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Be Still and Know Daily Bible Devotion

English, Christianity, 1 season, 1443 episodes, 3 days, 13 hours, 28 minutes
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Bring some Spirit-filled peace into your hectic schedule every weekday morning with this new Daily Devotional. Start your day with God Renew your spirit Refocus your faith
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May 23rd - Acts 2:36-37

Acts 2:36-37 In his Pentecost sermon, Peter carefully explained to his Jewish audience that what had happened to Jesus had been in fulfilment of God’s plans. He had been very respectful
of their patriarch King David but pointed out that, despite all his greatness, David had not risen from death, unlike Jesus, whom they had had a hand in crucifying. Peter’s sharp challenge pierced them to the heart and they wanted to know what to do in response. I wonder whether you can think of a moment when you were pierced to the heart. It’s agonising when you know that you cannot avoid the challenge that has been put to you.
It reminds me of the time when King David was confronted by the prophet Nathan. David was feeling very pleased with himself. He believed he had got away with his adultery with Bathsheba. He had now married her, having successfully arranged the murder of her husband. But Nathan bravely confronted David by telling him the story of a rich man who had cruelly prepared a meal for a visitor by killing not one of his many sheep, but the much-loved lamb that was the family pet of a very poor family. David seethed with anger and was determined that the rich man should die and make generous restitution to the abused family. Nathan said to David: “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). Ouch. David couldn’t dodge the challenge. He had to admit that he had done wrong and come before God in repentance. It’s not easy to be challenged, but when we are confronted by the truth it is vital that we take action. Question When have you been deeply challenged by someone else’s words and what action did you take? Prayer Lord God, thank you for loving me so much that you confront me with the truth about myself. Amen
5/23/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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May 22nd - Acts 2:17-18

Acts 2:17-18 Peter responded to the suggestion that Jesus’ followers were drunk by making the practical observation that it was far too early in the morning for anything like that (v15)! He then went on to point out that Joel, in the ninth century BC, had prophesied that in the last days the Spirit would be poured out upon everyone in exactly this way. In Old Testament times we often see the Spirit coming upon specific people – usually prophets, priests and kings. In this new era of the Spirit, it would be fundamentally different. The doors were flung open to everyone to receive the Spirit and to hear God speak with them. We are still living in the last days, as described by Joel, and we should expect to hear God speaking through one another as his Spirit comes upon us. We thank God for those whom he has called to be church leaders. We often hear them faithfully declaring God’s word. But we should be expecting to hear God speak to us through everyone else in the church as well – and just as much through the shy and retiring people as the bold and talkative ones. We need to do what I love to call ‘deep listening’. Because we know that God loves to speak to us through one another, we need to give our best attention to each another. Deep listening takes time, effort and much love but as we listen we can be sure that we will hear God speaking to us. Question Who are the people who have spoken God’s word to you most clearly in recent months? Prayer Thank you, Lord, that you love to speak. Help me to listen out for your voice in all my Christian brothers and sisters. Amen
5/22/20243 minutes, 14 seconds
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May 21st - Acts 2:11-13

Acts 2:11-13 I love the carefulness of Dr Luke’s account of the day of Pentecost. He is giving us only a very brief summary of what actually happened, but he doesn’t miss out the fact that many people struggled to work out what on earth was going on! For us it is absolutely clear what a significant day it was, but for many people at the time it was thoroughly perplexing. Some asked genuine questions, and soon after Peter gave them a very full explanation. But other people concluded that the bizarre events could only be explained by alcohol. When God works in your life in a big way there will always be a variety of responses. Perhaps you have felt led to be confirmed or baptised, to change your job in obedience to the Lord, or to work for him in another country. Some people will have questions and we should always be delighted by this. I remember the time when an uncle of mine became a minister. He had a well-paid job in the oil industry and lived in a beautiful home in the suburbs. As a minister he lived in much smaller house in a far less attractive area and saw his income reduced enormously. There were, inevitably, many questions! Such moments give us, like Peter, a superb opportunity for explaining to people what our faith means to us. But, be warned, there will always be people who will laugh off our experiences. It must have been very hurtful for the apostles to hear that some people thought that they were intoxicated. We should never be surprised by such responses, but patiently and graciously explain what’s going on. It is hardest of all when such reactions are from people in our own families, and we will need special grace to keep our cool and respond wisely and kindly. Question How do you respond when people laugh at your Christian commitment? Prayer Lord God, help me to respond with your wisdom and grace to those who are perplexed by my faith. Amen
5/21/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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May 20th - Acts 2:5-7

Acts 2:5-7 The arrival of the Holy Spirit caused a stir in Jerusalem. The city was packed with Jewish pilgrims who were eager to find out what was going on. When they heard God’s name being praised in their own languages, they were amazed. Dr Luke provides us with a fascinating list of where the pilgrims had come from. To use their modern names, there were visitors from, among other places, Rome, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and other parts of North Africa. What a perfect moment for the Holy Spirit to be given. By the end of the day thousands of people had heard the good news of Jesus in their own language for the first time. They were able to take the message back home and start building Christian communities. This was truly a kairos moment. The Greek word kairos is very special. It is one of two words which translates the English word ‘time’. The other Greek word is chronos, from which we derive words like ‘chronology’. It’s the time that we measure with our clocks and calendars. Kairos is better translated by the word ‘opportunity’. The day of Pentecost was an amazing moment of supernatural opportunity. Viewed in one way, it was just another day in the calendar but, from God’s point of view, it was a turning point. Nothing would be the same again. Writing to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul comments: “Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:15-16). As we thank God for the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God calls us to grasp hold of today and to use every opportunity for serving him. Question What are the special opportunities that God is giving to you at the moment? Prayer Dear Lord, help me to grasp every opportunity you give me for serving you. Amen
5/20/20243 minutes, 36 seconds
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May 19th - Acts 2:1-4

Acts 2:1-4 Pentecost Sunday marks the birthday of the Church. Jesus had asked his followers to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit – and now he has arrived. Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival and was held 50 days after Passover. It was one of the three annual pilgrimages and so Jerusalem would have been heaving with visitors from all over the region. Jesus’ followers were probably gathered in the upper room where they had been in the habit of meeting. One can imagine them meeting quietly and prayerfully as they had done since the time of Jesus’ ascension. But suddenly, everything changed as they were overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit. A completely new era had just begun. A violent wind filled the whole house, symbolising the breath of life that the Holy Spirit brings. No one could miss the fact that something dramatic was taking place, and the tongues of fire that rested on each of them spoke of the cleansing and refining work of the Spirit. As the Holy Spirit came upon them, they spoke in other languages as they worshipped God together. What an incredible moment! Our experience of the Holy Spirit might be very different from this, but we should be encouraged that he is the same Spirit. He wants to breathe life on us today and refine us with his fire. The Holy Spirit never leaves things the way they are. He is constantly challenging, renewing and purifying us as we worship God together. Question In what ways have you experienced the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit? Prayer God our Father, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit. Help me to welcome him today, so that I may become more like Jesus. Amen
5/19/20243 minutes, 30 seconds
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May 18th - Acts 1:24-26

Acts 1:24-26 After the ascension of Jesus, the eleven disciples needed to find a successor to Judas Iscariot. They identified two candidates whom they considered to be suitable, Barsabbas and Matthias. We don’t know anything about them, but clearly they had spent time with Jesus and were part of his wider circle of followers. What might strike you as strange is that, having committed the decision to God in prayer, they then cast lots. This certainly isn’t a method that I have ever employed but it was their way of leaving the decision up to God. They played their part in choosing two people who they believed to appropriately qualified, but then they let God decide. We don’t hear of anyone else casting lots in this way in the New Testament and so many people have assumed that the practice belonged firmly to the period before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Once the Spirit had been given, the Church could look to him to guide them in their decision-making. That isn’t to say that decision-making has now become easy, but it does mean that we can confidently lean upon the Holy Spirit and seek his guidance in every detail of our lives, without resorting to apparently random measures like casting lots. The pages that follow in Acts give us an amazing account of how the Holy Spirit guided his people. Step by step, he led this small, weak and confused group of ordinary people into becoming a large missionary movement that turned the world upside down. Question In what way are you seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit today? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you have given me your Holy Spirit to enable me to make good decisions. Amen
5/18/20243 minutes, 22 seconds
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May 17th - Acts 1:12-14

Acts 1:12-14 The days between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost were filled with prayer. The disciples knew that they had to wait and they didn’t want to do this alone. We read that they met together in an upper room, which may well have been the place where they had gathered for the Last Supper. What matters is that they were together and it is interesting to note that the eleven disciples were joined by Jesus’ mother and his brothers. While we know little about his brothers, John records that, prior to his death, they did not believe in him (John 7:5). What an amazing time of prayer it must have been! Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on them but hadn’t informed them when this might happen. They simply had to wait in expectation, with the confidence of knowing that God had a perfect plan. In one sense prayer is always like this. Although we live in the privileged days of the Spirit, whenever we pray there is much that we do not know. We only partly know God’s plans for our lives, our church and our world. As we pray, we open ourselves afresh to the breath of God’s Spirit and invite him to meet with us. Prayer is the privilege of every Christian and we will often pray by ourselves. But there is something very important about praying with our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus said: “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). As we pray together the risen Lord Jesus Christ stands with us, strengthening and inspiring us. What could be more exciting than that? Question Why is waiting so important in our Christian lives? Prayer Gracious Lord, teach me more about the importance of expectant prayer, and help me to treasure the opportunities you give me to pray with my Christian brothers and sisters. Amen
5/17/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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May 16th - Acts 1:9-11

Acts 1:9-11 The ascension of Jesus brought his ministry on earth to an end in an amazing way. It is not surprising that the disciples looked intently into the sky to see where he had gone. They were probably longing for him to come back down again. As they stood there, they were told that the day will come when Jesus returns in the same way as he left. The second coming of Jesus should be our confident expectation. It should be constantly in our minds as the most wonderful promise. When I was a small boy, I must confess that I thought of it entirely as a threat. Whenever I couldn’t find my mother in the house, I assumed that Jesus had returned and I’d been left behind. But the fact that Jesus will return is presented to us in the New Testament as a cause for encouragement. It is a reminder that history is in God’s hands and, at the time that he chooses, the curtain will be brought down. The knowledge that Jesus will return one day should spur us on to ensure that we keep our minds focused on serving the Lord. Jesus told a number of parables to stress the importance of keeping alert all the time because we don’t know precisely when he will return. The parable of the ten bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13) is an encouragement to us all to be fully prepared so that we don’t miss the moment. The parable of the servants (Matthew 25:14-30) reminds us that we need to work really hard with whatever resources we’ve been given. Whether or not Jesus returns during our lifetime is not the point. What matters is that we are always ready. Question In what way is your life affected by the fact that Jesus might return today? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ I pray that I will always live in readiness for your return. Amen
5/16/20243 minutes, 35 seconds
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May 15th - Acts 1:8

Acts 1:8 What an amazing day this must have been for the disciples! They were just about to see Jesus disappear before their eyes and, before he did so, he commissioned them to take the good news to the whole world, no less. These days we know a great deal about the world and can easily communicate across the globe. But for Jesus’ disciples, this must have seemed an overwhelming challenge. Where on earth would they start? Jesus wanted his disciples to know that they were all witnesses. They had seen and heard things that needed to be shared. We don’t all have an evangelistic gift, something which is often said to have been given to about ten per cent of Christians. But we are all witnesses. Our means of communication have changed completely since the first century, but our fundamental responsibility is still to bear our personal witness of what we have seen and heard of Jesus. Jesus first asked his disciples to witness in Jerusalem. They needed to start where they were. This is often the greatest challenge isn’t it? We all need to share our faith with our families, friends and colleagues; those who see us day by day, warts and all. He then told them to go to Judaea, which wasn’t an easy area. Much of it is rocky desert with scattered communities. He then told them to go to Samaria. Because of the intense hatred that existed between the Jews and Samaritans, they were bound to get a hostile welcome there. Finally, as if they hadn’t already been challenged to the limit, Jesus told them to go to the ends of the earth! It must have felt like mission impossible, but it wasn’t. This was because Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who would give them the wisdom and strength to obey his command. Question Who might you be able to witness to today? Prayer Lord God thank you that you have given me good news to share. Amen
5/15/20243 minutes, 36 seconds
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May 14th - Acts 1:3-4

Acts 1:3-4 Dr Luke wrote two books – his Gospel and what is often called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’. The first tells us what happened during Jesus’ earthly ministry and the second describes the story of the birth and growth of the Church. However, before Dr Luke launched into the story of the Church, he wanted his readers to know that there is no doubt about Jesus’ resurrection. He knew that everything hinged on this, so he made a record of the fact that Jesus met with his disciples on a number of occasions and even shared meals with them. It was clearly a tumultuous time for the disciples. They had experienced the trauma of Jesus’ appalling death, the exuberant joy of his resurrection and were now contemplating what life would be like after Jesus had left them. Jesus fully realised this and wanted his disciples to know that he had made perfect provision for their needs. All they had to do was wait and, within a few days, they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. As mysterious as God’s plans were for them, they could look to the future with confidence. Our situation is not so different from those disciples. We have the blessing of living in the days of the Spirit, but there is still much about the future that is completely unknown to us. The pandemic was a timely reminder of how completely unpredictable life is. We don’t know what might happen here on earth, and many of us have questions about what will happen after we die. However, in common with the disciples, we can face the future with confidence, knowing that God has made perfect provision for us. Question What are your thoughts when you contemplate the future? Prayer Thank you, loving Lord, that my future is in your hands. Help me to trust you completely and find peace in your plans. Amen
5/14/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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May 13th - Proverbs 16:32

Proverbs 16:32 It’s good for us to ask the question: “What matters most in life?” Time and again the book of Proverbs helps us to think through this question. Many people would assume that it is good to be powerful, to have control of people and even whole communities. But the writer observes that it is far more important to have patience and self-control than great power and influence. He is talking about what the New Testament describes as the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Bible never suggests that it is wrong to have wealth or power. If either of them have come your way, give thanks to God! What matters is that we keep them in their proper place. They are nowhere near as important as living for God with the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that he gives to all those who walk in his ways. Money and power come and go. But the fruit of the Spirit is of a completely different nature, being as eternal and indestructible as God himself. As ever, the focus of Proverbs is on helping the reader to live life to the full. The writer’s many severe words of warning always have the intention of helping the reader to avoid pitfalls and disaster. He sees living for God as the most exciting and desirable way to live, which not only brings blessing to us as individuals but to all those around us as well. Choosing God’s way is often not the easiest path but it’s always the best. Question Be honest: What matters most to you in your life? Prayer Thank you Lord that you love me so much that you share the unvarnished truth with me. Help me to seek the fruit of your Holy Spirit before anything else. Amen
5/13/20243 minutes, 16 seconds
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May 12th - Proverbs 13:20

Proverbs 13:20 When we think of wisdom we may be inclined to think about books and formal education. However, the writer of Proverbs is clear that key to wisdom is spending time with the right people. Quite simply, if we spend time with wise people, some of their wisdom will rub off. On the other hand, spending time with fools will be sure to get us into trouble. The book of Psalms begins on a similar note: “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers” (Psalm 1:1). So, who are the wise people that we need to walk with? The writer of Proverbs has a very clear answer to this; those who centre their lives on God. They may lead lives that are very different from ours, but by spending time with them we can learn so much. They have learned the wisdom of following God in their home life, workplace and leisure activities. They organise their finances in a way that is pleasing to God, and their relationships are peaceful and loving. They may not have had great educational achievements, or huge successes, but their life is in step with God. The apostle Paul often spoke about the importance of example. He knew that his Christian friends needed to see faith being lived out. Books and sermons are great and can teach us much about the Christian life, but we all need to see it in action. Let’s make sure that we are spending time with people whose Christian lives inspire and encourage us to live more wisely. Question Whose example do you find most helpful, and how could you gain more from them? Prayer Lord God, help me to live more wisely and to seek the company of people who will help me to live more closely to you. Amen
5/12/20243 minutes, 13 seconds
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May 11th - Proverbs 13:16

Proverbs 13:16 Much of the wisdom that we find in the book of Proverbs is so obvious that you wonder why it needs to be said. But a moment’s reflection shows that it doesn’t just need to be said, but needs to be said repeatedly. I suspect we can all think of numerous times when we acted too quickly. Perhaps it was an impulse buy. A clever salesperson persuaded us to act quickly or an alluring advert drew us in. We may well have had some reservations, but we made the purchase and then regretted it. Or perhaps we got involved in a relationship too quickly and we had to pay the consequences. We are told to: “Look before you leap”, but the question is: How do we slow down our decision making so that we have time to reflect and assess the options? We don’t want to be hesitating constantly about everything. The first step is to recognise that God cares about our decision making, because every decision matters. Often small decisions are like hinges on which many other things turn. So, we would do well to ensure that every decision we make is brought before God. Nothing is too trivial for him. It may be a brief prayer in the course of a noisy and busy day, but we need to take those moments to lay our thoughts before God. And, if possible, find unhurried time to bring our plans before God. He wants to help us to make decisions that are life-giving, peaceful and wise. Jesus pointed to the importance of planning carefully. If you build a tower, you need to make sure that you’ve got enough money to finish it. If not, Jesus pointed out, then everyone will laugh at your inability to complete the job (Luke 14:28-30). We need to think, pray and plan before we act. The advice might seem obvious but we mustn’t ever forget it. Question Think of the worst decision that you have ever made. What have you learned from the experience? Prayer Loving God, help me to be careful in all the decisions that I make. Help me to open my mind and heart to your Holy Spirit each day. Amen
5/11/20243 minutes, 33 seconds
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May 10th - Proverbs 13:11

Proverbs 13:11 Oscar Wilde wrote: “The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” Work is often seen as something negative, to be avoided if at all possible and, if not, then one should aim to retire as early as possible. This thinking is in complete contrast with Proverbs, where work is seen as something inherently good. It is worklessness and laziness that are to be avoided at all costs. It is interesting that the writer of Proverbs refers to get-rich-quick schemes. This all sounds very modern, but throughout history, people have looked for short cuts to wealth. There’s nothing new about laziness! God wants us to work hard because it not only provides for our needs, but also enables us to bless other people with the gifts that God has given us. The apostle Paul wrote: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9). Over the years, I have been particularly blessed by the way I have seen retired people working hard for God. At a time when they had no pressure upon them to earn money, they wanted to make sure that they were still being productive for God. I have been inspired by their example. Working hard is good at any time of life, but let’s be clear that overwork causes tension and pressure that is never God’s desire. Whatever our age we need to find a balance between the work that God calls us to do and times of leisure and refreshment, which allow us to continue to serve him with confidence and enthusiasm. I’m sure Oscar Wilde was wrong! The best way to appreciate your job is to do it with all your heart and to thank God for it. Question How well are you balancing your work and leisure? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the blessing of my work. I pray your blessing on those who struggle to find work, or who find their work difficult. Amen
5/10/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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May 9th - Isaiah 58:6-7

Isaiah 58:6-7 It is incredibly sad that Isaiah’s call to action, written more than 2,500 years ago, still applies today. There continue to be people who are wrongly imprisoned, hungry and homeless. God’s word to us today is, therefore, unchanged from Isaiah’s day. He declares that the reality of our worship will be revealed by our willingness to care for those who are denied justice and as we reach out to feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. I am thrilled that Christians are busily engaged in fighting for justice and providing practical relief for the hungry and homeless. The need is still enormous. There are more than 300,000 people in the UK who are either homeless or living in temporary accommodation. I have been struck by the terrible ease with which people can slip into homelessness. An ugly row with parents or a partner; the loss of a job; a time of depression or simply the inability to find affordable housing in a new town. People experiencing homelessness are just like us, apart from the fact that they no longer have the security of a home. Before the 2008 recession the term ‘food bank’ was rarely heard. There are now more than 2,000 of them in the UK and, during the pandemic, they played a crucial role in ensuring that people were adequately fed. Christians do not have a monopoly in caring for the hungry - nor do we seek it - but it is wonderful that so many food banks are based in churches and supported by Christian volunteers. This is exactly what God wants to see. Fasting is a wonderful form of worship but if it doesn’t find expression in practical gritty action to support people in need, then God doesn’t want to know. He would rather we kept quiet until we have sorted ourselves out. Question In what ways are you supporting vulnerable people in your community? Prayer Lord God, I ask you to open my eyes to the needs of people around me, and to open my heart and pocket to respond to them. Amen
5/9/20243 minutes, 47 seconds
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May 8th - Isaiah 58:4

Isaiah 58:4 Nothing is more unattractive than hypocrisy. When I have talked to people who don’t go to church, time and again they have pointed out the gap between churchgoers’ faith and actions. This was precisely the situation that Isaiah was addressing. The people were regular in their attendance at the Temple and said all the right things. They seemed to take their faith seriously but, in fact, it was all an act. Even when they fasted it was just play acting because they kept on fighting and quarrelling with one another. And the ultimate proof of their hypocrisy was that they treated their employees badly. Jesus spent a lot of time pointing out people’s hypocrisy. In his day the most educated and committed Jews were the Pharisees. No one could doubt that they took their faith seriously. They were meticulous in the way in which they worshipped and tithed, but Jesus repeatedly told them that they were missing the point. Through making an elaborate public performance of their giving and praying they were showing that it was all an act. They were eager to make a good impression and to be honoured and respected by the people. But Jesus told them to make their gifts so secretly that even their left hand would not know what their right hand was doing, and to pray with the door shut so that no one could see them (Matthew 6:1-6). Let’s not fool ourselves; there’s more than a whiff of hypocrisy about all of us from time to time. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have honest and open relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters. Within a community of love and encouragement we need to have people around us who care for us enough to speak words of truth to us, to ensure that our faith and actions are telling the same story. Question How are you guarding against hypocrisy in your own life? Prayer Dear Lord, forgive me for those times when my faith is just an act. Help me to live with integrity and faithfulness to you. Amen
5/8/20243 minutes, 28 seconds
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May 7th - Isaiah 57:20-21

Isaiah 57:20-21 It was Augustine of Hippo (354–430) in his famous Confessions who observed: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.” There is no doubt that Augustine was reflecting on his own experience. He had lived a promiscuous life before he became a Christian at the age of 31 and had lurched from one philosophy to another. He knew how tempestuous and unsatisfying life was when lived his own way. It was clearly a matter of joy and relief when, through the friendship of Bishop Ambrose, he found personal faith in Christ. I wonder if, like me, you enjoy watching waves crashing onto the beach. The power of the water is a wonderful sight; Isaiah uses this as a picture of those who rebel against God. They have chosen a life of restlessness. Sadly, they know no lasting peace. We are surrounded by advertisements which suggest the route to peace, and there are endless philosophies and religions that hold out the offer of harmony and contentment. But the reality is that, though they may work for a short while, they can never offer lasting peace. Jesus offers peace to his followers that springs from a relationship with him. Jesus said: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). Whenever we feel a restlessness we should make sure that we turn our attention to Jesus and centre ourselves afresh on him. If we are willing to give up our restlessness and rest in him, we will find him to be the Prince of Peace. Question What has been your own experience of Jesus’ peace? Prayer Forgive me Lord for those times when I have missed out on your peace and allowed the challenges and temptations of life to distract me and make me restless. I gladly receive your gift of peace. Amen
5/7/20243 minutes, 38 seconds
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May 6th - Isaiah 56:9-11

Isaiah 56:9-11 As a church leader I find these words both incredibly challenging and agonisingly sad. I am sure that we have all known church leaders who have worked extremely hard and rightfully earned people’s love and respect. But there are lazy leaders as well. Here Isaiah depicts the way in which spiritual leaders in his own day totally missed the point. They were the opposite of shepherds. They didn’t care for the sheep at all. Their only concern was to have a good time. Isaiah goes on to describe how they loved to party and get drunk, and then to plan even bigger parties (v12). None of us should think that we are incapable of laziness or distraction. Those of us who are leaders need to keep our eyes focused on our incredible God-given responsibility to care for the flock, working hard to nourish and strengthen people in their spiritual lives. We should always be aiming to give the very best of ourselves to the Lord’s work, knowing that what we do has eternal importance. If you are not a church leader, I want to encourage you to pray fervently for those who are called to this important task. To be a shepherd to God’s people is an extraordinarily demanding calling. It is a massive privilege but, at the same time, it is physically, spiritually and mentally taxing. Church leaders are human and, like you, can have good and bad days. They need your love, understanding and prayerful support to be all that God wants them to be. Question In what ways could you be more effective in supporting your church leaders? Prayer Thank you, Lord, that you have called men and women to be leaders of your people. Please grant them your daily inspiration and encouragement so that they will be effective shepherds. Amen
5/6/20243 minutes, 36 seconds
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May 5th - Isaiah 56:6

Isaiah 56:6 In the Old Testament, God’s people were often told to be welcoming to foreigners. God’s love was not confined to the Jews and they were reminded that, as a nation, they used to be foreigners in Egypt so it was only right that they should be generous and loving towards foreigners. The people of Israel had spent 400 years in Egypt so there was nothing that they didn’t know about the vulnerabilities and insecurities of being foreigners. The celebration of the Passover was a continual reminder of that time. We live in a wonderfully diverse country which, over the centuries, has welcomed people from many nations. This continues to be the case. Some come to us as refugees and asylum seekers because of the dangers in their own homeland. It is vital that we welcome all foreigners and that the Church is a place where they can find security, compassion, understanding and love. I have been to many churches that have the flags of all the nations represented in the congregation. This is a wonderful way of affirming that we honour the different backgrounds and identities of all our brothers and sisters. The welcome to people of all nations is clear in Isaiah but, in the coming of Jesus, the doors are flung open to everyone with even greater clarity. I’m very interested by the statues of Jesus that can be found around the world. He could have been depicted in many different ways but many of them show him with arms outstretched in love and welcome. I’m thinking particularly of the statues of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Christ the King in Lisbon, Portugal. They tower over those great cities and give people the continual reminder of the New Testament’s message that Christ opens his arms to all those who will come to him, whatever their background or nationality. Question In what ways does your church seek to welcome people who come from different nations? Prayer Lord, I worship you because you are the God of all the nations. Help me continually to pass your welcome on to others. Amen
5/5/20243 minutes, 40 seconds
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May 4th - Isaiah 56:1-2

Isaiah 56:1-2 Justice is a major theme throughout the book of Isaiah. From the first chapter, God declares his hatred of every form of injustice and his unwillingness to receive the worship of people who refuse to act justly. God is incredibly blunt. He declares that he has had more than enough of the people’s sacrifices and is burdened by their religious festivals. It’s vital that we realise that fighting for justice is not an optional extra for Christians. It is integral to our worship. Or to use the straightforward language of Isaiah 1:15-17, if we don’t live justly then God won’t listen to our prayers. I wonder how well you know the community where you live and whether you can identify where injustice is taking place. I say that because most forms of injustice are hidden. They can happen in busy cities and quiet villages. The only way to know what is going on is to get to know people well and to hear their stories. In Isaiah’s world, the people who were most vulnerable and who suffered the greatest injustices were those with disabilities, foreigners, orphans and widows. And everyone was vulnerable to those market traders who acted unfairly and who rigged their scales to increase their profits. Injustice is an offence to God because it is a denial of everything that he wants, and it spoils the lives of everyone it touches. No wonder he hates to listen to the worship of people who live unjustly! As we worship our great God of justice we need to understand that, as we sing our songs of praise, we are being recruited to be fair and just to everyone we meet. Question In what ways are you working for justice in your community? Prayer Loving God, help me to love the people around me enough to spot injustice when it occurs. Give me courage to stand up for people who are being treated unjustly. Amen
5/4/20243 minutes, 37 seconds
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May 3rd - Isaiah 55:10-11

Isaiah 55:10-11 There is something about me that you need to know, and that is that I am incredibly excited writing these daily devotionals. Believe me, that’s got nothing to do with my abilities as a writer but everything to do with the fact that God’s word is powerful. So being asked to encourage people to read, enjoy and live by God’s word is as exciting as life can get. Every day, thousands of people read and listen to these words and I have very little idea of what the impact will be. However, what is certain is that God’s word is challenging, changing and encouraging people in their lives. How exciting is that! We are completely dependent on water. There can be no life without it. Therefore, when it rains we can be absolutely certain that the result will be life and fruitfulness. It is just the same as we read the Bible and allow God to speak to us. In many ways, it is even more exciting, because we cannot be sure how God will bless us. We know that he will make us fruitful, but that fruit could take many different forms. To one person our verses today will be saying: “Keep going in your difficult situation because, even though it’s tough, what you have been doing will have an ongoing effect.” To another person, who might be coming to the end of a period of service, God is saying: “You can move on now because the words you have spoken will continue to bless people long after you have gone.” The writer to the Hebrews spoke of the word of God as being sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It always gets to the point. I encourage you to read the Bible with the confident expectation that God will speak powerfully to you. The result will be that your life will produce abundant fruit. Question In what ways have you seen the power of God’s word? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you are continually speaking to me. Amen
5/3/20243 minutes, 46 seconds
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May 2nd - Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9 Life is full of mysteries. Every day, tragedies occur and people scream out to God that life is not fair. As we reach out to others in their times of deepest need we would love to be able to offer an explanation, but we cannot. The problem of suffering has challenged humankind since the dawn of time and will continue to do so. But the mysteries of life are not only at that end of the spectrum, because the beauties and wonders of life are just as mysterious. How can you explain the beauty of a flower, the wonder of a sunset or the majesty of the night sky? All these things are beyond our ability to understand or explain. However, we worship a God whose understanding is infinite and whose love knows no limits. How should we respond to the knowledge that God is infinitely greater and wiser than we are? It would be easy to be overwhelmed by this. But a far better response would be to turn to God in worship and adoration with the knowledge that, in this life, we will never have the ability to understand everything. To use the language of the apostle Paul, at the moment “we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity” (1 Corinthians 13:12). God doesn’t want us to trudge through our lives burdened by all that we do not understand. He wants us to expand our understanding but always with the humility that acknowledges that his wisdom is infinitely beyond us. His desire is that we should live at peace with him and ourselves and with the confidence of knowing that, at the right time, we will be given the understanding that we need. In the meantime, we need to focus our energies on worshipping him. Question How do you respond to the fact that God is infinitely wise? Prayer Great God of wonders, I worship you. Thank you for this awe-inspiring world that you have created. Help me to worship you with the whole of my life. Amen
5/2/20243 minutes, 46 seconds
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May 1st - Isaiah 55:1-2

Isaiah 55:1-2 Much of Isaiah’s prophecy is dominated by the theme of judgement. The people had wandered away from God and lived lives that were a complete disappointment to him. They had worshipped other gods and had neglected to care for the poor and needy. But, through it all, God’s deep desire was to bring the people back to himself, and so he promised to send his servant to bring them salvation. In today’s reading God’s incredible offer is spelled out. He alone was able to satisfy their deepest need and he was willing to give them everything they needed freely. The offer today is just the same. God sent his servant to us in the person of Jesus Christ and he offers his gifts of forgiveness and new life to all those who will accept him into their lives. He only looks for us to be willing to give up our own self-centred life to live the new life that he gives us in the power of his Spirit. It is all for free. Sadly, in our cynical society, everyone gets deeply suspicious when they hear that something is being offered for nothing. I will admit that as soon as an email or letter arrives assuring me of untold riches for nothing, I immediately switch off. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But here God offers us spiritual drink and food that can satisfy us completely - and they are absolutely free. Persuading other people that this is true, and not yet another gimmick, is something that we can only do when they see the reality of salvation in our own lives. I thank God for those people whose integrity, compassion and humility persuaded me that the Christian message was nothing other than the truth. Question In what ways has God satisfied your deepest needs? Prayer Loving God, thank you for your limitless generosity. Help me to find ways of passing on your amazing invitation to those I meet day by day. Amen
5/1/20243 minutes, 44 seconds
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April 30th - Proverbs 12:15

