through the condemnation and suffering of an innocent man? That thought should stop us in our tracks for at least a few seconds. Redemption and release to become God’s children as we were always meant to be through the death of his only child? That formulation seems problematic at best. How are we meant to assimilate this to our own lives? What does it mean for daily living that this is the God we follow?

Peter sees something more in the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. Going back to Isaiah again, the image of the suffering servant, carrying out God’s saving purpose for the world, while being tortured and abused, but all the while never giving back as he has been given. Jesus took the punishment that we deserved, representing all of us – the entire world – as he did so. He isn’t saying stay passive and mute in the face of violence. Nobody wants to suffer. Suffering is not enjoyable, and is often deeply painful, humiliating and dehumanising. What Peter is suggesting is that it is through sharing in the sufferings of the Messiah – the only truly completely innocent man, punished unjustly – that we ourselves can become free, and through which the world itself can be restored to wholeness. Only someone who truly believes that all things – ALL – revolve around the crucifixion and the resurrection could say this, and attempt to live it too.

Question to Consider
What aspects of the crucifixion trouble you yet empower/inspire you?

Prayer
Lord God, the cross is central. The crucifixion and resurrection redefine reality. May I live a life, day by day, moment by moment, that reflects this new reality and the power that it brings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

1 Peter 1:13-2:3

Readings for this week February 3 – 7
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Ready to Play Our Part

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:13

I’m sure we are all aware of how easy it can be to fall back into the old patterns of the life we lived before we were rescued (redeemed, ransomed, reconciled) by God’s saving action on the cross. Without vigilance, without discipline, and certainly without prayer, we can so easily let our minds and hearts slacken, and more and more find ourselves falling into old ways of thinking and behaving. That is why Peter encourages his readers to stay focused, to maintain self-control and to be holy as God is holy. The old way of life has no hold on us any more. Back then, we didn’t know our purpose, and we were ignorant of what we had been made for. But we know now. We have been rescued and refined, and know our purpose in God’s world. So we need to live it out.

God’s plan – his long gestating plan, the one the prophets spoke of – has been fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God’s purpose has been revealed, and in the process of redeeming us to play our part in his glorious plan, God has cleaned us up and polished us into such a state that we know our part in his plan, and are now in a position to play our role to the full. Through him, we are capable of the holiness that he calls for. We can undertake the new use that he has for us with confidence and assurance that he is with us in all we do.

Questions to Consider
What is our part in God’s plan? What role do you have, both generally, and more specific to you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, as we seek to faithfully follow you, and play our part in the grand plan of restoration now underway, continue to guide us in your work and shape us in your image. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Call to Holiness

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:14-16

Holiness is what separates and distinguishes God from everything else (not just from sin). Only God is God and nothing but God is God. He is holy, He is God and there is no other God. He is the Creator and is not in any way to be mistaken for his creation or any element of creation. There is a definite distinction between God and everything that is not God – a distinction that is meant to be mirrored in our distinctiveness from the world around us because God has called us to be holy.

For us the call to holiness requires that we belong to God and nothing else. When objects or people are described as holy what is meant is that they belong exclusively to God; in the case of fallen, imperfect humanity being holy means being sufficiently committed to God so we can draw near to him without ourselves or the place where we engage in drawing near being damaged. Holiness is about being different from the world and pursuing different objectives and goals through different means and for different reasons than those around us. It means acknowledging God’s holiness and actively working to bring ourselves under his direction and in line with his purposes. As God is holy and the source of all holiness, to be holy as He is holy requires that we acknowledge God as holy and strive as much as we can – always in the guiding and enabling power of his Spirit – to live lives dedicated to him and his work for the world. We are his sacred people, dedicated to his service.

Questions to Consider
What is your understanding of what it means to be holy? Why is it important? How do you do this?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, help me be holy in all I do and all I say. May I look to you for strength, guidance and power to be part of your holy community. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Living Holy, Reverent Lives

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:17-21

Seeking only God; living holy lives by letting God’s holiness guide us in how we live; and now, living our lives in reverence. Peter is reminding his readers that they must be focused on God in a way that excludes the possibility of anything else having a greater pull on us or control over us than the one who loved us and gave himself for us. The ability to give ourselves exclusively to God is not one that we have developed ourselves; it is not something that we have accomplished or created under our own power. Indeed, it is impossible for us to do so. But through thankful obedience and surrender we can live lives of reverent fear in the power of the one who rescued us from our bondage, not through a transaction laced with gold and silver, but through the shedding of his blood.

