Choosing Non-Violence

Readings for this week March 3 – April 3
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Faith to be Lived Out

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

Justification isn’t a static thing, and isn’t something that only applies to our private lives and therefore something that we keep to ourselves. Co-crucifixion requires that conformity to the model of Christ’s sacrificial love be embodied and enacted in us, in our lives, our public, lived-for-others lives. This demands that we identify with the weak, powerless and marginalised. We cannot do true justice on our own, but we can be the embodiment of God’s justice, each of us – and God’s community as a whole – a conduit for love, generosity, forgiveness and transformation. Justification through co-cruciformity must be lived out in the world.

The gospel of the crucified Messiah shapes Paul’s understanding of holiness. Paul is convinced that the crucified Son reveals the holiness of the Father, and that the justified (those co-crucified with Christ) are called to be holy through on-going co-crucifixion in the power of the Spirit. Human holiness is grounded in the cross that reveals the identity of the Son, the character of the Father and the activity of the Spirit. It is Trinitarian and it is cruciform. Holiness is Christlikeness: it is ‘putting on Christ’ or ‘living with Christ’, as opposed to living in the darkness – the darkness of pursuing our own desires and giving our own impulses free reign. Cruciform holiness challenges our self-centred, individualistic, self-created notions of holiness. It is not self-help or self-realisation or self-invention. It is not something we earn. Holiness comes through the transforming power of the crucified and risen Christ working in us – working in a life wholly given over to God and his purposes for creation.

Questions to Consider
What is holiness? How do we live holy, yet everyday, lives?

Prayer
Lord God, make me holy as you want me to be holy. Guide me, lead me, correct me, transform me in the name of your son. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Road to Damascus

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 9:1-6

Paul is perhaps the most well-known example of someone undergoing some sort of conversion experience. His encounter with Jesus “on the road to Damascus” is used to describe an important moment of understanding or insight that leads to a complete re-evaluation of one’s beliefs and attitudes. That is certainly what happened for Paul. His encounter with Jesus led him to reassess his life and his beliefs. He didn’t just throw out all his old beliefs (Judaism) and replace them with new ones (Christianity), regardless of what many have thought over the years. His beliefs about God, creation, Israel, Temple, Land, Salvation and so forth all had to be reconfigured and rethought in the (literal) light of his encounter with Jesus. But one thing often overlooked in this transformation is that it wasn’t just the content of Paul’s beliefs that changed. How he lived those beliefs and sought to act on them also changed, especially in one crucial respect. When he was Saul, he attacked the church; he lived a life of violent zeal for his God, harshly persecuting the followers of Jesus, hounding them, aiming to stamp them out, even colluding in their martyrdom. But once he became a follower of Jesus, he dispensed with the violence that had characterised his attitude to those he perceived as his opponents. His encounter with Christ, and his embrace of the way of Jesus, was incompatible with a life of violence. In embracing Jesus as the centre of his life, Paul was also embracing non-violence as a way of life.

Questions to Consider
How fundamental do you think this change was for Paul? Was it just for him (because of his particular past) or is it for all followers?

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Zealous for the Lord

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 3:5-6

The call to violence, especially to holy violence in pursuit of purifying some sort of meant-to-be-perfect community, is really another (human) way of trying to justify ourselves before God. If we see ourselves as the ones who have to maintain and protect the holy integrity of the community, enforcing the rules and regulations and banishing those who refuse to follow them, and then believe that this is what pleases God, then violence as a method will inevitably follow. Pre-conversion Paul found the key to right relationship with God through his zeal for the law – and this led to his violent persecution of the church due to its flouting of – indeed its supposed disregard for – the law.

In the Old Testament, there are only two figures recorded as being justified by an act: Phineas by his violent (murderous) zeal, Abraham by his faith. In the person of Paul, we see someone moving from imitating Phinehas to imitating Abraham, moving from violent zeal and killing others to grace and faith and embracing dying. The pursuit of holiness is still a major motivator for Paul, but his methods have changed. Instead of a passion for persecution and violence, he now exhibits a passion for Christ, and holiness is now achieved through the pursuit of Christlikeness, and this through cruciformity, embracing the cross of Christ and the crucified one who gave himself for others upon it.

