Psalm 133

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

Day 1 – No Other Unity

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:1

“There is probably no Christian to whom God has not given the uplifting experience of genuine Christian community at least once in his life. But in this world such experiences can be no more than a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life. We have no claim upon such experiences and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of acquiring them. It is not the experience of Christian brotherhood, but solid and certain faith in brotherhood that holds us together. That God has acted and wants to act upon us all, this we see in faith as God’s greatest gift, this makes us glad and happy, but it also makes us ready to forego all such experiences when God at times does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not the experience.

‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity’ – this is the Scripture’s praise of life together under the Word. But now we can rightly interpret the words ‘in unity’ and say, ‘for brethren to dwell together through Christ.’ For Jesus Christ alone is our unity. ‘He is our peace.’ Through him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp.25-26.

Questions to Consider
‘For Jesus Christ alone is our unity.’ What is the importance of this? What other things do we often try and develop unity around? Why might other ‘unities’ get in the way of true unity?

Prayer
Loving Father, no one but Jesus at the centre. No one but Jesus as our focus. No one but Jesus on our lips. No one but Jesus as our reason. In his precious name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – We Are Family

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:2

Faith is communal. Christians are always members of a community. We are not called to go it alone, however much we often find ourselves wishing we could just go off by ourselves – or at least away from these people, or that person, or that place, or this community. The moment someone believes in Christ is not the moment they suddenly become a shiny, lovely, exciting person who is always polite and lovely and easy to get along with. But the moment they believe in Christ is the moment they become part of his body, part of the community of his followers, and our brother or sister in the family of God – whether we like them (or they us) or not. To accept God as Father is to accept these people as family. The two go together.

That’s easier said than done. And because it’s easier said than done, many people prefer to shy away from it and not take part in the wild, unpredictable journey that is the life of God’s people. A solitary Christian is a paradox, but many people try to prove that it works as a definition anyway. But most people choose to join in, in some form or other; choose to try and figure out just what God was thinking when he called them to join with this group of people, as challenging as that can sometimes be; and strive to live together as harmoniously as they can, as graciously and gracefully as possible in the power of God, with people who might sometimes be just as annoying and imperfect as they are.

Questions to Consider
What reasons have you heard people give for not wanting to be part of a community? What’s wrong with going it alone?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, we need your grace. We can only become your people if we have grace, forgiveness and understanding for each other. Give us these things and make us your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Speck and the Log

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:3

One of the ongoing expectations we need to have as members of God’s community is the expectation that God is doing things in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, it can be very easy for us to be hopefully expectant that God is working to make our fellow community members easier to get along with – this person nicer, that person less annoying, everyone better accommodated to my needs, and so forth. And sure, God does want us to get along and the gift of his Holy Spirit is one of the key avenues by which he does do this. But we cannot presume to know or predict how God is going to transform the lives of people in the community.

When we can view our fellow Christians in community as unique, special, beloved children of God led by the Spirit, and see them with open-minded and open-hearted expectancy that God will move in their lives and continue his transforming work in them – the same way we look forward to him doing so in us – then our community of faith can grow and blossom and flourish. People being transformed by God are not – cannot be – static. We will find out new things about them as they grow, just as they will about us. God’s community changes and grows as its people are changed and grow by God’s Spirit. We don’t stay still, and we should not lock others into a fixed, unalterable form shaped more by our prejudices than the reality of God’s transforming work in them.

Questions to Consider
Howe easy do you find it to see God’s transforming work in other people? How easy do you think people see the same in you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, bind us together, break down the barriers between us, and keep us watchful for all that would seek to keep us apart and disunited. We pledge ourselves to you again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Hints of the Kingdom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:1-3

As unbelievable as it may (and often does) seem, the life of the community of God’s people is meant to be a taster of the life everlasting that awaits us in the fullness of the coming kingdom. Those moments when our relationships are warm and loving, when graciousness abounds, when we see and accept each other as God’s children, and when we find ourselves living unfettered and united in the glow of his Spirit – that is a picture of the life to come. This can be a very difficult thing for people to see or believe sometimes. The fragmented, broken, bickering nature of the body of Christ on earth is not an enticing vision for those looking for evidence of God’s goodness and redemptive action.

We’re always trying to catch a glimpse of the eternal rule of God’s kingdom, and of the nature of everlasting life within it; often we try and create such a reality ourselves, only to end up creating a deformed, pale imitation. Trying to bring heaven down to earth just ends up raising hell. By God’s grace we have a part to play in the coming of the kingdom but we cannot make it happen or manufacture it ourselves. At best, we only ever get a hint of it, much like the hint given here at the end of the psalm, or the hints Jesus gave in so many of his parables, parables about great feasts and banquets and parties with friends. For at its simplest, that is what eternity is like: a party, with everyone invited, no one missing out, joy abounding, all made well.

Question to Consider
What hints and experiences of God’s coming eternal kingdom have you seen?

Prayer
Gracious God, your kingdom comes in community. Not only do we work with you, we work – and weep and play and celebrate – with others too. May we celebrate the glimpses we see of your kingdom. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Dream of Community

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 6:1-10

Everyone has their own idea of what a community – a good, thriving community – should look like. Everyone has certain things they think need to be present in a community; certain ways they believe a community should function; certain aims they think a community should be trying to achieve. Everyone has their own dream of an ideal community, and it is often those very dreams that get in the way of true community growing and prospering. Ideas and dreams clash, different aspects are emphasised, and when disparities are discovered people want to cling to their idea of community rather than anyone else’s. In a paraphrase of Helmuth von Moltke’s “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”, we could say, “No dream of community survives contact with real people.”

We need to let go of our preconceived ideas of what we think community should be like. Anyone who loves his or her dream of community more than the community itself will end up destroying that very community. If we base our community on any of these dreams it will thrive for a while but then fall away and fade as (human) reality sets in. But if we base our community solely on Jesus, the one who called us to follow him and enter into community with him, and lay our dreams at his feet, and allow his Spirit to bind us together to create community – such a Spirit-driven community will thrive and grow.

Questions to Consider
Why do communities fail? What great utopian dreams has humanity strived for in the past? What went wrong? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, I offer you my dreams and ideas of community, my hopes and my fears, and I offer myself to you and to the community of your people, to mould me and shape me as you will, and to mould and shape your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Psalm 123

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

Day 1 – The Posture of a Servant

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:1

Jesus came as a servant. He came to serve, as one who put himself at the disposal of others, who put their needs first. The ultimate model he gives us is one of servanthood, loving, sacrificial servanthood. The downside that we sometimes create out of this circumstance is when we see Jesus as a servant and therefore take the position of master for ourselves. We see Jesus as someone who is to serve us, who is to answer to our beck and call, who is to step in and do things for us when we are too tired or lazy or unwilling to do them ourselves. Now, this is absolutely not to deny the reality of God as someone who helps his children and offers them blessings and gifts and lives of wholeness and fulfilment (as subsequent readings will show). But it is to raise the question of how we respond to the servant king. It is a question of posture.

God did not condescend to become a servant so that we could order him around. We are not called to look down on God as a master does a servant, but rather are called to take upon ourselves the position of servant, like Jesus, and look up at God. This is the posture of servitude. There is a large element of imitation expected from anyone who chooses to follow Jesus and the servanthood that he inhabited and exhibited is at the heart of our posture towards God, and also towards others. We are called to live out a redemptive life of sacrificial love and service.

Questions to Consider
How does your life show the posture of a servant? In what ways is servanthood a major component of your life with others?

Prayer
Lord God, you came and revealed the fullness of your servant heart, and showed us how to love and serve and care for others. Help my posture; teach me how to be a better servant of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Call to Freedom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:2

Freedom is a big deal these days – and rightly so. Although in the West we have largely done away with institutionalised slavery in our own society, and though we no longer have such a strongly rigid hierarchical class structure in New Zealand, there are still many ways in which people are not free. The psalmist lived in a society that had institutionalised servanthood and slavery, but that still (imperfectly) clung to the word of God that declared all people are made in his image, all are worthy of love and dignity, and all are to be treated well regardless of their position in society.