Proverbs 12:15 There is all the difference in the world between hearing and listening. Hearing is a physical process, and it happens all the time whether we like it or not. Listening however is a matter of choice. When we listen we deliberately tune in to what others are saying and reflect on it. It is a way in which we show love and respect to other people. It’s a great privilege when someone listens to us. We know we have their full attention and it is as if we are the only person in the world in that moment. We feel valued and affirmed. Listening is the most wonderful gift that we can give to another person. It appears a very easy thing to do but it is, in fact, incredibly demanding. It demands our focused attention and is a very tiring thing to do for any length of time. I love the ditty: “His thoughts were slow, his words were few and never formed to glisten. But he was a joy to all his friends. You should have heard him listen!” The truth is that a person who is good at listening will never be short of friends! The writer of Proverbs saw listening as a crucial quality of a wise person. As ever, he contrasted the wise person with the fool who doesn’t bother to listen because he is so confident that he knows what is right. If we are honest, we have probably all been guilty of that from time to time, and we need the reminder to spend more time listening carefully and generously to others. We won’t always love what we hear, but we need to reflect on it carefully before we make our decisions. Questions How good are you at listening, and how do you think you could improve your listening skills? Prayer Lord God, forgive me for those times when I have not listened carefully to others. Give me the humility and grace to listen with increasing care. Amen
4/30/20243 minutes, 15 seconds
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April 29th - Proverbs 12:10

Proverbs 12:10 I need to be honest with you. I have read this chapter many times but I have never stopped and thought about this verse before now. The writer seems to be saying that a person who follows God will show a caring attitude in every part of their life - including the way in which they care for their animals. Caring for animals is also reflected in Deuteronomy which, on a number of occasions, encourages a kind and generous attitude to animals. In chapter 22 Moses instructs the people that if they saw their neighbour’s ox, sheep or goat wandering away, they should take the animal to its owner and, if they couldn’t locate the owner, look after the animal until they could be reunited. And if they saw their neighbour’s donkey or ox collapsed on the road they should not look the other way but go and help their neighbour to get the animal back on its feet. In chapter 25 the people were instructed not to muzzle an ox while it was treading out the grain. It needed to have the freedom to have a snack while it did its work! In the book of Genesis we learn that God has trusted humankind with caring for animals on his behalf. That includes our pets. They are a precious part of God’s creation, and we need to show our respect and care for them. Over the years, we have had many pets as a family. Our care for them has been an important part of our children’s upbringing, as we have encouraged them to care for their pets even when they haven’t felt like it. Rowland Hill is famous for the revolution that he brought to the postal system when he introduced stamps in 1840. He once said: “Nobody is truly a Christian unless his cat or dog is the better off for it.” We have neither a dog nor a cat these days, but we do have two rabbits, Snowy and Midnight, and I do hope they are the better for knowing me. Question In what ways are you able to show kindness to animals? Prayer Loving God, I thank you for the gift of animals and for the way in which they enrich life. Help me to be kind and generous towards them. Amen
4/29/20243 minutes, 35 seconds
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April 28th - Proverbs 11:28

Proverbs 11:28 We hear a lot about money in the book of Proverbs. In many ways the writer speaks very positively about it. The acquisition of money is often seen as a sign of God’s blessing and he encourages his readers to work hard so that they will get more of it. But he was also keen to put money in its place. If money shapes our lives, we have missed the point completely. The only one we should trust is the Lord himself. We can lean on him and know that he will always be faithful and true. By way of contrast, money is temporary and should never control our lives. It is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. This teaching poses a great challenge to our society, which is obsessed with money. Bishop J C Ryle summarised the problem well when he wrote: “Nothing I am sure has such a tendency to quench the fire of religion as the possession of money.” Money feeds arrogance and a feeling of self-satisfaction, which pushes God away. Jesus was acutely conscious of this and spoke so bluntly on the subject that he shocked his disciples. Having told the rich young ruler that he needed to give his money to the poor, Jesus concluded: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23). He went on to say that: “it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:25). Whether he had a sewing needle in mind or the little gate that led into the city, the point is the same. The key question is: “Where have you placed your trust?” Do you look at your bank balance and possessions and believe that they will keep you safe for time and eternity? If so, you are seriously mistaken. They simply cannot give you that security. But if you place your trust in God, you can look to the future with confidence. Question Take some time to think about this question: Where, in all honesty, have you placed
your trust? Prayer Loving God, forgive me for those times when I have misunderstood the importance of money. Help me place my trust in you and you alone. Amen
4/28/20243 minutes, 42 seconds
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April 27th - 1 Corinthians 14:1

1 Corinthians 14:1 1 Corinthians 13 is a really famous chapter and rightly so. But Paul didn’t write in chapters. Chapter divisions arrived about 1,200 years later! So, whenever we see a chapter division, we need to, at least, peer at what happens next. If you only looked at chapter 13
you might think that love is so important that you can forget about the gifts of the Spirit. After all, they have got a limited shelf life, as Paul has just explained. But at the start of chapter 14 he makes it plain that we all need to make love the goal of our lives and, at the same time, seek after the wonderful gifts that the Holy Spirit wants to give us. The church in Corinth had got into a horrible muddle about spiritual gifts and Paul is trying to straighten them out. Their meetings had become totally disorganised and unhelpful, with people trying to outdo one another as they used their gifts. Paul is eager to give them some clear rules so that they will start appreciating the gifts that God has given them, and use them in a way that will build up the whole church. Churches can still slip up today. As much as we love the Lord, we still trip over our selfishness and idiosyncrasies, so it is vital that we keep focused on Paul’s wise words. We must continually ensure that we make love our goal, as well as also eagerly seeking after the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Question What gift has God given you to build up the Church? Prayer Thank you Lord for the gifts that you have given to your Church. Help me to use my own gift enthusiastically and wisely so that it will help to build your Church. Amen
4/27/20243 minutes, 10 seconds
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April 26th - 1 Corinthians 13:8,13

1 Corinthians 13:8,13 I don’t know about you, but I don’t like throwing things away. I am writing this on a new laptop, but I hung on to the last one for as long as possible. It was starting to run very slowly, and sometimes didn’t want to start at all. I was prepared to concede that it had good days and bad days, but, in the end, I had to admit that I was devoting too much of my life to waiting for it to spring into action. Of course, all our possessions have a limited life. Our cars, our microwaves, our beds, our desks and even our homes don’t last for ever. The same principle exists in the spiritual realm as well. Our spiritual gifts are a wonderful blessing but they come to an end. Speaking in tongues, prophecy, preaching and words of knowledge are all amazing gifts of God, but the day will come when they are silent. There will be no more need for them. However, some things do last for ever. Paul lists them as faith, hope and love. But one shines above them all – love. Isn’t it a wonderful thought that the love that we show day by day never comes to an end? It is a reflection of God’s eternal nature and so every time we reach out to another person and truly love them we are sharing in the stream of his eternal love. We need that reminder because loving is often painful and unnoticed and sometimes even rejected. However, there is nothing more important that we can ever do than love. Question In what way are you encouraged by the fact that love never ends? Prayer Thank you Lord that your love never ends. Help me to devote more of my life to sharing the eternal gift of love. Amen
4/26/20243 minutes, 18 seconds
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April 25th - 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was about four years old I can recall being very confused when I met new people. I presumed that they had just been made, because I had never seen them before! I had recently realised that people die – probably because one of my grandfathers died at around that time. I came up with a theory that God took the bits of dead people and used them to make the new people that I had just met. It was all very logical and, in its way, quite impressive. It just happened to be wrong! When we are children, our minds struggle to understand the world around us and that’s absolutely fine. But if I had told you that it is still my view that God makes people out of those who have passed away you wouldn’t think that was fine at all. You would, in your kindness, feel desperately sorry for me and, I trust, start praying for me. Our thinking and speaking changes as we get older. Many things that were a complete mystery to us as children are no longer mysterious. But, however old we are, we are still on a journey towards understanding, as we all have a lot more to learn. We need to draw two conclusions from this. Firstly, we need to be humble. We might know a lot, but we don’t know everything. God hasn’t revealed the whole truth to us, so we need to look at every day as an adventure in which we learn a little more about ourselves, our world and God. And secondly, we need to be excited by the thought that one day we will understand the whole picture. Question What new things have you learned about God over the last month? Prayer Lord God our Father, thank you that you are constantly revealing more of yourself to me. Amen
4/25/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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April 24th - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 I am sure that you have often heard these famous words. They give us the most beautiful description of love and, understandably, they are often read at weddings. Love sounds incredibly attractive doesn’t it? We all long to be as loving as this. But the problem is that no amount of human effort will enable us to be. The only way to show perfect love is by enabling God to work through us. Hard as we might try, we will never succeed in being truly loving without God’s daily strength. The way to become more loving is to focus more on God. As we get to know God better, and allow our lives to be shaped by him, his love will naturally flow through us. There will be no stopping it! Living in God’s way of love will shape every part of life from the moment we wake up. It will affect the way in which we greet people in the morning. It will guide our prayers for the people we see on the way to work. It will colour our relationship with our families, colleagues and friends. We will, without thinking about it, be seeking the very best for them all. When we meet people in need we will naturally reach out to them and seek to help. We won’t have time to do much thinking about love because we will be so busy loving. Question Which of Paul’s descriptions of love do you find most challenging? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you have always shown me perfect love. Help me to get to know you better so that your love will constantly flow from my life. Amen
4/24/20243 minutes, 19 seconds
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April 23rd - 1 Corinthians 13:1

1 Corinthians 13:1 I will never forget Sheila. She was in her early 70s when I first met her and, every Friday evening without fail, she helped out with her church’s youth club. The church was on a rough estate and the evenings were full of action. The young people were rarely appreciative and, at times, violent. The language they used was normally rude and often deeply offensive. And yet, Friday after Friday, Sheila would faithfully go and support the youth club with the hope that it might be a blessing to the young people and possibly even lead them closer to finding faith in Jesus. I only know one word that would explain why someone would act in that way – love. Sheila truly loved those young people and nothing would stop her seeking to help them. I’ve started with a personal example because we all know how to speak and sing about love, but the real test is whether we can turn our words into action. In this amazing chapter on love, Paul draws the picture of a person who seems to have collected every spiritual gift. This person is not just a great preacher but the best ever. Their knowledge has no limits and their prophetic gift is so great that they can unpick every mystery they face. On top of all of that they have faith that can move mountains around. To cap it all, their commitment to their faith is so complete that they don’t think twice about offering themselves as a martyr. What an amazing person! But Paul adds that even if all of those things are true of you, if you have no love then your life is just a lot of hot air. Love needs to take first place in our lives. Our God of love longs for us to reflect his love to the world. Question Who has shown you the most powerful example of love? Prayer God of love I worship you. Help me to reflect your love to those I meet today. Amen
4/23/20243 minutes, 31 seconds
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April 22nd - 1 Corinthians 12:14,16-17

1 Corinthians 12:14,16-17 I love Paul’s sense of humour! He imagines a conversation going on within the body that is plainly ridiculous.
It would be crazy if the ear were to complain that it wasn’t a proper part of the body because it wasn’t an eye. But, funny as it is, Paul is making a very serious point. He is talking about inferiority complexes - and they get everywhere. Many people in churches look down on themselves. Some think they don’t count because they are only a Sunday school teacher, or only a cleaner or only a newcomer. Paul wants to make it clear that, so far as God is concerned, there are no ‘only’ people in the Church. Every single person is vital. Paul recognises that there is another problem as well – having a superiority complex, which is just as absurd. Paul imagines the eye saying to the hand: “I don’t need you” and the head saying to the feet: “I don’t need you” (v21). Not only would it be offensive for the parts of the body to talk to one another like that, but it would also be absolutely wrong – the eye does need the hand, the head does need the feet! In every organisation there tends to be a pecking order, so you can easily identify who is seen as the most powerful and important and who is seen as the least. But Paul protests that in the Church, just like in the body, everyone is absolutely crucial. We need to learn to treasure and value everybody, because God has placed them within the Church, and without them it would be unable to function. Question Have you ever suffered from an inferiority complex or a superiority complex? If so, how does this passage help you? Prayer Lord, help me to value the members of my church in the way that you do. Amen
4/22/20243 minutes, 28 seconds
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April 21st - 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 I often hear people being described as gifted. They may be a particularly able pianist, flower arranger or speaker. I understand what is being said, but it could be misleading. It seems to suggest that there are two types of people – those who are gifted and those who are, sadly, not gifted at all. This passage makes it clear that every one of us is gifted. Whatever your age, strength, ability or disability, background or temperament you have got a unique gift that God, in his generosity, has given to you. Our task is therefore to discover the gift that God has given to us and to make sure that we use it. People have often told me that they don’t know what their gift is. If that’s true of you let me offer you a very simple five-step plan. Firstly, thank God for your gift, even though you haven’t worked out what it is yet. Secondly, ask God what your gift is. Since he has gone to the trouble of giving it to you, we can assume that he would love you to know what it is. Thirdly, open your eyes. Look around you and see if you can spot what your gift is, because it is often very obvious. To be honest, the problem can be that we know exactly what our gift is and would prefer that we had been given a different one. Fourthly, if you still haven’t worked out what your gift is, ask someone who knows you well. I suspect that they will be very clear what your gift is. Then, fifthly, use this gift and remember to keep thanking God for it. Question What is your gift and how are you using it? Prayer Dear Lord, thank you for the gift that you have given me. Help me to use it effectively. Amen
4/21/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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April 20th - 1 Corinthians 11:27-28

1 Corinthians 11:27-28 If you are employed, you probably have the delight of an annual appraisal. The intention is to stand back from how things are going in order to acknowledge what went well and what went not so well, and to reflect on how things could be strengthened for the year ahead. Conducted well, appraisals can be a great blessing and I have always been grateful for the ones that I have had. Here Paul is suggesting that we need to conduct a self-appraisal on a regular basis before we meet together to remember Christ’s death for us on the cross. The Corinthian church had clearly made a huge mess of their services. When they had a meal together to celebrate Jesus’ death some of them ate so much that there was nothing left for others. Paul concluded that their services actually did more harm than good. He felt that this special service was so important that everyone needed to prepare carefully for it, and crucial to that preparation was self-examination. When we examine ourselves we need to be ruthlessly honest. This is a very serious business. No one would want to be found guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. As we look hard at our lives we are not looking for perfection, but honesty. As we shine the light on our lives we need to acknowledge our failings and seek God’s forgiveness and renewal as we rededicate our lives to him. We come with empty hands so that he may fill us again with his blessings. Question When and how do you examine yourself before God? Prayer Dear Lord, help me to be totally honest with you as I look at my life. I seek your forgiveness and ask you to fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit. Amen
4/20/20243 minutes, 20 seconds
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April 19th - 1 Corinthians 10:31

1 Corinthians 10:31 Life throws up many challenges for us in the 21st century, and it was no different in Paul’s day. One of the issues that he faced was meat taken to pagan temples as an act of worship before being sold by the butchers. Paul was quite clear that pagan gods were not true gods and so it really didn’t matter if the meat had been waved in front of them. But if someone were to point out that the meat had been presented in the temple, he concluded that it would be better not to eat it, out of respect for the informant’s conscience (vv27-30). The key principle in all of this was that, whatever you do, it needs to be done for the glory of God. Every day we have to make decisions. Most of them are simple and straightforward but, like Paul, we need to be clear about the guiding principle. We need to ask whether or not our actions will bring glory to God. We may be considering a purchase, a holiday or a new job. There may be any number of possible ways forward but the key question is: “What will be most beneficial and pleasing to God?” On the face of it, this might sound restricting and limiting but, because of the nature of God, it is in fact the exact opposite. As we discover God’s will for our lives, we find true liberty. God’s desire is always to enable us to be more alive. Question As you make decisions today how will you test whether the outcome will be for the glory of God? Prayer Thank you, Lord, that you want to bless every part of my life. Help me to share every decision with you so that I might bring glory to you today. Amen
4/19/20243 minutes, 7 seconds
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April 18th - 1 Corinthians 9:19,22-23

1 Corinthians 9:19,22-23 I love meeting people who are passionate about something. It may be their love of horses, a particular football club or their devotion to gardening. You sense that their whole life is tuned into their passion and I find it fascinating to learn how they organise their lives. Paul was clearly passionate about people finding salvation in Jesus and here he lets us see his strategy for spreading this amazing message. His method was to get alongside people whatever their background or way of life. Whether they were a Jew or a Gentile, weak or strong he would look for the common ground as a starting point to share the good news of Jesus. It’s always the most incredible privilege to talk with other people about Jesus, but the conversation will never get anywhere unless you can find common ground. Paul seems to suggest that if you look hard enough you can find that with anyone. It’s not a case of putting on an act, but of showing so much interest in another person that you discover those places where your life meets theirs. When that firm link has been established, you are then able to share the good news in a way that is relevant to them. Paul’s intention was never to force his faith on another person, and it should not be ours. But he was passionate about giving everyone a chance to hear just how great God
is, and that would surely be a great objective for all of us. Question In what way can you find common ground with the people you see regularly who don’t know Christ? Prayer Thank you, Lord, that we have such good news to share. Help me by your Spirit to find ways of sharing it with those whom I meet day by day. Amen
4/18/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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April 17th - 1 Corinthians 4:16-17

1 Corinthians 4:16-17 The disciples learned how to follow Jesus by looking at his example. They saw the way in which he responded to the constant demands of his ministry. They saw his kindness and patience and the way in which he welcomed every kind of person. They were often shocked by the things that he said and by the sort of people that he spent time with. Previously, they would have steered well clear of prostitutes, tax collectors and people with leprosy but Jesus always had time for them. Paul didn’t have the privilege of observing Jesus’ ministry, but he recognised the crucial importance of people learning by example, and he offered his life as one to be imitated. How else would people learn how to put Christian teaching into practice? In our verses today he told the Corinthian church that he was sending his young friend Timothy to them to remind them of Paul’s example. I suspect that we would all become rather coy at the thought of people copying our example. But the fact is that every day, as we live for Christ, we are being watched. People are looking at the way we respond to different situations. They see how we face challenges and celebrate successes. There is no way in which we can hide away, so we need to ensure that every day we are setting a good example that is worth following. Question Who will be looking at your life today, and what example will you be setting? Prayer Dear Lord, thank you for all the people who have set a good example for me to follow. Fill me with your Spirit so that I can live a life which will help others to follow you. Amen
4/17/20243 minutes, 11 seconds
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April 16th - 1 Corinthians 3:5-6

1 Corinthians 3:5-6 Think for a moment about the Christian leaders that you have known. I’ve been a Christian a long time and I could easily come up with a list of scores of leaders who have helped me to understand the Christian message. I am so grateful to God for them. I can remember very few words that they have spoken (even though I must have heard thousands of their sermons) but I can easily remember their sincerity, kindness, humour, love, compassion, thoughtfulness and their strength of faith. But, at the end of the day, they were all servants. The person who really matters is God himself, because he alone gives life and causes growth. It is important that we should love and support our Christian leaders, but it is vital that we don’t exaggerate their importance. Their role is simply to point to the God whom they serve. I say this because I have sometimes seen people become devastated when a leader moves on, or when a minister slips up. God doesn’t call us to worship and serve our leaders, but to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to him. All leaders are frail and vulnerable like the rest of us. They are on the same roller- coaster of life as us, so have their ups and down. We need to rejoice in their good days and forgive their bad ones, but ensure that our focus is continually and supremely on the One whom we all serve. Question What have you learned from the leaders that you have known? Prayer Loving Lord, thank you for all the leaders that you have used to teach and support me in my Christian faith. But most of all I thank you that you are the one who, by your Spirit, enables me to grow. Amen
4/16/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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April 15th - 1 Corinthians 2:1-3

1 Corinthians 2:1-3 I once heard about a church that regularly visited the houses nearby. They sent out people two by two. A young girl nervously agreed to join in. She went to one house and a large man came to the door asking in a gruff voice what she wanted. She struggled to speak and then, in a quivering voice, she blurted out: “I’ve come to tell you that Jesus loves you.” The man didn’t know what to say and so slammed the door in her face. He went inside and slumped into a chair weeping like a baby. His wife asked what was wrong and he told her that a young girl had just come to their front door and told him that Jesus loved him. He had never had an experience like this before and he was amazed by her bravery. He couldn’t get over it. The more he thought about the experience the more curious he became and, after a while, he plucked up courage to go to the church and made a commitment to follow Christ. I love that story. God often speaks through our weakness more easily than through our strength. That was certainly Paul’s experience. He remembered how he was when he first arrived in Corinth. It was a busy and noisy city, famous for its immorality. It’s not surprising that Paul felt overwhelmed by his weakness. But Paul knew that what mattered was that people heard that Jesus died on the cross for them. It didn’t matter that he was timid and trembling. Most of us feel unsure of ourselves when we are given the opportunity to speak about our faith. But the truth is that we are often at our most powerful when we are feeling nervous and weak. Question Can you think of a time when God used you particularly powerfully in a time of weakness? Prayer Lord help me to be willing to speak up for you, even when I am feeling weak and tongue-tied. Amen
4/15/20243 minutes, 44 seconds
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April 14th - 1 Corinthians 1:18

1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul was absolutely sure that the cross of Jesus stood right at the heart of his life and ministry. It was the lens through which Paul saw everything. For him it was the most wonderful message, communicating God’s love and power and the way in which he longs to bring peace into the world. So, Paul was determined to take every opportunity to speak about it. However, Paul was more than aware that the message of the cross sounded like nonsense to many people. The Greeks were looking for wisdom. They were very happy to listen to carefully reasoned arguments and to enter into learned debate. But the idea of a man dying at the hands of the Romans, showing that he was totally powerless and completely beaten by his enemies, sounded like foolishness. To the Jews, Jesus’ own people, there was a fundamental problem. In Deuteronomy it was specifically stated that anyone who hung on a tree was cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23). It looked to the average Jew that hanging on the cross couldn’t possibly be something that God would allow to happen to his own son. The cross, therefore, made belief almost impossible for Jews. Paul was well aware of how foolish and problematic his message appeared. But he didn’t try to change it to make it sound acceptable to his hearers. He simply declared that, for those who believe, it is the power and wisdom of God. It turns all our normal thinking upside down, but that’s how God works. For those who want to get to the heart of understanding what love is all about, or who want to live lives that are full of God’s power, there is only one place to look – to the cross of Jesus Christ. Question What does the cross mean to you personally? Prayer Thank you Lord that when you went to the cross you showed us the full extent of your love. Amen
4/14/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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April 13th - 1 Corinthians 1:4-5

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 If you know anything at all about the church in Corinth you will know that it was a disaster area. Everything seemed to be going wrong. They were divided. They had a case of incest in the church and nothing had been done to sort it out. Their times of worship were an embarrassment. They totally misunderstood what the gifts of the Spirit were for, and viewed them competitively. It’s hard to find anything to celebrate. But look how Paul starts this letter. He could have kicked it off with a long list of moans, but he doesn’t. He begins with encouragement. My junior school was tiny and so I found my huge secondary school a very bewildering place. I had never been a part of anything like it before. I struggled with the work and didn’t do very well at first. But I will never forget the piece of work that I did for a Geography teacher when I was twelve, which he marked as “excellent”. Nobody had ever told me that I had done anything excellent before, and his words changed everything. I saw myself in a new light. It’s so important to use words of encouragement, particularly when we need to say something that is critical. Before we dare to say a single negative word, we need to think of all the genuinely encouraging things that we can say. Words of encouragement don’t normally need to be long, but they can be life-changing. I wonder what you might be able to say today which will give solid encouragement to someone else. Question What was the most significant encouragement that you have ever received and what did you learn from the experience? Prayer Thank you, loving Lord, that you are the supreme encourager. Help me to become more encouraging day by day. Amen
4/13/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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April 12th - Ephesians 6:10-11

Ephesians 6:10-11 Just imagine if someone were to walk on to a battlefield wearing casual clothes. The thought is absurd. If you knew that you were heading into battle, you would go fully equipped. Paul made it absolutely clear to his readers that the resurrection power of God was at work in their lives. But, at the same time, he reminded them that they were involved in a daily struggle with the powers of evil. Paul’s conclusion, as he drew this letter to an end, was that they should go into every day fully equipped for the battles that they would face. The wonderful truth that Paul shares is that God perfectly equips us for the challenges that we might face. He gives us truth, which is like a belt. It keeps everything firmly in place. He gives us a breastplate of righteousness; because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross our spiritual vital organs are totally protected. Our feet are equipped with the gospel of peace and he gives us a shield that can protect us from all the flaming arrows of the evil one (vv13-17). We can step forward with confidence in God. Whatever the devil might throw at us, we know that we are fully protected. That isn’t to deny the reality of the battle or to suggest that it won’t hurt us at times. But we can be sure that, at the end of the day, however hot and fierce the battle might be, we will still be standing when it ends. Question What part of the armour do you need to put more firmly in place in your life? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you have perfectly equipped me to face every challenge that the devil might throw at me. Help me to put on every piece of the armour that you have lovingly provided for me. Amen
4/12/20243 minutes, 16 seconds
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April 11th - Ephesians 4:22-24

Ephesians 4:22-24 Do you like change? If I’m honest I have a love/hate relationship with change. There is much about life that is comfortable and congenial and I would be happy if it stayed the way it is. There are other things that I would be happy to change in an instant. In these verses Paul tells us we need to get used to the fact that God is looking for revolutionary change in our lives. He wants that because his desire is for our lives to be completely blessed; not merely an improvement on what they used to be. This process of change is so radical that it has to start in our thoughts. Only as we allow God to renew our thinking will any real change take place in our actions. I know that this could sound scary. But God is motivated by perfect love and his intentions are that we should reach our true potential, so we can be completely confident as we place ourselves in his hands. God’s intention is that our new nature should be just like his. We have no need to be fearful about the changes that God wants to see in our lives. Since God is holy and perfectly loving it might seem sensible if he were to impose his changes on us. But God
is always unwilling to do that. The decision lies with us. That’s why Paul uses the language of changing clothes. God looks to us to throw off the old suit of clothes. He wants us to make the deliberate decision to change our way of life before he will give us a wonderful new suit of clothes to put on. In his love, he lets us decide. Question Are you willing to let God change your attitudes and thoughts? Prayer Dear Lord, thank you that you only ever ask me to change because of your perfect love for me. Amen
4/11/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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April 10th - Ephesians 3:20-21

Ephesians 3:20-21 The resurrection of Jesus is so completely amazing that it needs to challenge every aspect of our thinking about life. If God was like us then it would be understandable if we expected only ordinary and predictable things to happen in life. But he isn’t like us. He was able to bring his son Jesus back to life again, and so we need to stop expecting just the ordinary and predictable things to happen. William Carey was a Baptist and the founder of the modern missionary movement. He lived in Northamptonshire and worked as a shoemaker at the end of the 18th century. Carey was overwhelmed by the greatness of God and, in order to become more useful to the Lord, he learned many languages alongside running his shoe business. He taught himself Hebrew, Italian, Dutch and French. He famously once said: “Expect great things of God; attempt great things for God.” His amazing life changed the course of mission work throughout the world. It happened because his faith in a great God was matched by his willingness to work incredibly hard for God. As we continue to thank God for the privilege of being an Easter people let’s allow God to give us a much bigger vision of what he wants to do in the world. And at the same time let’s work hard at whatever God has called us to do. Question What great things are you expecting God to do? Prayer God our Father, thank you that you are such a great God. By your Spirit help me to expect you to do great things and give me the willingness to attempt great things for you. Amen
4/10/20243 minutes, 16 seconds
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April 9th - Ephesians 2:8-9

Ephesians 2:8-9 I remember my first pay packet as a teenager. It was a small brown envelope and it contained what, at the time, seemed to me like a considerable amount of money. It wasn’t really very much but I had never had a job before, and it compared favourably with pocket money! I had received that money because I had done many days of hard physical work in a warehouse. And it may well be that you can see a clear connection between all that you own and the hard work that you have put in. For this very reason it can be very difficult to accept that our salvation is completely unlike this. Because however hard we work, and however nice we are, we will never be able to earn salvation. The problem is that we are all sinners. We have all fallen short of God’s standards. The fact that some people seem to be much worse than others is neither here nor there. No amount of hard work will earn us salvation. All we can do is to accept the gift of God, which Paul describes as grace. Grace is the totally undeserved gift of new life, which God gives to those who are willing to receive it. And because it is entirely the result of God’s generosity, and nothing to do with our good actions, we never have any reason to boast about what we have done. All we can do is accept the gift, give thanks to God and then boast about how brilliant he is. Question In what ways are you able to boast of what God has done in your life? Prayer Loving Father, thank you for the amazing generosity that you have shown me. Help me today to find opportunities to boast about what you have done for me. Amen
4/9/20243 minutes, 10 seconds
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April 8th - Ephesians 1:19-20

Ephesians 1:19-20 I love everything about Easter. Winter has gone and we can see evidence of new life springing up all around us. It is as if creation is joining in the celebrations of Easter and confirming the promise of new life in Jesus. Easter is a happy time to share with other Christians and the services are full of confidence and hope. We are absolutely right to enjoy this wonderful time of the year, but we need to be careful that we don’t leave it behind us and move on to something else, because we are always an Easter people. What happened when Jesus rose from death is an ongoing reality. It is hard to imagine a greater miracle than Jesus’ resurrection! There is an absolute finality about death and from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion there is no doubt that he died on the cross. The Romans were experienced executioners but to make doubly sure that he was dead one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side, causing a sudden flow of blood and water. Humanly speaking that was surely the end of the matter. But not when God is at work. God is the source of all life and, when he decided to raise Jesus from death, that’s what happened. Every day we face situations of struggle, confusion and brokenness and, as we do so, we need to remind ourselves that God is a God of resurrection. He loves bringing new life, not just on Easter day but every day as we put our trust in him. Question In what situation are you going to pray for new life today? Prayer Loving God, I worship you because you are the God of resurrection. Help me to welcome the new life that you want to give me today. Amen
4/8/20243 minutes, 19 seconds
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April 7th - John 21:20-22

John 21:20-22 Having received his commission from Jesus to care for his sheep and been given an insight into his future, Peter then became curious about others. He asked about how it was going to be for the disciple whom Jesus loved, who we assume to be John. Jesus’ response was sharp and definite. Effectively Jesus said: “Mind your own business”. It was nothing to do with Peter. All he needed to know was that he was called to follow Jesus. Let’s face it, we are all curious about the people around us. We would be fascinated to know what their future will be. But Jesus’ words remind us all that our responsibility is for ourselves; we don’t need to know what will happen to other people. That is in God’s hands. As John drew his Gospel to a close, he wanted his readers to know that their greatest need was for each one of them to keep their eyes fixed on following Jesus. In our busy, noisy world we face endless demands on our time and attention, and it is very easy for us to lose our focus on following Jesus. We can so easily get distracted by things that are not bad in themselves, but which lure us away from giving first place to Jesus. We need to work hard to ensure that we are tuned in to his voice. When I lived in India a key moment in my day was when I listened to the news on BBC World Service. The task of tuning in our old radio sounds simple enough but it never was! I often had to work for some minutes to get a proper signal. We need that kind of determination to keep our focus on listening to Jesus and following in his ways. Question What do you need to do to guard against becoming distracted from following Jesus? Prayer Lord help me always to make following you the priority of my life. Amen
4/7/20243 minutes, 39 seconds
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April 6th - John 21:17