Questions to Consider
What are you zealous for in your life? How does it show? What does being zealous for God look like for you?

Prayer
Loving Father, stir my passion for you and for your ways. Fuel in me a growing desire to know you more and to offer you more of myself each day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Sacred Violence

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 11:5

There are many in today’s world who are more than willing to baptise violence in the name of God and use it as a viable – indeed, indispensable – weapon in the fight against the enemies of God, and as a righteous person’s legitimate response to the Godless world around them. Our world has known no shortage of sacred violence perpetrated in the name of God, or in the name of some supposedly God-ordained ideal. The reasons behind the rise of sacred violence today are the same as they have been throughout history: community purification (getting rid of those whose non-compliance with community standards threatens to infect others, and keeping others out); the belief that the ends (good and God-approved) justifies the means (violence and exclusion); and the belief that our acceptance by God, or acceptance into his renewed kingdom, depends on our success in remaining pure.

In a world in which ‘sacred violence’ is such a common, accepted occurrence (even by certain segments of the church and certain nations that claim to be working in God’s name), the body of Christ on earth needs to make nonviolence and non-retaliation a central dimension of its teaching and its life. For much of the history of the church we have failed to do this, and this must be acknowledged and atoned for. But nonviolence and nonretaliation, as exemplified in the cross, are the way of God and are therefore also to be the way of his people. Resorting to violence is inappropriate for those who believe that Christ’s resurrection is proof that evil will ultimately be defeated.

Question to Consider
What is so attractive about violence in the name of God?

Prayer
Gracious God, forgive us our violent impulses, our anger, our hate. Teach us to love, to be merciful, gracious and self-giving in love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Way of Non-Violence

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 18:1-11

Jesus did not raise his hand against others. When the soldiers came to the garden to arrest him, he did not fight back, he did not resist; he even rebuked one of his closest followers who drew a sword and attacked those who were there to arrest him. Rather than inflict violence upon others for the sake of self-preservation, Jesus stopped those resorting to violence upon his behalf, and instead walked a path that ended with violence being inflicted upon him. He absorbed the violence that was aimed at him; he did not seek to deflect it. This is the heart of God that we see revealed on the cross, a God who chose not to inflict violence on us (however deserved it might have been), but rather who chose to take on the violence that we directed at him (however undeserved it was).

This is not to say that we are deliberately to seek out violence and place ourselves in its way – but if it comes to us, then we may be expected to suffer it, especially on behalf of others, in imitation of Jesus who suffered on behalf of others. All others. Even on behalf of creation itself. The cross shows us another way of responding to violence – and the resurrection provides an alternative to the evil that surrounds us. God’s vindication of Jesus through the resurrection is also God’s vindication of the method used to defeat evil: sacrificial nonviolence and nonretaliation. God’s way of saving the world is through loving enemies rather than destroying them, and absorbing violence rather than inflicting it.

Questions to Consider
What are the different ways in which violence manifests itself in our communities? How do we absorb and deflect this violence?

Prayer
Almighty Father, strengthen us as we seek to live nonviolent lives in a violent world. Teach us love; give us courage; help us bring peace to people and places that do not know what it is. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Holiness & God of the Cross

Readings for this week March 23 – 27
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Meaning of Faith

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galations 2:15-18

What are we talking about when we talk about ‘faith’? Some people seem to think that faith is simply ‘what you believe’, the content of religious belief in particular. Having faith is believing the right things. Often this is (incorrectly) juxtaposed with ‘rational thought’ or the scientific endeavour: the latter is based on evidence and empirical enquiry; faith is based on, well, nothing. It is a lack of evidence, things believed with no support whatsoever. But Paul sees faith differently. For him it is our human response to the gospel, a response that involves our whole being, not just our conscious, mental assent to a series of propositions or beliefs, but our entire selves. Faith involves the complete reorientation of ourselves and our lives towards Jesus Christ through being ‘co-crucified’ with him.