Achieving freedom is important, and as various groups of various types have shown, there are many people still striving and struggling to have their freedoms recognised, whether by a legal system that has acknowledged and legislated for their rights but has never properly enforced them, or by a system that has never even recognised them, never mind their rights. This is an important struggle and one that God’s people must join in with. But we must also realise that total freedom is an illusion without a relationship with God. We are called to be servants. We are called to acknowledge God as master. Only then does true freedom – not just freedom to but also freedom for and freedom to be – become possible. When we submit to God, we find ourselves, and as we do so we learn how to serve a better master and also how to better serve our master – and others. Freedoms must be fought for and people must be freed, so that they can serve the master they were always meant to.

Questions to Consider
How is freedom a big issue in the world today? For whom? Why?

Prayer
Loving Lord, show us how to work for freedom for others. Give us courage to stand with those who have no one to stand for them. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Cry for Mercy

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:3

To look up to God does not mean that God is only ever distant and far away. Although verse one talks of the psalmist looking up to God dwelling in heaven, the cry of mercy that comes in halfway through the psalm is proof that the psalmist, in this posture of servitude before God, does not expect God to remain in heaven. For when do we cry mercy? We cry for mercy when we want someone to intervene on our behalf. We cry for mercy when we are casting about for someone to take our side and actively alleviate our pain and suffering. We cry for mercy – to God in particular – because we entertain an expectation that he will come to us and intervene on behalf of his children, enter into the circumstances of our lives, and work out his redemptive purposes.

We cry for mercy because we know that God loves us and longs to have us with him. We don’t need to force him. We don’t need to twist his arm. When we cry mercy, we aren’t trying to beseech, trick, coerce, or inveigle him into doing something that he doesn’t want to do, or that is outside his nature, his character. God loves us. He intends good for us. He will work his purposes in us, and will do so in a way that actually gives us an integral, fulfilling role in the coming of his kingdom, and that, through the power of his Spirit, allows us to grow into the fullness of our God ordained humanity at the same time.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to be merciful? How is God merciful to us? What opportunities do we have today to be merciful to others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you offer us mercy and call us to offer the same to a world that still seeks to live without you. May we be merciful as you are merciful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Pattern Set for Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:4

We learn to serve others by serving God. If we can learn how to be a good servant of God, then this learned servanthood will overflow into the rest of our relationships and serving others will start to come naturally. Romans 12 talks about how we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. What is a ‘living sacrifice’? Unlike other sacrifices which are a one-off event, a living sacrifice is ongoing. When we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we give God our ordinary walking-around existence. We are his to use however he wants. Our whole lives are to be used in his service. We are to offer our everyday, ordinary lives. Psalm 123’s focus on actual physical service is mirrored in Paul’s call for us to place our lives before God as an offering, as service. We are his—our time, energy, actions, thoughts, resources, hopes and dreams—everything. It is an entire life of service that we are called to.

After all, it is an entire life of service that Jesus has modelled for us. He is the perfect example of a life lived in service to others. In John 13: 14-15 Jesus says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done.” The pattern he has set for us is a very practical one that involves getting up close to people, investing in their lives, and serving and loving them as Jesus served and loved us.

Questions to Consider
What type of pattern did Jesus set? What does the washing of the disciples’ feet teach us?

Prayer
Gracious God, may we look to you more to learn how to live. The example of your son is always before us; help us look deeper at his way and deeper into his love for the sake of serving others. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Ourselves as a Gift in Service to Others

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:10

God loves to give and he has given us the gift of ourselves. We are a gift both to ourselves and to people around us. We were created to share the kindness, the love, the grace of God with others. Realising this, we are able to become who we are meant to be, reflecting the image of God. Our life is a gift of service that we can selfishly keep to and for ourselves, or that we can openly offer to God, allowing him to shape us into a gift for others. We are gifts designed to share God’s gracious love with others.

We are each of us a potential gift to others, if we will allow the life of service we offer God to flow over into our other relationships. We have been made to show and share God’s grace with others as we share this life together. We are called to serve others. We’re not here to improve our own position but give ourselves every day to help people in need. Such service won’t often be extraordinary, or miraculous, or something others couldn’t do. Mostly it will be simple small acts of help and service offered unobtrusively in quiet kindness. And it is a lifelong obedience that we are cultivating when we serve others, when we unselfishly help the poor, stand with the oppressed, and fight for those battling injustice. A life of service is just that: a life. An entire life. All of it. Everything. All that we have been given as a free gift, now freely given back to God and also freely given to others.

Question to Consider
How has your life been a gift for others lately? What gifts have you offered in service to others?

Prayer
Father God, my entire life – all I am, all I have, my very existence – is a gift from you. As extravagant as the gift of life is, may I extravagantly give this gift you have given me to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Psalm 129

Readings for this week June 29 – July 3
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Oppressed But Not Overcome

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:1-2

The people of God are hardy, brave, committed people who do not give up easily. They have to be. After all, as much of the story of God’s people throughout the Hebrew bible has shown, they haven’t always had it easy. As the opening verses of this psalm declare, “They have greatly oppressed me since my youth.” Nations have come against the people of God and oppressed them, attacked them, kidnapped and enslaved them, persecuted and tortured them – and yet none of it has worked. Even on into New Testament times God’s people have faced brutal persecution from people determined to wipe them out. And yet it hasn’t succeeded. As verse 2 carries on, “But they have not gained the victory over me.”

Christian faith is tough. It survives. It clings on. Faith survives even in the harshest environments. It outlives its oppressors. It lasts. It thrives, because over time and throughout changing circumstances, it has been tested and not found wanting. Faith does not cave in at the first blow, it does not surrender easily. It does not flourish only when conditions are good and perfect and most conducive to growth; it lives on in climates and conditions of great hardship, of both storm and drought. Faith finds a way. It is not a passing phase, not a fair-weather fancy but an all-weather aspect of life that continues to live and thrive and grow in the most hostile of environments.

Questions to Consider
What does perseverance mean to you? Why is it important? How have you become more determined and resolute in your faith?

Prayer
Lord God, grant me strength in times of weakness, resolution in times of doubt. Faith grows in tough climates; give me the courage not to run when you have work you wish to do in me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – More Than Just Hanging On

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:3-4

There are definitely times in our lives when perseverance means hanging in there, staying the course, struggling on and clinging to life with our very fingernails. We all experience those times when we come to the end of ourselves and everything we think we are capable of absorbing, and yet still we cling on and keep going, fuelled more by desperation than anything else. Sometimes it takes everything we have to keep moving, every ounce of energy and every atom of will power to remain in the game. These moments, while painful and difficult, are part of what it means to persevere.

But that is not all it means, even during these times of extremity. Perseverance is not resignation, it is not endless, mindless plodding; it is not hopeless clinging on; it is not repetitious unchanging sameness. When we persevere, when we endure, even if it does not feel like it we move from strength to strength, we continue down the path that God has called us to tread, we move further and further – even if only minutely, even if staggeringly – along the path of his will for us. Even in those moments of deepest pain, when the will to continue on is at its most tenuous and we can only focus on the next step, we are still held within God’s embrace and we still walk the path with him, even if we cannot summon the strength to look up and see ahead.

Questions to Consider
How have you found God in times when you have just been hanging on? How has this helped transform your view of these difficult times?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, although it is hard sometimes, help me see the way forward in the tough times. Though you do not afflict us, you are with us in the affliction and can still bring things round to your purposes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – God Sticks With Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:5-6

God stays with us. One of the key attributes of God, stated time and time again throughout the bible, is his faithfulness to his people, no matter how wayward or sinful or just downright rebellious and antagonistic they may be at any given moment. God sticks by his people. He is merciful and he is faithful. He stays with us. And God stays with us because he is in relationship with us. He is not a distant God, who stays at a distance, or merely hovers around the edges of our lives. He is not an impersonal deity operating as some sort of unreachable, unapproachable entity. He is the Creator God who has entered into personal relationship with us, who has committed himself to us, and who stays with us, no matter what.

The fact that God stays with us, no matter what disasters and cruelties we experience, no matter the disappointments and sufferings inflicted upon us, no matter the tragedies and failings that litter our path, means that we can look back upon all these hardships and travesties, and still see God’s hand in our lives and see his plans and purposes working themselves out in our lives. God is still with us. In fact, our ability to persevere in these times isn’t because we are so resolute or so determined (however much these character traits may – and should – develop in us), but is rather due to God’s faithfulness. Learning to follow the arc of God’s faithfulness to us, rather than focusing on how well or enthusiastically we are following him, and responding to this faithfulness is the key to true discipleship.