John 21:17 We cannot be sure why Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved him. Many people have suggested that it mirrored Peter’s three denials before Jesus’ crucifixion. It is suggested that this was Jesus’ way of helping Peter to find cleansing from that time of abject failure. There is great encouragement for us all in the fact that Jesus was willing to forgive someone who had let him down so comprehensively. Peter had a hugely significant ministry ahead of him, but it couldn’t begin until he knew that he had been released from the burden of his failure. Every time Peter affirmed his love, Jesus told him that he was giving him a job. Peter was instructed to take care of Jesus’ sheep and feed them. Whenever someone follows Jesus, they are also given responsibilities to serve others. The idea of Christian faith being a private matter that simply gives a person a warm relationship with God and a secure future for all eternity is foreign to the New Testament’s teaching. Every follower of Christ becomes a part of the body of Christ and has the responsibility to support and care for the other members. We will all do that differently according to our gifts, abilities and opportunities, but none of us can dodge the privileged responsibility of supporting our Christian brothers and sisters. Peter is then warned how tough it will be to be a follower of Jesus. He is told that his obedience to Christ will lead
to his death (vv18-19). Having informed him of this, Jesus challenges him: “Follow me” (v19). In this Gospel we learn that following Jesus is the path to life in all its fulness, but he never disguised the cost of following him. He promised his followers that they would be hated by the world and rejected. And it is this same risen Lord Jesus Christ who comes to us today and says: “Follow me.” Question In what ways does this story of Jesus commissioning Peter encourage and challenge you? Prayer Loving Lord, help me as I seek to follow you and to serve you faithfully wherever you call me to go. Amen
4/6/20243 minutes, 50 seconds
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April 5th - John 21:4-6

John 21:4-6 I was brought up by the sea and so it isn’t surprising that I started fishing when I was a boy. We always set out with huge expectations of what we would catch. If you have ever gone fishing you will know that, whenever someone walks by, they are bound to ask: “Have you caught anything?” It’s the obvious question but the last thing that you want to admit is that you have caught nothing. You feel a complete failure – an experience I often had! In this account, Jesus asked the predictable question. Even though he spoke to them, it seems, at first, that the disciples didn’t recognise him. He then advised them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Another thing that people who walk by you when you are fishing like to do is give advice. Jesus duly gave his advice and, interestingly, since they didn’t know it was him or that their newfound adviser knew anything about fishing, they did as he said. The result was that they brought in an enormous catch. Most people don’t love change. We get used to organising our lives in a way that suits us, and we have powerful reasons for doing things in the way that we do. Churches are particularly fond of sticking to a particular way of organising themselves, and that sometimes stays unchanged for years and even decades. It isn’t wrong to get into a settled pattern of life, but it is essential for us to listen to the voice of Jesus, who will sometimes invite us to do things completely differently. And, when we are obedient to him, blessing is sure to follow. Question When have you seen radical change in the life of your church, and what did you learn from the experience? Prayer Loving Lord Jesus help me to listen carefully for your voice. I ask you to give me courage to be obedient. Amen
4/5/20243 minutes, 33 seconds
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April 4th - John 20:25

John 20:25 I suspect that we all have some sympathy for Thomas and are not inclined to blame him for his reluctance to believe that Jesus had risen from death. We know that there was often a competitive spirit among the disciples, and they were no doubt happy to brag that they had seen the Lord. I am sure Thomas desperately wanted to believe that they were right, but he needed to be sure and so he asserted that he needed evidence. More than a week later, Jesus came to the disciples who, once again, were meeting behind locked doors. He invited Thomas to see the evidence and to put his hand into the wound in his side. John doesn’t record whether Thomas took Jesus up on this offer or not. Thomas simply exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (v28). He was absolutely convinced. Jesus observed that Thomas believed because he had seen him and added: “blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (v29). Clearly, we don’t have the opportunity to check the evidence in the way that Thomas did. So, what are we supposed to do with our doubts? Firstly, we should accept that doubts are a normal part of life. I don’t believe that God calls us to take a leap in the dark, which is what many people think faith is all about. He has, in fact, given us a huge amount of evidence. He invites us to look at his amazing creation, to see the way in which he reveals himself in the Bible, to listen to the testimony of people who have followed him over the past 2,000 years and to learn from the experience of the Christians around us. Yes, God calls us to take a leap of faith – but it’s a leap in the light. Question What do you do when you face doubts? Prayer Lord God, when I face doubts help me to open my eyes to the evidence of yourself in creation, history and in the Christians around me. Amen
4/4/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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April 3rd - John 20:19-20

John 20:19-20 John records three occasions when Jesus met with his disciples after his resurrection. Here is the first of them and it occurred on Easter day itself, the day of resurrection. The disciples were understandably nervous. The authorities had organised the crucifixion of Jesus and so, logically, they were quite likely to come after his disciples next. The disciples had heard from some of the women that they had met the risen Lord but it would seem that they were unsure what to make of this incredible news. Into this nervous, fearful situation came the risen Jesus. Suddenly and miraculously he was standing there with them. One can hardly begin to imagine the riot of emotions that they must have experienced in that moment. On the one hand it was everything that they most wanted. The death of Jesus was devastating for them so the thought that he was alive again was absolutely wonderful. But then they had to deal with the fact that dead people don’t rise from death. Into this amazing situation Jesus came and pronounced peace. He then showed them the wounds in his hands and his side, and they realised that the humanly impossible had actually happened. Jesus
had risen from death. They were overjoyed, records John, drawing on his own personal experience of that amazing evening. This historic account is important for us today because Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, promises to be with us whenever we meet in his name. There will be many occasions when we also face times of challenge and disappointment and, amazingly and miraculously, Jesus comes and stands in the midst of us. Question In what way have you experienced Jesus’ presence with you as you have met with Christian brothers and sisters? Prayer Thank you, living Lord Jesus, that you promise to be with us when we meet together. Amen
4/3/20243 minutes, 36 seconds
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April 2nd - Luke 24:30-32

Luke 24:30-32 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognised him. And at that moment he disappeared! They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Isn’t it a great moment when the penny drops? Suddenly everything makes sense. This was the experience of these two followers of Jesus. The stranger whom they had met as they trudged wearily home to Emmaus had given them a long explanation from the scriptures, but it was only as he broke bread that, suddenly, everything became clear. Their mysterious stranger was none other than Jesus himself! In my experience, it can take a long while for the penny to drop in our Christian lives. It is perfectly possible to hear about God’s love, forgiveness, patience and generosity for years without them really making much sense. It is often only in the rough and tumble of life that deep spiritual truths become real for us. The Holy Spirit takes hold of the teaching that we have received and shines his light on it. It’s a wonderful and liberating experience, and through it we grow in strength and maturity. It is clearly very significant that the moment of revelation was as Jesus broke bread. As followers of Jesus, he invites us all to remember his death through breaking bread and drinking wine together. I believe that we should approach this with huge expectations. As we remember his death, we meet the risen Jesus who is present with us as we gather. Through his Spirit we should expect him to reveal more of himself to us…and we shouldn’t be surprised when another penny drops! Question What spiritual truths has God made real for you recently? Prayer Thank you, loving God, for giving me your Spirit so that I can learn more each day about living for you. Amen
4/2/20243 minutes, 21 seconds
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April 1st - Luke 24:13-16

Luke 24:13-16 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from him. It was getting towards the end of Easter Day and the light was fading as these two people trudged back home. It had been an incredibly strange time for them. Their hero Jesus had died in horrifying circumstances two days previously. They had heard some women report that Jesus had risen from death, but they didn’t know what to make of it. Suddenly a stranger started walking alongside them – they had no idea that it was Jesus. Even when the stranger accepted their invitation to go back to their home, they still didn’t realise that it was him. This beautiful account will strike a chord with most of us. There have probably been many times when we have felt alone, but in fact Jesus was walking alongside us all the time. For some reason we didn’t realise that he was there. Perhaps we were distracted, tired, confused or angry. Or perhaps life was just too busy, and we couldn’t spot Jesus amidst the busyness. Isaiah addressed a similar situation in chapter 40 of his prophecy. The people were in exile and felt that God had abandoned them. But Isaiah put them right. God was constantly with them. In fact, unlike them, God never went to sleep. He was always on the job, giving strength to his people. “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Whatever you are going through today you can be sure of this: whether you recognise him or not, Jesus is walking beside you. Question Have you ever been surprised to discover that Jesus is walking with you? Prayer Lord Jesus, thank you that you never leave my side. Open my eyes to your presence with me today. Amen
4/1/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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March 31st - Luke 24:1–3

Luke 24:1–3 Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As dawn broke on Sunday morning the women were determined to get to the tomb as early as possible to anoint Jesus’ body. Imagine the shock when they got there to find that it was empty. Their astonishment and surprise was then magnified many times when they met two men in dazzling robes. They questioned the women as to why they were looking for Jesus in the tomb, because he had risen from death. We cannot be exactly sure where the tomb that Jesus’ body was laid was. In Jerusalem there are two main places that are identified as the possible site of Jesus’ tomb and one of them is in a beautiful garden, called the Garden Tomb. I have been there many times, and the guides always take pleasure in telling the visitors that the one completely authentic fact about the tomb is that it is empty! And that’s what matters before anything else. Everything in the Christian faith turns on the fact that Jesus rose from death. The apostle Paul spoke very plainly in his first letter to the Corinthians about the importance of the resurrection. He wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) In short, if Jesus didn’t rise from death then Christianity is pointless. Paul staked his life on the fact that Jesus was the Son of God and that through his death and resurrection Jesus broke the power of sin and death. As we thank God for the blessing of Easter let us praise him that through these amazing historical events we are able to live a new life, not just now but for eternity. Question How would you explain to a non-Christian friend the importance of Jesus’ resurrection? Prayer Living Lord Jesus, help me to live each day in the light of your resurrection. Amen
3/31/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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March 30th - Luke 23:55–56

Luke 23:55–56 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law. There is something beautifully impressive about these verses. The women must have been totally devastated by the death of their Lord. I would imagine that they were experiencing a mixture of devastation and anger mingled with fear that the Romans might be coming after them next. But, amid all of this, they were concerned to do the right thing and anoint the body of Jesus. On the Friday itself there was very little time to do anything. Jesus had died at 3pm and the Jewish Sabbath began at about 6pm. Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus – he probably did so to avoid the corpse being left to the dogs and vultures, which was normal practice with the bodies of criminals. Joseph was a member of the Jewish Council but clearly thought well of Jesus. He was, we are told, waiting for the kingdom of God. He had a lot of work to do to remove the body from the cross and place it in his family tomb before dusk. The women had no time to anoint Jesus’ body, but they found out where the body had been laid so that they could return early on Sunday morning, once the Sabbath was over. They scurried home to prepare the spices and ointments. I find it deeply moving that, amid their deep grief, we see their devotion to Jesus. When a crisis hits us, it is very easy for us to turn in on ourselves and do nothing. But they didn’t. They turned to those practical things that they could do to show their love for the Lord. Tragic as the circumstances were, preparing for Jesus’ burial was the very best that they could do. Question What do you learn from the devotion of the women? Prayer Loving God, I thank you for the simple, practical devotion of these women. Help me to keep serving you, however tough the circumstances. Amen
3/30/20243 minutes, 33 seconds
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March 29th - Luke 23: 44-46

Luke 23: 44–46 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. These incredible words take us to the heart of Good Friday. This is the most incredibly, amazing, wonderful day that has ever happened, in which God showed us just how much he loved us. Anyone can use words of love, but words can be cheap and easily said. It’s only when we see actions that we know that love is real, and when we consider how Jesus died on the cross we discover the full extent of God’s love for us in sending his own Son to give everything for us. Jesus’ death on the cross changed everything. As he died, the thick curtain in the Temple was torn in two. That curtain was the barrier that ensured that people were kept out of the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest was able to go into that holiest place, and he could only do so once a year. Nothing could have been more significant than the tearing of the curtain, and it proclaimed to the world that through the death of Jesus everyone was welcome into the holy presence of God. This Easter millions of Christians around the world will celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. But this good news belongs to the world, not just to us. As we give thanks for God’s amazing generosity to us let us pray for our families, neighbours and communities and all those for whom the life, death and resurrection of Jesus mean nothing at all. Let’s keep in mind the torn curtain and remind ourselves that Jesus came to show his complete love for them just as much as for us. Question What does Good Friday tell you about God’s love for you personally, and for your community? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you have shown me complete love through the death of Jesus on the Cross. Help me to live in the light of that love and be constantly eager to pass it on to others. Amen
3/29/20243 minutes, 35 seconds
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March 28th - Luke 22:19–20

Luke 22:19–20 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” I am glad that meals were so important in Jesus’ ministry. He loved spending time with people in the relaxed atmosphere of a meal and so it is very significant that, on the night before he died, we find him having supper with his disciples. Jesus knows that his death is only hours away, but he doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to have one final meal with those who had walked with him throughout his ministry. They had no idea what Jesus’ words meant as he took the bread and wine and said that they represented his body and blood. Only later would it all fall into place for them. People often tell me that their church is particularly gifted in catering. I’m delighted! It seems to me that any true follower of Jesus should enjoy eating with others and it’s great that churches feel their responsibility for making it happen. So often it is the relaxed conversation that happens over a meal that enables relationships to deepen. Eating a meal together is completely inclusive because everyone needs to eat. Jesus was often criticised for the people with whom he had meals, but he clearly used mealtimes as a way to reach out to the most ungodly people in the community. Food and drink broke down barriers and enabled him to show that he welcomed every kind of person. It’s interesting that Jesus only told us to hold one particular service. He never mentioned family, morning or evening services, wonderful as they may be. He only told us to meet for a meal in remembrance of his death for us. What an incredible privilege it is to do what the disciples did 2,000 years ago as we meet over a meal with the Lord Jesus Christ. Question Why is it so important for us to keep remembering Jesus’ death? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you were willing to give your body and blood so that I can be free. Amen
3/28/20243 minutes, 43 seconds
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March 27th - Luke 22:3–5

Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted, and they promised to give him money. I don’t know about you, but I find these words almost too hard to read. Knowing how wise, good and loving Jesus was, how could anyone betray him? And Judas Iscariot wasn’t just anyone. He had been one of Jesus’ disciples for nearly three years. He had heard his teaching and, time and again, had seen him perform the most incredible miracles. How could he possibly conspire with those who wanted to kill Jesus? Luke tells us that Satan entered into Judas. No one knows exactly what was going on in Judas’ mind. Perhaps he was tempted by the money. Or he may have become disillusioned with Jesus because things weren’t working out in the way that he had expected and wanted. We just don’t know. What we do know is that he gave Satan’s temptations house room. He allowed the evil one to direct his actions. In Peter’s first letter he described the way in which Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for victims to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Peter encouraged his readers to watch out and to take a firm stand against him. In this most holy of weeks we confront love in the most amazing way as we see Jesus’ willingness to die on the cross for us. But we also face up to the horrifying reality of evil, and we need to listen carefully to Peter’s words. Satan continues to prowl around; we need to be alert and stand firmly against him. Question In what way do you see Satan prowling around today? Prayer Loving Father, thank you that you give me the strength to stand up to all of Satan’s tricks. Amen
3/27/20243 minutes, 14 seconds
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March 26th - Luke 21:1–4

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” At this point, Jesus was only a few days from his death on the cross. It must have been dominating his thinking, and yet he noticed a poor widow. I suspect that no one else spotted her because everything about her was unremarkable – particularly her gift. It was such a tiny gift; most people would have thought that it was hardly worth giving. But Jesus saw it very differently. Alongside the big gifts of the rich people, her gift was very small indeed but Jesus knew that she had given everything she could. She had, in truth, given more than anyone else. This beautiful little story is so precious because it gives us a deep insight into how Jesus works. He looks to the heart of things. What we are able to give will often appear small and insignificant, particularly when we put it alongside the enormous needs of our society. When you look at the number of people with addiction, broken relationships or sickness it doesn’t look very impressive when you are only able to give a little help to one person. But Jesus looks at our hearts. He sees our desire to serve him and he celebrates what we have done. This story warns us never to look down on what we can do. Listening to someone in need, giving a small gift, praying for a friend, doing shopping for an elderly neighbour, supporting a charity or whatever it may be Jesus looks to us to do what we can – and he sees our hearts. Question Why is it so damaging to look down on the small things that we can do for God? Prayer Lord Jesus, thank you that you value and bless what I am able to do, however small it may be. Amen
3/26/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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March 25th - Luke 19:41–42

Luke 19:41–42 I will never forget my first visit to Jerusalem. A disabled friend of mine asked me if I would take him to Israel as his carer. He needed me to push his wheelchair, drive the hire car and lift him from place to place. We stayed in a hotel on the Mount of Olives and arrived there in the dark. Driving through the chaotic traffic in Jerusalem for the first time was a hair-raising experience! The next morning I pulled back the curtains and was completely overwhelmed by the sight of the golden walls of the old city, set against a deep blue sky. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and it was so easy to imagine the time when Jesus looked over the city and wept. Indeed, not far away from the hotel there is a beautiful modern church in the shape of a teardrop, which enables modern pilgrims to reflect on that poignant moment in Jesus’ life. Jesus longed for peace. That lay at the heart of his mission. He came to bring peace between humankind and God. Of all places, Jerusalem, the holy city, should have been full of God’s peace but it was, then as now, a focus of division and tension. Jesus wept. You only weep when you feel something with great intensity. He desperately longed that people would enter into his peace. And as Jesus looks at our world today I believe that he still weeps, and still reaches out to us with the offer of peace. In this Holy Week of all weeks let us offer to Jesus our pains and struggles and receive his gift of peace. Question How would Jesus’ peace change your community? Prayer Loving God, thank you for sending Jesus to be our peace. Help me to welcome his gift of peace today. Amen
3/25/20243 minutes, 21 seconds
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March 24th - Luke 19:36–39

Luke 19:36–39 Palm Sunday was a day full of surprises. Many people had hoped that Jesus might be the one who would kick the hated Romans out of the land. It would have suited them well if he had turned up on an impressive war horse and led a rebellion. But that wasn’t Jesus’ way. Instead, he turned up on a donkey of all creatures. Donkeys are undoubtedly attractive and loveable but you would never start an uprising with one! As he did so often, Jesus turned people’s expectations upside down; indeed everything that would happen in the coming week was going to shock them to the core. People reacted very differently to Jesus on Palm Sunday. There were some who showed him the respect of laying their coats on the road and who shouted and sang their praises. They recognised that Jesus truly was the Messiah, sent by God to bring hope to the nation. But then there were the Pharisees who were appalled by this outburst and who encouraged Jesus to rebuke his noisy supporters. But Jesus informed them that the praising couldn’t be stopped, because if they ceased to praise him the stones along the road would burst into applause (v40)! This Easter there will be very different reactions to Jesus. Some will want to offer him their worship, while the majority of people will be completely unmoved by it all. But be sure of this – the praises of Jesus will go on. They cannot be stopped. Question What do you make of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? Prayer Loving God, thank you that through your Son I learn what it really means to be a servant. Help me to be willing to be your servant today. Amen
3/24/20243 minutes, 28 seconds
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March 23rd - Psalm 33:1–2

Psalm 33:1–2 Many of the psalms surrounding this one are full of descriptions of the psalmist’s pains and problems. He talks often about his enemies and those who are out to kill him. He tells us about his health problems and his times of depression. When we come to this psalm, however, the atmosphere is very different. The psalm bubbles with praise and confidence in God. Praising God can be done in any number of ways, but it is interesting how often it is associated with singing. This has been true throughout history. We read about the angels singing at creation (Job 38:7) and, when Moses and the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, they burst out in song, celebrating God’s deliverance (Exodus 15:1–19). Singing was integral to the life of the people of Israel and the Levites were given the responsibility of leading the singing. In the New Testament we find frequent references to singing too, and Paul encouraged his readers to “be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:18–19). Singing is important because it enables us to communicate our deepest emotions. Throughout history, lovers have sung songs to one another, so it isn’t surprising that God’s people have wanted to sing in order to express their devotion and love for God. This doesn’t mean that we all need to have wonderful voices. One of my favourite memories of praise is of three people in one of the churches where I was the minister. None of them could sing in tune... and they knew it. But they still sang with huge enthusiasm and I just loved it. What was clear was their deep love for God and that’s what it’s about. Question In what way does singing help you to express your own praise to God? Prayer Lord God, I thank you for the joy of singing and for the way in which it unites me with your people throughout the world and history. Amen
3/23/20243 minutes, 27 seconds
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March 22nd - Psalm 32:1

Psalm 32:1 King David is very reflective in this psalm. Some commentators suggest that he wrote it some years after his disastrous adultery with Bathsheba. That agonising episode led to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband and caused untold grief. When Nathan the prophet confronted David with his sin the king turned back to God and discovered the wonder of his forgiveness (2 Samuel 12). It is thought that Psalm 51 was written at this critical time in David’s life. He pleaded to God for his mercy and forgiveness. He asked God to purify him and to wash him whiter than snow. He wanted God to restore him and to make him new. In Psalm 32 he appears to be standing back from the experience of forgiveness and reflecting on how completely wonderful it is. David thought back over those days when he had refused to confess his sin. He recalled how his body wasted away and how he had groaned all day long. His strength had evaporated like water on a summer’s day (vv 3–4). But when he confessed his sins, his life was transformed. He was a new man. All of us want to know the joy of forgiveness and David’s message to us is that we can only make this discovery when we have, first of all, recognised our sin. When we face up to our failings, God is able to help us and to set us on a new path free from sin and guilt. The apostle Paul was also extremely straightforward about the reality of sin and the need of forgiveness. He recognised that he was far from perfect. Indeed, even though he was an important Christian leader, he admitted that he lived with a constant battle between good and evil. He wrote with incredible candour: “I have discovered this principle of life– that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind” (Romans 7:21–23). This all sounds rather hopeless but Paul discovered that there was one person who could help him. “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). We all need to say: “Amen!” to that. Question What has been your own experience of God’s forgiveness? Prayer Loving God, I confess that I have sinned against you and ask you to forgive my sins. Help me to live more closely to you from now onwards. Amen
3/22/20243 minutes, 52 seconds
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March 21st - Psalm 31:14–15

Psalm 31:14–15 We have seen David recount his problems in many psalms, but in this psalm the procession of problems is particularly depressing. Tears blurred his eyes and his body and soul were withering away. He felt as if he was dying from grief. Sin had drained his strength and he was wasting away from within. His enemies were laughing at him and even his friends were avoiding him when they saw him in the street. He felt as if he was surrounded by terror, knowing that his enemies were plotting to kill him. But, amid all of this pressure, he knew that he could look to God with confidence, knowing that his future was in God’s hands. This knowledge didn’t suddenly remove all his problems, but it did give him security and confidence. We are all curious about our future. However, the truth is that none of us knows what the future holds. Life may stay much the same for many years or it might change overnight. We simply do not and cannot know. It is therefore vital that we place ourselves in God’s hands in the same way as King David. The psalm goes on to describe the way in which David knew that God would bless him. He said: “great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection” (v19). He was confident that, despite the continual threats, God would keep him safe. He also knew he would continue to experience God’s love. He praised the Lord for he had shown him “the wonders of his unfailing love” (v 21). And he also knew that God would hear his prayers. He recalled a time when he had felt in total despair and had cried out: “I am cut off from the Lord!” and God had answered his cry (v22). David faced problems on a scale that few of us will ever experience and God proved to be totally reliable. No wonder he placed his future in God’s hands! Question Have you placed your future in God’s hands and, if so, how does this affect your daily life? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you are my God. I gladly place my future in your hands. Amen
3/21/20243 minutes, 38 seconds
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March 20th - Psalm 30:11–12

Psalm 30:11–12 In David’s Psalms we meet him as he was surrounded by enemies, cheated by his friends and family, staring death in the face and feeling so ill he longed to die. But it was David’s experience that these glum times did not have the final word. God was able to transform his mourning into joyful dancing. This particularly reminds of the time when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. David was happy to have established Jerusalem as his home but it wasn’t complete until the presence of God represented by the Ark was brought to the city. When it arrived he indulged in such wild dancing that he was accused of behaving shamelessly, but David wasn’t remotely bothered (2 Samuel 6:14–22). This was a special moment and it needed to be celebrated. When times are hard and everything seems to be going wrong, it is very easy to believe that our circumstances will never change. But they can. God is able to transform our disasters and pain as we commit them into his hands. The Bible introduces us to a succession of people who experienced startling changes in their lives. We have only to think of people like Joseph who was so hated by his brothers. They fully intended to kill him but when they met some passing traders they sold him as a slave to earn some money. But, in a complete turnaround, Joseph ended up being appointed by Pharaoh as governor of Egypt. His conclusion was that although his brothers intended to harm him “God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20). Whatever you are facing at the moment remember that we serve a God of transformation who, time and again, is able to turn our mourning into dancing. Question In what specific ways are you looking to God for transformation today? Prayer Lord God, I thank you for the way in which you have blessed my life. I commit myself into your hands and pray that I may continually experience the transforming power of your Spirit.
3/20/20243 minutes, 39 seconds
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March 19th - Psalm 29:3–4

Psalm 29:3–4 David repeatedly refers to the voice of the Lord in this psalm. On seven occasions he talks of the way in which God speaks powerfully through creation. He graphically describes the way in which God’s power and majesty are displayed in thunder and lightning. He speaks of the way in which this power is so great that it shatters the cedars of Lebanon and even makes the wilderness shake. Many of the psalms are focused on the worship of God in the temple but this psalm encourages worshippers to go outside and recognise the awesome power of God in creation. This is a good challenge for all of us. It’s so easy for us to allow our experience of God to be trapped by our personal walk with him or the life of our church. Both of those aspects of the Christian life are vital, but we should never neglect to look outside and see how powerful and majestic he is. We all need to take time to look at this amazing world and acknowledge that it is the work of our awesome Creator God. Thomas Brooks, the 17th-century preacher, expressed this well when he wrote: “What are the heavens, the earth, the sea, but a sheet of royal paper, written all over with the wisdom and love of God?” What I love about this question is that Brooks is encouraging us to expect God to speak to us from creation. I wonder how you will hear the voice of the Lord speaking to you today as you look at his creation. Question When do you hear God speaking to you most clearly from creation, and what have you heard him say? Prayer Creator God, I worship you for this amazing world that you have made. Forgive me that I have so often taken it
for granted. Help me to listen more carefully for your voice in creation. Amen
3/19/20243 minutes, 19 seconds
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March 18th - Psalm 27:14

Psalm 27:14 As I commented previously, life involves a lot of waiting. Some of it is life-changing and at other times waiting is just part of living in an uncertain world. We may be waiting to find the right job or life partner, or waiting for something to arrive in the post. We can live calmly in a period of waiting but at other times it is all-consuming. We find it hard to settle to anything else because what we are waiting for is so important. Waiting can, at times, be laced with a sense of despair. We may be waiting for something to happen, wondering whether it will ever turn up. Sometimes we are absolutely confident that something will happen; we are just unsure of the timing. When King David talks about waiting for the Lord, he is absolutely sure that God will respond to him. And because of that confidence he knows that he can wait with patience. In this psalm he is so confident that God will respond that he challenges us to be brave and courageous. In his commentary on this psalm, Michael Wilcock refers to “the alert, tip-toe expectancy which is what Scripture means by wait for the Lord” (The Message of Psalms 1-72, IVP). It is precisely by waiting for the Lord that God gives us strength to stand for him. Rushing headlong into one activity after another can make us feel good about ourselves, but we need to stop and remind ourselves that our strength comes from God. We need to give space to waiting on him and, as we do so, we will discover the truth of Isaiah’s words that those who wait in trust for the Lord “will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). However busy you may be today, I encourage you to set aside some moments to deliberately wait on God. You won’t be disappointed. Question In what ways has God strengthened and encouraged you as you have waited on him? Prayer Lord God, help me to grow in bravery and courage as I learn more of what it means to wait on you. Amen
3/18/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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March 17th - Psalm 27:4

Psalm 27:4 In about the year 1050 BC King David established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. One of the first things he did was to take the Ark of the Covenant to the city. God had given specific instructions to Moses for the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and it was here that God dwelt among his people. During the years of the wilderness wanderings, the Ark was placed in a tabernacle or large tent. It contained the two stone tablets brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses on which were written the Ten Commandments. David took the Ark to Jerusalem and placed it in a tent with great ceremony and wild dancing. Celebrating the presence of God meant so much to him that David longed for a temple to be built in Jerusalem. He went to huge lengths to prepare for it to be built. However, this wouldn’t happen until the reign of his son Solomon. We live at a very different time and now, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we know that we can worship God anywhere, at any time. We are not tied down to one particular location. However, in this psalm David reflects that life is at its best when we are living in the presence of God. Being near to him is more important than anything else. This thinking is reflected in Jesus’ teaching to his disciples where he described himself as the vine and we as the branches. He said that what mattered before anything else was that we should abide in him, because: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Attending church events or Christian festivals is a wonderful thing to do. We can gain enormous encouragement and inspiration from meeting with other Christians. But God’s desire is for us to experience his presence every day of the week, whether we are with other Christians or not. He wants us to know his companionship when we are at work, relaxing with friends, playing sport, on holiday – whatever we are doing. Nothing is better than living in the presence of God. Question In what ways do you experience the presence of God in your everyday life? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you want me to experience your presence with me in every aspect of my life. Amen
3/17/20243 minutes, 41 seconds
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March 16th - Psalm 27:2–3

Psalm 27:2–3 David’s confidence in God is incredibly inspiring. But it didn’t just happen. It was the result of his experience of living for God. He had been threatened with death by King Saul time and again, and through these experiences he had learned that God would not let him down. Even if he was confronted by the biggest army, he knew that God would protect him. There was absolutely no need for him to be afraid. We all face challenges and are tempted to feel afraid. Most of us will probably not, like King David, face up to the threat of death from an enemy, although that will be the experience of some Christians around the world. For many of us the challenge may come in the form of a health issue or financial problems. We may have relationship difficulties in our family or workplace or be threatened by a neighbour. Any of these challenges can cause us to feel afraid, but David’s words remind us that if God is our light and our salvation, such fear is unnecessary. We need to make sure each day that our lives are placed securely in the hands of God. When we do so, David would tell us that we will not only avoid fear but can be confident. Martin Luther, who led the Reformation, captured this sense of confidence well when he wrote: “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Question In what situations have you been tempted to be fearful? How has your faith in God given you confidence at such times? Prayer Loving God, I thank you that you want to be my light and my salvation. So fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I will be full of confidence, whatever life throws at me. Amen
3/16/20243 minutes, 17 seconds
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March 15th - James 5:19–20

James 5:19–20 Churches are not made up of perfect people. Far from it! This surprises some, who assume that Christians live lives of near perfection. For such people there is great consternation when the organist goes off with the youth leader, or the treasurer embezzles the church’s money. We should always be shocked and disappointed by such behaviour – but never surprised. Churches are, in many ways, similar to hospitals: composed of people who are far from perfect but who, by God’s grace and in the power of his Spirit, are becoming stronger and more mature in their Christian lives. Sadly, there have always been people who wander away from the Church. It is always tragic when this happens and churches need to have a clear strategy for reaching out to such people. Here James finishes his letter by inspiring his readers to be proactive when someone sadly backslides. He wants them to know how important this restorative ministry is. In bringing someone back to the Church they are doing nothing less than saving them from spiritual death. In recent years, large numbers of people have sadly slipped away from our churches. It may be because of sin, but often it’s because they became disappointed or disillusioned with the Church. This means that it is vital that every church prays earnestly for those who have slipped away, and has a very clear plan as to how they can reach out to these people with love, understanding and forgiveness. We can never force people to return but we can reach out to them with open arms, knowing that the Lord is always willing to welcome them back. Question Can you think of anyone who has slipped away from your own church and, if so, is there anything you could do to encourage them to return? Prayer Lord, we thank you that when we sin you never give up on us. Thank you that your desire is always for us to be restored. Amen
3/15/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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March 14th - James 5:16