Justification (another word with a storied, controversial history even more convoluted than ‘faith’!) is restoration to right, whole covenant relations with God and with others. And, says Paul, this does not happen through zeal for the Law and the rigorous pursuit of covenantal purity (as he once thought) but through participation in Christ’s death. It is more than just a matter of beliefs. It is about the posture of one’s entire life: the putting to death of the self in co-crucifixion with Christ, embracing the resurrection to new life in Christ, and living a life of faithfulness towards God and love towards others.

Questions to Consider
If someone asks you what ‘faith’ is, how do you answer? What does it mean to you? How would you describe the distinction between the content of your faith verses the idea of having faith?

Prayer
Lord God, help me live a faithful life, one that is holy and pleasing to you, and one that is encouraging and edifying to those around me, whether they know you or not. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Life and Death

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 2:19-21

If justification is by faith, and if faith is understood as co-crucifixion with Christ, then a faithful response to the gospel involves both life and death. The ‘life’ part is very attractive and is the part we most often want to embrace. Who doesn’t want new life? Who wouldn’t want to experience the risen Jesus and the power of new life through his indwelling Spirit? We all want life. But the resurrected Christ is always the crucified Christ. Death comes first, and is crucial for those following Jesus to enter into if they are to fully experience new life in Christ. This death experience in which we enter fully into Christ’s crucifixion is absolutely central to any response of obedience to the gospel. We cannot avoid it, or try to wriggle out of it, or downplay it. We cannot only embrace the new life that comes through resurrection. Faith is a death experience as well. Identifying with and entering into the crucifixion as the place where we die to ourselves, where God cleanses and forgives, and where he reconciles us to himself and sets us free.

This requires a continuing death to self. Living in the power of the resurrection requires that we daily take up our cross, we daily submit ourselves to God, that we daily put to death our own desires and let the Spirit of God continue the work of transforming us into the likeness of Christ, a likeness involving both death and life. It’s a crucified-and-resurrected deal. The crucified Christ is continuous with the resurrected Christ, and we cannot have one aspect of the person and work of Christ without the other.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to live a crucified life? How do we “die to self”?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me live a life that mirrors the life and death of your son: his love, his compassion, his obedience, his sacrifice. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Death and Life Through Baptism

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 6:1-4

Baptism is very important in Paul’s understanding of our death and new life in Christ. It is not an add-on or an optional extra. It is a crucial element in being united with Christ, of embracing and taking on the death of the old and of being raised up and taking on the mantle of the new. Through baptism we die with the Messiah. It is through being united with him in his death that we are also raised with him in the resurrection. They go together; you can’t have one without the other. The story we should have in mind when Paul uses this image of baptism is the Exodus, the rescue of Israel from Egypt, when God brought the Israelites through the waters of the Red Sea and into the new life he had promised them.

Like the Israelites in the desert, we have the choice before us of who we will follow and what we will chase after. If we want to remain our own master and chase after what we think we deserve and what we believe we can achieve for ourselves, then all we will get is death – and not the powerful, sacrificial death of the Messiah that buries our old self and old desires before we are raised again, but just inglorious, sinful, destructive death. But if we want to offer ourselves completely to our new master, and receive his gift of life, then, because of God’s generosity to us, we can do so. All that is required is accepting the gift of Jesus, his death and resurrection, both by turning our backs on the life of sin and putting our old selves to death, and living in the power of his resurrection.

Questions to Consider
What does dying to sin actually mean? Why is it so important?

Prayer
Loving Lord, thank you for the new life that you have given me, undeserved though it is. I praise you for your grace and your desire to have us reunited with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – We Are ‘In Christ’

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 6:5

If we have united our lives with Jesus, then we have also united ourselves with him in his death – the death that could not corrupt, contain or counter him and his work of restorative, reconciling love. His death and his resurrection become the bedrock of the community of God, the foundational aspects of both the individual and communal life of those who are his. These are to be the defining traits of the followers of Jesus.