Such a price given requires nothing less than grateful thankfulness and loving obedience. If this is what it cost to redeem us, how could we ever offer less than everything of ourselves and our lives to the God who would act so unselfishly for us? How could we allow anything in this world, in which we are travellers seeking our true home in the fullness of God’s promised kingdom, to claim a greater loyalty from us than that which we owe our saviour? The exclusivity that God calls for is uncompromising. We all struggle to live by God’s exclusive claims on us. Many things call for our attention in life, some worthy, others merely distracting. But only in the light of the crucified and resurrected Messiah will we see truly and clearly how to live and be empowered to do so.

Questions to Consider
What have you cut from your life because of God? What have you severed yourself from? Why?

Prayer
Almighty God, thank you the sacrifice you offered on my behalf, for my redemption. May I live in reverent thankfulness to you. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Sower and the Seed

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:22-25

Based on Peter’s use of scriptural quotations in this letter, it appears that he was a fan of the book of Isaiah, as he quotes from it in several places. In verses 24-25 of the current passage he quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8. Coupled with his use of the image of the seed in verse 23, we can see clearly in this letter, written by one of the original apostles and close companion of Jesus, the echo of the many instances in which Jesus himself told parables based around the image of the farmer sowing seed. And much like the seeds Jesus talked about, the seed Peter (and Isaiah) is referring to here produces something that lasts far longer than mere grass and flowers. This was an image that appealed to a lot of Israelites during the time of exile, when many of them were hoping that God would soon act to restore his people to the land: the image of God as the farmer sowing seed in his fields, seed that would flourish as God’s new, true people would spring up as the new crop waiting to be harvested.

The followers of Jesus are the new crop, the fruit of the Father’s seed sowing. Peter mixes in a second metaphor: that of a new born baby (new followers of Jesus) needing food and sustenance in order to grow (nourishment and training in order to grow into being a full member of God’s family). The seed, the word of God that makes this whole process possible, is the message of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God sent to reconcile us to God and bestow the gift of his spirit upon us so that all may be told of God’s magnificent, saving love.

Questions to Consider
What do the images of seed and growth mean to you? Why?

Prayer
Almighty God, may our lives be fruitful, so that others can experience the abundant love that you have for everyone, if they will only turn to you and receive it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Like a New Born

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:1-3

Becoming a disciple of Jesus and following him is a bit like being a new born baby; such is one of the metaphors that Peter employs as he encourages his readers to shake off the ways and attitudes of their former way of life and embrace a life of growth and discipline. New born babies cannot do much for themselves at all (well, anything really). They need to learn how to feed, to grow, and how to take their place in the family. It is an apt metaphor as this is also what the new Christian needs to do as well. The new life in Christ comes to birth in us and just like the baby it needs to be nurtured and nourished and sustained, so that it can finally grow into full maturity. A new born baby (new followers of Jesus) needs food and sustenance in order to grow (nourishment and training in order to grow into being a full member of God’s family).

Of course, we need to realise there are good ways and bad ways of going about this, good ways and bad ways of relating to those around us, those who are part of our community, those who are the “adults” helping us grow and develop, and eventually those to whom we provide nourishment and sustenance. Yesterday we read verse 22 and saw what we need to eschew and leave behind; today verse 1 shows us the way we need to go, how we should act. A strong, living relationship with God is the key. Casting away all that hinders us and stunts our growth is necessary in order to develop the habits of life that will allow us to grow as we need to.

Questions to Consider
What do you think God is asking you to throw off and cast away? Why? How will you do this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may obedience grow in me as I follow you. May I not be slow to heed your words and hear your voice calling me deeper into you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

1 Peter 1:1-12

Readings for this week January 27 – 31
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – God’s People

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:1-2

1 Peter was written to Christian communities distributed across the country we know today as Turkey. One of the things Peter does right at the start of the letter, in his opening address to his (diverse, widely scattered) audience, is remind them that they are Christians, that they follow Jesus Christ. He doesn’t focus on their background, their ancestry, or any other possible descriptor of who they are: how could he, writing to such a varied, polyglot group of people? It is their common identity as followers of Jesus that he emphasises; what matters most is the fact that they have all been called by God to be his particular people set aside for his particular purpose. That commonality is the foundation stone.