Questions to Consider
How have you experienced God’s faithfulness lately? How have you seen God “stick with you” during tough times?

Prayer
Gracious Lord, your faithfulness to me means more than my faithfulness to you. I will stumble and fall; you will always be there with me to pick me up again, and move me forward. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Resisting the Temptation to Quit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 129:7-8

Working in a high school I see many students who find it very hard to persevere with their learning when they find things difficult. For those who find learning difficult or boring, the temptation to give up – or perhaps not to try at all – can be very hard to resist. It is easy to think that when something is difficult then it isn’t worth doing. Perhaps life is too short to waste attempting things that are hard. Or maybe a “right first time or not at all” mentality is at play. It is the same with the discipleship journey too. It is a journey that can be difficult, that can have many moments of trial and trouble. Our faith – not to mention our character, our discipline, our strength and so on – is tested often. Some things are hard and some things we get wrong – also often. The temptation to give up can be strong.

But we don’t stop. We don’t give up. We persevere. We seek God and carry on. Perseverance doesn’t mean perfection, but it does mean we keep going when we fail or mess up or misunderstand. The road is (life)long and quitting because we just realised (for the first time or the fifty-first time) that we are still learning and growing – that we still have a lot of maturing to do – isn’t the answer. Pilgrims make mistakes; disciples get it wrong, but both persevere in God, with God, growing in the likeness of God. So many things (like the character, discipline, strength and so on mentioned before) are forged on the road, on the way, in the fires of struggle and toil. Heat melts and allows for moulding and shaping. But the fire must be endured and given time to do the work.

Questions to Consider
How have you been shaped by the journey? What helped you stay the course?

Prayer
Loving Father, strengthen me and work in me to make me more like you, to stay in the game when it gets hard and to persevere with you as you persevere with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Jesus and Paul

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 11:23-29

Jesus was someone who experienced the need to persevere, to press on, to go through trials and tribulations and testing times that required him to be strong and push through to the far side of them. In fact, his ministry is bookended by two rather famous occasions when perseverance in the face of hardship was drawn forth from him. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, a harsh, desolate environment, accompanied by no one, tested by Satan. Not an easy start to any endeavour, never mind the redemption of God’s creation. And then, at the end of his ministry, in the garden at Gethsemane, came a further episode that deeply tested his resolve and determination to continue along his Father’s path.

Paul also knew a life shaped at times by deep adversity that required stubborn perseverance and patience. Look at the list of things he mentions he had to deal with: beatings, imprisonment, shipwreck, exhaustion, hunger and thirst – as well as the internal stress associated with shepherding the churches under his care. But as tough as things got, neither Paul nor Jesus thought they’d made a mistake, that they’d chosen the wrong path. With God’s help, for them perseverance became the doorway to great things, the catalyst that allowed a life empowered by God to become a doorway into transforming the lives of so many other people, and ultimately the world. Our ability to persevere is important for our discipleship journey and others’ too.

Questions to Consider
What do Jesus’ and Paul’s times of trial teach us about perseverance and patience? How are their responses at these times a model for us?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me remember that not only do I not walk the journey alone, as you are always there, but also that there are others who walk with me, who can guide me, but who may also be guided by me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Psalm 122

Readings for this week June 22 – 26
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Psalm of Worship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:1

Psalm 122 is the third psalm in the sequence known as the Songs of Ascents. Many scholars believe the fifteen Songs of Ascents were sung by pilgrims as they ascended the road to Jerusalem on their way to one of the three pilgrim festivals held there. The first two psalms in the sequence set the scene, preparing the way – and the singer – for what follows. Psalm 120 is a psalm of repentance, a psalm designed to express the sorrow felt by someone who has wandered from the path and let the cares and concerns of the world dominate their thought and actions. Then comes Psalm 121, a psalm of trust that God will work out his purposes in our lives and guard us in the midst of trial. Then comes Psalm 122, a psalm of worship, as the people come together to worship God.

We need to approach God humbly aware of our sin, but also knowing he loves us. We are to offer our entire being – the good bits and the bad bits – in worship before our holy God. He knows all about us anyway – what would we be saying if we refused to give him everything we are? If we are honest about our sin, he will forgive us; if we offer all we have in loving service to him, he will welcome and affirm us. He will neither abandon us nor ignore our worship. If we feel God’s presence, it is not because we somehow rise up to him, but because he chooses to come down to us. When we worship God without trying to cover up who we really are, we see ourselves clearly and can also see God as he is.

Question to Consider
What do you find most difficult about being completely real and honest in your worship?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me to be real and honest with you at all times, no matter what I am feeling. All of me is yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – An Act, Not a Feeling

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:1-2

We worship because we want to, not because we are forced to. Yes, sometimes it can feel like we are forced to, that we have no choice in the matter (especially when younger perhaps!). God commands our worship and as grateful, loving, subjects of the king, worship is our natural response, the natural dwelling place of those – all of us – made for God, made for his pleasure, made to find our beginning and our end and our very existence in him. When we worship God we find ourselves at the very centre, the very core of our being, operating in the very way we were created to do.

Of course this doesn’t mean we always feel like worshipping. And, to be blunt, this isn’t important. This isn’t the point. We don’t worship because we feel like it. It is tempting for us to give in to ‘If it feels good, do it’, or to think that if something is hard, God can’t be in it, or if we don’t feel something then there is no authenticity in doing it. But how we feel is not the most important thing. Emotions can so easily cloud our view. God is always worth worshipping, no matter how we feel or what our situation is. There is plenty of room for our emotions in worship – indeed, we know that we are meant to offer our entire being to God – but worship does not depend on how we feel. Worship is an act from which feelings for God can arise, not a feeling for God that we express in an act of worship.

Question to Consider
What is the difference between going through the motions of worship, and really worshipping God even though we don’t feel like it?

Prayer
Lord God, in the good moments, in the bad moments, when I feel like it, when I don’t, you are still my God and I choose to worship you in all I do. Help me be faithful to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Worship as the Framework

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:3-4

Look at what the psalm says about Jerusalem. “A well-built city, built as a place of worship! The city to which the tribes ascend, all God’s tribes go up to worship.” In this psalm, as throughout much of the Hebrew bible, Jerusalem is first and foremost the place of worship for God’s people. All the great festivals were held in the city, the Temple was there. Jerusalem was where you went to be reminded of who you were and who God was; to be reminded of the story of God and his people and of your place in that story, and to witness that story being re-enacted in the rituals and actions of worship. In Jerusalem, everything comes together into a single unified whole – including the people. Everything fits together here. Nothing is left out, there are no loose ends.

That’s what worship does. It provides the framework, the solid structure and rhythm that tell us who we are and where we stand. That framework of worship and the rhythm of worship it engenders are crucial if we are to be able to be God’s people in the world. To piece our lives together, to bring them together into a unified whole – both our individual lives and our corporate identity – requires a framework of worship in order to be effective, not just for our sake and for the sake of offering genuine worship to a worthy God, but also for the sake of a broken, unordered, split, hurting world in need of repair.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to be God’s “chosen people”? What are we chosen for? How does worshipping structure your life and being?

Prayer
Holy God, thank you that you call me your special possession, your precious child. Help me live in a way that reflects your great mercy and love, that others may see all you have done in my life. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – God Speaks

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:5

Worship is the place where we hear God speak to us, where we hear his word to us. He calls us to worship; we hear and read his holy word and hear the words he spoke to those who came before us. We sing words of praise to God, often based on psalms, like this one, that articulate the very prayers and cries to God that are on our hearts also. Everything about worship focuses our attention on God and his word. We hear what he says, we are reminded of who he is and what he wants – justice, mercy, loving kindness, compassion – and are reinvested as his kingdom-working people in his world. The reality of who we are and the meaning of our lives find their true expression to ourselves when we focus on God and his word and are reminded of who he is and who we are.

We often think this is a solo task. But that’s not the case at all. Worship is a communal act too, something that the community does together. In today’s reading the entire community is called together to focus on God. There are times when we gather together specifically for the purposes of worshipping our God together. Although we can worship God on our own it’s also a key community activity. Individual worship is valuable, but there is a new dimension when we gather as a group of his followers. We can only really begin to get a sense of who we are as God’s ‘people’ when we worship together. When we do this God is with us – and speaks to us – in a way that binds us together with a common purpose.