As Jesus is in his glory, so too will we one day be. One day. Not yet. The process that has been completed in Christ is not yet complete in us. It is a work in progress. The full equivalent to his resurrection – and the work that the resurrection initiates in us – still lies ahead of us. If we have died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him. This process, while underway in those crucified with him, will not be completed until our own resurrection. But the transforming power of Christ’s own resurrection – the Spirit of God – is already at work in us, enabling us to be free from the power of sin. So just like Paul says to the Christians in Rome, we must understand that the defining characteristic of our existence, corporately and individually, is that we are ‘in Christ’, and that this is to underwrite all that we do. And we are ‘in Christ’ with regards to both his death and his resurrection. Again, they both go together. We must let Christ’s ‘deadness’ to sin and his ‘aliveness’ to God find expression in every aspect and moment of our lives. No to sin. Yes to God and his transforming power.

Question to Consider
How are the death and the resurrection of Jesus lived, experienced realities for you in your life?

Prayer
Lord God, show me the deeper reality of dying and living in you. May my life be a sign of your defeat of sin and the victory of the cross. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Living in the Right Direction

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 6:6-7

We need to honestly face up to the fact that our human desires can be so easily corrupted by sin, and twisted and perverted by that deadly power. The only way to do this is to take our entire lives – every aspect of who we are and what we do, all parts of our personality and being, every relationship, everything that makes us up – and hand ourselves over to God. The grace that God showed towards us is what allows us to do this in the hope that he will transform us into his holy people. We have changed masters. We are no longer automatically beholden to sin’s power; we no longer automatically have to answer to its call to us. The power of the cross has defeated sin’s hold on us. But we still have to choose which master we will serve. As we saw, the power of the resurrection is not complete in us yet. Yes, we are being transformed. But while this is still happening in us, we must still decide which voice to heed.

Paul is reminding us of the way we are to live, now that sin is no longer our master. Our bodies and minds and desires will still hear the seemingly attractive call of sin; we are still susceptible to the lure of our old master. But the followers of Jesus are under no obligation to listen to that voice. In fact, our new master has placed on us the specific obligation to not listen to that voice, but to obey his voice instead. We have left the territory where sin reigns; therefore, let’s remind ourselves of who we are now, in Christ, and who we now serve.

Questions to Consider
What must we do – how must we live – in order to make sure that sin does not ‘reign in our bodies’? How do we make good, Godly choices?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me become attuned to your voice, and your voice alone. Guide me along the right path. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Philippians 2:6 – 11

Readings for this week March 9 – 13
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – In Very Nature God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:6

This passage is a very early declaration of who God is and what he did in coming to us in the person of His Son Jesus and it involves a radical redefinition – or rather an expanded definition – of who God is. Jesus humbled himself and came to us as a servant, as one who, even though God, did not think his divinity was something to be grasped and paraded and revelled in, but was rather something to be offered up in service to others. That a God would take on human form was (and is) anathema to most; that a God would do so for humanity’s benefit – even to the extent of dying a humiliating death on a cross – was (and is) just preposterous. And that we are to imitate such as a sign of worship and love seems outrageous.

God is absolutely unique and far more powerful than all the idols that have been raised to challenge him and his authority. Here Paul is claiming something huge: that the God who refuses to share his glory with any other has actually shared his glory with Jesus, the one whose name will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess. And look at what Paul now has them confessing: they are not just confessing God but also that Jesus, the Messiah, is Lord. Paul affirms Christ’s pre-existence and his equality with God and includes him in the definition of who God is – something that would have seemed incredible to anyone who heard it.

Question to Consider
How is what this passage is claiming preposterous for people today?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the one who subverts all expectations, who surprises in wonderful ways, who confounds our wisdom. May we always have open ears, eyes and hearts for the new things that you are doing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Humble God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:6-7

Just like he does in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul is reinforcing the fact that we are called to be imitators of Jesus. He is the one we are to be like, the one whose character and actions are to be the guide for how we are to live and carry ourselves in this world. As followers of Jesus, such imitation is not optional; it is our mandate, central to our call. Part of what Jesus models for us here is a radically counterintuitive way for God to act. It is the exercise of Godly power and love in a manner that goes against the grain of how we believe an almighty, all powerful God would act. The status that Jesus enjoys as God is not exploited by Jesus, is not grasped and used for his own selfish ends, nor exercised for his benefit, but rather is exercised in a way that might seem out of character for a divine being but is actually in character for this incarnate form of God.