1 Peter addresses items of pressing concern to Christians and does so in a way that is encouraging and edifying. Peter’s name on the letter would lead the audience to expect that the advice contained therein was coming from someone of deep authority who had personally experienced what he was writing about. Who better to offer advice about discipleship and living a Christ-like life than the chief apostle who spent several years learning at the feet of Jesus himself? Could there be a better person to offer encouragement to those suffering and being harassed and persecuted than one who had faced such hardship and humiliation himself (and who would ultimately pay for his allegiance to Christ with his life)? What better source of encouragement in difficult times than a man who was known to have betrayed his Lord and master, but who had experienced the depths of forgiveness and had learned to be brave and strong?

Questions to Consider
Who are the people who mentor you in your faith? Who do you look up to?

Prayer
Lord God, help me learn from others. Put people in my life from whom I can learn more of you and see more of you in them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Citizens of Heaven

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:3-5

In the original Greek, verses 3-12 constitute one long, complicated sentence. The sentence begins with a prayer, praising God for the gift of salvation through the resurrection of Jesus, and the imperishable nature of the inheritance we have received as God’s children. But the fullness of this hope and inheritance is somewhat veiled at the moment; salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last time” (verse 5). We live in expectation of the day when the curtain will rise and everything now safely hidden will be made clear and visible. But we live now as Jesus’ followers, God’s community of people living in the power of his Spirit, leading lives informed and guided by this (hidden) reality.

This new community of followers is God’s signpost of the new reality of his kingdom. Jesus’ sacrificial death, the power of his resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the means by which God has effected this transformation in people. We are citizens of this world still, but also now have citizenship ‘in heaven’, in God’s kingdom, and it’s our role in shining forth the reality of this new life – open to all – that elicits Peter’s praise of the living God. Being such dual citizens isn’t easy though – much of what Peter will address in the rest of the letter is the suffering of the early Christians as they attempt to live out their faith in a world that refuses to acknowledge its true lord and that fails to understand the new reality coming to birth. But despite this, Peter encourages them to continue to live out the love of Jesus in them.

Question to Consider
How do you notice the tension of living this life of dual citizenship?

Prayer
Lord God, help us all to live truthfully as citizens of heaven, so that all who don’t know you may see your glory and benevolence shine through us, your faithful followers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Suffering

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:6-7

The theme of suffering and how the followers of Jesus are to think about it pervades the letter. One thing Peter does throughout the letter is link the suffering that his readers have endured or may endure to the sufferings endured by Christ himself. He also links the believers’ (potential) suffering with Jesus: suffering is largely defined as things inflicted upon believers simply because they follow Jesus. In today’s reading, suffering is compared to the way precious metals are put through the fire in order to refine and purify them. As paradoxical as it seems, good can come out of suffering; suffering both hones and demonstrates the character of our faith.

The letter of 1 Peter does not say that suffering is good or something to be desired. The letter does not encourage believers to deliberately seek out suffering, nor does it say that suffering is something that is or will be necessarily required of all believers, though it is a genuine risk for those who genuinely follow Jesus. It does not even say that they should rejoice because they suffer. Rather, they are encouraged to rejoice on the basis of the salvation that will be unveiled upon the coming of Jesus. These are the reasons we are called to rejoice, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in. Suffering of whatever type may be “required” of some people, some of God’s people in particular, just as it was for Jesus, but Peter does not encourage suffering to be sought for its own sake.