Questions to Consider
Who are your people? Do you worship regularly with them? How? How does this affect your life as an act of worship?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for the community of faith you have placed me in. May I play my part in the community’s worship and honouring of you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Worshipping Week

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:6-9

Can an hour or so of worship a week (whether with others or alone, or a combination of both) actually make any difference in our lives? 168 hours in a week, yet so few of them (no matter how conscientious we are) spent engaging in this seemingly crucial activity. What impact does that hour have on the rest of the week outside that hour, and on the rest of the world beyond us? The psalmist insists that it has a major impact, going so far as to suggest that it is crucial for the welfare of the people and the thriving of the city, and, by extension, the world.

Worship overflows the hour we set aside for it and bleeds out into the rest of the week. Worship is not the place where all the cares and concerns and realities of our week come to be forgotten, assuaged or washed away, where we find God waiting for us to take us away from all of that, as if our deep need for God is meant to be taken care of by engaging in worship. It is not the place we stagger to at the end of the week, but rather, is the place where our everyday needs and concerns are changed, ordered, prioritised and given their proper place in the scheme of God’s love. It is where the agenda for our week is set. Our needs are changed by worship; we become aware of the sacredness and beauty of our whole lives; lives of creatures made in the image of God. Worship leads us into the week, into true, authentic participation in the world for the cause of the peace and prosperity that the psalmist speaks of in these concluding verses.

Questions to Consider
What things clamour for your attention and try to claim your allegiance ahead of God? How do you combat this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I hold fast to you in all I do. May I offer every aspect of my life and each moment of every day as an act of worship and as a sign of trust in you and your will for my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Acts 6:1-11

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

Day 1 – A Perfect Church?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:1

When we read about the early church, we may wish we could have been part of such a ‘perfect’ church – the miracles, the growth, the fellowship and worship of a community of believers united in love. But things weren’t always sunshine and light in the community of God’s people – as we saw with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5. The early church faced its share of issues, got some things right, others wrong, just like we do today. This passage, however, highlights an issue created by the very success of the church. As great as it was that new people were becoming followers of Jesus, this growth in the size of the community caused some problems. People were joining from different walks of life, different cultures, different backgrounds. Yet they were expected to live together as a single family, a family that met together, ate together, shared their possessions with each other…and was getting bigger and bigger all the time. Sometimes highly contentious issues and quarrels arose.

But these issues – and ours – are not insurmountable, not matter what they may be. They need not hinder the growth of God’s kingdom. We’re coming through a strange time at the moment – we have in the past and we will again in the future. With God’s guidance, and our own discernment and honesty, these issues can be an avenue for us to grow in grace and wisdom with each other. A church does not need to be perfect in order to serve God faithfully and well.

Questions to Consider
What imperfections do you see in your church community? What can you do to make your community better?

Prayer
Father God, help me to be honest with my shortcomings and those of my community. Help me be forgiving and wise. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Everyone is Important

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:2-6

Do you ever wish you could do everything? Have you ever found yourself working with a group and been frustrated with what others in the group were doing? “I could do a much better job of things if left to do it all myself,” you may have found yourself thinking. The accusation of neglect the apostles found themselves facing arose because of the growing numbers of new people joining the church. Suddenly, there were too many different things that needed to be done for the leaders to do them all themselves (whether they wanted to or not!). And so the Twelve delegated some of the work. They put seven respected men in charge of food distribution, illustrating perfectly the idea that each person has a vital part to play in the life of the church.

But delegating administrative responsibilities so they could focus on “the word of God” did not mean the Twelve were demeaning such organisational tasks. The call to practically feed, support and care for those in need is a central plank of the gospel. The fact that the Twelve required the men chosen to be full of both the Holy Spirit and wisdom, shows how important they saw those duties. Wherever we serve, whether we are in a position of leadership or not, there is a part for us in the church’s life. What matters is discerning our God-given abilities, seeing where God is moving, and using them to serve others, whatever that may look like.

Questions to Consider
Why do we often divide jobs, tasks and roles into “important/unimportant” categories? How is this damaging to the church community?

Prayer
Lord God, help me to see that everyone has an important part to play in the work of your kingdom, however big or small their contribution may seem. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Obedience in the Small Things

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:7

“The word of God increased.” This is a favourite phrase of Luke’s, one he uses several times throughout Acts. The proclamation of the gospel increased. More and more people were hearing the word and beginning to follow Jesus. Jesus had instructed the apostles that Jerusalem was to be the starting point of where they were to witness (Acts 1:8). Here we see that within quite a short space of time, the message of the gospel had spread throughout the entire city and had even infiltrated the top levels of society. Even some priests could be counted among the converts. Jesus had a reason for telling the apostles to remain in Jerusalem first, however counter-intuitive staying put may have seemed. It allowed the gospel to spread slowly outwards from the centre, like ripples on a pond. The apostles didn’t have to charge off and try and take over the world. Staying where they were, preaching the gospel, and living together as the community of Jesus was all that was required to start with.

That Luke has chosen to place this pet phrase of his here is significant. The previous verses simply told of an issue facing the church: inadequate food distribution to the community’s widows. The way they solved that issue allowed the preaching of the word to continue, and the active witness of caring for widows to be more effective. Obedience in small things led to big results. Solving practical considerations and necessities allowed for powerful preaching and people coming to faith in Jesus.

Questions to Consider
What “small obediences” do you struggle with? How might you learn to obey God in the small things too? How can others in your community help with this?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me be obedient in all things, no matter the circumstances. Make each moment a place for loving obedience. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – By the Spirit

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:8-11

We first came across Stephen as one of the seven men appointed to be overseers of the distribution of food to the widows in the community. Now, a few verses later, he is also caught up in a very active ministry of healing and teaching. He was noted as being a wise servant (6:3), a miracle worker (6:8) and an evangelist as well (6:10). The gifts Stephen has are a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit, something that it is important to note was the case before he was appointed as one of the Seven. By the Spirit’s power Stephen was fully exercising the gifts God had given him.

Stephen was also a powerful speaker and debater, but again Luke makes it clear that this was Spirit-led also. The people who were arguing with Stephen couldn’t withstand “his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke” (verse 10). Stephen presents us with an example and a challenge. He is an example of someone filled with God’s Spirit and using his God-given gifts in everything he did and said. The temptation is to divide Stephen’s abilities and tasks into two: those of a practical nature and those seen as more spiritual. But that is a false dichotomy. Preaching and practicality are both part of the gospel. Stephen was open to God’s call and direction no matter what the call was or what it required of him. Stephen challenges us to make ourselves and our entire lives just as open and available to God, no matter where such openness may take us.

Questions to Consider
How does reading about Stephen make you feel? In what ways is his life a model of discipleship?

Prayer
Loving Lord, fill me again with your Spirit so that I might use to the fullest the gifts you have given me. Guide me to the place where these gifts can best meet and serve the world and its people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Hallelujah, Praise God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 113

Hallelujah. A word so familiar that most people would recognise it, as it has made its way into the English language and needs no translation. But of course it means, “Praise God.” This psalm is the first of six psalms of praise known as the hallel that are traditionally said in synagogues during festival week. It is a well-known paean of praise to the God of the universe – indeed, the God whose praise fills the universe, in both time (now and forevermore) and space (from where the sun rises to where it sets). God’s praise extends between all possible limits, from the horizontal span of the sun’s journey (v.3) to the vertical span of the heavens themselves (v.4).

Six verses describing the magnificence of God, praising his name, declaring the timeless depth and breadth of his praise – and then the first verse that actually mentions an action of this wholly praiseworthy God tells of how he reaches down into the dust and dirt and raises up the poor and needy. This is telling. The first act of this almighty, unparalleled, unequalled God is on behalf of the marginalised and destitute, stooping to raise them up to a place among the princes of the world; to place the barren woman in a place of honour surrounded by her children. This is the character and heart of the God so praised in this psalm. His eye is on those in need and he moves and works to rescue and restore them to a place of life and of honour. As followers we can do nothing less than do the same that he has done and is still doing.

Questions to Consider
How can we raise up those at the bottom? What will this look like?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, my heart needs to become more like your heart, and my actions need to mirror the actions that you have undertaken to show love to the poor, and to stand in solidarity with them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Acts 4:23 – 5:11

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

Day 1 – Calling On The Name of the Lord

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:23-31

This initial prayer of the community of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem has one central focus that is unmissable: that God himself is working out his plans. He is in charge. He is their Lord, and they look to him because he is moving, he is working to bring about his purposes in the world – just as he has always been doing. The church’s prayer is founded on the conviction that the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus were ordained and intended by God himself. The fact that God is continuing to work out his purposes for his people and his creation informs everything that they pray for. They prayer for God’s will to be done, and that their actions, their lives – their attempts to live out the new life they have in Christ – will align with God’s purposes.