James 5:16 Some years ago I contracted whooping cough. To be honest I thought that it was something only children got so was amazed when my GP told me that I had caught it. From time to time over a number of weeks I struggled to breathe. The worst episodes were in the middle of the night; I will never forget those desperate attempts to breathe, which ended in the “whoop” as air finally, slowly and painfully returned to my lungs. Breathing is essential to life, and I now have a new respect for the process – and a deep gratitude that I can breathe without a struggle. The Bible makes it clear that prayer is the way in which we ‘breathe’ as Christians. Everything depends on prayer. It has been wisely said that we are as strong as our prayer lives and no stronger. It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of prayer – just as it would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of breathing for ongoing life. James encourages his readers to pray because it can have incredible results. In the next verse, he points to Elijah who was one of the most popular figures in the Old Testament. When the people started looking for a Messiah to come it was believed that a second Elijah would come to prepare the way. In the course of time, John the Baptist fulfilled that role. Elijah was an amazing prophet of God but James stresses that he was human just like us. He had his ups and downs but when he prayed God worked in amazing ways. Key to Elijah’s life was the fact that he was a righteous man, which simply means that he lived his life in step with God. That’s how God wants us to live our lives too, and it will only happen as we breathe in the life of God in prayer. Like Elijah, we will have our ups and downs, but as we pray we can confidently expect that our prayers will have great power and produce wonderful results. Question What steps do you need to take to ensure that prayer has a more central place in your life? Prayer Thank you Lord for the incredible privilege of prayer. Help me never to take it for granted. Amen
3/14/20243 minutes, 41 seconds
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March 13th - James 5:16

James 5:16 How are you? I wonder how you normally respond to that question. Probably, like most of us, you smile sweetly and summarise your life with the one word “Fine”. It’s a good word and if it’s true that’s wonderful. But, if we’re honest, it is sometimes the word we use to push people away. What we’re actually saying is, “It’s none of your business. Leave me alone. Hopefully if you think I’m fine you won’t bother me again.” The reality is that we are not always fine. Sometimes we feel awful, and there are times when we know that we have failed miserably. James is encouraging his readers to be honest. We need to be real with one another and actually confess our sins and pray for each other so that we can find God’s healing. I don’t believe that God is calling us to share absolutely every inner secret and sin with one another. But I do believe that churches need to be places of love and encouragement where we feel able to reveal the people that we really are. Often that will best be done with one other person or in a small group. I thank God for those people who have been totally honest with me over the years. It is such a privilege to pierce the masks that we so often wear and truly be ourselves. If we were to do that more often then I am sure that we would have a much greater experience of what it means to be truly fine. Question What could you do to help your church to become a more loving and honest community? Prayer Thank you Lord that your love for me is so complete that it is safe for me to be totally honest with you. Help me to be more open with my Christian brothers and sisters, and to be more loving and forgiving. Amen
3/13/20243 minutes, 6 seconds
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March 12th - James 5:14–15

James 5:14–15 Jesus was both a healer and a teacher. He ministered to the whole range of people’s needs – body, mind and spirit. When Jesus left this earth he commissioned the Church to carry on with that ministry. Here in James we see what that meant in practice. The Church is called to minister to those who are sick and to pray for them knowing that God loves to make people better and also to forgive their sins. In recent years the word ‘holistic’ has become very popular to describe the way in which God works. In the power of his Spirit he wants us to be whole people, enjoying him and his world to the full. Many parts of the Church have focused on words and preaching and marginalised the healing ministry. But that makes no sense if we are truly following in the footsteps of Jesus. Premier Lifeline (0300 111 0101) offers an amazing ministry to tens of thousands of people every year. When people ring up, they speak with Christians about their needs, which may be physical, mental or spiritual. In truth you can’t divide people up as neatly as that! If you have a cold it will definitely affect your mental and spiritual state, and if you are struggling to forgive someone it is quite likely that it will have physical effects. Healing takes many forms and, when we pray for healing, we will never be entirely sure how God will answer. Whenever I pray for people I always tell them two things – firstly, that I am absolutely convinced of God’s ability to heal and secondly that I don’t know the way in which he will answer our prayer. In prayer we entrust ourselves into God’s loving, healing embrace. Question For whom are you going to pray for healing today? Prayer Thank you Lord that your desire is for everyone to be whole in body, mind and spirit. Help me both to receive and share your healing touch today. Amen
3/12/20243 minutes, 31 seconds
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March 11th - James 5:13

James 5:13 I remember as a teenager hearing a well-known preacher telling the story of a young woman who had told him that she often didn’t feel like praying. His response was that prayer is not a glandular condition! Prayer is something that we need to do whatever our feelings. That’s precisely the point that James is making here. In short, it’s always the right time to pray – whether you are going through a good or a bad time. God doesn’t want us simply to be people who say their prayers, and then forget about him until the next time. He wants a relationship with us, within which we share fully the ups and downs of life. I love the fact that the Bible doesn’t present us with a line of holy people, who always got it right and who loved sharing their lives with God. The Bible is almost the opposite of that. It tells us the story of women and men who struggled and often failed. And amid it all we see how those frail and failed human beings discovered that God loved them and had a purpose for their lives. God doesn’t want us to be religious people who say beautiful prayers and then shut him out. He longs for us to share our whole lives with him. Nothing is too small or too large to take to God in prayer. He is intimately involved in every moment and eager to share them with us. Whether we are driving the car, sitting at our desk, speaking to colleagues, chatting with neighbours, watching television, answering emails or playing sport he wants to be at the centre of our lives. Question What steps could you take to share more of your life with God in prayer? Prayer Thank you Lord that you love me so much that you want to share every aspect of life with me. Teach me more of what it means to live a life of prayer. Amen
3/11/20243 minutes, 11 seconds
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March 10th - James 5:12

James 5:12 James isn’t talking here about bad language but about the very common practice at the time of trying to strengthen a statement by taking an oath. Jews made a distinction between oaths made in the name of God, which could never be broken, and other oaths that didn’t mention God, which could be broken. James encourages his readers to make life much easier by simply telling the truth. The Greeks held that the best guarantee of any statement was not an oath, but the character of the person who made it. Our words are the natural overflow of the lives that we live and so if we live with integrity, people will know that they can trust our words. If we always keep promises, then people will know that the next promise that we make can be relied upon. Speaking the truth is the fundamental building block for every relationship. When relationships break down it is almost always accompanied by lies and deception. The only way to bring a relationship back on course is by learning to speak the truth. This will often be painful and difficult, but it is the only route to build a solid, strong relationship. This also applies to our relationship with God. We need to be honest with him, not putting on a mask, but acknowledging the people that we really are. This can be difficult to do, but when we remember that God perfectly loves us and is ready to forgive us for all our sins, we can come to him with complete honesty and total confidence. In a world where the truth is often distorted or ignored, it is vital that we live truthfully before God and that we seek his strength to enable us to say yes when we mean yes, and no when we mean no. Oaths are totally unnecessary. Question When do you find it difficult to tell the truth? Prayer Thank you Lord that I can be totally truthful with you and know that you will always love me and forgive me. Help me to speak the truth in every situation, even when it is tough to do so. Amen
3/10/20243 minutes, 27 seconds
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March 9th - James 5:11

James 5:11 We don’t know exactly what James’ readers were facing, but clearly it was tough for them to live as Christians. They needed to persevere. Amid all the temptations, distractions and persecution, they needed to hang in there for God. Job is a classic illustration of this. Everything went catastrophically wrong for him. He lost his children, his possessions and his health. He had the indignity of being struck with boils and his wife, seeing him sitting in the dust, scratching at his sores, exclaimed, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But he wouldn’t. He put up not only with his suffering but also with his hopeless companions, whose misguided thinking added another crushing layer to his agonies. However, he didn’t give up. He was confident in God and, in the end, God rewarded him generously. We would love God to fix our difficult situations, and remove all our problems. But there are many times in life when God calls us simply to endure, promising to accompany us and strengthen us as we do so. William Carey was the father of the modern missionary movement. He went to India in 1793 and during his time there faced a succession of problems and setbacks, including a major fire that destroyed years of his work – but he kept going. He once said to his nephew: “If after my removal anyone should think it worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge its correctness. If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly.
Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” Whatever we are facing today, God wants to us keep plodding on. Question What have you learned from those tough situations that you have had to endure? Prayer Thank you Lord that you will never leave or forsake me. Thank you that I can be sure that you will be right beside me, whatever I have to face. Amen
3/9/20243 minutes, 42 seconds
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March 8th - James 5:9

James 5:9 The Bible introduces us to lots of grumbling people. Most famously, the people of Israel, who whinged after
God had miraculously led them out of slavery in Egypt. They had been there for 400 years and, at last, were set free by the mighty hand of God. The yoke of oppression had been broken and they were now able to enjoy the sweet taste of freedom. But almost immediately their response was to grumble because things weren’t working out in the way that they had hoped. Nothing much has changed. Grumbling continues to consume huge amounts of time and energy in every part of society. You would hope that churches would be a glorious exception to this rule but, sadly, that isn’t true. James is concerned about this and is severe in his words. Grumbling shouldn’t be taken lightly. It seriously damages the spiritual health of a church and God will judge it. You have been warned! How should we respond to all of this? Billy Graham once observed, “Grumbling and gratitude are, for the child of God, in conflict. Be grateful and you won’t grumble. Grumble and you won’t be grateful.” I find this helpful. We have a choice to make, and God’s desire is that we should live our lives with gratitude. Gratitude to God for all that he has done for us and an attitude of gratitude towards the people around us. They aren’t perfect, but they are in different ways a blessing to us. Grumbling will only spoil our enjoyment of life and the quality of our relationships with other people. And, far more seriously, if we allow grumbling to take a foothold in our lives then it will ruin our relationship with God. Gratitude is God’s way for us. Question What you going to do when you are next tempted to grumble? Prayer Lord God, forgive me for grumbling, and by your Spirit nurture in me an attitude of gratitude. Amen
3/8/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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March 7th - James 5:7–8

James 5:7–8 Waiting sounds easy – until you have to do it! Waiting can be incredibly difficult and demanding, especially if you don’t know how long you are going to have to wait for. Waiting for medical test results, for a member of the family to make contact or for someone to repay a debt, for example, can sap your energy and leave you feeling exhausted, disappointed and confused. The challenge we have to face is that Christians are called to be a waiting people. We are all waiting for the Lord’s return, and no one can be sure when it is going to happen. He is going to return, because that is what he promised to do. In Acts 1:11, after Jesus’ ascension, his disciples were assured, “Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” I had relatives who were so sure of the Lord’s imminent return that they believed that it was inappropriate to store any food. They felt the Lord might return in the next day or two and so it was irresponsible to keep supplies. That was taking it a bit far in my view, but God certainly does want us to live with the daily awareness that this very day might be the day of Jesus’ return. Israel is a very hot country, but it also enjoys a considerable rainfall. There are two distinctive times of rain – the early rain that starts in October and the latter rain, which falls in May. The farmers can wait for the rain with confidence. In the same way, we are able to live our lives with the certainty that history is in God’s hands and that, one day, Jesus will definitely return, just as he promised. Question Are you ready for Jesus to return today and, if he doesn’t, are you willing to wait with patience? Prayer Thank you Lord that history is in your hands. Help me to be ready for Jesus’ return, whenever it happens. Amen
3/7/20243 minutes, 37 seconds
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March 6th - James 5:1–2

James 5:1–2 You can almost see the steam coming out of James’ ears can’t you?! He was furious at the way in which rich people were abusing their position. His very specific gripe with them was that they had failed to pay their workmen for mowing their fields. For James this wasn’t a little economic problem. This was an evil that had reached the ears of God himself and the rich people were heading for certain judgement. Let’s be clear that the Bible isn’t against rich people. However, God certainly is against anyone who abuses others. The Bible on many occasions reveals times when rich people have abused their position and exploited others. This was a major theme in the prophecy of Amos. He had particularly severe words for the women of Bashan in chapter 4:1: “You women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and who are always calling to your husbands, ‘Bring us another drink!’” These rich women lived in their charmed and privileged world, totally cut off from the suffering of the poor people on whose hard work their wealth depended. God tells the rich that he is not willing to listen to their worship. They need to change their actions and start acting justly. Wealth, in itself, is a thoroughly good thing, because it is part of God’s creation. Our responsibility is to be good stewards of whatever God has put in our hands. In world terms there is a great deal of wealth in this country. Contrast that with the fact that more than a third of the world’s population lives on less than £2 a day and have no access to clean water. Whatever God has given us, we need to use it wisely and ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and cared for. James wants us to know that we all have a role to play in sharing God’s good gifts. Question What do you own and how could you use it more effectively to help vulnerable people? Prayer Thank you Lord for all my possessions. I recognise that they have come from your hands, and I ask your Holy Spirit to help me to use them in a way that will glorify your name. Amen
3/6/20243 minutes, 49 seconds
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March 5th - James 4:13–14

James 4:13–14 We are constantly encouraged to plan for the future. Whether we are looking at our family, our housing, our holidays or our pensions we are under continual pressure to make good plans. I don’t think that James was telling his readers not to do any planning, but he did want to prick the bubble of their arrogance. They thought that their life was their possession and that they could do what they liked with it. Not so, says James. The first consideration should be to discover God’s will. This means that, when we do our planning, we should do it on our knees in prayer. Our lives are a gift from God and our families, education, talents and possessions are all part of his gracious generosity to us. In prayer we need to seek his will for the future, holding our plans in humility before him. Seeking to know God’s will is our prime task in life. God loves us perfectly and knows us much better than we know ourselves so discovering his will is as good as life can get. In my late teens I remember struggling with that. It seemed obvious to me that I needed to make some excellent plans for my life and then seek God’s blessing on what I had decided to do. It was a real struggle giving up my personal plans – but I’m so glad that I did. God understood me so much better than I did – and he still does! Question Which of your life plans do you need to commit afresh to God today? Prayer Thank you Lord that you love me so much that you always want the best for me. Help me to seek your will first in all that I do today. Amen
3/5/20243 minutes, 11 seconds
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March 4th - James 4:7–8

James 4:7–8 Life can often feel like a battleground. There is great evil in the world – any newspaper will illustrate that in agonising detail. But there is also immense kindness and goodness all around, if we have the eyes to see it. Daily life can often feel like a pitched battle between good and evil. James is concerned that his readers should make good decisions as they live on this battleground and that they should give undivided loyalty to God. It is true that the devil is active and that his entire mission is to destroy. He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for people to devour (1 Peter 5:8). But the good news is that God is stronger and so we don’t need to live in fear of the devil. If we resist him then he will flee from us. When Jesus died on the cross he won the ultimate victory over the power of evil, and so our task is simply to claim that victory. Clearly evil didn’t come to an end on the cross. The world is still full of evil. What happened on the cross was like D Day. Once that decisive day took place in 1944 it was clear that final victory would be ours. There were many bloody battles after that time, but the victory in May 1945 was bound to happen. As Christians we live between D Day and VE Day, knowing that because Christ died on the cross, final victory is certain. Through Jesus’ death on the cross and the knowledge that our sins can be forgiven, we can live each day with confidence. In the name of Jesus we can stand up against all the evil that this world chucks at us knowing that, as we come close to God, he comes close to us. Question Given that the devil is so active and destructive, in what specific ways do you need to resist him? Prayer Lord Jesus I praise you that, because of your death on the cross and your resurrection, I can live today with complete confidence. Help me to stand strongly for you and to resist whatever the devil throws at me. Amen
3/4/20243 minutes, 41 seconds
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March 3rd - James 4:6–7

James 4:6–7 Did you know that God is capable of hatred? Perhaps you think that God is so nice that he couldn’t bring himself to hate anything. The fact is that the Bible is quite clear that God seethes with hatred at times. In Proverbs 6:16–19 we learn that God hates seven things and top of the list is pride. God’s problem with pride is that it is a complete rejection of him. The proud person doesn’t have any need for him, but lives a life in defiance of God’s will. And so we read that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. We therefore need to unpack carefully what this word ‘humble’ means because it is clearly the gateway to true blessing. Humility doesn’t sound too attractive. We have awful images of people putting on an act, claiming to be but a mere worm and totally unworthy. That’s false humility. True humility is the reverse of pride. The proud person has hands that are so full of their own excellence that they are unable to receive anything from God. The humble person comes to God with empty hands, longing to receive his blessings. The truly humble person understands that they are a much loved child of God and that they need to live in daily dependence on God. They don’t have an inflated view of their own importance but, at the same time, they see how important they are in God’s eyes. Humility is the key that unlocks the door to the life that God wants us to live. Question Think of somebody in whose life you have seen true humility. What have you learned from their example? Prayer Lord thank you that you are so eager to bless my life. Help me to come to you today with empty hands, ready to receive whatever you want to give me. Amen
3/3/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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March 2nd - James 4:2–3

James 4:2–3 If you could have anything in the world, what would you choose? A beautiful large home? A yacht? A luxurious holiday; perfect health; world peace? Verse two seem to suggest that we just need to ask God and we will get whatever we want. But verse three makes it clear that we need to ask with the right motive. This means that God loves us so much that he doesn’t necessarily give us what we say we want. Imagine for a moment that we did get whatever our selfish desires demanded. We would be in control because everything would happen in exactly the way we wanted, and at precisely the time that we demanded it. That sounds like the perfect world. However, the Bible has a technical word to describe such a place –hell. It’s the place where God is not. Our selfish desires would have pushed him out. What James is telling us is that our gracious, loving Father has a better plan. God delights in giving good gifts to his children. Jesus observed that it was unthinkable that a father would give his son a snake if he asked for a fish, or a scorpion if he asked for an egg. Neither of those things would ever happen. And he drew the powerful conclusion that if we, evil as we are, manage to get it right how much more can our perfect heavenly Father be relied upon to give his best gift, his Holy Spirit, to those who ask him (Luke 11:11–13). We do need to ask, and keep asking, but must ensure that we are asking for the right things in the right way. We need to tune our thinking into God’s thinking so that all that we ask for will be a blessing. Question What are you asking God for today? Prayer Lord God our Father I worship you because you love me perfectly and delight to give me the best gifts. I open my hands to you today and look forward to receiving whatever you decide is best for me. Amen
3/2/20243 minutes, 37 seconds
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March 1st - James 3:17–18

James 3:17–18 Many churches these days observe that they have very few people in their 20s and 30s. Whenever I’ve asked people in that age group what they are looking for one theme dominates – authenticity. They are looking for Christians and churches that ring true because they practise what they preach. James was on exactly the same page and was ruthless in addressing those who say the right words but live a phoney life. What he longed for was truly wise people. Living wisely is attractive in every way. The wisdom comes directly from God but it has very down-to-earth implications. James draws particular attention to the fact that wise people love peace and go out of their way to cultivate it. You will never find a wise person trumpeting their wisdom. They just get on with doing God’s work, and God is always in the business of drawing people into the fullest experience of his peace. The word for peace that James uses here is built on the Hebrew word ‘shalom’. Shalom means peace, but much more than merely an absence of conflict and tension. It means the presence of God, who brings life and renewal to every part of our lives. He wants us to know his peace in our families, our work, our leisure, our churches and our communities – everywhere. And when God fills you with his peace he commissions you to be a peacemaker. James concludes that peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. I love the word righteousness because it literally means everything that is right, everything that is in step with God, everything that will bless our lives and those around us. Wow! What James is describing is complete authenticity – and that’s attractive to everyone. Question In what situation could you be a peacemaker today? Prayer Thank you, Lord, that you sent Jesus into the world to be our peace. Give me a longing to be a peacemaker today and the wisdom and strength to be nothing less. Amen
3/1/20243 minutes, 49 seconds
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February 29th - James 3:3-5

James 3:3-5 The tongue is incredibly powerful, for good or ill. I recall the story of a young man who shared some gossip about the local clergyman. Having heard about the rumours, the clergyman, with great gentleness and wisdom, took the young man to the top of the church tower. Once there, he handed him a feather pillow and asked him to rip it open. The feathers floated all over the village. Some of them, lifted by the air currents, headed off into the far distance. The clergyman then invited the young man to put the feathers back into the pillow. The young man protested: it was impossible! The clergyman pointed out that it was exactly the same with the rumours he had been spreading. Once our words have been spoken, they take on a life of their own. They cannot be taken back. This places an enormous responsibility on all of us, and particularly on those of us who are teachers and preachers. This chapter begins by James asserting that not many should presume to be teachers, because we will be judged more strictly than others! Harsh, badly chosen words can wound people for years to come. I have met many people who believe that their confidence was crushed as a child by cruel words spoken by parents, teachers and others. But the opposite is also
true. Well-chosen words can bring life, encouragement and joy. Thank God for the amazing people who have gone out of their way to encourage us over the years. What a gift! Question Who could you encourage today? Prayer Lord, forgive me that I have often chosen my words badly. Teach me to speak words that will bring life, peace and joy wherever they go. Amen
2/29/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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February 28th - James 2:15-17

James 2:15-17 You’ve probably noticed that Christians use a lot of words! Preaching, singing, praying and fellowship all involve oceans of words. And that’s fine, as long as our words also translate into action. Otherwise, we should just be quiet! You can preach the finest sermon, sing the most beautiful song of worship, pray the most articulate prayer and enjoy the warmest fellowship but if godly actions don’t result, it is all a dangerous waste of time. James doesn’t know how to beat around the bush. He goes straight for the jugular every time! He wants to see every Christian busily involved in turning their fine words into action. He is appalled at the thought that someone who claims to love God could see a Christian brother or sister in need and do nothing about it. It should never happen. I wonder how that translates into our situation today. Many of the early Christians were poor. Many were probably slaves, and without a welfare state it was easy for them to fall on hard times. Life today is clearly different from the first century, but despite the many benefits of modern life, there are still many people with debt problems, physical and mental health issues, relationship struggles and fears about the future. It is good to pray for people and wish them well. But we must take action too. There are an incredible number of charities that provide practical help in Jesus’ name. Whatever our gifts, we are all able to do something to help others. If we are serious about following Jesus, we must find what that something is. Question How are you going to turn your faith into action today? Prayer Gracious Lord, forgive me for the times when I have failed to turn my faith into action. In the power of your Spirit, help me to live for you today. Amen.
2/28/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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February 27th - James 2:1

James 2:1 Do you have favourites? Or do you look at all other people in exactly the same way whatever their age, education, wealth, beauty, race or religion, and irrespective of whether you know them or not? We would all like to claim that we don’t have favourites, but James points out to his readers that favouritism very easily creeps into our thinking. James describes a situation that could happen in any local church. A wealthy person comes into a service and is welcomed generously and given a good seat. He is followed by a scruffy man, whose poverty is plain for all to see, who is rudely told to sit down or find a place on the floor. James proclaims boldly that this should not happen. Favouritism should not happen in us or our churches because God doesn’t do it. God welcomes everyone, whoever they are, and we are called to do the same. On the face of it, this sounds very reasonable and straightforward. But it is far harder to put into practice. We all have preferences and we all get on with some people better than others. I always feel anxious when I go to a church where everyone looks the same. Similar age, education, wealth, ethnicity and outlook. I understand how it happens, but it hardly suggests that we have learned to welcome people in the same way as God. I am not suggesting it is easy not to show favouritism. But the Bible makes it plain that it is totally unacceptable to God. The Church should be a place which throws open its arms to every kind of person. Question What would you do if you saw favouritism taking place in your church? Prayer Lord forgive me if I have allowed favouritism to creep into my thinking. Help me to welcome everyone in the way that you do. Amen
2/27/20243 minutes, 23 seconds
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February 26th - James 1:23-24

James 1:23-24 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. I love the way James writes, but I’m not too sure he would make easy company! He is so incredibly blunt. Here he makes the obvious but powerful point that there would be no use in looking in a mirror if it didn’t cause you to do something as a result. If you learn that your hair looks a complete mess, then action is required! If the Christian faith doesn’t get translated into daily action, James wants nothing to do with it. Reading the Bible is not like reading any other book. Other books might be entertaining, interesting or informative but they rarely change our lives. But the Bible is one of the principal ways in which God has chosen to speak to us. So whenever we read it, we need to ask: “Lord what are you saying to me?” If we merely read the Bible as a beautiful work of literature, we are missing the point. In Psalm 1, the writer speaks of meditating regularly on God’s word. He says that those who do this “are like trees planted along a riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither and they prosper in all they do.” By reflecting deeply on the Bible, we allow God’s wisdom to enter into our ways of thinking and acting. Every part of our lives cries out for God’s wisdom – whether that is our employment, relationships, possessions, leisure time or future. God has something to say and longs for us to listen. The psalmist only had access to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. We are far more blessed because we have a further 61 books to meditate on. But they won’t do us any good unless we listen to what God is saying and then adjust our lives as a result. Question – What actions are you going to take as a result of reading the Bible today? Prayer – Lord, help me to listen carefully to the Bible. I invite your Holy Spirit to challenge and inspire me to live more closely to you each day. Amen
2/26/20243 minutes, 27 seconds
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February 25th - James 1:5

James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. Life constantly throws challenges at us. How should I be spending my time and money? Should I move to a different job? How can I resolve the dispute with my next door neighbour? Should I let my colleague know that he’s annoying me? How should I tell my daughter that I think she’s seeing the wrong people? So many questions! The Bible focuses a lot of attention on the subject of wisdom, in both the Old and the New Testaments. Wisdom is very different from knowledge. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but it will do you no good at all if you are not wise. James points to God as the source of wisdom and encourages his readers to understand that God loves sharing his wisdom with us. In the Old Testament, we learn a lot about wisdom in the book of Proverbs. There we find down-to-earth, straightforward advice and guidance for life. It speaks so directly into our lives that, at times, it’s a struggle to believe that it was written 3,000 years ago! In Proverbs 9:1, Solomon speaks of wisdom as a woman who has built her house on seven pillars. In verse 10, he says that “fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.” Writing about 1,000 years later, James agrees. Wisdom comes from God. Anyone who wants it, needs to get to know him better. That doesn’t mean we will immediately be wise once we become Christians. Far from it! But it does mean that we have a personal relationship with the one who is the source of all wisdom, together with an assurance that he can’t wait to share it with us. The Bible is never in the business of giving us easy answers, but it does point us to the one who promises to accompany us as we seek to find a wise way forward. Question – What do you need wisdom for today? Prayer – Thank you, Lord, that you are so keen to share your wisdom with me. Please help me to seek your wisdom with greater determination. Amen
2/25/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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February 24th - James 1:2-3

James 1:2-3 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. Having problems, trials and difficulties hardly sounds like the best way to create joy. So what is James talking about in these verses? It may sound ridiculous, but he is taking his readers to the heart of the Christian faith, which turns everything upside down. James is not saying that when we face difficulties it will be a bundle of fun. He is speaking to people who knew what it was to suffer for their faith. He wants them to know that, when we place our difficulties in God’s hands, he produces something in us that lasts. Something that takes us closer to the heart of God, and that always produces joy. I have had a bad back for many years. At times, I’ve lived with pain night and day. It’s certainly not fun. But I thank God for the way in which he has used it to lead me closer to him. It has, unquestionably, helped me to learn to persevere, and given me a close connection with other people who have bad backs. There are plenty of us about! I’m not suggesting that you should go out and tell your friends who are suffering that they need to burst into joyful song and perform cartwheels in celebration. But you can encourage them. Because God is at work and, as they share their tough times with him, he will bless them, strengthen them and give them perseverance to live effective and fruitful lives. In order for any relationship to succeed, we all need perseverance. That only comes as we keep going - with God’s help - through the difficult times. It’s a tough message, but it’s God’s way of bringing lasting joy into our lives. Question – In what ways have you personally experienced joy in times of difficulty, and how could you pass on that encouragement to other people? Prayer – Lord Jesus thank you for the good news that you are with me in every difficulty that I face. Thank you for your gift of joy even in the toughest times. Amen
2/24/20243 minutes, 32 seconds
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February 23rd - Proverbs 11:25

Proverbs 11:25 The importance of generosity is a theme that spans the whole Bible. Everyone has moments of generosity. However, Biblical teaching encourages us to be generous as a way of life. It is no surprise that the writer of Proverbs returns to this theme frequently. He was clear that generosity not only blesses the person who receives the gift but the one who gives it, too. Generosity sprays out blessings in all directions! Premier is a case in point. Premier Media, which embraces both the magazines and radio stations, only exists because of the generosity of God’s people. The cost of radio licences and running radio stations is phenomenal. Without Christian people digging deep there is no way in which the ministry could continue to exist. But as people give generously, millions of people are blessed. Many of them may never give a penny to help Premier but they are able to receive a blessing because of other people’s generosity. This is a vital message in our acquisitive society. The unspoken implication is that the good life consists of grabbing more and more things. But that’s a dangerous and destructive lie. There is a proverb that sums up the Bible’s thinking on this well: “He who takes but never gives may last for years but never lives.” Jesus’ life is the supreme example of the one who made giving a way of life. He poured himself out for all and, supremely, in his death on the cross. The apostle Paul summed this up in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” Question In whose life have you seen the greatest generosity, and how has their example inspired you? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, help me to reflect more of your generosity in my daily life. Amen
2/23/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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February 22nd - Proverbs 11:17

Proverbs 11:17 We tend to get a bit coy about the idea of getting rewards for living a godly life. This makes us very different from the writer of Proverbs! He was absolutely clear that living in line with God’s love and truth has rich rewards. It leads to a life bubbling over with joy, peace, love and healthy relationships. At the same time, he was clear that living contrary to God’s will leads to a life of misery and destruction. His view of life is refreshingly straightforward. ‘Kindness’ is a beautiful word that reflects the love and generosity of God. The Hebrew word is one we have met before. Hesed speaks of the faithfulness and love of our covenant-keeping God. This isn’t an occasional whim but an attitude of life. Isn’t it wonderful when you experience kindness? Perhaps someone went out of their way to help you, or sent you
a text, email or card to say they were thinking of you. They didn’t have to do it, and you probably weren’t expecting it but, out of sheer kindness, they took the trouble to reach out to you. Every day, we are given the opportunity to be kind. I love the words of William Penn, the writer, religious thinker and founder of Pennsylvania: “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” What inspiring words! It’s easy to be so busy that we don’t have time for little acts of kindness. However, those gestures of love and thoughtfulness can have a huge impact and cause incredible blessing. As Penn indicates, our opportunities to show kindness are not unlimited. We need to grasp every opportunity we are given to pass on the kindness which we first received from God. That means starting today! Question In what way have you experienced kindness recently, and how might you be kind today? Prayer Loving God, I thank you for the kindness that I have received. Help me to seize every opportunity to be kind to others. Amen
2/22/20243 minutes, 39 seconds
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February 21st - Proverbs 11:14

Proverbs 11:14 What wise words these are! The world cries out for wise leaders. The Hebrew word used here literally means ‘seamanship’. That is to say: the ship of state needs to be in the hands of those who are wise enough to prevent the nation hitting the rocks. We see far too many countries in confusion and conflict because of the absence of wise leadership. It’s easy to become disillusioned and cynical when we see leaders acting unwisely, and even corruptly. However, we must remember that God is deeply concerned about national leaders. Ultimately, they derive their authority from him. We need to pray continually for those who take on such awesome responsibility. We mustn’t run away because politics is too mucky and confusing. Rather we must make it a matter of deep concern and loving prayer. The apostle Paul urged his young friend Timothy to pray “for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:2-3). The writer’s encouragement to find safety in many advisers certainly applies to national leaders. But it’s a good piece of advice for all of us. However blessed we may be by those whose advice we respect, it is always good to hear a variety of voices. The writer of Proverbs made the point again later in the book. In Proverbs 15:22, he writes: “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” Listening humbly to a number of people and weighing their advice is a secure way of making decisions for all of us. It’s certainly a wiser path than jumping to a quick conclusion on the basis of just one voice. Question In what ways have other people helped you to make the major decisions in your own life? Prayer Loving God, I pray for world leaders. May they be humble enough to listen to their advisers and, above all, to seek your guidance. Amen
2/21/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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February 20th - Proverbs 11:13