Jesus is not renouncing his status as one with the Father, but is fully exercising it in a downwardly mobile, selfless act of love for those whom he has come to save and reconcile to the Father. Often we think of Jesus’ not grasping equality with God as a renunciation, a casting away of many or most of his God-like attributes, a diminution of his being, a limiting of who he is as God. But in reality, this refusal to exploit this status selfishly, and so to use it in a selfless way for others that seems like a repudiation of his status, is actually a different way of incarnating that status.

Questions to Consider
How has God acted in surprising and perplexing ways in your life? How has this expanded your understanding of who God is and deepened your experience of his love?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me be humble like you are humble. Help me to not grasp for what I can get but open my hand in order to give. Help me seek the blessing and benefit of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Cruciform God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:8

For Paul, God is cruciform. The word cruciform means “having the shape of the cross; in the shape of a cross.” Saying that God is cruciform means that Paul sees the cross of the crucified and resurrected Christ as at the centre of who God is. The cross of Christ is the definitive manifestation of the nature and character of God. God identifies himself as the one who was incarnated, lived, died and was resurrected – the cross is now part of God’s identity and the expression of himself towards his creation.

As God’s people, we are called to participate, through the power of the Spirit, in the life of the crucified, resurrected Christ. The call to be followers of Christ and to imitate him and, even more, to be transformed into his likeness through the work of his Spirit in us, means that we are called to a cruciform life, to a life shaped by the cross, moulded by the one who was crucified upon it, and imitative of the sacrificial, servant love that led Jesus to take up his cross on behalf of others. This will be a life of radical, costly discipleship, a life of participation in the very life of God. This is called theosis, a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God.  In the shape of the cross of Christ we see God; when we live cruciform lives we are participating in the life of God, conforming ourselves to the likeness of Christ, and beginning the journey that will ultimately lead, on some unknown future day, to full conformity with the glorified Christ.

Questions to Consider
What does living a cruciform life mean to you? How is the cross of Christ central to the way you live your life?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me live a life shaped by the cross: every day, every thought, every action, every decision – may they all be guided by the sacrificial love you displayed upon the cross. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Vindicating What Was Always There

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:9

We mustn’t think of what has happened as some kind of promotion for Jesus. God has not promoted him. He hasn’t looked upon Jesus and decided that because of his faithful obedience and humble self-emptying he is worthy of deification or elevation to the status of God. Instead, God has vindicated Jesus and the attributes he has displayed and the actions he has undertaken. Jesus’ humbling of himself is recognised by God as the ultimate exhibition of the true divinity that Jesus already possessed. So in Jesus we see true divinity incarnated, but also true humanity displayed. Jesus fully inhabits both sides of this equation, as true God of God and the true human being. The difference between Jesus and Adam (the first human) is that, unlike Adam, Jesus does not choose to exploit his status as the image bearer of God for his own selfish purposes, but rather acts in ways that redound to the benefit of others – all others. The lordship of Jesus takes the form of servanthood, expressed through sacrificial love. This lordship that Jesus exercises will continue to subvert and overturn normal expectations about the nature and function of divine power.

Jesus shares in God’s reign over all creation. Paul puts Jesus at the heart of the definition of who God is. If you want to know what God looks like, what his character is like, what the full expression of his love for humanity involves – and therefore how his community of people on earth will act, love and carry themselves – then look no further than Jesus.