Their main concern is for the spread of the gospel, and when they call upon the name of the Lord to act in power in their lives, it is so that Jesus may be revealed to others through their message. Concerns for their own safety and comfort while spreading this message do not get a mention. Their focus is on being obedient to God and spreading his gospel message and their prayers are that this might happen through their witness. And God answers their prayers: ‘And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness’ (verse 31). This should be the focus of our prayers also.

Questions to Consider
How are God’s promises working themselves out through your prayers? How have you seen this happening lately?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for your presence, for always being with us, even closer than our nearest breath away. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Generous Lifestyle

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:32-37

Haven’t we been before? These verses seem very familiar, possibly even downright repetitious, being very similar to the little summary of the inner life of ‘the church’ we read near the end of Acts chapter 2. Yet immediately following this second summary we are given two contrasting examples of attitudes towards community life and in particular the practice of sharing property for the sake of the poor and marginalised. Although the (soon to be covered) story of Ananias and Sapphira is longer and, perhaps, more memorable, we shouldn’t let it distract us from the more important story of Barnabas and his generosity. In verses 23-35 we see the pattern of the church’s life described and laid out; then we see two illustrations, one positive and one negative, of what actually happened in reality.

This description of the church’s communal life follows on immediately from verse 31, from yesterday’s reading, in which they are all filled with the Holy Spirit. This highlights the fact that the giving of the Spirit led not only to highly impactful, powerful preaching, but was also the catalyst for the generosity of the early believers towards others and their love for one another. The Spirit fostered fellowship and generosity, the two hallmarks of the early church that spoke most powerfully to the surrounding culture. They did things differently, they lived a different way. They were generous to anyone in need, not to those they were honour-bound to or clients of, and not to those who would (or could) one day reciprocate. Generosity was based on God’s love for all, not the worthiness of the recipient.

Questions to Consider
What would it be like if the church lived this out today?

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

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Bump in the Road

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 5:1-6

Here’s where everything suddenly screeches to a halt, the first big bump in the road. Luke does not shy away from recording the difficulties the early church experienced. It isn’t all sunshine and light, laughter and love. Sometimes things went horribly wrong, and in a very public way. The newly minted community of believers didn’t always get things right. The generosity of the believers that we have seen up to this point (especially in chapters 2 and 4) is now contrasted by the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Now, Peter makes it very clear that selling possessions and donating the profits was not mandatory. It was not compulsory; Ananias and Sapphira freely chose to sell their property. Unfortunately they also freely chose not to be truthful about it. Their sin was primarily not greed – but this played a big part in what they did. They lied. They were hypocrites. They wanted the honour and prestige of being sacrificially generous without the inconvenience of actually being sacrificially generous!

God hates hypocrisy. Peter recognised that allowing such falsehood to creep into the church would ultimately ruin fellowship and dishonour God. The ultimate reason for truthfulness is that we serve a God who is truthful. The East African Revival tradition has an expression, ‘to live in a house without ceiling or walls’. Transparent living, before God and before others, calls us to be real about who we are, how we live, and how we treat people. The alternative is to be one ‘mask’ relating to another ‘mask’. God invites us to real encounters with him and with each other.

Question to Consider
What are the benefits to being in a community of people who are known for being real and upfront with each other?

Prayer
Father God, help me recognise how much you value truthfulness. Help me always be honest in the way I represent myself to others. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Very Different World

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 5:7-11

We have certainly entered a different world of thought in this story, one very different from today. The world of the early church was a world that took sin incredibly seriously, a world in which the unfaithfulness, hypocrisy and selfishness that resulted in someone sinning against God might very well see them literally struck down. The possibility of serious consequences for our sin against God and against the community of his people was a reality for the early followers of Jesus. Promises matter. Faithfulness to the community of God’s people – and to God himself  – were important, and financial matters were included in this, especially when serving and supporting the poor was involved. They took such things very seriously. So did God. We should too.

Our promises to God matter and the financial commitments we make are included in this. The promises we have made to God we need to honour. God sees us honoring these gifts or not honoring them, just like Barnabas on the one hand and Ananias and Sapphira on the other. There is power in keeping or not keeping our financial promises. Yes, God absolutely understands when our circumstances change, and he is right there with us in the midst of those changes, but he also calls us to trust in him above all else, not the cultural mores and touchstones enticing us with their promises of wealth and security. Here we show who is lord in our lives.

Questions to Consider
What has God been saying to you about your finances lately? How have you responded to this?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, show me how to be a good, faithful steward of all you have given me. Teach me to trust in you more than the advice of the latest guru. May I be guided by your Spirit, and not the market. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Faithfulness of God – No Matter What

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 89

The Hebrew word for faithfulness or trustworthiness, especially with regards to being depended upon to uphold and fulfil obligations, appears seven times in this psalm, and that is not including the times when it is used in an adjectival form. This psalm is about God’s covenant with the House of David and the psalmist’s belief in the faithfulness of God to the House of David and to the promises he has made to his people, and was composed during a time when the fortunes of the nation had taken a disastrous turn, and when Israel’s enemies had been victorious over her and were now in the ascendency. Yet the psalmist remains confident in God’s promises in the midst of the current tribulation, and upholds belief in God’s faithfulness in the face of disaster.

The psalm proclaims God’s cosmic power and the ease with which he could vanquish Israel’s enemies at any moment, should he choose to do so. The belief in God’s covenant with Israel and his selection of this nation as his chosen people is reiterated – Israel’s straitened circumstances, fruit of her disobedience and covenant unfaithfulness, in no way negates the agreement between God and his people – and the psalmist calls on God to remember his covenant with his people, cease directing his anger at them and restore them to their former position. The psalmist sees God as someone who is known for being faithful and keeping his promises, and who will do so.

Questions to Consider
How has God shown his faithfulness to you? How has he rescued you at times when you were beginning to think he had forgotten you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you are the great promise keeper, the one above all who can be trusted to remain faithful, to be true to your promises and to always be there for your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Acts 4:1-12

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

Day 1 – Subverting the Status Quo

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:1-7

Resurrection is subversive, because resurrection is promise. To believe in the resurrection is to believe that the living God, the one who raised Jesus from the dead, is going to put everything right again one day, restore all things and put the world to rights. The resurrection says that the way things are, the status quo, is not the way things are destined to stay. Such a doctrine is obviously a threat to those in power. If God can suddenly do an incredibly drastic thing like raise Jesus from the dead, then there is no guarantee that in the wake of such a radical event those in power before will still be in charge afterwards. Resurrection was not – and in many ways is still not – something that the authorities wanted to hear about.

This is what so incensed the religious leaders: not just that Peter was preaching the resurrection of Jesus, but that this was the sign that heralded God’s eventual restoration of everything, the beginning of God’s good new thing. As part of this God was calling a people to himself to be his resurrection people, to be his representatives on earth, his kingdom people, bringing hope and restoration and healing to the world. That is who we are called to be. We are the people of the subversive promise, of the miraculous, unexpected sign, of God’s love and concern for his world. We stand on the side of the discouraged and downhearted, the marginalized and the forgotten; we stand with those at the bottom as God turns his world – and theirs and ours – back the way it should be.

Questions to Consider
How does the power of the resurrection feature in your life? How does the presence of the resurrection in your life subvert the powers of this world?

Prayer
Lord God, help me live the counter-cultural life you call us all to. Show me ways to go against the grain of the rebellious powers of this world and live an upside down kingdom for your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Healing, Then and Now

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:8-9

God is steadfast. He is constant, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can rely on him to be there for us even when we are not there for him. He is faithful. Which makes it all the stranger that over time there have been various followers of Jesus who have said that God doesn’t heal any more. The time of healing is past, the time of miracles was just for the establishment of the original church, that the gifts that God gave, like healing, speaking in tongues and prophesying, were just for the early church and with the end of the Apostolic age, so too those gifts ceased. This stance, unfortunately, turns God into someone who takes his gifts back, who cannot be trusted to keep his word, who reneges on his promises, and who only offered gifts in the first place as an advertising incentive, not as an integral offering of his heart to his people.