Proverbs 11:13 I suspect we have all had the experience of someone saying to us: “This is just between you and me. It must go no further. It has to be kept within these four walls.” Because we are human, we get excited. This person has trusted us with important information. But this is dangerous territory. It may well be that they are passing on information with such care because they have promised not to share it. They have proved that they cannot keep a confidence. You’d do well to remember that when speaking to them in future! Gossip is incredibly attractive. The writer of Proverbs refers to it as being “like dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart” (Proverbs 18:8). When we hear gossip, for a fleeting moment we feel flattered that the person was willing to share it with us. Then we realise the horrible destructiveness of what they have done. We can be quite sure that our secrets will never be secure with that person. We all need people with whom we can speak with complete confidence. We need to know that what we share with them will never go any further. And since we need such people in our lives to support us, we, in turn, need to be totally trustworthy ourselves. We must keep a confidence whatever the temptations may be. It isn’t easy to turn away from gossip, and it’s hard to keep confidences, but we need to learn to do both. In God’s strength, we are able to do it. Remember this – God is a God of miracles! Question How good are you at resisting gossip and keep confidences? Prayer Lord God, grant me wisdom each day so that I will be faithful in keeping confidences and standing up to the most tasty morsels of gossip. Amen
2/20/20243 minutes, 12 seconds
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February 19th - Luke 19:26

Luke 19:26 In the parable of the talents, Jesus speaks of three servants who were entrusted with some money. Two of them multiplied the original amount enormously and, when the king discovered this, he was thrilled. But the third servant played it safe, hiding the money to ensure he could return it in full. The king was furious. He ordered his safely preserved money to be given to the servant who had made the most money. Jesus’ message is clear. Don’t play it safe! If God has given you a gift, use it. If you have a gift of caring, studying, administrating, teaching, healing, praying or writing, whatever it may be, make sure that you are using it as productively as you can. One day the Lord will ask you what you have done with the gift – and you should expect a severe response if your answer is that you played it safe, and did nothing. It’s tempting to look at our gifts and think they don’t amount to much. We can all look at others and reflect that they are so much more gifted than we are. But that isn’t the point. You and I have been given a gift by God. And he is looking to us to use it. Some of you may not be sure what your gift is. Let me encourage you to pray about this and talk with others. Most people who know you well will immediately identify what your gift is. I started preaching as a teenager because someone else identified this as my gift. I would never have put myself forward to preach and I was really nervous when I first did it. But I am so grateful that they identified the gift and encouraged me. Whatever you do, don’t play it safe. Make good use of whatever gift God has given you. Question What’s your gift and how are you going to use it? Prayer Thank you Lord for the gift that you have given me. Fill me with your Spirit so that I will make the most of it. Amen
2/19/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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February 18th - Luke 19:5-7

Luke 19:5-7 I think everyone loves to be called by name. I certainly do. And it is particularly special if you didn’t realise that the person speaking to you knew your name. Clearly, Zacchaeus was not only surprised that Jesus knew his name but thrilled when he offered to visit his house. This changed everything for Zacchaeus, who realised that he had to turn his life around. The fact that Jesus came into the world to save sinners is wonderful, but it means little until you realise that this offer is extended to you personally. 
You matter to God. Incredibly, if you had been the only sinner who had ever lived, Jesus would have died for you. As a teenager, I really struggled to believe that I could be that important to God. It seemed so unlikely. But it’s precisely the good news that Jesus came to proclaim to the world. When you accept it for yourself, it cannot fail to turn your life upside down. The crowd in this story did not approve of Jesus’ choice. They couldn’t believe he would go to the home of a notorious sinner. They assumed that Jesus would choose people who they considered to be respectable, not somebody who represented everything that was most appalling and distasteful about their society. But the good news of Jesus knows no limits. He still comes to sinners of all kinds, including us. He personally welcomes us and invites us to receive his gift of salvation. Question If Jesus was walking the streets of your community and looking for a notorious sinner, whose home would he visit? Prayer Lord Jesus, thank you that you call me by name and that, incredibly, you offer me the gift of new life. Amen
2/18/20243 minutes, 27 seconds
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February 17th - Luke 18:35; 40-43

Luke 18:35; 40-43 Jesus knew that he was heading to Jerusalem to die. But, even so, as he was on his way there, he had time for people. When he heard a blind man call out to him, he stopped and gave the man his full attention. From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he had declared that he had come to bring sight to the blind, in fulfilment of Isaiah 61. But that didn’t mean he would impose his healing. He came to offer healing and that’s what he does when he meets the blind beggar in Jericho. Jesus never barges into our lives telling us what’s best and imposing his will on us. He simply offers himself. On the face of it, it seems strange that Jesus would ask a blind man what he wanted him to do because it seems so obvious. We know nothing of this man’s circumstances, but we might well presume that his blindness was connected to his begging. He lived a life of complete vulnerability and so he needed to receive his sight. Even so, Jesus respects him as an individual and lets him make the decision. All of us need the loving touch of Jesus on our lives. We need his forgiveness, his peace, his love and his joy. We are all in desperate need of him, but he refuses to impose himself upon us. Today, as Jesus knocks at the door of our lives, he leaves it up to us to make the decision whether we will open it or not. Question Will you open the door to Jesus today? Prayer Loving Lord Jesus, thank you that you offer me your life today. I welcome you and invite you to fill me with your Spirit. Amen
2/17/20243 minutes, 30 seconds
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February 16th - Luke 18:31-33

Luke 18:31-33 Jesus’ death on the cross was only a few days away. He took his disciples to one side and gave them a vivid description of what was going to happen. But, incredibly, they didn’t understand a word of it. It was all a complete mystery to them. The coming days were a total shock. They understood that Jesus was an amazing teacher and healer, but they had yet to grasp the true meaning of his life, and they didn’t want to think about his death. We live in a society that is equally unaware of the significance of Jesus’ death. This is a great tragedy. As we approach Easter, we need to reflect on the ways in which we can help people to grasp the importance of this time. I think we should be glad that Easter eggs are still a focus of huge attention. 80 million boxed eggs are sold every year in the UK – and more than 500 million cream eggs! I am not for a moment suggesting that this leads to deep spiritual enlightenment, but the symbol of an egg does convey a clear and powerful picture of new life. Easter eggs are an amazing visual aid to help explain to people the new life that Jesus came to bring. Question Thinking of the people you meet each day, how might you be able to help them to understand the true significance of Easter? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you were willing to go to the cross out of love for me. Help me to gain a deeper understanding of your perfect love this Easter. Amen
2/16/20242 minutes, 58 seconds
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February 15th - Luke 18:16-17

Luke 18:16-17 Jesus continually surprised people, but his reaction to children would have been particularly astonishing to his hearers. In Jesus’ time, children had no status or protection in law. At best, they were regarded as potential adults who needed to be seen but certainly not heard. The disciples were keen to protect their rabbi, Jesus, from the children so that he could get on with the serious business of instructing the adults. But, as so often was the case, Jesus turned their thinking upside down. Not only did Jesus welcome the children but said that they provided the role model for his disciples to follow. What was Jesus getting at? He clearly wasn’t encouraging his followers to be childish. He was affirming that he wanted them to come to him with a spirit of openness and simplicity. The beauty of children is that they haven’t lived long enough to make life complicated. He wanted his followers to come to him with that simple trust. I feel sure that he also wanted to encourage a spirit of adventure in them. I love seeing the delight in children’s eyes when they are experiencing something new. The Christian life is a daily adventure in which God is constantly inviting us to face new challenges and opportunities. Only a childlike attitude will do. Jesus’ words couldn’t have been stronger. Not only were children role models for every Christian disciple, but Jesus declared that if anyone refused to come to him like a child, they would be denied entry into the kingdom of God. That’s a very blunt message – but he wants them to know that an arrogant person will never be welcomed by God. It is only as we humble ourselves like children and come to God with empty hands that he is able to bless us. Question What do you most need to learn from the example of children? Prayer Help me, Lord, to become more and more childlike as I place my trust more firmly in you. Amen
2/15/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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February 14th - Luke 16:10-12

Luke 16:10-12 We are all impressed by competent people. People who get things done. But competence isn’t everything. A person’s character is of far greater significance. Indeed, a person who has enormous competence but a bad character is very dangerous, and their activity is likely to lead to disaster sooner or later. Jesus’ words are wise ones. We need to listen to them carefully. Faithfulness is a key quality and, if someone has proved unfaithful in one area of life, it is likely they will be unfaithful in other areas as well. If someone shows dishonesty in a trivial matter, it should come as no surprise if they are dishonest on a bigger scale. Our core character determines the way in which we live our lives – whether the issue is large or small, involves our family, business or church. This emphasises the importance of continually growing our Christian character. As we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, our character will gradually change. His fruit will become increasingly evident in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This fruit is not like normal fruit. It does not have a short shelf life, but lasts eternally. Impressed as we may be by competent people, we all need to long for this amazing fruit which God loves to grow in our lives. Question In what ways are you seeking to grow the fruit of the Spirit in your life? Prayer Loving God, help me grow closer to you every day and to welcome the changes that you are bringing about in my life by your Holy Spirit. Amen
2/14/20243 minutes, 15 seconds
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February 13th - Luke 15:20-21

Luke 15:20-21 Of all the stories that Jesus told, the parable of the prodigal son is perhaps the most famous. It is a story that takes us to the heart of the good news. Can you think of anything worse than a son asking for his inheritance while his father is still alive? Having secured the money, he then went off and squandered it, ending up completely broke. In his desperation, all he could do was to find a job feeding pigs – and, for a Jew, you couldn’t imagine a worse job because they were banned from eating pork. The people would have listened to Jesus with rapt attention. But they also knew how the story should end. When they heard that the son planned to return home and ask his father for a job, they knew that any self-respecting father would give him a hiding. He would punish him severely. Everyone could see that’s what he deserved. But this father was different. Even though he had been horribly abused, he threw his arms around his wayward son and welcomed him home. He then gave him the best robe, put a ring on his finger and threw a big party. This is precisely the good news that Jesus came to bring. We have all strayed from God’s ways and treated him appallingly. We don’t deserve to be loved by God. Punishment would be entirely appropriate. But, incredibly, God throws his arms around us and welcomes us home. Question What does this parable say to you personally? Prayer Dear Father, thank you that even though I have done so many things that are wrong, you are willing to forgive me and give me a new life. Amen
2/13/20243 minutes, 4 seconds
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February 12th - Luke 15:8-10

Luke 15:8-10 Almost everyone has a moving story of a time when they lost something very precious. For me, it is normally my keys, glasses or mobile phone and, most of the time, the search concludes successfully within a few anxious minutes. I have never lost my wedding ring, but I have heard many heart-rending stories of people who have. The woman in this story has lost one of the ten silver coins that formed part of her headdress, given to her when she got married. There was no point telling her that she still had nine coins! Each and every coin was of huge sentimental value and losing one caused her great distress. The pain of losing something precious is massive. Its gut wrenching and can dominate life. We struggle to settle to anything else. When the moment of discovery comes, the joy is overwhelming. It would be unthinkable to keep that joy to ourselves. Everyone needs to know about it! Jesus says that’s exactly how it is in heaven when a sinner repents. When even one person turns to God, heaven has a party! Joy is a big theme in the Bible. It is God’s response to everything coming together in its rightful place. When we live in step with God, the outcome is always joy. Sin is the opposite. It always spoils, tarnishes and destroys, leading to certain misery. God’s supreme desire for us today is for us to share in his joy. We will do precisely that as we let his Spirit fill us and direct us. Question What brings you most joy in life and in what way do you think that God shares in that joy? Prayer Loving Father thank you for all the joy that you give me as I live in step with you day by day. Amen
2/12/20243 minutes, 16 seconds
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February 11th - Luke 15:4-5

Luke 15:4-5 This is such a beautiful story. You can picture the shepherd as he makes sure the 99 precious sheep are safe and warm, and then trudges out into the wilderness to look for the one that was lost. It’s a heart-warming story – but it doesn’t make any sense. Economically, why would you run the risk of endangering 99 sheep by leaving them all alone in the desert to search for just one sheep, who constitutes only one per cent of your business? Surely, the shepherd should protect 99 per cent of his business and hope that the silly lost sheep would somehow wander home. The only explanation for a shepherd acting in this way is love. He sets out to search for the lost sheep because
he really cares for each of them. This gives us an insight into the way in which Jesus lived and worked. He spent a lot of time with people who everyone else considered to be lost causes. He could have spent it comfortably, in Jerusalem, having interesting conversations with the religious people. But Jesus chose to go to the people who lived on the edge of society – poor people, children, women, people with leprosy, prostitutes and tax collectors. He was looking for the lost sheep. In our churches today, we must ensure that we never stop seeking the lost. It is easy to get comfortable to shape our church life and activities to suit ourselves. But Jesus reminds us that we exist to reach out to people in his name. People who may be rejected by society and completely unlike us. And when they turn to Christ and find new life in him – wow! We need to have a celebration! Question In what way are you seeking to reach the lost? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you have been a shepherd to me. Help me to reach out to others with your arms of love. Amen
2/11/20243 minutes, 20 seconds
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February 10th - Luke 13:18-19

Luke 13:18-19 A mustard seed is tiny – between one and two millimetres. You would hardly notice it because it so small but, incredibly, it can grow into a huge plant, commonly three metres tall and sometimes even up to four metres. It’s understandable that Jesus described it as a tree. Inevitably, a mustard plant attracts huge attention from birds who love to feed on the little black seeds. Jesus’ point is clear. When we see God at work in the world, it may not look impressive. It may appear incredibly small. But the kingdom of God is always in the growth business and so, even though it might seem tiny, it will keep growing. In many parts of the world, the Church is small and struggling. I’ve visited many towns and even cities around the world where there is only one Christian or just a small group. I’ve always been incredibly impressed when I’ve met such people. In human terms, their situation looked impossibly challenging, but they have faith that God can grow his kingdom against all odds. We live in a world that is impressed by size and success. It is easy for churches to get sucked into this kind of thinking. There is nothing wrong with either of those things, but we must never forget that we serve a God who does miracles. There are many churches and Christian organisations in this country that are, on the face of it, weak, financially insecure and not outwardly impressive. We must hold on to the fact that we worship a God who brings growth and blessing in phenomenal ways. The one thing we must never do is to look down on things just because they are small. Question What church, Christian organisation or initiative are you looking at that seems as small as a mustard seed? Prayer Thank you Lord that you are a God of miracles. Help me to look at every situation with your eyes and to see how you can bring growth in the most unlikely places. Amen
2/10/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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February 9th - Luke 12:21

Luke 12:21 I love the fact that most of Jesus’ stories are told in very few words. Our verse today is the punch line to a very brief story that he told about a rich farmer who had such a successful harvest that he needed to build more barns. He concluded that he could now settle back and enjoy life. He could eat, drink and be merry. But Jesus called the man a fool. He had not taken into consideration the fact that his life might come to an end that very night. I don’t believe for a moment that Jesus wants us to go through life with long faces, dwelling on the morbid realisation that any day might be our last. Far from it! He wants us to live our lives fully every day, to enjoy the wonders of his creation and the miracle of being alive. But he wants us to do so in the light of eternity. He wants us to invest in the things that last, not the things that will pass away. Nothing is more enduring than our relationship with God. There is nothing wrong with making money, but there
is something hideously wrong with thinking about it to the exclusion of everything else. Our society encourages us to think about our money, our possessions, our holidays, our pensions and our health continually. All of those things are good, but as we look at the adverts and listen to the voices around us, we need to remind ourselves that God calls us to live with the much bigger perspective of eternity. Every day, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of living close to our eternal God and sharing his love, joy and peace with those around us. Question Do you consciously live and make your decisions in the light of eternity? Prayer Thank you Lord for the wonderful gift of today. Help me to recognise how precious it is and to ensure that you are at the centre of all of my decisions. Amen
2/9/20243 minutes, 11 seconds
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February 8th - Luke 10:41-42

Luke 10:41-42 Forgive me for a little pop psychology. It seems to me that some people are naturally activists. They are always up and doing. Other people are naturally reflective. They want to stand back from life and consider everything carefully. In this beautiful little account, we meet two sisters who are perfect examples of these different approaches to life. Martha was an activist. She knew Jesus had a very busy ministry and it was obvious to her that he needed a good meal. Martha was therefore appalled when she saw her sister skiving. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening carefully to him and, meanwhile, Martha was fuming. Mary should have been working as hard as she was! In a complete strop, Martha went to Jesus and told him to order Mary to help her. Jesus’ response must have been devastating. She was so sure she was right, but Jesus gently informed her that she was completely wrong. Mary was right: listening to Jesus was a much higher priority than getting the meal ready. What are we to conclude from this story? Is all housework wrong? That wasn’t what Jesus was saying. Activity and reflection are both vitally important. Yesterday we learned that our love for God should result in practical action. Today, we learn we all need to spend time at the feet of Jesus. If you are an activist like Martha, God wants you to learn the importance of sitting still and listening to him. If you are naturally reflective like Mary, you need to remember that God is also looking for you to turn your devotion into loving, costly action. Question What have you learned from this story? Prayer Lord help me to learn the importance of both action and reflection. Amen
2/8/20243 minutes, 22 seconds
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February 7th - Luke 10:33-34

Luke 10:33-34 I love the parable of the Good Samaritan, not least because it would have come as such a complete surprise to Jesus’ hearers. Jesus was being challenged by an expert in the law, who asked for the legal definition of the word ‘neighbour’. He was probably expecting a sophisticated technical response – and instead Jesus told him a story. For any Jew, the parable was deeply shocking. The fact that a man had been ambushed on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho wasn’t surprising. The winding road that connected the two communities made it an ideal place to attack a traveller. But what was shocking was that the priest and Levite did nothing. Of course, they had perfect excuses, since touching a dying man could have made them unclean and therefore unable to perform their duties in the temple. But, even so, anyone with a heart would realise that they should have responded to the helpless man. What is astonishing is that Jesus chose to make the hero of the story a Samaritan, of all people. The Jews and Samaritans hated one another and Jesus’ decision to focus all the attention on the loving generosity of the Samaritan would have been deeply offensive to his Jewish audience. Jesus was making a simple, straightforward point. Whoever you are, if you really care for another person, you need to do something. Worshipping God is worth nothing if it doesn’t lead to loving, caring, costly action. Question Who is your neighbour and what does it mean for you to love your neighbour as yourself? Prayer Lord God our Father, give me your strength and wisdom to enable me to show love to my neighbours today. Amen
2/7/20243 minutes, 6 seconds
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February 6th - Luke 9:51

Luke 9:51 There’s a wonderful description of the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 50:7 in which it says that he set his “face like flint”. That is to say, he was absolutely resolute in his obedience to the Lord. That’s precisely what we see here in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus knew that the Jewish leaders were determined to kill him and yet, even so, he headed into the city where his life would be under greatest threat. If anyone had done a risk assessment of the situation, Jesus would have been advised to avoid the area and head back up north to Galilee. Jesus’ complete commitment to his Father’s will is awe-inspiring. He could have chosen to avoid the dangers,
but his desire was to be obedient and, so, he headed south to Jerusalem. He had no fear and took a route that no Jewish person would ever have taken, walking through Samaria (whose people despised the Jews). Predictably, the Samaritan people kicked up a fuss when they heard Jesus was heading to Jerusalem. This angered James and John, who suggested calling down fire from heaven to destroy the people. But Jesus rebuked them. As they continued on the road to Jerusalem, a man told Jesus that he would follow him wherever he went. Jesus’ response was to inform him that “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus invited the man to follow him, but he wanted to ensure he had no illusions: it would require a single-minded commitment, nothing less. He was calling on all his followers to set their faces like flint, and that’s exactly the same invitation that he gives to
us today. Question Have you set your face like flint in obedience to Christ? Prayer Dear Father, thank you that you invite me to live a life of obedience to you. Give me strength today to head resolutely in the direction you want me to go. Amen
2/6/20243 minutes, 9 seconds
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February 5th - Psalm 23:6

Psalm 23:6 David concluded this amazing psalm by looking to the future. He was confident that God’s love would be with him whatever it held. The Hebrew word that is translated as “unfailing love” is hesed. Unfailing love is a good translation but it does not carry the full weight of this word, which is rooted in the covenant relationship that God enjoys with his people. Because God has committed himself to live in covenant with us, his mercy, love and kindness are absolutely secure. We can therefore live our lives full of hope and confidence, not because there will be no challenges or difficulties in the future, but because we know that God’s unfailing love will pursue us whatever
it holds. This profoundly affects the way we live today. Knowing that our future is secure in God’s hands enables us to live calmly and confidently, unburdened by anxiety about anything that might be to come. This idea was also a key theme in Paul’s letters. So much so that he told the Philippians this: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21). He was so confident of his Lord that he was sure the best was yet to be. He knew that whatever happened in the future, he would be enfolded by the love of Christ, and that absolutely nothing could separate him from that. I do hope that you have that same confidence as you look to your own future. Question How often do you think about your long-term future and how does your faith shape those thoughts? Prayer Lord, I thank you that I can look to the future with peace and confidence because your unfailing love will pursue me for time and eternity. Amen
2/5/20242 minutes, 59 seconds
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February 4th - Psalm 23:4

Psalm 23:4 In the previous verse, David expressed his confidence that the Lord, his shepherd, would lead him in right paths. Now he declares that one of those right paths is the dark valley. It isn’t a mistake when we face times of loss, illness and bereavement. The dark times are part of the life of faith and, because our shepherd knows that to be the case, he is there beside us on the journey. It is significant that David moves from talking about the shepherd to addressing him directly. He doesn’t merely rejoice that the Lord is with him but says: “you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect me” (my emphasis). Passing through dark valleys is an inevitable part of being alive. It is vital that we know that our shepherd is there to accompany, protect and strengthen us. He is our companion on the road and has exactly the right equipment. The shepherd’s rod was a cudgel attached to his belt with which to fight off predators. And the staff – or shepherd’s crook – would help direct the sheep and reach them when they got stuck. Amid all the challenges and traumas of life, we can be sure that the Lord is perfectly equipped to accompany us and lead us through. How terrible it must be for those who look to the future without a shepherd to guide them. They will not avoid the dark valleys but, as they face them, they will be on their own. This psalm should not merely cause us to rejoice in the privilege of knowing that the Lord is our shepherd, but deepen our desire to commend him to others, too. Question In what ways have you found the Lord to be your shepherd? Prayer Lord God, I thank you that you are always beside me and that you will lead me through every challenge and difficulty that I face. Amen
2/4/20242 minutes, 58 seconds
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February 3rd - Psalm 23:2-3

Psalm 23:2-3 Sheep have many fine qualities. They are highly social creatures and very sensitive to one another. However, one of their more troublesome characteristics is that they are inclined to stray. This is even more problematic when you factor in their desire to keep close to their friends. As every shepherd knows, sheep often wander off as a flock. This emphasises the crucial importance of the shepherd. Without a shepherd’s support, sheep are incredibly vulnerable. It’s not hard to understand why the Bible so often compares human beings with sheep! We too have an inclination to wander from safe paths – and that’s why we need the Lord to be our shepherd. A shepherd is continually concerned with finding pasture for their flock and ensuring the sheep have access to good water supply. This must be particularly demanding in an arid area such as Palestine. The Lord knows our need for constant nourishment and refreshment. These things are not luxuries but crucial to our spiritual health. He continually helps us find all that we need to sustain our Christian lives. But just as you can lead a horse (or sheep!) to water, but cannot make them drink, so too the Lord can lead us to spiritual water but will never force it upon us. We need to organise our lives in such a way as to ensure that we receive the nourishment we need. All of us need good spiritual rhythms. We need to read the Bible and pray regularly. And we also need to meet up with Christian brothers and sisters on a regular basis. I would never want to turn this into a rule. Our lives and opportunities are all different. However, we are like sheep – and without regular nourishment and refreshment, we can all too easily wander away. So let’s take action to ensure that that doesn’t happen. Question Are you getting the spiritual nourishment and refreshment that you need? If not, what can you do to get them? Prayer Loving Lord, thank you that you are a faithful shepherd to me. Thank you for the ways in which you are constantly guiding me in the right paths. Amen
2/3/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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February 2nd - Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23:1 David knew what he was writing about when he used the word ‘shepherd’. As a young man, before his surprise selection by Samuel, that was his job. He knew what a tough and demanding task it was to care for sheep in an environment that was constantly hostile. A shepherd had to stay with his sheep in all weathers, knowing that there were always sheep rustlers and wild animals on the prowl. A shepherd needed to be strong, wise and alert. So in calling God his shepherd, David was saying a great deal about the relationship he had with his Lord. Many of the descriptions that David used of God were strong and powerful but, ultimately, could seem distant. Calling God a fortress, a high tower or a rock tells us much about the mighty power of God and the security that he gives, but there is little warmth in them. The use of the term ‘shepherd’ was completely different. David was no doubt recalling his own relationship with his sheep. He knew them intimately. He knew the ones most inclined to wander off, the ones that often got ill and the ones that needed special support. And he knew the relationship he had with almighty God was one of warmth, love and personal care. The most crucial word in this verse is my. It would have been interesting and significant if he had described the Lord as being like a shepherd, but he went much further than that. David’s testimony was that God was a shepherd to him. He had experienced the Lord’s protection, kindness and guidance. David did not claim the Lord would give him everything he wanted – God never does. Our wants are often very selfish and potentially destructive. But our loving shepherd gives us everything we need. There could be no greater gift than heading into the future, secure in the knowledge that God will provide perfectly for us. Question As you look to the future, what is your reaction to the fact that God will supply everything you need? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you are my shepherd and that you will always give me everything I need to live for you. Amen
2/2/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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February 1st - 2 Corinthians 7:8-9

2 Corinthians 7:8-9 Early on in my ministry, one of the most spiritual and sensitive members of my congregation said to me: “Very little truth is spoken in this church.” I was quite shocked by this statement, and thought a great deal about it. As I did so, I came to realise that, painfully, she was absolutely right. It was a very happy, growing church, but our relationships were largely superficial. We were all extremely friendly with one another, but we rarely discussed the challenges and tensions that we were facing. We carefully avoided the sharp edges of truth. However, if we are truly to grow as churches, there needs to be a great deal of honesty and a willingness to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Paul had shared a lot of truth with the Corinthian church and, clearly, his words had hurt them. He now reflects on the letter he wrote and acknowledges that, at first, he was sorry that they had found it so painful. However, he was now glad he had sent it because his strong words helped them to change their ways. Whenever we have something tough to share with others, we need to do so with a huge amount of prayer, sensitivity and love. It’s not easy to speak words that others might find painful. Even though we may be sure we are right about a situation, we don’t want people to dislike or reject us. Often, we’d rather smile sweetly at them and hope the problem disappears. But the only way we will grow up as Christians and church communities is by speaking the truth in love. Question What have you learned from the times when people have spoken the truth in love to you? Prayer Loving Father, help me to grow in my willingness to speak the truth in your name, and to do so with love. Amen
2/1/20243 minutes, 14 seconds
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January 31st - 2 Corinthians 7:5-7

2 Corinthians 7:5-7 I was once chatting to two friends when the subject of encouragement came up. One worked in a bank and the other was an engineer. They both said that they couldn’t remember the last time their bosses had given them any word of encouragement. I was shocked. They were both great people, and I can only imagine that they were diligent and effective workers, but they had been denied the oxygen of encouragement, which is needed by us all. Paul had clearly been going through a really tough time. He had been working in Macedonia (what we now know as northern Greece). In Acts 17, we read about some of the opposition that Paul had encountered. He felt attacked on all sides. The arrival of Titus was a very welcome encouragement – not least because he brought news that the Corinthians, in southern Greece, had been an encouragement to him. Result! Paul knew that God encourages the discouraged, and that’s exactly what happened. Everyone needs encouragement. Today, we will all have opportunities to share some with others. It may be in the form of a kind comment, a thoughtful text or a bunch of flowers. These may appear quite small actions in themselves, but they can have life-changing effects. God is at work in our encouragements and can use them to transform people’s lives. There is almost certainly nothing greater that we can achieve today than to be encouragers. Question Who are you going to encourage today and how? Prayer Thank you Lord that you
are a constant source of encouragement. Increase in me the determination to be an encourager of others. Amen
1/31/20243 minutes, 18 seconds
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January 30th - 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 It is possible for our relationship with other people to be incredibly superficial. Our words can often be a way of pushing other people away rather than revealing anything significant about ourselves. A friendly, smiling face and a warm greeting can easily be used to mask deep sadness and confusion. This happens in churches as easily as anywhere else. We can skate over the surface without ever really getting to know one another. Paul, in typically robust style, pierces through such superficiality and says exactly what he thinks! He has opened his heart to the Corinthians, and they have done exactly the opposite to him. He appeals to them as if they were his children. Paul established the church in Corinth, so it isn’t surprising that he looked at them with a father’s love, and is desperate to have a close relationship with them. It’s so important for us to have people with whom we can open our hearts. This is what true fellowship is all about. It is only as we get to know one another deeply that we can truly live as the body of Christ, giving and receiving love and spiritual gifts. Being vulnerable in this way isn’t easy but there is no other way to discover strong and vibrant relationships. Behind Paul’s words there is very clearly a sense of hurt. He loves the Corinthians so much that he longs to receive their love in return. His honest words are a helpful reminder that churches are not made up of perfect people. At times, fellowship can be agonisingly disappointing. But, like Paul, we need to go on loving people and longing for our Christian brothers and sisters to open their hearts to us and one another. Question With whom are you able to open your heart? Prayer Loving Lord, thank you that you have opened your heart to us. Help me to be increasingly willing to open my heart to my Christian brothers and sisters. Amen
1/30/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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January 29th - 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 We all take things for granted, but it’s a strange fact that often, it’s the most precious and amazing gifts. The love of our family and friends for example. Or the reliable supply of clean drinking water and nourishing food. Or the freedom to worship God and to declare publicly what we believe. Our lives would be very different if any of those privileges were denied us. But, honestly, how often do we consciously give thanks to God for these amazing gifts? Now let’s step it up a gear. Let’s talk about the amazing gift of salvation and the promise of eternal life with God. It doesn’t get better than that. Any gift you have ever received must pale into insignificance alongside the amazing gifts of God to us. But, all too often, we receive this marvellous gift of God’s kindness and ignore it. Paul’s intention was to wake up his Corinthian hearers and remind them that God’s gift of salvation is not a vague and distant reality. God wants us to be awake to his gift of salvation right now, because today is the day of salvation. The Christian faith changes our understanding of everything, but nothing is more dramatic than the way in which it transforms our understanding of the present. Today is incredibly important, however dull and ordinary it might seem, because God is at work, setting people free. Today is the day that God wants you to experience his salvation, setting you free from your sins and fears and enabling you to be fully alive. Question In what specific ways can you see God’s salvation at work in your life today? Prayer Thank you, dear Lord, for your gift of salvation. Help me to treasure it and never take it for granted. Amen
1/29/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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January 28th - 2 Corinthians 5:19-20

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 If you have ever visited an embassy you will know what a strange experience it is. Suddenly you find yourself in another country! You will see the flag of that country and find yourself looking at pictures of their royalty or head of state. In most instances, you will also hear a language that is different to that spoken on the street outside. That is, of course, the whole point. An embassy represents a country internationally, no matter where it is located. Paul tells us that this is precisely our job. We are ambassadors of a different country, representing the kingdom of God wherever we are. And, in common with all ambassadors, we have a message to share. Ambassadors are carefully trained to faithfully represent the views of their government and forge strong relationships with the country to which they have been posted. That precisely describes our role. This world is not our home. We are just passing through and so, in all we say and do, we must ensure we are faithful representatives of God and his kingdom, speaking in his name and with his authority. Our key role, as God’s ambassadors, is to pass on a message of reconciliation. God sent Jesus into the world to forgive our sins and enable us to enter into a relationship with him. We now need to pass on that simple, clear message: “Come back to God!” To be trusted as an ambassador is an amazing privilege. But to be called to be God’s ambassador s as good as it gets. Wherever you go and whatever you do today, remember that, before anything else, you are God’s ambassador. Question In what ways can you be able to represent the kingdom of God today? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you sent Jesus into this world to forgive our sins and bring us into a relationship with you. Help me to be a good ambassador today, and pass on the message that you are eager to have a relationship with all of us. Amen
1/28/20243 minutes, 38 seconds
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January 27th - 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 I’m sure you can think of many moments in life when, suddenly, everything changed. Your first day at school, your wedding, the birth of your children, when you started your first job or moved into a new house. From that moment, everything looked slightly different. But those moments are nothing compared to the complete change that happens when we become a Christian. No part of life is left untouched. Jesus told Nicodemus, one of the Jewish leaders, that he had to be born again (see John 3). I don’t think that Nicodemus was playing games with Jesus when he showed incredulity at what Jesus said. His words sounded like nonsense to Nicodemus. How could he possibly go through the process of birth all over again? But Jesus was clear: no doubt Nicodemus was a good and godly man, but he needed to start out on a completely new spiritual journey. His physical birth obviously couldn’t be repeated but, if he wanted a spiritual life, he would have to experience a spiritual birth. We all have different stories to tell of the way in which we started out on the Christian life. Some of you can probably remember the exact time and place when you became a Christian. Others, like me, may have been brought up in a Christian home and cannot recall a time when Jesus was not part of your life. My journey towards personal faith in Christ was gradual; through the love of my parents, youth leaders and others I was led to a clear, personal commitment. The road we take isn’t the issue. What matters is that we find new life in Jesus and recognise that knowing him transforms every part of us. We are new people! Question What was your own experience of being born again? Prayer Thank you, gracious God, for loving me so much that you were willing to give me new life in Jesus. Amen
1/27/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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January 26th - 2 Corinthians 5:4