Questions to Consider
How is servanthood the true way of Lordship? Why is this important?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, on the cross you exercised power through weakness, subverting all our worldly ways of being. Help me live in the new reality you have opened up for us, the new way of being you offer. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Counter-Imperial Living

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:10-11

The confession “Jesus is Lord” might seem familiar to us, and might also seem fairly obvious in its meaning. But Paul’s use of it (and the early Christians’ use of it) reminds us of a very specific meaning that has in many ways been lost to us today, or at least is now obscured behind the general sense of saying that Jesus is Lord. In the first century, to say “Jesus is Lord” was also to say “…and Caesar is not.” Though not spoken, that is what would have been heard by any Roman citizen overhearing a Christian declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And it would have been incredibly subversive and shocking. Caesar was a God, deified upon death, responsible for bringing peace and well-being to all citizens of the empire. The world was the way it was because Caesar said so. The power was his, the army was his; it was his likeness on the money. The Pax Romana was his doing. To suggest anything else was a dangerous heresy – dangerous to the person making such a counter claim.

To imitate Christ – and more than this, not just to be like him but to be transformed into his likeness through union with him – was to live a life in opposition and counter to the imperial lifestyle of the society around them. It was to deny the emperor’s claim to their allegiance, deny the power and attraction of both imperial edict and largesse, and instead to proclaim Jesus’ lordship over all the earth, over every aspect of life and society and culture, and to declare oneself in thrall only to him – and no one else.

Questions to Consider
What does counter-imperial living look like today? Why is it still so important? How are you living for only one Lord today?

Prayer
Lord of All, I praise your holy name, and declare you Lord of my life, Lord of everything I do, the One who rules and guides me in all things, the only one who has my allegiance and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wānanga Week

Readings for this week March 2 – 6
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Not What He Set Out To Do

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 10:25-37

Despite perhaps being Jesus’ most famous parable – or maybe because of it – there is an interesting thing we can sometimes overlook when we remember the story. Looking after the beaten traveller that he encountered on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho was not what the Samaritan set out to do that day. He was just travelling. He was not on a mission to save someone; he was on his way from one place to another. Rescuing the stranger was simply something that happened because he was travelling in a way that made it easy to pay attention to what was around him, and he was moved by compassion for what he saw. It was something that happened on the way, as he did something else. His ordinary day became extraordinary because he was open to seeing what was around him and was open to responding in the way he knew God would want him to, regardless of what he thought was planned for his day.

How much do we miss out on because we are so intent on simply getting from A to B that we don’t look at where we are on the way, don’t look around to see who else is there, or what else is happening? How much is lost because we refuse to be diverted from our predetermined paths? How much of what God may have lined up for us – people he may have lined up for us to meet, lives he may have lined up for us to enter, journeys he may have for us to go on – is missed because we are only focused on what we have lined up, and the people we need to see, and the journeys that we must make as quickly as we can?

Questions to Consider
How often do you spend time travelling in your neighbourhood? What can you do to give God more opportunity to ‘interrupt’ your day?

Prayer
Lord God, open my eyes to the world I travel through each day. Help me take more notice of the journey. Help me ‘loiter with intent’ in my neighbourhood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – An Open Home

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 25:6-9

It used to just be a “No Circulars” or “No Junk Mail” sign on the letterbox. And that was just about what we wanted – or didn’t want – shoved in our mail. Lately there is a new sign that can be seen on a growing number of houses: No soliciting. No salesmen. No more knocks on the door, no more people on our doorstep. We don’t want to be disturbed, especially not by people who want something from us. Our homes are our sanctuary, ours alone, not for anyone else, certainly not people who might demand or require something from us.

Is our home an open home, a welcoming home? A sign on the door or letterbox doesn’t make it an unwelcoming home; that’s not the point. The point is to think about how we, as God’s people, can live counter-culturally in our homes and whether we are cutting against the social grain of exclusion and seclusion and guardedness that permeates our society. How often do we open our homes to those who have never been in them before? How often do we invite people in beyond our circle of friends and family? There will be times when God is calling us to make our home a sanctuary for others, even if it’s just for the couple of hours it takes to have a cup of tea and a chat or share a meal. I don’t think many of us want junk mail in our letterboxes. But God might want us to open up our homes – and also our lives – to the stranger and the neighbour.