Now while it is true that miracles and healings are indeed enticing signs and tokens of the coming reign of God and the breaking in of the ultimate restoration of all things, the God who healed the lame man back then is the same God who heals today; the God who gave gifts to his people for the carrying out of his work is the same God who offers those gifts today for the continuing work of his kingdom. It is in the name of Jesus, crucified and raised by God as his anointed one, that healing power is at work now just as much as it was then.

Questions to Consider
What is your view of God’s healing power? Have you experienced it in your own life? What happened? How did things change afterwards?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you are a good, gracious, loving Father, who loves pouring your love and blessings upon people, healing and restoring them. May I be a beacon of such love and grace in all I do. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Series of Unexpected Events

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:10-11

Peter reiterates that this very person that the religious leaders had put to death, the one they had rejected, was the one whom God had raised from the dead. The one the leaders had cast aside, condemned to death and declared to be of no consequence was the one God had raised to life, vindicated and enthroned at his right hand. Peter then reinforces this point and makes a very barbed criticism of the leaders in the process: he identifies the builders in the psalm, the ones who discarded the stone, with the religious leaders in front of him, the ones who had handed Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus himself had also referred to this psalm, hinting that he was the one prophesied in Psalm 118:22 (see Luke 20:17).

God tends to use the unexpected route, and to choose the least expected vehicles for his work. A country boy from the backwoods of Israel, holding no established or recognised position, with a motley band of followers, who dies the humiliating death of a condemned criminal was the Saviour, Redeemer, Son of God – a most amazing gift in the most unlikely, unlooked for, unrecognised trappings. Peter himself was also living proof of the unremarkable vessels used as conduits for the power of God and the work of his kingdom among us: fisherman, family man, called Satan to his face and a three-time denier of Jesus, yet here he was having healed a man in the name of Jesus and now a leader in the fledgling Jesus movement. God can and does use the most unlikely people and circumstances in his name and for his work.

Questions to Consider
How has God used the unexpected in your life? How has he surprised you in the way he has appeared to you and used your life for others?

Prayer
Loving Father, keep me from becoming stuck in a rut, or from thinking I have you all figured out. Surprise me. Keep me on my toes. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Jesus Alone

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:12

Have you noticed what Peter is subtly doing in this passage? What started as an issue about the lame man being healed (“this man stands before you fit and well”), something that Peter claimed was only because of the name of Jesus, has subtly morphed into a claim about salvation (“salvation is found in no one else”). Peter claims both that there is healing in the name of Jesus and also, following on from this, that there is salvation in his name – and only his name. Peter tells the crowd that only Jesus can offer salvation in the fullest sense of the word. Healing, yes, but salvation, rescue and restoration as well. The name of Jesus is the only name that has received power from God to give salvation to people.

If God has exalted Jesus to his right hand, then obviously it is a position that can be shared with no one else. If Jesus has been declared savior, then it follows that he is the only one who saves, the only one with the power of salvation in his hands. There is no one else alongside Jesus, no other name so imbued with power than his. He is the one we call on. He is the one in whose name we act, in whose power we move and with whose love we go to meet the world. It is in the name of Jesus that all that we do and all that we are called to do will be accomplished. It is for the glory of his name and his name alone – no other name will do.

Questions to Consider
What is society’s view of any claim that salvation is found through “Jesus alone”? Why might this claim be dismissed or ignored or even seen as offensive?

Prayer
Almighty God, thank you for sending your son, in whom such love for us was so wonderfully embodied. To you alone we look, for guidance, for power, for strength, for salvation. In the precious, powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 118

It is highly appropriate that the psalm that Peter quotes from is Psalm 118 as this psalm of thanksgiving is directly relevant to what Peter and John were saying. Most obviously, it’s a psalm of the Temple, of people going to the temple to celebrate the new day that God is bringing and to claim his salvation (verses 21, 24, 25) – just as Peter and John have been doing at the Temple now. The psalm refers to the way God brings his people out of trouble, rescuing them through his power (verses 15-18) – something that Peter and John have been proclaiming and that has been illustrated through the healing of the lame man. The psalm also extols God’s mercy (verse 4) and celebrates the victory that God has won over all the powers of the world opposed to him (verses 10, 14) – something ultimately achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The psalm also talks of how it is better to trust in the Lord than in the human rulers – good, fortifying advice for Peter and John as they face down the religious leaders.

This psalm is one that celebrates the power of God to defeat his enemies and restore his people, and that calls for people to trust in God no matter the circumstances they may find themselves in. It illustrates the steadfast love that God has for his people and that he is the ultimate rescuer – indeed the only one who can truly be trusted to rescue people from danger. This psalm is one that we would do well to remember in times of trouble, as a reminder of the true, constant, loving nature of the God we serve.

Questions to Consider
What psalms mean the most to you and reveal God to you in the most direct ways? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, remind us of your steadfast love when we forget, or cannot see it, or are struggling to find you in our days and circumstances. You are always there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Acts 3:1-10

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

Day 1 – So Much More Now on Offer

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 3:1-2

Sometimes the question is not whether God is there, but whether we trust him. Is God who we have always thought he was in the past, back when we were confident that he both could and would intervene in his world? When all around is uncertain, is he still the one we look to for help, guidance, answers? There are times when our picture of God needs to be broken open, and we need to come to a new understanding of who God is and how he works, to see that he truly is Lord, that we can still trust him as the foundation of our lives, that prayer works because of who he truly is.

Peter’s view of God had been broken open – many times – and his challenge was whether he was still going to trust God with his life; whether God would still be the source of all love and power in his life, or whether he would turn somewhere else. The times of uncertainty and discomfort that Peter had experienced in the past had served a purpose, expanding the range of what he knew was possible with God and what God could therefore offer to others through Peter – as was about to happen again here. In order to believe that the almighty God of all creation is indeed Lord and capable of changing the world – and that part of what will bring about this change is our prayers – and is ultimately to be trusted in everything, we often need our image of God expanded. Sometimes our sense of God needs to grow, to stretch – so that our trust in him and our prayers will be stretched along with it.

Questions to Consider
What specific events and teachings had grown Peter’s view of God? What has stretched your view of who God is? How did this happen?

Prayer
Father, you have shown me so much of who you are and what you have to give to others. Give me your heart for your world, so that I may always intercede for others, putting their needs before my own. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Where Will We Place Our Trust?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 3:3-5

In our society there are a couple of perennially popular contenders that people usually like to put their trust in. Power is one. The acquisition of power and its subsequent application – whether by ourselves or by others on our behalf – is one thing many people chase after and trust in. Money is the other. We can buy our way out of trouble; with enough money we can smooth over all rough roads and make life more comfortable. There is no doubt that money shields us from many of the ills besetting our world at the moment; those with the financial means are always the last to feel the negative effects of humanity’s decisions, both local and global.

How we view God impacts how we view prayer. How much we trust God to answer prayer – how much we trust that prayer is far more powerful than any alternative – will determine how, why and even whether we pray. If we think God isn’t big enough or powerful enough or interested enough in his world and his people, then we will probably not see the point in coming to him with our prayers and struggles and concerns, and we will go elsewhere. We’ve probably all had times in our lives when we’ve thought “Is God really big enough?” – those moments when we’ve experienced something personally, or seen something happen, that makes us start to wonder whether God really is big enough and powerful enough to handle/fix/restore/heal a particular situation. Peter and the lame man had very different answers to this question – to begin with anyway. If we don’t think God is big enough, if we don’t think prayer is effective, then we will simply choose something – anything – else to put our trust in.

Questions to Consider
What are you tempted to put your trust in other than God? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, help me trust you more and more each day. Keep me from chasing after other foundations and powers. True life is only in you. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Better than Silver and Gold

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 3:6

Peter’s first words seem deliberately designed to dash the beggar’s raised hopes. Begging for alms as he no doubt did every day, the lame man would have been hopeful that these men were pausing in order to give him a few coins. Perhaps it was going to be a good day. But Peter immediately punctures what hope the man had by declaring that he has no money to give him but is going to give him what he has any way. Now, Peter technically did have access to silver and gold (surely the church community wouldn’t have minded pooling some of their resources in order to help this man?), but in this case Peter could actually offer something even better, something that the man might not even have thought to look for that day, but that would pierce right to the heart of his problem.