Questions to Consider
What do you think about what Peter says here about our sufferings? How does this relate to your own experiences of suffering?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you suffered for us and call us to walk with, care for and alleviate the sufferings of others. Give me the grace to do so every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Words of Encouragement

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:8-9

These next two verses move from suffering to more positive responses to the saving acts of God, further illustrating the appropriateness of rejoicing no matter what the circumstances, good or bad. Peter also warmly encourages his readers in their faith. One thing he doesn’t do here is reprimand the people’s waywardness or chastise them for lack of faith. He doesn’t even exhort them to strive for more faith or greater faith. Unlike Paul, who was in one way or another very closely connected to the communities he wrote to, there is no suggestion that Peter personally knows these communities or knows intimate details of their current circumstances. He simply speaks of “your faith” and states how “you believe”, and takes it for granted that these things are true of them, confidently and encouragingly stating the nature of their faith and their commitment to Christ. They are Christians after all; so these things must be true of them and the way they live out their faith.

He never plays the “super apostle” card. He never for a moment implies that, as someone who had actually seen Jesus, there is an obvious contrast between himself and them, between his faith and theirs. He simply speaks confidently and forthrightly about the love of Christ, endorsing the outliving of their faith in him and the way they rejoice in their salvation – even in the midst of suffering. It must have been hugely gratifying to receive such words from one who had been so close to Jesus, failed him so abysmally, and yet risen again to be a powerful, forgiven leader of the Jesus movement, encouraging and leading others.

Questions to Consider
Who encourages you in your faith? How? How do you encourage others?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me be an encourager of others, always looking for opportunities to offer a kind word or supportive gesture. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Community Across Space and Time

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 1:10-12

Peter’s message didn’t come out of the blue. He’s not just making up something new and exciting to attract people, or keep them interested once they are in. He may be writing to a wide range of believers spread across an entire country in multiple communities, but just as his opening address to them reminded them of the commonalities they share as followers of Jesus, so he also reminds his readers that, as well as being united with others across space, they are also united with others across time. The prophets first revealed the coming of salvation and foretold the advent of the Messiah, sharing their message with the world. There is an unbroken line from the prophets to Jesus to his disciples and to the recipients of Peter’s letter. The community of those who awaited the Messiah or who encountered him when he came encompasses the past, the present and the future.

Living a life in hope as God’s people of hope requires that we live it with others, sometimes in ways we don’t expect, with others we aren’t familiar with or even mindful of. Some of these others are people who have come before us, faithful followers of God who served God’s people and the world in times past. Others are yet to come, those who will follow us, picking up whatever legacy we leave for them. And then there are those with us now, friends, neighbours, strangers, who form the immediate members of the community of God’s people with whom we fellowship, serve and with whom we worship the God who called us together.

Question to Consider
What legacy do you think we will leave for those who come after us?

Prayer
Almighty God, keep me mindful of the part that I have to play in your world and in your community. Remind me that it doesn’t all depend on me; there are others you have called with me, and there is also you yourself. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Relationship with the World

Readings for this week January 20 – 24
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 – Jesus on the Move

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 4:42-44

Jesus was determined to fulfil his mission to preach the coming of the kingdom of God and to help people enter it.

Jesus spent much of his time preaching the message of the kingdom, saying that the kingdom has come and that everyone who sincerely wants to enter it can do so.

Jesus told many parables that show what the kingdom of God is like and what it means to be a child of God. But he was not an observer, merely relating events. He spoke into people’s lives. He was a storyteller who entered the story itself, and he interacted with people to bring them into the kingdom. When Jesus speaks into a person’s life, things change. We know this ourselves, because he has changed our own lives.

The biggest journey Jesus made was from heaven to earth. He was God present among us. We call this the incarnation—God in human form. As followers of Jesus we are called to enter into other people’s life stories, to be present among them, listening to them and sharing the truth about Jesus and his kingdom.

Question to Consider
Jesus took the time to enter into people’s life stories so they could come to know that God loved them. This week how could you go out of your way to join someone who doesn’t yet know God’s love for them?

Prayer
Lord God, help me make that small yet crucial journey across the couch/the room/the road/the city/the world into the lives of others. Show me how to share my life and what you have done in my life with others, wherever they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Community of Hope

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:31-35

The hope that this world so desperately needs comes through the power of Jesus by way of the new community that he has called into being.

We have been called to join in Jesus’ work of redeeming creation back to his Father, and we have been promised the Holy Spirit to guide and give us strength to take the message of the Kingdom to the world.