2 Corinthians 5:4 Our society tries to avoid talking about death. Paul could not be more different! For Paul it was an incredibly exciting subject because he was convinced that his life was in God’s hands. Therefore, he was completely confident about the future. Paul uses two pictures in his teaching about death. First, he speaks of our bodies as being like a tent. Tents are temporary. The day will come when our earthly tent is taken down, and we will go to our eternal home in heaven. Paul also talks about our bodies as being like a set of clothes. They will do for the moment – and we may be quite comfortable wearing them – but God has a much better set of clothes waiting for us. We should look forward to the day when we will be able to wear them. Our temporary human bodies will be swallowed up in glorious life! As Christians, the best is yet to come. Understandably, we may be very unsure about the future. The idea of death and what lies beyond it is, by definition, outside our experience and understanding. That means the big issue is trust. We need to place our trust firmly in God, knowing that wherever he leads us, it is bound to be good. I have fond memories of our annual family holiday. As a little boy, I never had any idea what the destination was, how we would get there or how it was paid for. But I didn’t need to know. My father had made all the plans and everything worked out smoothly and happily. If a human father can plan a family holiday, how much more can we trust our perfect heavenly father to plan our future? Question How does Paul’s teaching about death affect your own thinking? Prayer Loving Father, thank you so much that I can look to the future with peace and confidence. I place myself in your hands and trust you for all that is to come. Amen
1/26/20243 minutes, 27 seconds
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January 25th - 2 Corinthians 4:16

2 Corinthians 4:16 Have you ever been tempted to give up? Paul talks about this twice in this chapter and concludes that he will never give up, despite having a very demanding ministry. There must have been many occasions when quitting seemed extremely tempting! We don’t know about every challenge he faced but we do know that he was (in his own words!) hard pressed on every side, perplexed, hunted down and in constant danger of death. It must have been incredibly tough. But Paul was clear: he would not throw in the towel! And here, he gives a firm reason why. Every single day he was being renewed. Our bodies can’t keep going for ever. From about 25 years old, all of us are in a state of physical and mental decline. From about 18 to 25 years, the number of newly formed cells in our bodies balance the dying ones. However, after 25, the number that are dying are greater than the number of new ones being made. That’s the ageing process. There’s no way of avoiding it. I’m sorry if that isn’t the word of encouragement you were looking for, but stand back! Because even though we are all, inevitably, getting older, God is at work. He is renewing us each day. God is our creator and, by his Spirit, he continues to work creatively in our lives. I used to think that God’s creative work concluded when he created the world. But that’s not the case. God is a creative God is continually renewing our lives, giving us new hope, new joy, new possibilities, new relationships and new work to do. We should look to the future with great hope and anticipation. Whatever your age, God has a purpose for your life. As you trust yourself to him, you will be led in many exciting new adventures. Question How do you see God renewing your life at present? Prayer Creator God, thank you for the miracle of life. I praise you that, whatever my age, your Holy Spirit is at work renewing me day by day. Amen
1/25/20243 minutes, 31 seconds
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January 24th - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 I wonder how strong or weak you think you are. It can be hard to admit our vulnerabilities but here Paul does so in the most open way. He lays bare the way in which he has been knocked about in ministry. He faced pressures from every direction and was happy to admit how weak he felt. But, through it all, he had not been defeated and was clear that the reason for this was the power of God. He was just a fragile clay jar. All credit for his survival in ministry must go to God. When things are difficult, it is easy to conclude that we are in the wrong place. We make the assumption that, if we
are in the place God wants us to be, everything will go smoothly. However, God has lots of tough work to be done. As Paul discovered, when we are obedient to God, we may be pushed to our absolute limits. It is important in all of this to know ourselves and God. We must recognise that we are all fragile, and that God
is able to strengthen us whatever the circumstances. Paul’s candid testimony should encourage us to be honest
about what we are going through, in the knowledge that God can cope. It is only as we acknowledge our personal limits that we are able to discover the limitless love and power of God. Question When have you been pushed to your limits, and what did you learn about God? Prayer Thank you, Lord, that you are not only perfectly strong but also perfectly loving, Amen
1/24/202415 minutes
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January 24th - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 I wonder how strong or weak you think you are. It can be hard to admit our vulnerabilities but here Paul does so in the most open way. He lays bare the way in which he has been knocked about in ministry. He faced pressures from every direction and was happy to admit how weak he felt. But, through it all, he had not been defeated and was clear that the reason for this was the power of God. He was just a fragile clay jar. All credit for his survival in ministry must go to God. When things are difficult, it is easy to conclude that we are in the wrong place. We make the assumption that, if we
are in the place God wants us to be, everything will go smoothly. However, God has lots of tough work to be done. As Paul discovered, when we are obedient to God, we may be pushed to our absolute limits. It is important in all of this to know ourselves and God. We must recognise that we are all fragile, and that God
is able to strengthen us whatever the circumstances. Paul’s candid testimony should encourage us to be honest
about what we are going through, in the knowledge that God can cope. It is only as we acknowledge our personal limits that we are able to discover the limitless love and power of God. Question When have you been pushed to your limits, and what did you learn about God? Prayer Thank you, Lord, that you are not only perfectly strong but also perfectly loving, Amen
1/24/20243 minutes, 14 seconds
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January 23rd - 2 Corinthians 4:5

2 Corinthians 4:5 Whatever you are doing today, it’s vital to have a clear objective. Being unclear about what you are trying to achieve is frustrating, confusing and exhausting. Paul did not suffer from this problem! He was absolutely certain that his role was to preach about Jesus, pure and simple. In a church that was very interested in the different personalities of their leaders, Paul made it plain that he didn’t want to be the focus of their attention. The word ‘Christocentric’ – or centred on Christ – sums this up well. This is the calling of every Christian. In our everyday life, we seek to put Jesus at the centre of our thinking, our relationships and our activities. Paul, as a preacher, was determined not to impress people with beautifully polished sermons but to ensure that they met with Jesus and understood that he died on the cross for them. But whatever your calling, you can live a Christocentric life. If you are a shopworker, you can ensure your care for customers and staff radiates the love of Jesus. As a businessperson, you can act graciously and honestly towards others. As a teacher, God can use you to set an example through your care and thoughtfulness for your students. As a parent, you can show patience and love, using your influence to help your children know Jesus for themselves. Because Jesus is the focus of our lives, the greatest calling possible is to serve him. A servant’s life is devoted to doing everything the master wants. That would be an appalling way of life if you had a bad, uncaring master. However, if you have the best master in the world, to be a servant is life at its absolute best. And we have such a master! Question What do you need to do to make your life more Christocentric? Prayer Loving Father, help me today to live as a servant of Jesus before anything else. Amen
1/23/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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January 23rd - 2 Corinthians 4:5

2 Corinthians 4:5 Whatever you are doing today, it’s vital to have a clear objective. Being unclear about what you are trying to achieve is frustrating, confusing and exhausting. Paul did not suffer from this problem! He was absolutely certain that his role was to preach about Jesus, pure and simple. In a church that was very interested in the different personalities of their leaders, Paul made it plain that he didn’t want to be the focus of their attention. The word ‘Christocentric’ – or centred on Christ – sums this up well. This is the calling of every Christian. In our everyday life, we seek to put Jesus at the centre of our thinking, our relationships and our activities. Paul, as a preacher, was determined not to impress people with beautifully polished sermons but to ensure that they met with Jesus and understood that he died on the cross for them. But whatever your calling, you can live a Christocentric life. If you are a shopworker, you can ensure your care for customers and staff radiates the love of Jesus. As a businessperson, you can act graciously and honestly towards others. As a teacher, God can use you to set an example through your care and thoughtfulness for your students. As a parent, you can show patience and love, using your influence to help your children know Jesus for themselves. Because Jesus is the focus of our lives, the greatest calling possible is to serve him. A servant’s life is devoted to doing everything the master wants. That would be an appalling way of life if you had a bad, uncaring master. However, if you have the best master in the world, to be a servant is life at its absolute best. And we have such a master! Question What do you need to do to make your life more Christocentric? Prayer Loving Father, help me today to live as a servant of Jesus before anything else. Amen
1/23/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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January 22nd - 2 Corinthians 3:18

2 Corinthians 3:18 Nothing stands still for long. If you need proof of that, take a look at a photo of yourself from ten years ago. We are constantly changing, whether we like it or not! Here, Paul speaks about the way in which we change as Christians. As followers of Jesus, if our lives look exactly the same as they did in the past, something has gone desperately wrong. Being a Christian is very different from belonging to a club, where you can normally tailor your involvement
to suit yourself. Many people belong to gyms but never attend. By way of contrast, Christianity is a relationship within which God’s desire is that we change. Paul talks about the importance of growing in faith and becoming more mature many time. Here, in 2 Corinthians, he speaks of us changing so that we look more and more
like Jesus. We may have a long way to go, but the Holy Spirit, day by day, is working the miracle of changing us into Christ’s likeness. Often, the best way of seeing this process at work is by looking at others. As you see their gentleness, kindness, compassion, joy and peace, give thanks to God for the way in which he is developing these beautiful qualities in them. And, as you give more of yourself to the Lord, these amazing fruits of the Spirit will grow steadily in your own life. Question In what ways have you grown as a Christian over the past year, and what growth are you seeking in the coming year? Prayer Heavenly Father, thank you that you love me so much that you want me to change. Help me to welcome your Holy Spirit more fully into my life so that, day by day, I become more like Jesus. Amen
1/22/20243 minutes, 11 seconds
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January 21st - 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

2 Corinthians 3:4-5 Qualifications are important. You can’t deny it. If I catch a train, I want to know the driver is qualified! When a surgeon operates on me, I want to know that they have passed all the appropriate exams. Paul addresses the crucial question of what qualifies someone to work for God. His work is of eternal importance, so we need to know exactly what kind of qualifications are needed. There are any number of excellent courses in biblical study, theology and Christian ministry available to us today, whether online or in person. It is wonderful that there are so many ways we can train to work for God. But don’t for a moment imagine that those paper qualifications are all you need. Ultimately, you need to know that God’s hand is upon your life and that he is directing, inspiring and enabling the work you are doing. Paul sums it up neatly: “Our qualification comes from God.” I thank God for the privilege of studying at Bible college and for able scholars who helped me to understand how to interpret scripture. I even thank God for the exams that made sure I worked hard to remember large passages of the Bible and how to apply what I had been taught. All of that was very valuable but none of it can, by itself, qualify someone to do God’s work. Whether you are a minister, pastoral worker, administrator, treasurer, youth worker, in a worship band or have some other role in the Christian community, what you need – before anything else – is to know that your confidence is in God alone. Look out for good courses to improve your knowledge and skills but your qualification lies in your relationship with God. Question If you love God, how are you using that qualification to bless other people? Prayer Dear Lord, I ask for your blessing upon all those whom you have called to work for you. Give them your wisdom, grace and strength today. Amen
1/21/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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January 20th - 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 Smells are powerful. I can still remember some of the smells from my childhood. Many of them are associated with summer holidays, when we would visit the Isle of Wight and smell the sea, the wildflowers and the beautiful fresh bread. Most of the smells I recall are sweet, although I can’t quite get over the boyhood memory of the smell of a French fish market! I love the idea that, as we speak about Jesus, we are spreading around sweet perfume. When a Roman general won a military victory, there would be a triumphal procession through the city. The general wore a crown of laurel and a specially- embroidered purple and gold toga. He rode a four-horse chariot through the streets with his army, prisoners and spoils of war. Along the route, perfumes were sprinkled – a sweet smell of victory for those on the general’s side and the smell of death and defeat for those he had beaten. Paul uses this powerful picture to remind his readers that, as Jesus leads us in triumph, his fragrance accompanies us. It is the smell of triumph and joy for those who find salvation in him, and the smell of death for those reject him. As we live for God today, our prayer must be that there will be many who smell the fragrance of Jesus through our kindness, understanding and compassion. We ourselves have no lovely fragrance to share but, as we live closer and closer to the Lord, people will not fail to pick up on the sweet smell of Jesus. Question What are you going to smell like today? Prayer Loving Father, in a world that so often smells bad, help me today to share the fragrance of Jesus. Amen
1/20/20243 minutes, 10 seconds
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January 19th - 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I wonder what you really make of your Christian brothers and sisters. Honestly. Let me suggest that you find them mixed. You feel incredibly close to some of them and know that you could share anything with them. And then there are others who you find hard work. You just don’t easily see eye to eye with them. Their approach to life and the Lord is so different from yours. That was certainly Paul’s experience! The Corinthian Christians were very mixed. Some were his close friends and others were doing everything they could to destroy his ministry. What I love about these verses is that Paul addresses the whole Church and celebrates the way in which God has blessed them – all of them. He is so gracious with his accusers and those who are trying to obstruct his ministry. He reminds them all that they are standing firm in Christ and can all be sure of God’s blessings in the future. Paul speaks of the blessing of the Holy Spirit at work in every single believer. He says the Holy Spirit is like a seal of ownership upon them. Because they have received the Spirit, they can be absolutely sure that they belong to God. He tells them that the Holy Spirit is like a deposit, or down payment, which makes it absolutely certain that we will receive all of God’s future blessings. It’s easy to understand that Paul would say all those things about the people that he really liked in Corinth. But he
was affirming that they were God’s true words about every single Christian, including those who were giving him such a hard time. That’s grace, and I find that deeply moving. Question How will you pray today for those Christians to whom you find it hardest to relate? Prayer Thank you, loving Lord, that you are so generous and loving to every Christian, whether I get on well with them or not. Amen
1/19/20243 minutes, 31 seconds
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January 18th - 2 Corinthians 1:12

2 Corinthians 1:12 Life isn’t always easy. It certainly wasn’t for Paul, whose ministry often came under vicious attack. His relationship with the church in Corinth was, at times, particularly painful, especially as he had helped to establish it. He loved the Corinthians passionately and was desperate for them to grow and thrive in the Lord. However, time and again, they were a great disappointment to him. It got even worse when they started making cruel and unfounded accusations against him. Nothing is harder than people falsely accusing you. It is so incredibly painful. When you know that you have acted out of love and concern, it is agonising to be accused of acting out of self-interest. Paul’s response is that he is absolutely convinced he has acted in the right way towards God. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what other people make of our ministry. What matters is what God makes of it, and Paul is utterly convinced that he has ministered in the right way. I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of church leaders over the years and have often seen them accused by others. It is always painful and difficult. In those moments, it is easy to focus on the detail of the accusation. But what matters most is coming before God and assessing where we are before him. If we are, like Paul, convinced that we have acted in a way that is honouring to God, we should give thanks and enjoy the peace which God gives us. It is still appropriate to answer our critics, but we will not be doing so in our own strength and wisdom but in God’s. Question What would you do if you were falsely accused? Prayer Dear Father, thank you that you don’t leave me when times are hard. Help me always to respond to criticism with grace, wisdom and love. Amen
1/18/20243 minutes, 31 seconds
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January 17th - Proverbs 11:11

Proverbs 11:11 Following God is an intensely personal matter. But it mustn’t stop there. Living God’s way affects every part of our life. It needs to flow out from our personal walk with God to the community in which we live. The writer of Proverbs was eager that his readers should understand that they had vital responsibilities towards their society. He knew that the cohesion of their community depended on their personal contribution as upright citizens. Nothing has changed. Our society also depends on the contribution that we make, so let’s explore for a moment what it means for us to be upright citizens. This has to begin with our willingness to submit to the civic authorities, and do what they tell us to do. Paul told the Christians in Rome that they should submit to the governing authorities because their authority came from God. He warned his readers that if they rebelled against the civic leaders they were actually rebelling against God and would be punished for it (Romans 13:3). We also have a responsibility to pray for our civic leaders. In writing to his young friend, Timothy, Paul wrote that we should pray for “kings and all who are in authority so that they can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good,” Paul observed, “and pleases God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:2-3). In order to pray for our leaders it is good to know what they would like us to pray for. Why not ask your local MP, councillors, police, fire brigade and NHS leaders to visit your church so that you can pray for them during one of your services? I know many churches that have done this. What an excellent way of showing our commitment to the community! Our society is deeply cynical. You only have to mention local or national politics to be hit by a barrage of carping, critical remarks. I am not suggesting that politicians and leaders get everything right. But they do deserve our love, support, encouragement and prayers if we intend to be the upright citizens that God wants us to be. Question In what ways are you able to support your own community? Prayer Loving God, thank you for my community. Help me to be faithful in encouraging and supporting those who have responsibilities within it. Amen
1/17/20243 minutes, 49 seconds
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January 16th - Proverbs 11:1

Proverbs 11:1 Dodgy dealers are nothing new. Since the dawn of time, humankind has been involved in trading and there have always been people who have acted dishonestly. For thousands of years, weighing scales have been used – and it is easy to see how traders could adjust them to their advantage. The prophet Amos was well aware of this practice. He wrote: “You measure out grain with dishonest measures, and cheat the buyer with dishonest scales. And you mix the grain you sell with chaff swept from the floor” (Amos 8:5-6). What troubled Amos the most was that the people who cheated their customers were also very religious. However, Amos observed, these religious people couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so that they could get back to the business of cheating people. Amos declared that God hated this and would judge the people who were responsible for it. Indeed, God detested the fact that these people worshipped him. He said that he was not willing to accept the burnt offerings and grain offerings that they brought to him: “Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (Amos 5:23-24). Fundamentally, God is challenging us to live consistently and ensure that our worship and our daily life speak with the same voice. If we are willing to sing hymns and worship God in church on Sunday, then our actions throughout the rest of the week should also reflect our love for him. That means cutting corners and being economical with the truth are not options for us. We are called to live honestly and transparently seven days a week. Question How do you respond when you are encouraged to cut corners and be a little dishonest? Prayer Loving God, help me to act consistently in a way that is true and right. Give me your wisdom and strength so that I can live for you seven days a week. Amen
1/16/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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January 15th - Proverbs 10:25

Proverbs 10:25 We used to live very close the Met Office in Exeter. One day I was taken to see the vast computers that work night and day to forecast our weather. The present system was installed in December 2016 and is capable of making over 14,000 trillion arithmetic operations per second. That’s more than 2 million calculations per second for every man, woman and child on the planet. The Met Office is able to take in 215 billion weather observations from all over the world every day. Their ability to predict the weather is all very impressive, but the storms of life are different. They often come without any warning at all. It might be a road accident, an illness or a death, but suddenly everything is different. Our world has been turned on its head. Jesus specifically addressed this issue when he told his readers the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27). One of them constructed his house on rock and the other on sand. When the sun was shining, the houses probably looked identical. But when the rain and wind beat against them, the difference was dramatic. The one built on the rock stood firm, and the one on the sand fell flat. Everything turned on the quality of the foundations. Jesus’ point was clear. If we want to be prepared for whatever life might throw at us, we need listen to his teaching and follow it. He told this parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which gave the clearest possible instructions on how to ensure that our lives are built firmly and securely on God. Most of the time, we may be able to get away without firm foundations. Many people go for years without a major trauma in their lives. However, when disaster strikes, there is no hiding. The quality of your foundations is all- important. Let’s make sure that we have lasting foundations which will enable us to stand strong whatever happens. Question What are the foundations of your own life? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you make it possible for me to build foundations that will be secure whatever happens. Amen
1/15/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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January 14th - Proverbs 10:20-21

Proverbs 10:20-21 Francis de Sales, a much-loved Bishop of Geneva in the 17th century said: “Our words are a faithful index of the state of our souls.” Whether we like it or not, our words give us away. They reveal for all to see what is going on in the core of our being. That surely means we should focus our attention on ensuring that we speak well. How wonderful to think that well- chosen words could be like the purest silver and bring encouragement to many. Our verses today also say that “the words of the godly encourage many”. Other translations refer to our words as “nourishing” or “feeding many”. I have to conclude from this that it is important we reflect on the way in which we speak. We shouldn’t open our mouths and simply hope that we get it right. May I suggest two positive things that we could all do to help us to speak in a more encouraging and helpful way? Firstly, we need to pray before we speak. When we know that we are meeting up with someone, let’s pray that God will give us the right words. Let’s reflect on their life and ask the Holy Spirit to give us insights that will bless them. And let’s specifically ask God to give us just the right words to speak. Secondly, we need to reflect more after we’ve had a conversation. None of us is perfect and we often learn most from our failures. So let’s not miss out on learning the lessons which our failures so generously give us! Perhaps, on reflection, we will realise that we could have been more thoughtful, loving, challenging, encouraging or kind. Let’s reflect and take that into account for next time. Question In what specific ways do you think you could ensure your words encourage and nourish other people? Prayer Lord God, help me to use my words with more love and care so that they build other people up. Amen
1/14/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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January 13th - Genesis 22:2

Genesis 22:2 This is an incredibly tough passage to cope with. My wife and I have three children. The thought of offering one of them as a sacrifice is well beyond my power to comprehend. I really struggle with every part of it. But Abraham agreed to do exactly what God had asked him to do, as terrible as it sounded. I feel sure that, if I had been Abraham, I would have assumed I had misheard God, eaten too much cheese or spent too much time in the sun. Not Abraham. God told him to offer his precious son, Isaac, as a sacrifice, and off he set. This account tells me a great deal about Abraham’s faith. He was absolutely convinced that God could be trusted and that, if God called him to do this hideous thing, it must be for the best. No wonder Abraham was seen as the father of faith! He set the benchmark. To everyone’s relief, God didn’t actually ask Abraham to kill Isaac. But he took him right up the point where Abraham had the knife in his hand and was about to do the dreadful deed. Abraham had no doubt that God knew exactly what he was doing. Abraham wasn’t perfect, but he trusted God because he knew that the one who had led him on this incredible adventure of faith would stand by him, whatever happened. Imperfect as we are, God also invites us to set off on the journey of faith, too. And, like Abraham, we can be absolutely sure that God will not let us down. Question Are you willing to trust God whatever he asks you to do? Prayer Thank you, loving Lord, that you can be completely trusted, even when you ask me to do things that seem hard at the time. Amen
1/13/20243 minutes, 15 seconds
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January 12th - Genesis 18:13-14

Genesis 18:13-14 I love laughter and I am sure you do too. It’s a pleasure to see people really letting rip and having a good laugh. Laughter can be sparked off by any number of things, but it is often sparked by absurdity. We laugh at clowns because everything they do is ridiculous and turns our normal expectations of life upside down. Sarah’s laughter was for precisely this reason. She was about 100 years old, decades beyond child-bearing age. Although she had wanted to have children, she had long since got used to the idea that it wasn’t going to happen. Then three mysterious visitors arrived at Abraham and Sarah’s tent in the desert and informed them that she would give birth. The very thought was hilarious because it was so completely absurd. But Sarah was going to have a baby. And the explanation takes us to the heart of the nature of God. Nothing is too hard for him. For us, such a thing would stay on the list of impossibilities, but God is the creator of heaven and earth. For him, such things are entirely possible. Mary found herself in exactly the same place when she was told she would give birth to Jesus. She had never slept with a man, and she knew that meant conception was impossible. But the angel informed her that, with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37) – and that’s how it proved to be, praise God! When Sarah gave birth to her son there was only one possible name for him – Isaac, which means ‘he laughs’. Sarah and all those around her learned a vital lesson, and it’s one that we need to remember. As we live for God day by day, we need to remember not to put limits on what he can do. God is the God of the impossible. Question When have you seen God move in seemingly impossible ways? Prayer Great God of creation, help me to learn from this story and not put limits on what you can do. Amen
1/12/20243 minutes, 38 seconds
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January 11th - Genesis 17:5-8

Genesis 17:5-8 It’s a big moment when you enter into a binding agreement with someone. Whether you are thinking of marriage, buying a house or starting a new job, it is a time to stand back from life and take a deep breath. This was just such a moment for Abram as he entered into a covenant with God that was going to change everything – including his name! The word “covenant” is important throughout the whole of the Bible. It’s an amazing word. The idea that the God of Creation wants to enter into a relationship with human beings is enough to blow your mind. The first covenant that God made was with Noah, and he set a rainbow in the sky as an eternal reminder of it. Then, in the New Testament, we see the way in which Jesus’ death on the cross ushers in a new covenant, as he throws the door open to the world. A covenant has two sides to it. On one side, there is God, who has freely chosen to enter into a relationship with us. The only explanation for this is love. He doesn’t have to form a relationship with us and he doesn’t need us. He’s God! But he has decided, from the beginning of time, that his desire was to offer humankind the possibility of relationship. Then there’s the other side of the covenant – us. If a covenant was one-sided, it wouldn’t be a covenant. God will never impose himself on us. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, he offers a new life to us, and we need to decide whether we want to follow in his way and be obedient to him, or not. Question In what way will obeying God shape your life today? Prayer Faithful and loving Heavenly Father, thank you that you invite me into an eternal covenant with you. Help me to be faithful to that covenant today. Amen
1/11/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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January 10th - Genesis 12:2-3

Genesis 12:2-3 Never forget that God is in the business of blessing people! That’s what he loves to do and that’s what Abram was just about to discover. At a time of life when most people would be seeking to take things more slowly, God calls him to be the father of a nation. Nothing suggests that this is remotely likely. One practical problem was that Abram and his wife Sarai had no children and were well past childbearing age. But with God around that wasn’t going to be a problem! In life, we face many challenges but God doesn’t want them to have the last word. Amid the bumps and difficulties, God’s desire is to bless us so that, in turn, we can bless other people. I love seeing that in action. I can think of many friends over the years who have had to face significant problems in life, including severe, life-limiting disabilities. They could have spent their lives moaning about the challenges they had to face every day. But, instead, they chose to thank God for his blessings and then generously to pass them on to others. Abram and Sarai could easily have reflected on their age and childlessness and spent the rest of their lives stuck at home, being miserable. But they rejected that possibility and chose to trust God, heading off on an incredible adventure in which God’s amazing words of blessing came true. Whatever you do today remember that, before anything else, God wants to bless you and to enable you to be a blessing to others. Question In what ways has God blessed your life, and in what ways can you pass on his blessing today? Prayer Dear Lord, help me to become increasingly generous in passing on your blessings to others. Amen
1/10/20243 minutes, 23 seconds
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January 9th - Genesis 12:1

Genesis 12:1 I wonder what your life looks like at the moment. I would guess that, for many of us, there are plenty of aspects that suit us really well. Life isn’t perfect, and we can easily come up with some suggested improvements, but the thought of it all changing completely would come as quite a shock. Well, if that’s true for us, imagine how much greater the challenge would have been for Abram. God was taking him away from the security of his wealthy and his comfortable home and leading him on the most incredible adventure, into a land of which he knew nothing. We would be able to reach for our computers and find out information about where we were going, but not Abram! Added to that, Abram was 75 when this happens. Most people would hardly consider that the time of life to embark on a daring adventure! But that’s not how God works. Living the life of faith is one long adventure and, whatever our age, we need to be ready for change, because that’s how God works. The writer to the Hebrews uses the example of Abram as an illustration of faith. He reflects that Abram went out “not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). By any normal standard that sounds extremely foolish. Leaving home without having a clue about the destination sounds ridiculous. But Abram was a man of faith. He knew that following God’s will was the wisest possible course of action. Abram was willing to head out into the unknown – together with his family and cattle – for the simple reason that he trusted God. Thousands of years later, God works in exactly the same way. He may ask us to do something that appears completely crazy by human standards but, when he is truly calling us, it will always be the best way. Question Are you willing to go on an adventure with God? Prayer Loving Father, thank you that you still call people to live by faith today. Help me to be willing to go on an adventure with you. Amen
1/9/20243 minutes, 36 seconds
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January 8th - Genesis 11:4-8

Genesis 11:4-8 God hates arrogance because it is a complete rejection of him. Here, the story of the tower of Babel could be described as an ultimate example of arrogance. The people decided to build a tower that would reach to the heavens. This would be the final proof that humankind was in control. In response, God acted decisively. He scattered everyone and, as a result, people no longer spoke one language but many. Division was the inevitable result of men and women putting themselves in the place that is rightfully God’s. Although these early chapters of Genesis describe an ancient world, they offer a powerful commentary on life today. As humankind grows in self-confidence and believes that it is in total control, division is the inevitable result. Having largely forced God out of the equation, the world is in a state of constant brokenness and despair. It is only when we acknowledge God as Lord of all that we see ourselves – and our world – with the right perspective. The constant challenge for us is to centre our thinking on God. In Acts 2, we read about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a day which saw the reversal of the tower of Babel. The arrogant self- confidence of the tower builders led to the scattering of people and a confusion of languages. But, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, suddenly everyone was able to understand one another. Unity was restored. Even today, we are given a choice as to whether to build our own arrogant towers or open ourselves to God’s Spirit. Let’s learn the lesson from the tower of Babel. Question What personal lesson do you draw from the account of the tower of Babel? Prayer Thank you Lord that you meet us in our divided world and show us, in the power of your Spirit, how to find unity. Amen
1/8/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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January 7th - Genesis 6:22-7:1

Genesis 6:22-7:1 I am sure most of us have heard about Noah from our earliest days. Genesis gives us an amazing account of this heroic man. In short, Noah is asked by God to produce an enormous boat and fill it with his family and a wonderful collection of animals and birds. We don’t know where he lived, but it may well have been in the desert, where the whole idea of building a boat would have seemed laughably absurd. But Noah trusted God and was happy to do exactly what God told him to do. He is described as being ‘righteous’, which literally means he loved doing the right things. I thank God for the people I’ve known who, just like Noah, have been happy to do apparently crazy things because they believed that God had called them. I think of the many doctors and nurses I’ve known who have headed out to poor parts of the world where their skills were desperately needed. The income they received was a tiny fraction of what they would have earnt in this country. But, like Noah, they were happy to be obedient because their priority was to serve God. I think of a number of successful business people who have gladly moved on from their companies simply because they heard the Lord calling them to do different work for him. I have to believe that Noah had lots of doubts and questions as he constructed his surprisingly large boat. Being obedient to God is bound to trigger all sorts of very good questions. But Noah pressed on and, when the flood engulfed the world, he and his family – together with all the birds and animals – were saved. When we obey God, there will be lots of challenges along the way, but I thank God for the peace and joy he always gives to those who obey him. Question What would you do if God asked you do something really, really surprising? Prayer Father God, thank you for the inspiring example of Noah. Help me to be willing to be obedient to you, whatever you ask me to do, however surprising or difficult. Amen
1/7/20243 minutes, 33 seconds
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January 6th - Genesis 4:8-9