What Peter had to offer the man was healing, which he offered simply through commanding him to walk in the name of Jesus. Peter trusted in the healing power of Jesus, a power he had witnessed firsthand and that now, through Jesus’ bestowing of the Holy Spirit upon his followers, was directly available to him and to this man. Peter had faith in the continuing power of Jesus, something that he considered far more powerful and life changing than any possible alternative available to him. As ridiculous as it may have seemed, his prayerful trust was solely in the power of Jesus, a power he had seen, experienced, and knew that he could call on when needed, and that it needed to be the first thing he called on – Jesus, the place of ultimate trust.

Questions to Consider
In what ways do we show others that our ultimate faith and trust are in God? What does this look like to others? How would they know?

Prayer
Almighty Father, you are Lord. Show me more and more what it means to trust you. Reveal your Lordship in me and my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Trusting Us to Play Our Part

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 3:7-10

Peter didn’t just order the man to walk in the name of Jesus. Something else accompanied this remarkable command. Peter stretched out his hand to the lame man and helped to raise him to his feet and it was at that moment, we are told, that the man’s ankles and feet became strong and he was able to walk – and not just walk but jump up and down too. Such walking and jumping and praising were the signs to passersby that this man had truly been healed, after years of begging at the temple. There could be no doubt who he was and what had happened – the cure was real; the results were there for all to see and marvel at, the no longer lame man included.

But back to Peter. He had reached out his hand. Peter had offered the man healing in the name of Jesus, he had trusted in Jesus miraculously to provide for this lame man – but Peter had also put himself into the middle of the transaction. Trusting in Jesus to heal the man didn’t absolve Peter from caring about the situation, it didn’t give him a free pass to carry on his way. He still got involved, he still played his part in what God was doing that day in the temple, in the life of the lame man. Trusting in God in all things is vitally important for us, but just as important is trusting in the fact that God wants his followers involved in his work and involved in his world, and that this lived trust will often require of us that we be involved and act.

Questions to Consider
Why is praying for others and getting actively involved in the answers to these prayers so important? What is lost if we fail to do this?

Prayer
Gracious God, thank you for always listening to us and having a heart that longs to hear from us and answer our prayers. But thank you also for shaping our prayers and giving us your heart and thereby guiding us in what to pray for. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – God Answers Prayer

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 20

God is a God who listens and he is a God who acts. One of the things he promises, as evidenced in this psalm, is that he will answer his people when they call upon him. He can be trusted to hear our cries and he can be trusted to answer, to reach out to us, to speak to us and answer our call. The entire life and ministry of Jesus was a living example of a listening, trusting relationship like this. When turning away from God and trusting in himself or something else were possibilities, rather than turning and seeking and listening to his Father, Jesus chose the path of humble submission and love and trust in his heavenly Father. Trusting what he had in prayer was better than any possible alternative on offer.

We know that no matter how close we are to God, how intimate our relationship is, how much we already trust him, God is always looking to give more of Himself to us. There is more of God to explore. There is more to hear from him if we will only listen. Regardless of how much we trust him and how good we think our prayer life is at any given moment, there is always more that can be done to open ourselves up to God. We must make sure we don’t get complacent, or think that we already know it all, or that we need not trust him more or listen harder, or get stuck in a comfortable rut. We can always trust God more, because there is always more of himself that God has available to give us

Questions to Consider
How might God be asking you to go deeper into him in prayer? How might he be calling you to a deeper level of trust in him? How can you do this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, take me deeper into you. Reveal more of yourself to me. Make my prayer life a road to a deeper level of trust in you and a greater experience of your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Acts 2:41-47

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

Day 1 – Spirit and Community Together

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:41

Three thousand people. Three thousand. Something about what the early followers of God were doing and saying was resonating with people in a way that compelled these people to find out more and actually open their lives up to the possibility of radical change. This small group of until very recently frightened and confused followers of Jesus was now boldly proclaiming the good news of the coming of Jesus and all that God had done through him. A story that had seemed so full of promise, only to be brought to a devastating, shuddering halt, before being miraculously, amazingly climaxed with the raising to life of the son of God himself, was now being shared with the world by people who had only just themselves been given the key to understand the story.

We must always remember that God is calling all people back to him. The Holy Spirit is calling and speaking to people, drawing them to Jesus. Three thousand people – that has to be the work of the Spirit; it certainly doesn’t seem like the natural outcome of a concerted outreach programme initiated by the disciples! But Peter still needed to be brave and stand up and share the story of Jesus with the people who were there. We need to be sharing our lives and stories with people; we need to be praying for people and collaborating with God in welcoming people back to his embrace and into the community of his people. By his Spirit – the same Spirit working through us – his kingdom is coming.

Questions to Consider
How have you seen the Holy Spirit calling to others who don’t yet know him? How has God been at work in the lives of others through you?

Prayer
Lord God, once you spoke to me, who had never heard your voice before, and called me to you, offering me new love and new life. May my life be a part of the way you call others to you today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Full Time Occupation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:42

For the original followers of Jesus, following him was everything. Membership in the community wasn’t a part-time affair, it wasn’t something they did when they felt like it. Casual membership was not an option. The original disciples had dropped everything when they had answered his call to “come follow me”, leaving families and homes and jobs in order to follow him fulltime. Following Jesus wasn’t something that ‘happened’ maybe once or twice a week, something else to be fitted into a busy schedule if it was convenient. It was a way of life. What we read about in our Acts passage this week is how they went about living as followers of Jesus together. Their example shows us Jesus’ plan for his community of followers. They met together every day. There were a number of things they did when they met, things they saw as vital for maintaining community life—eating, praying, teaching and worshipping.

This sharing of meals and possessions, and praying together—these were not the actions of a group of people who were only following Jesus occasionally and only mixing with each other when they had to. They were the actions of people intimately involved in each other’s lives and bound together by continuing faithfulness to God. The early followers of Jesus didn’t simply make discipleship a part-time add on to their already busy lives, like a hobby indulged in only occasionally. Discipleship was a fulltime, all-of-life activity. Their whole lives were transformed. God and his people became the focus around which everything else revolved.

Question to Consider
Why can’t discipleship be part-time?

Prayer
Father, thank you for your church. Thank you that you do not ask us to follow you on our own. Help me share more of myself with my community and help my community share more of you with the world. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Community Eliciting Awe and Amazement

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:43

So often today it seems that the only time the church turns the heads of the general public is when the followers of Jesus (collectively or individually) do something horrible and reprehensible or, if we are lucky, merely ridiculously laughable and embarrassing. We make the news for the wrong reasons (rightly condemned historic sins) and often say and do things that actually turn people off the gospel and the church (all too common displays of unloving and uncompassionate behaviour, or displays of “love” that demand others sacrifice rather than us offering love through our sacrifice for others). Obviously there is much that we do get right but it seems that these failures are what often stand out for others today.

It might seem incredible to us today, but we would do well to remember that one effect of the growth of the early church was the sense of awe and amazement that it engendered within so many of the people who witnessed it from the outside. The general citizenry were amazed by what they saw occurring within this strange new community of people. The manner in which these followers of Jesus were living, the way they gathered together so regularly, what they did when they gathered, the beliefs they seemed to have no hesitation in sharing – all of these things put together created a community and a presence that turned heads and produced reactions of astonishment – and desire, a desire to find out and experience more.

Question to Consider
When have you seen such awe for the church’s work created in others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, work through me and my community to produce in others the awe that will compel them to find out more about you and the new community you are building. Guide us and inspire us so people can see you as you truly are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Looking After Everyone

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:44-45

The early followers of Jesus weren’t trying to lay down a new economic program for all to follow. They weren’t trying to set up an “all for one, one for all” commune. They weren’t trying to come up with a set of hard and fast rules for new converts to adhere to. So much has been written about just these two verses, much of it beside the point or just simply oblivious to what was really going on. The first followers of Jesus were simply attempting to share life together in a way they thought was most consistent with what it meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit as the body of Christ on earth. What should the community of God’s people look like? How should the community organise itself in order to best be able to witness to the transformative power of the risen Christ? How were they to look after each other?

With so many new believers coming from so many different socio-economic strata, they needed to ensure that all were being looked after, from the rich and well-off and comfortable, to the poor and orphaned and marginalised. That was their bottom line. All were to be looked after. All were to be able to find a place in this new community. They realised that their membership in the family of God cut across all other social barriers, and that being in the family meant looking after other family members, and giving whatever was needed from their own possessions to help those in need.