The redemptive community of Jesus is to be right at the front of the wave of hope that the world needs to restore it to God. In the verses we read today, the Holy Spirit led Jesus’ followers to share their possessions and property so that everyone’s needs were provided for. This radical approach was noticed by others and it gave the believers opportunity to talk about God’s love and the power of Jesus to free from slavery to sin.

It’s the same for us today. The redemptive community we belong to is how God has chosen to restore his creation. The world belongs to God and he wants it back. This is the message we bring.

Questions to Consider
What do you think about the way the early church shared their possessions? Do you think doing something like this would work today? Why or why not?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, you came to us offering hope when it seemed like there was no hope to be found. You showed us another way of living and another way of loving by living a life of love for us. May we offer the very hope we have found in you to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Daily Bread

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 8:6-18

God cares for the material needs of his children. It’s easy for us to get caught up in going after security or a comfortable life and expect God to shower us with whatever we think we need. The truth is much greater.

In that very famous prayer from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Because we live in a society where we get far more than our basic food needs we tend to forget God and take self-sufficiency for granted. But not only do we forget God, we also forget his children.

God wants all people to have their needs met and be looked after. Poverty is not part of his plan—it is wrong and evil. Inequality between rich and poor is not right. We have taken the material advantages that God has given us, focused our lives on them and overlooked the fact that so many of God’s children live in desperate poverty without clean water, daily food or adequate shelter.

In reading about this beautiful world today, let’s not focus on keeping this blessing for ourselves. And let’s also not forget that poverty is wrong—God wants it gone.

Questions to Consider
What are the things you think you really need in life? What can you do to help ensure everyone in the world has these essential things?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may my faithfulness match your faithfulness to me, so that I can be a place where your Spirit speaks and acts into the lives of all those I come across. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Trusting God to Make a Good Fit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Genesis 39

Today we read part of Joseph’s life story. It wasn’t an easy life at times, but Joseph was capable of faithful service even in the middle of temptation and hardship.

For much of Joseph’s life, things didn’t go to plan. His brothers hated him so much they sold him off as a slave. Then, after doing well for a while, he landed in prison. But Joseph didn’t despair, and neither did he use his circumstances as an excuse to do nothing. Wherever he was, he found ways to serve.

God was able to work through Joseph’s circumstances to achieve some remarkable things. Whether for Potiphar or in prison, he did the work he was assigned to the best of his ability. He served God through his work, doing good to the family and the community that he lived in.

Joseph had to learn to trust that God would help him in his work. And God did help him in many ways, including guiding the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams. Wherever we are, God wants to help us make the most of our work. He guides us through his Holy Spirit, stepping in when needed, and giving us the strength to work. As he was with Joseph, God is with us.

Questions to Consider
How easy do you think it was for Joseph to trust God? What makes it hard for you to trust God? How can this be overcome?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your good news. May every aspect of my life, work and play be transformed by your love. Help me share with others all the gifts you have lavished on me. May I be a faithful steward of all you have given. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – God’s Mission and God’s Kingdom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6:9-15

The way in which God’s will reigns supreme in Heaven will one day be reproduced on earth, in full. This is God’s promise to us and our hope for his world.

God has promised us that he will reign eternally and make all things new. Though that final, complete day is not here yet, Jesus teaches us to keep praying that God’s will be done on earth. And how is his will to be accomplished? Jesus has passed the baton to us. Remember ‘as the father has sent me, so I send you’? We are to take his love and compassion to the world, stumbling, fumbling, faltering, yes, but also hoping, trusting, hanging on. We seek God’s kingdom, not through strength and force, but through weakness, compassion and self-giving love. We carry with us the hope and promise of that day when God’s kingdom will be seen in all its glory, and when the king himself will return.

Until that time we are to constantly pray that his will be done on earth – that through his power and our obedience the kingdom will continue to expand on earth, transforming God’s creation, as people follow Jesus. It is God’s mission and God’s kingdom and we have a vital role to play. There is hope, whatever people may be going through.  There is a kingdom coming all around us – God’s kingdom – and the king is one day coming back.

Question to Consider
How might what you do today assist in the coming of God’s kingdom?

Prayer
God of compassion, your power and love can make the difference in everyone’s lives; help me be a pathway for that power and love into the lives of others. Nothing is too great for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

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!