Genesis 4:8-9 This is the world’s first murder. Isn’t it terrible that, so early in the Bible, we have to confront such an appalling evil? If you have ever known a family that has experienced a murder, you will know the awful impact that it has – for years to come – on everyone concerned. It isn’t clear why Cain’s offering to the Lord was unacceptable, but he is furious about it and determined to do away with his brother. After the murder, God caught up with Cain and his response to God was a bizarre one: “Am I my brother’s guardian?” he asks. The translation that you may be more familiar with is: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, although I quite like the Living Bible paraphrase of: “How should I know? Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?” Whichever version you choose, it is a crazy response. God’s reply might well have been: “No, Cain, you don’t need to know everything about your brother and everywhere he goes, but that doesn’t mean you can kill him.” God tells Cain that Abel’s blood had cried out to him from the ground, and Cain would now be cursed for his terrible crime. We are not responsible for knowing everything about the people around us. But we do have responsibilities. We cannot push people around or get rid of them because they happen to be in our way. We have a responsibility to act honourably, lovingly and thoughtfully towards them. We cannot live in a way that just suits us and our own selfish agenda. We need to reflect deeply on the lives of those around us and how we can encourage, strengthen and enable them to be the best that they can be. Question What are your responsibilities towards the main people in your life? Prayer Lord, forgive me when I act selfishly towards those around me. Help me to act responsibly and lovingly towards the people that you have put in my life. Amen
1/6/20243 minutes, 28 seconds
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January 5th - Genesis 3:11-12

Genesis 3:11-12 This account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden has a very contemporary ring to it. Blaming others is as much a way of life in today’s world as it was for Adam long ago. He knew he had done wrong in eating the forbidden fruit, but he was desperate to wriggle out of the situation and place the blame on Eve. However, he even went further than that, suggesting that God bore some responsibility, too, because God had given Eve to him. We all know the temptation to blame others. Our parents, children, teachers, employers and the governments under which we have lived are all far from perfect, so we generously heap blame on them. But that isn’t good enough, and we know it. We need to take responsibility and recognise that, although we are certainly not the only guilty party, we must accept responsibility and own up to the fact that we have done wrong, too. I know people who continually blame others. That is so sad. Their attitude not only makes their own lives miserable but spreads misery to those around them, too. Others may indeed be to blame but, if we only draw attention to their failures, we get a completely distorted understanding of them. May God help us to be generous, loving and forgiving when looking at the faults of others, recognising our own shortcomings as well. Blaming other people might feel satisfying for a short while, but it offers a miserable way of life in the long term. Question Think of someone whom you are inclined to blame. What would be the better way of responding to them? Prayer Lord, forgive me that I am often tempted to blame others when things go wrong. Help me to take responsibility for my failings and to show more patience and forgiveness when others do wrong. Amen
1/5/20243 minutes, 18 seconds
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January 4th - Genesis 2:2-3

Genesis 2:2-3 The French revolution turned everything upside down, including the arrangement of time. They used decimalisation in a thoroughgoing way, dividing each day into ten hours and each week into ten days. But it didn’t catch on. After only a few years, they returned to the seven day week that we find in Genesis. Rhythm is deeply important in life. The importance of taking regular rest is crucial. People have often told me that they are much too busy to have a day off. But the rhythm God sets in creation is of foundational importance. We cannot disobey the fundamental rule of nature. We need time to recharge our batteries and to renew our commitment to God. The Old Testament law gave a great deal of attention to the importance of the Sabbath. It was a holy day, set apart for God, and was not to be trifled with. People who worked on the Sabbath were put to death (Exodus 31:15). This all sounds very extreme to our ears, but it emphasises the crucially important nature of this special day in God’s eyes. If God needed a rest day, so do we. The last few years have seen Sunday become far less distinctive. When I was a boy, the majority of people we saw on the way to church were other people going to church. Now the roads are filled with people heading off for shopping, sport and a huge variety of leisure activities. But nothing has changed. We still need space to be refreshed and renewed, to refocus our lives on God. Question How do you ensure that Sunday is set apart for God in the rhythm of your life? Prayer Thank you, Lord, for the gift of a day of rest. Help me to treasure the day and to use it as a time to refresh my life and my relationships and draw closer to you. Amen
1/4/20243 minutes, 28 seconds
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January 3rd - Genesis 1:27

Genesis 1:27 I can happily sit people watching for ages. It fascinates me that we are all so incredibly different from one another. In size, shape, colour, height, age and ability, we are all absolutely unique. However, we have one thing in common – we are all made in the image of God. This is a very interesting way of describing human beings, and not least because the second commandment tells us that we should never create an image of God. That’s understandable because if you make an inanimate image of God, there is every possibility that you will focus your worship on the image and forget about God himself. And yet God has made you and me as images of himself. Isn’t that amazing? What we learn from this is that we resemble God. In our creativity, our loving, our kindness, our need to communicate, and in many other ways, we reflect the nature of God. I have found these insights particularly powerful and precious in the last few years as I have spent a great deal of time with people with disabilities. Some, with learning disabilities, have never been able to speak. Some visually impaired people have never seen anything. I treasure the fact that, different as our lives clearly are, we are all made in the image of God. That is more important than anything else. Our society showers us with images of beautiful, young able-bodied people. We should praise God for the fact that they are made in the image of God. When we see a tiny fragile baby, born prematurely and supported by a ventilator, an elderly person with dementia or a person with multiple disabilities, we should praise God for them as well, for they, too, are made in his image. Question What do you see of God in the people around you? Prayer Thank you, Creator God, that we have all been made in your image and reflect your likeness. Help me to treasure every single person. Amen
1/3/20243 minutes, 54 seconds
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January 2nd - Genesis 1:3-4

Genesis 1:3-4 It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of light. Without light there is no life. It’s as simple as that. So it is not surprising to discover that, on the first day of creation, God created light. With the introduction of light, life was able to burst out in all its amazing variety over the following days as God created vegetation, fish, animals, birds and human beings. I love the way in which John begins his Gospel. He plainly had these opening verses of Genesis in mind, and makes it clear that Jesus was with God, his Father, in the act of creation. He writes about Jesus as the Word of God, the one through whom God spoke to the world. In John 1:4 he wrote: “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” Sadly, however, the light that Jesus brought into the world wasn’t what everyone wanted. In one of the most agonising verses in the Bible, John notes that even Jesus’ own people did not receive him (John 1:11). The light of Jesus still shines brightly in our world today, but that light is never imposed. We have a choice as to whether we accept it, or opt to stagger about in the dark. On the face of it, it doesn’t sound like much of a choice. Why would anyone choose darkness? Why would anyone want to stumble around, bumping into obstacles and exposing themselves to harm when light is on offer? But incredibly, many people do choose darkness and, sometimes, so do we. Let’s deliberately open ourselves to the light of Jesus today. It’s like opening the bedroom curtains at the beginning of the day. There is no law that tells us we have do this, but we choose to because we want to welcome the light of Jesus today! Question As you think of your life, where is the greatest need for the light of Jesus today? Prayer Loving Lord, I invite you to shine your light into my life today. Amen
1/2/20243 minutes, 33 seconds
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January 1st - Genesis 1:1-2

Genesis 1:1-2 It is important not to rush past these verses. They may be so familiar to us that it would be easy to skip over them. But don’t! These words are foundational for the whole Bible and, indeed, for each of our lives. They are telling us that everything began with God – and so our understanding of the world, human history and our own lives needs to start with God. As we start a New Year, no message could be more important. We will be given every encouragement to believe that our thinking needs to begin with the economy, education, health, world peace, our family, community or church. But as good and vital as all of those things are, the most important of all is to start by looking at God. As we do so, we are reminded that without him there is no order, no purpose, no life. When God is ignored, everything becomes disordered, confused, formless and empty of purpose. As you reflect on all the different aspects of your life today, start your thinking with God and let his Spirit hover over all of your plans and hopes in the same way as he hovered over the surface of the waters at the start of time. Look at your daily schedule, your plans for the year, your financial hopes and job prospects and ensure that God is not somewhere in the middle of the planning but at the very start. It is very tempting to sort out our plans for our lives by ourselves, and then ask for God’s blessing on what we have decided to do. That’s not what God wants. When we get to the end of this year and reflect on all that has happened, God wants us to be able to look back and be able to describe the year by the words: “In the beginning God...” Question What are you going to do to ensure that God is in the driving seat of your plans for this New Year? Prayer Loving Lord, thank you for the incredible gift of a New Year. Help me to experience your Spirit hovering over every part of the year and guiding me in all that I do. Amen
1/1/20243 minutes, 35 seconds
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December 31st - Luke 2:29-32

Luke 2:29-32 Eight days after Jesus’ birth, his parents took him to the temple for his circumcision. There is no suggestion that the people of Jerusalem understood the significance of this moment. All that the people saw was a poor young couple presenting their baby in the way that people did every day. But two elderly people did understand what was going on. Simeon and Anna had been longing for this day and it had finally come! Our verses today form what is known as the ‘Nunc dimittis’, Simeon’s famous prayer of thanks for this miraculous moment. He had been looking forward to this day for so long that he could now die in peace. As a Jew he recognised that this was a glorious moment for the people of Israel. But it was much, much more. He recognised the Messiah who had come not merely for the Jews, but for the whole world. Simeon and Anna understood what was going on because they were people of prayer. They had devoted their lives to waiting on God. Anna was 84 and had been a widow for many years. We are told that she was a prophetess and never left the temple (vv36-37). Luke tells us that she worshipped God night and day, fasting and praying. The deep understanding and insight of these two people arose from lives that were shaped by prayer. They had got to know God so well that they were able to understand what he was doing in the world. Time and again in these daily devotionals we have been reminded of the importance of prayer as a way of life. Simeon and Anna are a supreme illustration of this and an inspiration to us as we live for God day by day. Question What have you learned from the example of Simeon and Anna? Prayer Lord, thank you that you want me to live in continual partnership with you in prayer. By your Spirit inspire me with the example of Simeon and Anna and help me to share more of my life with you in prayer. Amen
12/31/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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December 30th - Luke 2:19

Luke 2:19 This sentence is what I would call a piece of considerable understatement! Mary, who was probably a teenager and who almost certainly knew very little about the world, had just given birth to the Messiah. She had certainly been given plenty to think about! Older versions of the Bible translate this verse as “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The truth is that no one, however old or mature, could possibly have taken it all in. What had happened to Mary was a turning point in human history and stands at the centre of God’s loving plan for his world. No one could have claimed to have fully understood what had happened, and theologians 2,000 years later are still reflecting deeply on it all. So Mary was wise to ponder. There is much that we understand about our world, but always much that is still beyond us. When we see the wonders of creation, we can offer a description of what we see, but we will never be able to describe completely its beauty and intricacy. When we see the way in which God works in our lives there is much that makes sense but always some things that puzzle us, and which leave us with big questions. Like Mary, it is good for us to keep pondering and to do that we need to allow ourselves space to reflect. It’s so easy to get sucked into a life of relentless activity. I believe God wants us to give ourselves the space to reflect deeply. In some traditions of the Church the idea of retreat is very important. A retreat is a time to stand back from life, away from home, to give unhurried time to listen to God. In a world that encourages us to race through our lives at a breathless pace, we need to learn from Mary’s example and ponder. Question Where are you able to find space to listen to God? Prayer Loving Lord, help me to listen more carefully to your voice. Amen
12/30/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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December 29th - Luke 2:16-18

Luke 2:16-18 Just imagine if this was happening now. Bethlehem would be swamped with news reporters and film crews, and all the shepherds would have microphones thrust in front of them. The world would be hanging on their every word and the details of their amazing story would be cross examined with forensic care. As it is, we have to rely on Dr Luke who sums up the whole story in just a few dramatic words. In short, the shepherds confirmed that the words the angel said about Jesus’ birth were absolutely true, and they then went out to tell everyone the astonishing story. Good news cannot be hidden. I always love watching new Christians. You rarely need to tell them that it is good to share their story with other people, because it’s so obvious. What else would they do? I remember Jimmy becoming a Christian. His life had been turned upside down by Christ and so, obviously, he sat down at the lunch table at work the next day and told everyone. A crowd formed because it was such a gripping story and within a short time one of his work mates decided to follow Jimmy’s example and become a Christian himself. If you have given your life to Jesus recently that’s wonderful, and I’m sure you will be keen to share your story. People will love to hear what you’ve experienced. But, for many of us, it is a long time since we became Christians. By all means talk about how you became a Christian but often it is more powerful to share what God has done in your life recently. Speak of the peace that God gave you when you faced a recent bereavement or disappointment, or speak of an answer to prayer. Like the shepherds, we need to share what we have recently seen and heard. Question What good news would you like to share? Prayer Lord, thank you that the shepherds were so keen to share what they had experienced. Give me a similar enthusiasm to share your good news. Amen
12/29/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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December 28th - Luke 2:13-14

Luke 2:13-14 The shepherds received the news of Jesus’ birth from a single angel who was then joined by a vast crowd of angels to sing an amazing chorus of praise. The language used recalls Job 38:7, which states when God created the world “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy”. With the coming of Jesus into the world there is a new creation and so the whole population of heaven needed to join together in bringing a triumphant act of worship. I am sure that artists through the centuries have been right to depict the whole sky being alight as the angels sang their praises to the surprised shepherds. The message of the angelic host is interesting and it begs the question: “Who are the people with whom God is pleased?” It’s not an expression that we often find in the New Testament, but it reminds us of the words from heaven that were spoken over Jesus at his baptism: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22, NIV). God’s peace is the experience of those who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. It is by aligning ourselves with Jesus’ teaching and being filled with his Spirit that we are able to experience God’s peace. The Christmas message needs to give us all a new determination to experience God’s peace for ourselves and to share it with our agonisingly unpeaceful world. We will achieve nothing by complaining about the world’s lack of peace. We must simply seek to take opportunities to point to Jesus, so that others have the opportunity to taste his peace for themselves. Question Where will you be able to share God’s peace today? Prayer Loving God, I want you to be pleased with my life. Help me to live closer and closer to Jesus each day. Amen
12/28/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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December 27th - Luke 2:10-11

Luke 2:10-11 The angel’s message is fascinating because its content is both incredibly Jewish and yet embraces the whole world. The angel made it clear that the baby was the Messiah, the one who came to fulfil the Old Testament scriptures. But, at the same time, the coming of Jesus was for everyone. Although Jesus was to focus much of his ministry on his own people, the Jews, he consistently made it clear that he had come to bring salvation to the world. The responsibility of those of us who call ourselves Christians is to do everything in our power to make it clear that Jesus came for everyone. Sadly, churches can be extremely unfriendly and intimidating places, and people often get the impression that they are full of old people who do things in strange, old-fashioned ways. That is so sad, but happily far from the truth. Churches are often full of people of all ages and most churches seek to ensure that they worship in a way that is welcoming and understandable to visitors. There is no doubt that we all have a lot to do to help our world to grasp the angel’s message that Jesus came to bring joy. Jesus often made it clear that following him would be tough and that we would face opposition from many people, but he was consistently clear that he came to bring us joy. In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus talking about the vital importance of obedience and he then says: “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”(John 15:11). That was exactly the experience of the shepherds who, once they had seen the baby Jesus, returned to their flocks full of joy. We read that they were “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). And that experience of joy can be yours and mine today as we follow Jesus. Question How would you describe the joy that you have experienced since you became a Christian? Prayer Loving Father, thank you that you sent Jesus into the world to bring us your joy. Amen
12/27/20233 minutes, 29 seconds
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December 26th - Luke 2:8-9

Luke 2:8-9 The shepherds would have been well used to facing dangers in the desert. They were constantly threatened by wolves and other wild animals, but angels were a different matter! This was completely outside their experience, and they would have had no expectation of receiving such important heavenly news. Shepherds were widely despised. They were considered to be unreliable and for that reason they were not allowed to give testimony in the law courts. Although it is likely that they were caring for sheep that would be used for the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, their way of life made it impossible for them to comply with the requirements of the law. They were outsiders. Time and again the gospels show us how Jesus gave special attention to the people whom everyone else considered to be outsiders. Children, women, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes and foreigners were all given special attention by Jesus and his harshest words of criticism were often directed at the religious people. So the fact that the shepherds were given front seats at the birth of Jesus is entirely appropriate. I wonder who would have been given the front seats in our own society if Jesus were born today. Perhaps the angels would have come to some homeless people, refugees or asylum seekers. What is certain is that Jesus would have gone out of his way to tell them that they were welcome into his kingdom. The Church needs to ensure that it continues to reflect Jesus’ radical welcome to every kind of person, whoever they are and whatever their background. Question Who do you think the angels might have come to in your own community? Prayer Loving God, thank you for your generous welcome to everyone. Help me to pass on that welcome to the people who live around me. Amen
12/26/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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December 25th - Luke 2:6-7

Luke 2:6-7 When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, they found that it was heaving with people who had arrived for the census, which the Romans had demanded. In the Jewish law, censuses were forbidden and so the holding of a census was a further reason for the people to resent the occupying power. However, Joseph was a law-abiding man and, if required to go to his family’s ancestral home, he was willing to comply. The fact that there were no lodgings available when they finally arrived in Bethlehem must have been a horrible surprise for the young couple. We are told nothing about the exact location of Jesus’ birth. All we know is that he was placed in an animal feeding trough, a manger, when he was born. That makes it clear that he was in a place where animals were kept and, in Bethlehem, that usually happened in caves. The fact that there was no room for Jesus at his birth serves as an agonising summary of the lack of welcome that Jesus received throughout his life. In his Gospel John summed up the situation by declaring: “He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognise him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him” (John 1:10-11). I find these two of the most painful verses in the Bible. In sending Jesus into the world, God was showing his incredible love for humankind, but the majority of people simply didn’t want to know. And they still don’t. But we can rejoice with John that “to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Question How can you welcome Jesus this Christmas? Prayer Lord God, thank you for the miracle of Christmas. Thank you for sending Jesus into our confused and broken world. Amen
12/25/20233 minutes, 22 seconds
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December 24th - Luke 2:4-5

Luke 2:4-5 If you travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem these days it is a relatively easy journey. The roads are good, and you should get there by car in about two and half hours. Mary and Joseph’s experience would have been completely different. On foot the 90-mile journey would have been arduous and dangerous. They would probably have gone down the Jordan Valley which, at the time, was heavily wooded and was home to wolves, lions and wild boar. They posed a significant threat to the young couple but, in addition, they had to face the ever-present threat from robbers. The journey would normally take walkers about five days but, because Mary was in the last stages of her pregnancy, they may well have taken a few days longer than that. The weather would also have been a challenge. During the day it would have been hot and at night it would often have been freezing. The young couple must have been absolutely exhausted when they finally arrived in Bethlehem. It is valuable for us to remind ourselves of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth to emphasise the point that there were absolutely no special privileges surrounding his coming into the world. The romanticised pictures of Jesus’ birth could easily lull us into thinking that all was sweetness and light, but that was far from the case. When John wrote in his gospel that “the Word became human and made his home among us” (John 1:14) he was telling us that God fully took upon himself the vulnerabilities and awkwardnesses of human life. He received no special treatment. As we celebrate Christmas we need to praise God that in the sending of Jesus into the world we see the full extent of his love for us. Question What do the circumstances of Jesus’ birth tell you about the nature of God? Prayer Dear Father, I thank you for your willingness to send Jesus into our world, with all its challenges and difficulties. Amen
12/24/20233 minutes, 28 seconds
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December 23rd - Matthew 1:22-23

Matthew 1:22-23 Loneliness is one of the greatest problems of our society and it is on the increase. This matters because loneliness is incredibly dangerous. It increases the risk of death by 26 per cent; is more damaging to health than obesity; and increases the risk of high blood pressure. Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. But the person who knows Jesus personally need never experience loneliness, because he is Immanuel “God with us” and, when we live with him day by day, we are instantly connected to a worldwide family of his people. The difference between our relationship with God and with other people is that God never leaves us. He is always by our side. We may have the warmest of relationships with our friends, colleagues and family but, because they are human, the experience is constantly changing. They have good days and bad days. They have holidays and illnesses, and are often distracted by other calls on their time. And, on top of all of that, there will come a time when their life comes to an end. That’s where our relationship with the Lord is so different. At any time, whatever our circumstances or mood, the Lord is by our side. He is always with us. As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s not allow ourselves to be so distracted by the sheer busyness of the celebrations, that we fail to see Immanuel, the God who will never leave us. We have often been told that dogs are for life and not just for Christmas. But immeasurably more important is the fact the Jesus is for life and certainly not just for Christmas. Question In what ways are you encouraged by the fact that God is always with us? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, thank you that you will never leave me or forsake me. Amen
12/23/20233 minutes, 24 seconds
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December 22nd - Matthew 1:19

Matthew 1:19 At the centre of the account of Jesus’ birth is a man about whom we know very little. Joseph was the legal father of Jesus and Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ family line through Joseph. But after the birth of Jesus, we meet Joseph on only one occasion. That was when the family went for a Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. We get the distinct impression that Mary was a widow by the time Jesus’ public ministry began. One verse in the New Testament tells us that Joseph was an artisan (Matthew 13:55) and it has been generally assumed that he was a carpenter but we can’t even be sure of that. The word for artisan could also mean that he was worker with iron or stone. Although we know so very little about this extremely important man, we know about his character. Joseph was described as a “righteous man”, which means that he was concerned to be obedient to the law. But, when we meet Joseph in this passage, that made life incredibly difficult for him because he was engaged to a woman who was pregnant. Engagement, at the time, was a much deeper commitment than it is these days. It could only be brought to an end by death or divorce. When a woman who was engaged became pregnant by another man the original penalty was death by stoning, but by this stage it had become divorce. So, according to the law, Joseph was obliged to divorce Mary. But he was clearly a gracious and sensitive man and, although he was eager to obey the law, the last thing he wanted to do was to disgrace or humiliate Mary. He resolved that the best course of action was to divorce her quietly. An angel was just about to step in and change things, but I warm to the way in which Joseph set about handling this incredibly awkward situation. Life is full of awkward situations and challenges. I thank God for the Josephs of this world; good, honourable people who always strive to do what is kindest and most honouring to God. Question What do you learn from the way in which Joseph handled his predicament? Prayer Loving Father, help me to live so close to you that I will always make wise and careful decisions. Amen
12/22/20233 minutes, 43 seconds
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December 21st - Luke 1:78-79

Luke 1:78-79 Tender mercy is an exquisite expression and takes us to the heart of the nature of God. Much of the Old Testament is an agonising description of God’s people’s rebellion against him. There were some good times, but they were few in number and rarely lasted long. Much of the time we find God’s people moaning, disobeying and chasing after other gods. It’s a tragic story and it would be completely understandable if God decided to judge his people severely and give up on them. But he didn’t because of his tender mercy. God chose to be generous and forgiving. And he chose to offer salvation not merely to his own people but to the whole world. That’s why he sent Jesus and his coming represented the start of a new day. Darkness is a description that is often used in the Bible to describe the life of those who live in rebellion against God. The lack of light means that people stumble around and live lives that lack purpose and direction. Into such a world Jesus came to bring his light. In his gospel, John tells us nothing at all about the birth of Jesus, but he described his coming in terms of light. He wrote: “The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). If you look at our world today it often looks as if the darkness has won. The horror of war; the millions of people who are migrants fleeing violence and injustice; the persecution of Christians in so many countries; the vast numbers of people dying each day of starvation. These are all horrific realities, but the truth is that the light still shines. John summed up the situation in this way – let us allow his words of truth to encourage us: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5). Question Where do you see light shining in the darkness in your community? Prayer Lord God, thank you that Jesus is the light of the world and still shines his light in our world today. Amen
12/21/20233 minutes, 38 seconds
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December 20th - Luke 1:76-77

Luke 1:76-77 Zechariah’s prophecy focused on the coming of the Messiah, but that didn’t mean that his son John the Baptist’s role was a minor one. John would be the first prophet in the land since the time of Malachi, 400 years before. It had always been known that someone would be sent as a forerunner to the Messiah and Zechariah’s son would have this vital role. Not many people become Christians simply because of things they have heard or read. Most people are introduced to Christianity through someone they know, and often by more than one person. The life and example of these people helped to prepare the way for them to meet the Lord. Christmas gives us a supreme opportunity to point people to Jesus. For much of the year, the Church and the Christian message sit on the fringe of our society. But at Christmas time large numbers of people attend carol services and nativity plays. Undoubtedly most people’s attention is claimed by the pressure to buy presents, food and drink. But we dare not miss the wonderful opportunities we have to present the Christian message. Like John the Baptist, we are not the answers to the problems of the world. But we know a man who is. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for people to meet Jesus, so too Christmas gives us a supreme moment to prepare the ground for people to meet him, the Saviour of the world. Question In what ways are you able to prepare the way for others to meet Jesus this Christmas? Prayer Loving God, I pray for my family and friends. I pray especially for those who do not know you and ask you to help me prepare the way for them to meet Jesus. Amen
12/20/20233 minutes, 9 seconds
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December 19th - Luke 1:72-73

Luke 1:72-73 As Zechariah praised God upon the birth of his son John the Baptist, he was acutely aware of history. The coming of the Messiah was not a random historical event but was rooted in the long history of God’s dealings with his people. Zechariah pointed back to the prophets who had, long ago, promised that God would send a Saviour from the royal line of David. This reminds us particularly of the way in which Isaiah had specifically prophesied the coming of the Son of God. It was 700 years before the coming of Christ that he wrote: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Zechariah then pointed even further back as he referred to Abraham, the father of faith. In sending the Messiah, God was keeping his promise to the nation’s father long, long ago. The people of Israel had repeatedly gone their own way and lived in defiance to God. But God was faithful and hadn’t forgotten the promises he had made. In our celebration of Christmas, it is important to realise that we are praising the God of history. Yes, we are remembering the fact of Jesus’ birth in the days of the Roman Empire. But we are reaching back much further to a God who has been faithful through the hundreds of turbulent years that preceded Jesus’ coming. We are reminding ourselves that God keeps his word and, despite all the disobedience and waywardness of his people, he stays true to his promises. Question How do you respond to the faithfulness of God throughout history and to you personally? Prayer Loving God, I thank you that you have been faithful to me throughout my life, and that I can trust you for time and eternity. Amen
12/19/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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December 18th - Luke 1:67-69

Luke 1:67-69 Zechariah and Elizabeth were an old couple. At the time, being childless was a matter of shame and disgrace and they had lived with this burden for many years. One day, Zechariah was doing his priestly duty in the temple and was confronted by the angel Gabriel. The angel told him that Elizabeth was going to have a baby and he was, not surprisingly, astonished. He asked the angel how this could possibly happen in view of their great age. Gabriel informed him that the message had come directly from God and that Zechariah’s failure to believe it immediately meant that he would be unable to speak until the child’s birth. What amazing months they must have been as Zechariah and Elizabeth adjusted to the fact that they were going to have a baby. And how frustrating it must have been for Zechariah to have been unable to express his undoubted delight. We can only imagine the smile on Zechariah’s face when their son John was safely born and he was able to speak again. We read that he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he launched into a prophetic prayer of praise and worship. For hundreds of years the Jews had been waiting for their Messiah and now, at last, the time had come. Zechariah’s special son was going to pave the way for the arrival of their Saviour. We know nothing about Zechariah and Elizabeth other than what we read in this chapter. They were simply faithful Jewish believers who were willing to serve the Lord and play their part in the coming of Jesus. Our calling today is, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, to serve God faithfully, even when he asks us to do surprising things. Question What do you learn from the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s faithfulness? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the privilege of serving you. Help me to be faithful to you, even when you ask me to do surprising things. Amen
12/18/20233 minutes, 27 seconds
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Decembebr 17th - Luke 1:51-53

Luke 1:51-53 The world has seen many revolutions but, arguably, nothing as revolutionary as this. The revolution that Mary was singing about here is moral, social and economic shaking the whole fabric of society. God’s intention is to turn everything upside down. Let’s look at the three aspects of God’s revolution, all of which we see clearly in the life and ministry of Jesus. Firstly, there is a moral revolution as God scatters those who are proud. Jesus particularly illustrated this by his attitude to children. The disciples were keen to work out who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. No doubt they were hoping that one of them would be awarded the title! To their astonishment, Jesus replied by calling a little child to him and informing them that the only way to become great in the kingdom of heaven was by becoming like a child (Matthew 18:1-5). No revolution could be more fundamental than changing a person’s attitudes from pride to humility. Secondly, God brings in a social revolution. The powerful people are brought down and the poor are lifted up. We see this from the very beginning of Jesus’ life. Everything about Jesus’ birth was humble, from the place where he was born to the sacrifice for poor people that Mary and Joseph made when they took him to the temple in Jerusalem a few days later. The coming of the Messiah was a moment of massive historic importance and, typically, it was poor ostracised shepherds who were the first to hear about it. Thirdly, God feeds the hungry and sends the rich away with empty hands. God brings about an economic revolution. Our materialistic society is predominantly acquisitive and we are encouraged to amass as much as possible for ourselves. But this is not how the kingdom of God works. God wants a world in which people are generous and loving, and everyone has enough. In Acts 2:42-47 we learn that this is precisely how the Church operated in its earliest days. We need to be constantly looking for ways in which we can reach out with love and compassion to the poor, in God’s name. Anyone who thinks that Jesus came into the world simply to make people happy and polite has missed the point. He came to turn the world upside down. Question In what ways have you seen God’s revolution at work? What more should we be doing to implement his revolutionary principles? Prayer Lord God, help me to be more humble and increasingly open to the ways in which you want to change my life, family, church and community. Amen
12/17/20234 minutes, 18 seconds
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December 16th - Luke 1:46-48

Luke 1:46-48 It would have probably taken Mary about four days to travel down south to meet up with her elderly relative, Elizabeth. During that arduous journey she had plenty of time to reflect on the incredible things that were happening in her life. It may well be that she spent time reflecting on the song of Hannah in the Old Testament and so it is not surprising that Mary’s song has so much in common with Hannah’s words (1 Samuel 2:1-10). They beautifully express her faith and confidence in God. Above all, Mary’s song is an outburst of humility. She is amazed that God should have noticed her. She was only a lowly servant girl and wasn’t expecting to be given a big role in life or to achieve fame. But God had other plans for her. She was being called to fulfil one of the most awesome roles in the whole of history. Our situation is obviously very different from Mary’s but, for all of us, it is a moment of sheer amazement when we come to realise that God loves us and that we are special to him. I remember the way in which I struggled to believe that when I was a teenager. When I learned about the enormity of the universe it seemed incredible to me that I could be known and loved by God. I thought that he must have far more important things on his mind. But no, the Bible is consistently clear that you and I are infinitely precious. Jesus pointed this out clearly too. He reminded us that God even knows the hairs on our head. They are all numbered (Luke 12:7). Our God even cares for birds that are of little monetary value. And yet, not one of them falls to the ground without God knowing all about it (Matthew 10:29-30). I wonder how you see yourself. Perhaps, like Mary, you don’t think of yourself as being very important at all. You assume that no one really notices you. Well be sure of this, God does notice you and he loves you. I suggest that we should take a leaf out of Mary’s book and begin this day by praising God that, incredibly, he has taken notice of us and has great plans for us. Question How do you respond to the fact that you are so important to God? Prayer Loving God, I am amazed by your love for me. Help me to live close to you throughout this day. Amen
12/16/20233 minutes, 45 seconds
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December 15th - Luke 1:44-45