Questions to Consider
What would it look like for the church to live out these verses today? What would need to change? How would you and others go about it?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, inspire us to care more and offer love in ways we may not have thought possible. Push us to go deeper, to love more, to offer more of ourselves and what we have. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Rhythms of the Community

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:46-7

The early Christians met together regularly, both at the temple and in their homes. The implication is that they also continued to take part in worship at the temple too. We should not be surprised at this. Theological questions about the replacement of temple sacrifices by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross had obviously not yet arisen, and the fact that the early Christians believed that through Jesus they had a direct relationship with God would naturally mean they would want to worship in the normal way. This would also allow them to be seen and to potentially share the gospel with other temple goers. And yet they also met together, in people’s homes, for their own religious gatherings.

Meeting together, breaking bread together, worshipping, learning and praying together – these activities were vitally important for the early church because without them they simply would not have survived as a community. These rhythms that they adopted kept them closely connected with God – the one who had called them and was forming and leading them – and closely connected with each other – the people God had called them to share life together with as his people on earth. These activities were also important in the way they created a community that proved puzzling and attractive to others. Seeing this loving community in action was a major catalyst in opening people’s ears to the call of God and attracting people to find out more – and to ultimately find a relationship with God himself, and a place in a new world-changing community.

Questions to Consider
What are the individual rhythms you have in your life? What rhythms are important for your community? Why?

Prayer
Father, help us be a community of love in action that others will see and be attracted by. Love is attractive; help us to love more. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Acts 2:37-40

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

Day 1 – Step 1: Repentance

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:37-38

Repentance isn’t just about being sorry for our sins and our wrongdoing and seeking forgiveness from God, although this is still important – of course we should repent of our sins! Repenting of our sins is an important part of our walk with God and maintaining an open, honest relationship with him. As we will see, a contrite, humbled heart is a crucial aspect of what it means to repent; without it, we are simply mouthing the words and putting on an external display that has no meaning, and ultimately preparing ourselves to sin again. We must always seek God’s forgiveness when we sin.

But as well as this vital aspect of repentance at a more forensic level, repentance also involves a complete reorientation of our lives, our being. To repent is to turn back, to realign, to reorient ourselves in line with God and his call to us. It is to continually seek God as our guide and our beacon, to look up and see where he is and where he is calling us and to adjust ourselves and our path accordingly. This is why repentance is also an ongoing activity as well as the initial turning back to God and seeking forgiveness. There is an element of repentance that involves sorrow for our sins and failings, and there is an element that involves continually checking where God is and where we are, and adjusting our path back towards him if needed. To turn back to God, as Peter implores the crowd to do here, is also to continually make sure we are turned towards God, tracking with God, and following where he calls and leads.

Question to Consider
How much is repentance part of your regular rhythms with God?

Prayer
Lord God, you are always there when I turn, no matter how far away I wander. Your faithfulness outshines my own, yet still shows just how much you love me and that you are willing to wait for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Step 2: Be Baptised

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 2:38-40

The Jewish festival of Pentecost was the time God chose to dramatically fill his followers with his Holy Spirit. Crowds were drawn to the spectacle, and when Peter said to them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, many were convinced by what they had seen and heard, and were keen that the day not end there. ‘What shall we do?’ they asked.

Peter’s instruction was simple: firstly, repent; secondly, be baptised. Baptism is an act with a big impact. It is a very public ceremony. It is the ceremony Jesus gave us to show that we have turned from sin to God and gratefully accepted his salvation, and joined the community of God’s people. Baptism publicly declares that we are now joined to Jesus and also to the family of his followers. Just as a wedding joins two individuals to each other and to the other’s family, we are joined—related—to others who have made the same choice to follow Jesus. Obviously we cannot baptise ourselves. Only others already in the community of faith can be our guides, only others already in the family can help bring us into the family, both through the initial invitation and through the ritual itself. Jesus himself said that baptism would be one of the signs of those who are obediently following him—a sign of commitment to him and to the community of faith through which he does his work in the world.

Questions to Consider
If someone was to ask you ‘why do Christians get baptised’ what would answer be? What is it about baptism that makes it not just an agreement between a person and God, but a sign of entrance into community with others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for your community and the people you have made me a part of. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – By His Spirit – For All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 11:15-17

Today we jump a little further along in the book of Acts to when Peter was explaining to leaders in the early church what had happened when he had – shock! horror! – shared the good news with Gentiles. The church leaders were amazed that the Holy Spirit had been given to people of other cultures. This started the breaking down of the barriers that had stood between Jews and Gentiles, a sign that God’s gift of the Holy Spirit was for all who responded to the gospel, whether Jew or Gentile.

Jesus had promised his followers they would be baptised with water and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in us as the community of Jesus’ followers, yes, in all followers individually, but also in all of us collectively, through his Spirit united together as one body. Through the Spirit we learn to understand God’s plans for us and the world around us that he cares about so intensely. We are not a community of faith because we want to be or because we are good at it – I think we all secretly know we’re not! God has called this community into being to reflect who he is. We are able to be God’s community because the Holy Spirit makes it possible for any and all people to join this community. The Spirit gives us the means to carry out his call, leads us as we follow and binds us together in response to his love. The call to follow Jesus is all we have in common, but through the empowering presence of the Spirit in us, it is more than enough – for all of us, no matter who we are or how we got here.

Question to Consider
How has God’s Spirit been working in you to break down barriers between you and those you might not have otherwise chosen to journey with?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for your Spirit, bringing us together, breaking down barriers, remaking us in your ever loving, always welcoming image. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A True Penitent

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 51:1-15

The highly confessional nature of this psalm has made it liturgically very popular among Jews and Christians, hence why, for example, it is one of the seven penitential psalms regularly used in Christian rituals and services. The psalmist is in a deeply remorseful mood, beseeching God to wipe away his sins and transgressions and purify him and restore him to a state of grace. Hyssop is mentioned as it was regularly used in rituals of purification. Leviticus 14 describes how the priest is to dip the hyssop in the blood of a sacrificed animal and then sprinkle it on the impure person or object on order to purify it. Numbers 19 gives instructions for using hyssop to sprinkle water to remove impurities.

The blood imagery obviously provides a link to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the wiping away of all sin and transgression and the reconciliation with God that he brought about through his death. Reading the Psalms (or indeed the entire Hebrew bible) with an eye on Christ as we do so can make the text even more powerful and alive, and can give God the space to grow a deeper understanding within us and can give us a greater experience of the forgiveness Jesus offers. It can (and should) also make us more aware of our need for forgiveness and the necessity of confessing our sins and failings to the one who offers grace and forgiveness to us all. The psalmist wasn’t afraid to openly and honestly lay himself bare and seek God’s forgiveness. We shouldn’t be afraid either.

Question to Consider
How does God make you aware of your need for forgiveness?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, forgive my sins. Forgive my transgressions, my stumbles, my falling away. Convict me when I sin, nudge me when I have wandered away from you. I know you will always wait for my return and push me to come back to you. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – More Than Just Actions

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 51:16-21

Both Isaiah and Micah contain well known passages that stress God’s desire for honest, ethical behaviour and action from his people, rather than animal sacrifices rendered empty through the people’s sin and apathy. One thing in this psalm that seems to build on these requirements is the emphasis on a person’s inward condition of contrition and sense of remorse for the wrong done. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit, says verse 17; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. A person’s inward disposition – their acknowledgement of their wrongdoing and knowledge of the need for forgiveness – counts with God.

Contrition and genuine remorse are required, and often it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our sin, to spark within us an awareness of how we have fallen short of God’s expectations for us, and to make us aware of our need for forgiveness. Sometimes when we give God the space to move, he moves in ways we would prefer he not. These times are not comfortable or pleasant, but they are absolutely necessary in the life of a follower of Jesus and in the life of his body of followers. Openness, conviction, contrition – followed by forgiveness and restoration. God does not keep us waiting; he does not leave us hanging on in limbo, unsure of his love and awaiting reconciliation. God has done everything required for us to be put right with him; we will always find him waiting if we seek him with an open, honest heart.

Questions to Consider
Why is genuine remorse important? What happens without it?

Prayer
Almighty God, teach me to be contrite. Grow remorse for my failings within me, so that those failings grow less and less frequent. Thank you for never turning away. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)