Question to Consider
How is your home a place where others can encounter God and his kingdom?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you enjoyed meals, parties, shared time with people, and graced people’s homes with your presence. Teach us to be a people who express gratitude and joy for all you have given us by inviting others in to enjoy all you have given us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Power of Food

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Jesus knew the power of food. He knew how much it was a centrepiece of community, this necessity of life that people couldn’t go without that provides sustenance and energy. He also knew how much it could bind people together and create community, reinforcing relationships and opening up opportunities for new ones to form and grow. His culture was one focussed around festivals and celebrations that involved God and food and each other. Gathering around the table and breaking bread together was a key way Jesus met with others. And one of the last things he gave to his followers was a meal to remember him by – a simple, yet significant meal.

We don’t have to have a fancy meal to offer others in order to be hospitable. In fact, this can keep the focus on us and what we have to offer rather than on the people we invite in to our homes to eat with us. Sharing food together is a great way of removing barriers and creating – and then deepening – relationships. Being hospitable is a very simple way of sharing what we have with others, whether it is food, a bed for the night, money, our time or something else. Whatever we have, big or small, neat or messy, God wants us to offer it to others. Doing simple everyday things, like opening up our dinner table to others, is a very meaningful way of sharing what we have and who we are. God wants us to open our lives and homes to others as part of our everyday existence. Our neighbourhoods are the perfect place to start.

Questions to Consider
Why does food bring people together? How does it do so in your life?

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

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Working Together for the Kingdom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 5:14

There is no neighbourhood so perfect that there remain no more places where God’s light can shine through; there is no neighbourhood so imperfect that God’s transforming kingdom cannot push through the cracks and spaces of people’s lives. Whatever our neighbourhoods are like, whoever lives there, whatever happens there, God’s kingdom can grow there, in ways both expected and surprising. As we look around our streets and communities, we need to do so with a readiness to see God at work, to see spaces and places where the newness of his kingdom is growing, and also places where his kingdom could grow, the things that could come to pass. It can be quite empowering to look around our neighbourhood and imagine the things that could be, the things that we want to see, the dreams that we (and others) have that we would love to see come to fruition.

And we aren’t looking alone – and we don’t have to do it alone either. Not only is God’s Spirit hovering over and working in our lives, but there will be other people in our neighbourhoods longing to see change, new beginnings, restoration and transformation – and some even working towards it already. Building local community can be hard work, but when done together with others also seeking to do the same – those right next door to us or further down the street – the result can be powerfully transforming of our neighbourhoods and communities.

Questions to Consider
How is the kingdom coming in your community? Who else sees it?

Prayer
Lord God, help me to be a builder of community, someone who always looks for ways to bring people together and create fellowship and unity. Help me seek – and see – your kingdom coming in my neighbourhood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Prayer For Our Neighbourhoods

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Heavenly Father, we ask for your presence in all the families in our neighbourhood. We pray for strength and understanding in all relationships. We ask for loving, strong bonds between the children, teenagers, adults, and grandparents. We pray that each household would demonstrate love for one another living under the same roof.

We ask for healthy, thriving relationships between neighbours. We pray people of different cultures will understand and care for one another in our neighbourhood. We pray that the diversity of your people will be celebrated by all, just as you affirm and love each one of us.

We pray for the teachers and local principals who teach and mentor our students. We ask for guidance and patience for the staff and volunteers and parents as they serve our neighbourhood schools. We pray that our schools will be safe, positive communities for our students.

We ask for your presence in the streets and homes of our community. We pray for the safety and wisdom and compassion of all people in all circumstances. We pray your comfort for those who have experienced loss, insecurity, uncertainty and deprivation. May they experience comfort and love from their neighbours.

We ask you to give our city leaders wisdom when making decisions affecting our neighbourhoods. We pray they will be thoughtful in their decisions and listen to the voices of the community. We pray for courage to stand up for our community and to live with grace and dignity in our city.

We ask for a flourishing community, where neighbours learn to love each other and where Jesus is known. We pray that we can be good stewards of your love to each one of our neighbours. We ask that you help us to learn from our community. May all be welcomed here. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

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)