Luke 1:44-45 What an exquisitely beautiful moment this is! It seems that no one remained unmoved or unexcited about the news that Mary was going to give birth. Even the baby in Elizabeth’s womb wanted a piece of the action! We can’t be entirely clear what the relationship was between Elizabeth and Mary but it is believed that Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt. Although they were very different in age they both had one thing in common – they were both going to give birth in extraordinary circumstances. Elizabeth was well past childbearing age and Mary hadn’t had a sexual relationship with a man. Both of them had been chosen by God to play an amazing part in his unfolding plans. It’s the joy of this moment that I want us focus upon. The account of Jesus’ birth and the events that led up to it are full of joy. There are two wonderful songs in this chapter and they are both bubbling with joy. The first is Mary’s song, which is widely known as the Magnificat (vv46-55). Using many of the words that Hannah had, long ago, used when she was pregnant with Samuel, she rejoiced in God her Saviour for the way in which he had blessed her. And then later in the chapter Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, praised God for sending a mighty Saviour and for the part that his son, John the Baptist, would play in preparing the way for Jesus (vv68-79). On the night that Jesus was born, an angel made the announcement of the birth of Jesus to a group of astonished and terrified shepherds. The angel’s words were: “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10). Joy is much more than happiness. It has been helpfully said that happiness depends on something happening, but joy depends on a relationship. Happiness can be with us for a fleeting moment. It comes and then it’s quickly gone. But joy is very different because God’s nature is to be joyful and so, as we live in partnership with him, we experience something that is not dependent on circumstances. It depends on our openness to the Holy Spirit. When he fills our lives, joy is the inevitable result. Question How would you describe the joy that you have experienced as a Christian? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the joy that you are continually pouring into my life. Help me to share more of myself with you so that I will experience more of your joy. Amen
12/15/20233 minutes, 49 seconds
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December 14th - Luke 1:38

Luke 1:38 Aren’t these words amazing? Mary has just learned that her whole life was going to be turned upside down. Having a baby is a completely life-changing event for anyone, but to learn that she was going to be the bearer of the Son of God must have been mind blowing. But her response was that she was willing to do whatever the Lord wanted. She was content to be the Lord’s servant. How amazing! The big question is whether we are willing to follow in her footsteps. Are we willing to trust the Lord so completely that we say to him that we are happy to do whatever he wants? This approach to life is almost the exact opposite of the thinking of our society. We are encouraged to be in control of our lives and to be suspicious of anyone who wants to order us about. The key issue is trust. Mary clearly completely trusted the Lord and so this message, incredible as it was, could be relied upon. The idea of being someone’s servant could easily sound demeaning. But the truth is that it all depends on the master. To be a servant to an uncaring and unkind master must be a terrible thing. But to be the servant of God who loves us completely and understands everything there is to know about us, is the most liberating and joyful experience that this life offers us. Mary’s calm and joyful acceptance of her new role is an inspiration to us as we head into today. In everything we do the Lord wants to be our master and to set us free to be the best that we can be through serving him. Question How do you respond to the idea of being the Lord’s servant? Prayer Lord God, I thank you for the privilege of serving you today. Help me to listen carefully to you and to walk closely with you in all that I do. Amen
12/14/20233 minutes, 6 seconds
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December 13th - Luke 1:29-31

Luke 1:29-31 The birth of Jesus and the events that led up to it are so familiar to us that it takes some adjusting to realise that it was all a complete surprise to those who were involved. We know exactly what’s going to happen next but, for them, it was all astonishing. We need to remember it had been 400 years since there had last been a prophet in the land, and the Jews were not generally expecting the imminent arrival of the Messiah. We shouldn’t, therefore, be surprised that, time and again, the key characters in this amazing account were told not to be afraid. Zechariah, an elderly priest, was shaken to the core when he met an angel while he was offering incense in the temple. He was just about to be given the incredible news that his equally elderly wife was going to give birth to John the Baptist (Matthew 1:8-25). And then in our verses today we meet Mary. She was probably a teenager, and she certainly wasn’t expecting the angel Gabriel to turn up and greet her. It’s no wonder that Luke records that she was confused and disturbed, and she was just about to get an even greater shock when she heard that she was going to bear the Son of God. In Matthew’s gospel we meet Joseph who, having learned of Mary’s pregnancy, had decided that the appropriate course of action was quietly to break off their engagement. As he was considering this, an angel came to him and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:18-25). After Jesus’ birth, the first people to be informed of this momentous event were a group of shepherds who, to their astonishment, were confronted with an angel. We read that they were terrified and the angel’s first words to them were: “Don’t be afraid!” (Luke 2:10). Each of these people were facing the unknown. When we trust ourselves to God, he will often give us new and surprising experiences. We may feel out of our depth and uncomfortable. But he says to us, as he said so long ago: “Don’t be afraid!” Questions Has God led you into any situations that have made you fearful? How did you overcome your fear? Prayer Lord God, thank you for the reassurance and security that you give us when we hand over our fears to you. Amen
12/13/20233 minutes, 52 seconds
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December 12th - Proverbs 10:19

Proverbs 10:19 There is a huge amount of advice about words in the book of Proverbs. The writer knew that the tongue is capable of bringing death or life (18:21) and so he went to great lengths to encourage his readers to use their words carefully. “The words of the wise bring healing. Truthful words stand the test of time” (Proverbs 12:18-19). He encouraged his readers to make sure that they were in full control of their tongues. In 13:3 he said: “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” The writer also commended silence, and Abraham Lincoln gave very similar advice on the subject. He wrote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” I have no idea how these words might apply to you. Perhaps you are always inclined to be quiet, and you hardly need the advice. But you may be like me. In my work as a minister I find myself talking a great deal and, if I am honest, I enjoy doing so. I certainly need the reminder to be silent so that I can listen more carefully to other people. I believe this helpful advice also applies to our relationship with God. It is important for us to ensure that we are willing to be silent before him. He wants us to bring our thanksgivings, confessions and requests to him but he doesn’t want the conversation to be entirely one sided. He also wants to speak to us and, if that is to happen, we need to learn how to be silent. In a busy, noisy world that won’t happen unless we carefully ensure that it does. It’s probably not wise for us to read too many of these wise words in Proverbs in one sitting. They are so sharp and abrupt that if we read too many, we could easily get indigestion! But they are words of life and we would do well to keep returning to them, and examining our lives in the light of them. Question Are you good at being silent; if not, what could you do to improve? Prayer Loving God, help me to listen carefully to other people and to you. And when I speak, help me to do so with love and care. Amen
12/12/20233 minutes, 26 seconds
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December 11th - Proverbs 10:18

Proverbs 10:18 This is one of those verses that makes you sit up. On the face of it, it might seem to be a very good thing to hide hatred because hatred is an ugly and destructive experience. How would we ever cope if everyone was totally honest and open about the people and things they hate? I think the point being made is that if you do hate someone or something then acting as if you love them, or are not bothered, gives a completely false impression. You are misleading everyone in a dangerous way. You are effectively living a lie. So what should we do when we are overcome by hatred? The implication is that we shouldn’t bottle it up because, in doing so, we are in danger of doing ourselves serious damage. We may fall into depression or become totally negative and cynical in our attitude to others. While the hatred is still burning away inside of us it cannot fail to do damage. This surely means that, since we don’t want to be liars, we need to deal with anything that is stirring up hatred in us. The answer is definitely love but I recognise that that is much more easily said than done. Indeed, if you are feeling anger about someone for the way in which they have mistreated you, the last thing on your mind is likely to be love. However, ultimately, love is the only way. I suggest that if you are aware of someone whom you deeply dislike - or even hate - pray about it, asking God for the desire and strength to love them. It would be good if you could share your feelings with a trusted friend. God doesn’t ask us to love evil. If someone has done us real wrong, then God stands with us in hating the harm they have done. But he does call on us to love the person, and to be willing to forgive them. None of this is easy, but the much harder and more destructive path is to bottle up our hatreds and end up living a lie. God calls us to the tough path of love and promises to walk with us every step of the way. Question Have you ever bottled up your anger or hatred towards another person? What effect did that have on you – and what do you think you could have done differently? Prayer Lord God, help me always to be loving towards other people. Amen
12/11/20233 minutes, 28 seconds
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December 10th - Proverbs 10:17

Proverbs 10:17 It isn’t easy when someone corrects us. I can recall many moments when people have told me that I have got something wrong. Most of the time they have spoken gently and sensitively but that hasn’t always been the case. There have been times when I have been criticised and the memory of those moments still stings. Some of them happened decades ago but the emotions are still quite raw. However, the writer of Proverbs is confident that being disciplined is so good for us that it leads to life. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes spoke similarly when he wrote: “Better to be criticised by a wise person than to be praised by a fool” (Ecclesiastes 7:5). There is no doubt that our natural reaction to being corrected or criticised is to be defensive. However, it is usually best simply to listen to what is being said and to say nothing. Then we can take time to calmly reflect on what has been said. Even if most of it was off target, there may be some nuggets of wisdom that don’t need to be missed. The writer of Proverbs knew that those who fail to listen to any correction place themselves in a very dangerous place. They arrogantly believe that they are right whatever they do and are likely to face disaster. There is no promise that discipline and criticism will suddenly become enjoyable. However, if we listen to others with care and grace, we can be sure that God will use such moments to make us stronger and wiser. Question How do you handle criticism and how could you handle it better? Prayer Loving God, help me to listen carefully and graciously to other people, even when it is hard to hear what they have to say. Amen
12/10/20233 minutes, 2 seconds
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December 9th - Proverbs 10:16

Proverbs 10:16 Money, sex and power have always had an enormous influence on the way people live, and so it isn’t surprising that the book of Proverbs often speaks about them. All three are capable of enormous good and great happiness. But they can also be destructive and lead to deep misery. The writer was particularly conscious of the power of money and he knew that it was the character of a person that would determine how well it was used. A godly person will be blessed by their earnings, whether they are great or small. They will know that all money has come from the hand of God, and will seek to use it in a way that is a blessing to others. I love the wise words of John Wesley, who famously told people to “get all you can, save all you can and give all you can”. Through the centuries Christian churches and charities have been wonderfully supported by wealthy people who have been willing to share their money generously with others. But whether we are wealthy or not, whatever we have been given can be used to bless others as we place it in God’s hands. As ever, the writer of Proverbs includes a word of warning because money can just as easily be misused. Will Rogers, the American actor said: “Too many people spend money they earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people that they don’t like.” The key factor is the heart of the person who spends the money. Are they seeking to please the Lord or themselves? Are they trying to build the kingdom of God or to impress others? It’s a choice that we all live with. Question What are the principles that guide you in your use of money? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the money that you have given to me. Help me to use it wisely and in a way that will bless others and build your kingdom. Amen
12/9/20233 minutes, 6 seconds
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December 8th - Proverbs 10:11

Proverbs 10:11 We are so used to drinking clean water from our taps that it is hard to think of those times in history when that wasn’t possible – and it still isn’t in many parts of the world. In the time when the writer of Proverbs composed this book, water was either drawn from cisterns that collected rainwater, or from wells or springs. The problem with both cisterns and wells was that the water may well have been standing for a long time and could be full of disease. The very best source of water was a fountain or spring that brought clean, life-giving water. It was a powerful image that everyone would have immediately understood, and the writer was indicating that the words of the godly will be a blessing wherever they go. The problem with words is that it is so easy to use them casually. Often we wish we could eat our words because they have done no good. Towards the end of his life Winston Churchill said: “During a long life I have had to eat my own words many times and I have found it a very nourishing diet.” We need to pray each day that we will choose our words well and that we won’t be afraid to be silent when we have nothing good or life-giving to say. Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, said: “Either be silent, or speak words that are better than silence.” Now, there’s a challenge! As ever, the writer of Proverbs gives the scary alternative. And it is scary because words can easily be destructive. Selfish, unkind words can do lasting damage. But thank God that we are in union with Jesus, the source of living water who said: “Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:14). May our words be like his, providing life to those around us. Question Who do you know whose words are like a life-giving fountain and what have you learned from them? Prayer Loving God, help me to use my words carefully. May they bring encouragement and strength to others. Amen
12/8/20233 minutes, 31 seconds
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December 7th - Proverbs 10:8

Proverbs 10:8 You can always trust the writer of the Proverbs not to beat about the bush! He draws a very sharp distinction between those who are wise and foolish. The path of wisdom leads to blessing, happiness and security and the path of foolishness leads
to poverty, misery and complete insecurity. This amazing book of the Bible is incredibly straightforward and down to earth. You can as easily apply it to life today as the original readers could thousands of years ago. He knew that the key to wisdom was humility, and that the wise person is always ready to learn. I remember the moment when, as a young teenager, I went to meet with the minister of my church. I stood in awe of someone who seemed, at the time, very old and wise. I asked him a question about the Bible, and I was very surprised that he didn’t know the answer. However, I remember him going to his library with real enthusiasm so that we could find the answer together. I was amazed that he still had things to learn and I was really blessed by his delight at being asked to search for the information. We are tempted to think of a wise person as someone who knows it all. But no, the wise person is the one who knows how much more they still need to know. God wants us to be people who are continually exploring, growing and learning more. Over the last few days we have been looking at 2 Peter and on a number of occasions Peter expressed his desire that his readers would grow in grace and knowledge. He knew there would never be a time when they could stop growing. Growth is integral to the Christian life. Question In what ways are you growing as a Christian, and what could you do to grow even more? Prayer Lord God, help me grow in wisdom and grace day by day. Amen
12/7/20233 minutes, 12 seconds
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December 6th - 2 Peter 3:17-18

2 Peter 3:17-18 These words are particularly interesting when you remember that their author is Peter, the one who betrayed his Lord and who often seemed to wobble in his faith. Perhaps it was those very experiences that convinced him of the importance of having a firm and secure faith. Through the years the grace of God had helped him to have a rock-like faith and a determination to encourage others to have the same. The majority of this letter is dominated by Peter’s concern about the false teachers who were challenging the early Church. He had harsh things to say about them. He described them as “proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at supernatural beings without so much as trembling” (2 Peter 2:10) as well as “useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind”. He declared that they were “doomed to blackest darkness” (2 Peter 2:17). It’s easy to understand how vulnerable the young church was to false teachers. Many members would have been new converts and few of them would have had much education. These days we are in a very different position. Our churches will often include people with huge experience of the Christian life and considerable knowledge of the Bible. We all have access to resources that can help us to explore Christian doctrine. However, we still need to be alert to false teaching. In every age there are people who want to destroy the Church and to demoralise us. Peter would urge us to be on our guard. The best way to stand up against the attacks of false teaching is to live close to the Lord. It has been wisely said that the Christian life is like riding a bicycle. Unless you keep moving you fall off! We need to ensure that we are continually growing in grace and the knowledge of Christ. If we do so then, although there will probably be bumps in the road and times of difficulty, we will stay firmly in the saddle. Question What false teaching challenges you and how do you stand up to it? Prayer Lord God, help us each day to grow in grace and in our relationship with you. Amen
12/6/20233 minutes, 39 seconds
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December 5th - 2 Peter 1:14

2 Peter 1:14 This verse is a classic example of where the original Greek is a good deal more interesting and colourful than the English translation. The expression that Peter actually used was that he must soon leave this earthly tent. It powerfully describes the temporary nature of life, but also reminds us of the many times in the Old Testament when the people of God were tent dwellers. The writer of Hebrews noted that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lived in tents as they confidently looked forward “to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” (Hebrews 11:10). It would have been understandable if Peter had used this reference to his imminent death as an opportunity to seek sympathy from his readers. But no, his focus was on his legacy. He was keen to ensure that his teaching would be remembered because he knew that their Christian lives depended on sound doctrine. It is widely believed that Peter was in Rome when he wrote this letter, and that he passed on to Mark the material for his gospel. Papias, one of the early Church fathers, wrote: “Mark, who was Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, all that he collected of what Christ had said and done.” This was clearly a major part of Peter’s legacy. When Jesus spoke with Peter after his resurrection beside the Sea of Galilee he told him that he was going to die a terrible death. We are told that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome because he didn’t feel worthy to die in the same way as his Lord. However, we get no sense of him being fearful about putting down his human tent. He was confident of his Lord in life and death, and eager to work as hard as possible until he received his eternal reward. Question What do you want your legacy to be? Prayer Lord God, I thank you for the gift of life. Help me to live well and to leave behind me a legacy that will bless others. Amen
12/5/20233 minutes, 26 seconds
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December 4th - 2 Peter 1:5-7

2 Peter 1:5-7 When Peter wrote his letter, many of the people who received it were illiterate. So it was quite usual for instruction to be offered in the form of lists that could be easily remembered. The list that Peter provided here shows how determined he was to encourage his readers to grow in their Christian faith. He knew that growth wasn’t automatic; without our full cooperation and effort it just won’t happen. Growth as a Christian has to start with faith. Nothing will happen unless we commit ourselves to God and trust ourselves to him. The next steps on the journey don’t need to be taken in any particular order but they are all a vital part of spiritual growth. The Greek word that is translated as moral excellence is used in other settings to speak about land that is fertile, or a knife that cuts well. That is to say, God wants us to be the best that we can be. That will only happen as we grow in knowledge of God, ourselves and the world, and it will depend upon us being more self-controlled, patient and godly. The outcome will never just be good for us but it will strengthen our loving relationship with other Christians and everyone else around us. We don’t get anywhere in this life without hard work. No musician, entrepreneur, artist, writer or sportsperson has ever achieved great things without putting in hard work. But the difference with the Christian life is that effort alone is not enough. We have the enormous advantage of knowing that, every step of the way, we are working in partnership with our great God. Question Which of Peter’s instructions is particularly important to you at the moment and why? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you love me so much that you want me to become stronger and more fruitful in my Christian life. Amen
12/4/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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December 3rd - 2 Peter 1:3

2 Peter 1:3 It is very tempting to compare ourselves with other Christians. We see their strong faith and compassion and end up feeling thoroughly depressed. We are aware of our shortcomings and think that we will never make it. Peter himself once fell to his knees before Jesus and said: “Oh, Lord, please leave me —I’m such a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Jesus had just helped him to land an enormous catch of fish, but for Peter it was all too much. He felt completely inadequate. If you are feeling that you don’t have what it takes to be a strong Christian, then read this verse carefully. Peter is saying that God has given you everything you need to live a godly life. In effect he is telling each of us: “You can do it, because God will make it possible.” The problem is that we often look at the Christian life in terms of our own strength and abilities. What we need to do is to change the focus, and look at our great God who, in the power of his Spirit, is able to equip us. The Bible repeatedly introduces us to weak people who were deeply aware of their inadequacies. Moses had a speech impediment which, so far as he was concerned, totally disqualified him from leading the people of Israel. But God knew all about his difficulties and called Aaron to be his mouthpiece. Isaiah met the Lord in the temple at a crucial moment in the nation’s history. He found this a thoroughly depressing experience because he knew just how sinful he was. But God used him to speak powerfully to his people. In the New Testament we meet Peter who put his foot in it on so many occasions you would assume that he would never be invited to be a leader. But that’s exactly what he became. In short, don’t look down on yourself. Instead, look up to God – who will equip you to do everything he calls you to do. Question What are the things that give you strength to live for God? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you love me perfectly and are willing to use me and equip me even when I feel completely useless. Amen
12/3/20233 minutes, 42 seconds
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December 2nd - 2 Peter 1:2

2 Peter 1:2 This short prayer takes us to the heart of what it means to be a Christian. It makes it clear that Christian faith is about a relationship and, in common with every other relationship, it is dynamic. It is impossible for a relationship to stand still. It is either growing or declining, and Peter’s longing was that his readers should have a deepening relationship with God. The problem with many people’s understanding of Christianity is that they see it in terms of membership. They belong to a church, and they have no more expectation of a growing relationship with the church than they have of a growing relationship with the National Trust, the AA or any other organisation of which they happen to be a member. But that way of understanding the Christian faith is completely different from what we see in the New Testament, which reveals a dynamic personal relationship. Peter was speaking about a deepening of our understanding of God through living the Christian life. When Sue and I got married the way in which our relationship grew was through living together. We were given all sorts of wise advice and did some reading on the subject, but it was as we shared life together that we deepened our love and understanding of one another. It is just the same in the Christian life. It is important to read the Bible, hear sermons, read books and listen to other people’s advice, but the fundamental need is for us to live day by day with God and deepen our relationship with him. As we do so, we receive more and more of God’s grace and peace. Question In what specific ways has your relationship with God grown over the past year? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you want to share every part of life with me. Thank you for giving me more of your grace and peace; I long for more. Amen
12/2/20233 minutes, 12 seconds
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December 1st - 2 Peter 1:1

2 Peter 1:1 Names are really interesting aren’t they? My own father was called Linley when he was born but people only ever knew him as Bob. The only time anybody tried to use his birth name was when he went into hospital as an old man, and it sounded ridiculous. Some people have names that have been passed down in the family or were given because of the day on which they were born. In the New Testament we often hear the writer being called Simon or Peter and occasionally Simon Peter, but in the Greek for this verse he is called Simeon. Only on one other occasion in the New Testament is he referred to as Simeon and that is in Acts 15:14, which records the Council of Jerusalem. Simeon came from a strong Jewish background but in that crucial meeting he declared that God had visited the Gentiles and made them a people for himself. This was incredibly radical language. Gentiles used to be the outsiders. They were excluded from the citizenship that the Jews enjoyed. They lived without hope. But now, in Christ, they had been given a new identity and Simeon was wanting to persuade the Council that the doors should be fully thrown open to include them. Peter wrote this letter to people from a Gentile, that is to say non-Jewish, background and he wanted to celebrate the new status that they had acquired in Christ. His own name expressed that miracle. Yes, he had been born as Simeon, a Jew, but now, as a follower of Christ, he had been named Peter, meaning ‘rock’. Whatever the story may be behind your name thank God that, in Christ, we have each been given a new identity and sense of direction as we build our lives on the rock of our faith in Jesus. Question In what way has becoming a Christian changed the way you look at yourself and those around you? Prayer Lord Jesus, thank you that you know me by name. Give me your strength as I seek to help others to understand your love for them. Amen
12/1/20233 minutes, 26 seconds
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November 30th - Psalm 25:4-5

Psalm 25:4-5 Guidance is a recurring theme in the Psalms. David had a pressurised and complicated life. He knew that he was totally dependent on the Lord to guide him. That meant that he needed to keep close to God in order to hear his guidance clearly. The way some people talk about their relationship with God makes it sound as if it is simply a matter of obtaining impersonal information or advice. But for David, guidance flowed from his intimate relationship with God. Martin Luther put this well when he wrote: “I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my guide.” God’s desire is that we should find the right path so we can come to him with confidence. We don’t have to wonder whether God might want to guide us or not. I love this comment from the American president, Abraham Lincoln: “I am satisfied that when the Almighty wants me to do or not to do any particular thing, he finds a way of letting me know it.” It is important that we are open to the very wide variety of ways in which God might speak to us. Undoubtedly, he will sometimes do so through the Bible or a sermon. But he might also guide us through a conversation that we have or through some music. Or, remembering what we were looking at yesterday, he may speak to us through nature or by us gazing at the night sky. In short, we need to be open to any way in which God might choose to speak with us. David put his hope in God because he was confident that God would guide him and we need to do the same. Question In what specific situations are you seeking guidance at the moment, and how are you trying to find it? Prayer Lord God, I praise you that you are a God who loves to guide me. Help me to place all my trust in you. Amen
11/30/20233 minutes, 18 seconds
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November 29th - Psalm 19:1-4

Psalm 19:1-4 As soon as I hear these words the majestic chorus from Josef Haydn’s oratorio ‘The Creation’ fills my mind. David was rejoicing because he recognised that we only have to look at God’s amazing work of creation to know what sort of God he is. He wants to communicate with us, and his messages are plainly seen by looking at his handiwork in creation. The apostle Paul made exactly the same point when he wrote to the church in Rome: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities —his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). The big question is whether we are willing to listen to what God is saying to us in creation. I fear that people with a New Age worldview have often shown much greater interest in and concern for creation than Christians do. However, this psalm encourages us to take creation very seriously and to use it as a springboard for our worship of the Creator. And if we believe that the world has been made by our loving God then we have the awesome responsibility of caring for it. But creation doesn’t merely speak to Christians. Paul’s words make it plain that creation is continually declaring to the whole world who God is. Everyone has the opportunity to see how great and powerful God is. Question What does God say to you when you look at creation? Prayer Creator God, I worship you for all that you have made. Help me to keep my eyes and ears open to what you are saying to me each day through your creation. Amen
11/29/20233 minutes, 22 seconds
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November 28th - Psalm 18:1-3

Psalm 18:1-3 Think for a moment of the biggest success you’ve had in your life. It might have been a sporting, academic, business or family success but it’s a moment you will never forget. In this psalm we meet David as he reflects on the incredible success that he had had over the Philistines. He had won a series of battles over his fierce enemies and, in response, he burst out in song. This song also appears in 2 Samuel 22. That book gives us a detailed account of the military successes that led to David’s psalm of praise. What I find impressive is that all the glory goes to God. Humanly speaking, David had proved himself to be an incredibly wise and effective military commander. He had achieved victories that others had thought impossible. It would have been entirely understandable if David had taken some of the credit for himself but no, he was clear that it was God’s victory. The psalm is an incredible personal testimony. David knew that the crucial thing that he had done was to pray. He had been in a desperate state and he described powerfully how dire the situation had been. He wrote: “The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path” (vv4-5). In this dark and desperate place, David cried out to God; he described in graphic detail the way in which God responded. “The foundation of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger. Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth.” (vv7-8). David was clear that God alone deserved the praise. When we look at our own moments of success they might not seem to be on the scale of David’s military victories, but we still need to make sure that we give God the glory. He is the one who made us and enabled the successes to take place. Without him they would never have happened. Question What has been your greatest success and in what way do you praise God for making it possible? Prayer Lord God, thank you for the ways in which you bless my life. I thank you for the strength and security that you give me each day. Amen
11/28/20233 minutes, 57 seconds
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November 27th - Psalm 16:5-6

Psalm 16:5-6 David wrote this psalm at a time when he was in constant danger. King Saul was after him and in human terms he was totally insecure. He had been driven away from his home, knowing that at any moment he might be killed by the king or his soldiers. But, in this dire situation, David learned where his true security was. He knew that God himself was his place of safety and his inheritance. Because of this, he could thank God that he was in a pleasant land and in possession of a wonderful inheritance. I wonder how you see your life at the moment. It may be that everything is looking secure and peaceful. David’s experience of complete insecurity might seem a million miles away. But the truth is that life can change quickly and we need to be sure where our true security lies. As Job said: “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear” (Job 14:1-2). Whatever challenges we may face, it is important to keep our eyes fixed on the solid inheritance that we have. In his first letter Peter wrote: “We have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Peter 1:4). Amid all the terrifying challenges of his life, David knew that he was secure. God wants us to go through life with the same confidence. Question How do you respond to the fact that your eternal inheritance is absolutely secure? Prayer Lord God, thank you that my life is entirely secure in your hands for time and eternity. Amen
11/27/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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November 26th - Matthew 7:9-11

Matthew 7:9-11 This way of teaching was typical of the Jewish rabbis. It’s amusing and forces home the point with incredible power. Jesus was saying that if we, as very imperfect parents, manage to give good things to our children, it is absolutely certain that our perfectly loving heavenly Father will give us the best gifts imaginable. We can totally depend upon his generosity as his desire is always to bless us. We need to get our understanding of God right before we will really understand the nature of prayer. If our view of God is as a remote old man with a flowing white beard sitting on a distant cloud, then we probably have no expectation that he is ever likely to hear or respond to our prayers. Or if we see him as a fierce disciplinarian who is just looking for any imperfection in our lives so that he can judge us, then we will always approach him with reluctance and fear. But if we can be sure that God is generous and is always looking for ways to bless us then our prayers will be confident and expectant. I believe that the strength of our Christian lives and also the effectiveness of our churches is totally dependent on having the right understanding of God. When we are certain of the generosity and grace of God, we will have every reason to approach him in the way that is described by the writer of Hebrews: “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16). Question What is your understanding of God? Do you think it needs to change? Prayer Lord God, thank you for your amazing generosity to me. Help me always to approach you with confidence and expectancy. Amen
11/26/20233 minutes, 26 seconds
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November 25th - Matthew 7:7

Matthew 7:7 It’s interesting to hear how often people say things like: “My problems were so great all I could do was pray”, as if prayer is an activity confined to desperate situations. But these words of Jesus make it plain that he is eager for us to be persistent in prayer, and not reserve our praying for moments of sheer desperation. He wants us to keep it up continually for the simple reason that he wants to maintain an ongoing relationship with us. In a marriage or close friendship, it would be absurd if there was an agreement to talk on a monthly basis or if the need arose. The fact is, of course, that we may not always feel like praying. Julian of Norwich, who lived more than 600 years ago, wrote strikingly and honestly about this, saying: “Pray inwardly, even if you do not enjoy it. It does good, though you feel nothing, see nothing, yes, even though you think you are doing nothing. For when you are dry, empty, sick or weak, at such a time is your prayer most pleasing, though you find little enough to enjoy in it. This is true of all believing prayer.” When we pray we can have confidence because we can be sure that God hears us and will answer us. Because of his perfect love for us his responses will not always be in the way or at the time that we request. If he did exactly what we asked for and at the time that we requested it, prayer wouldn’t be prayer at all. It would be called magic and we would be the ones in control. Prayer is about us placing our lives securely in God’s hands and trusting him to respond in the way and at the time that he knows is best. Dwight L Moody, the American evangelist, said: “When it is hardest to pray, we ought to pray the hardest.” Wise words that underline the importance of being persistent in prayer, however we are feeling. Question Do you find it easy to be persistent in prayer? If you don’t, then what might help you? If you do, thank God that you do! Prayer Loving God, thank you that you want us to keep close to you in prayer. Help me to keep asking, seeking and knocking. Amen
11/25/20233 minutes, 41 seconds
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November 24th - Matthew 7:1-2

Matthew 7:1-2 I wonder whether you have ever lived in an atmosphere of harsh criticism and even condemnation. It’s a horrible place to be and I have known many people whose lives have been disfigured by it. Tragically, the criticism has sometimes come from parents and teachers, who ought to have known better. Jesus made clear that this kind of attitude is totally wrong. It’s demoralising and undermines a person’s strength and confidence. Having a harsh critical spirit is always a bad idea and not least because all of us would choose to be treated with generosity and kindness. Jesus told his followers that if that’s what they wanted to receive, then that’s what they needed to hand out. He provided a funny illustration to ram home his point. If you want to point out that someone has got a tiny speck of dust in their eye, you need to be sure that you haven’t got a huge log stuck in your own eye (vv3-5)! The truth is that it is so easy to spot the failings of others while being blissfully ignorant of our own shortcomings. Jesus wasn’t saying that we should never make judgements in life. Indeed, he repeatedly demanded that his followers should be discerning and make careful decisions. His concern was for those, like the Pharisees, who were happy to condemn others but who had totally lost the ability to see the shortcomings in their own lives. The rabbis of Jesus’ time discerned that there were six great works that would bring a person credit in this life and profit in the world to come. They were study, visiting the sick, hospitality, devotion in prayer, the education of children in the Law and thinking the best of other people. Let’s make sure that we do just that today. Question What do you consider to be the best way of avoiding a judgemental attitude towards other people? Prayer Lord God, forgive me for the times when I have been unfairly critical of others. Help me to be generous and kind in my words and actions. Amen
11/24/20233 minutes, 27 seconds
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November 23rd - Proverbs 6:16-19

Proverbs 6:16-19 We spend a lot of time talking and singing about the fact that God is a God of love. That’s absolutely right, but we shouldn’t forget that God also has a list of pet hates. None of the things on this list come as a surprise. God hates arrogance because the arrogant person has no time or space for him. They believe they have already got all the answers, and are content with the way that they are. God hates lies, murder and those who eagerly scheme to do evil. And he detests the person who sows trouble and division. God wants us to follow him and to allow our lives to be shaped by his attitudes. So I have to conclude that he wants us to be haters too. He would like us to have a list of things that we detest with such intensity that we are not prepared to live with them. He wants us to stand up against those who tell lies. That will give us quite a lot of work to do because we hear lies in one form or another every day. The advertisers confidently tell us how we can find peace and fulfilment in life. By buying their holiday, car or cosmetics suddenly our lives will be transformed and we will find contentment. But it’s just not true and somebody needs to stand up and dispute their claims. At the heart of God’s concerns is his longing for justice. Time and again throughout the Bible, God shows his hatred of the way in which the weak are crushed by the injustices of society. If we love God, we cannot stand idly by and allow injustice to win. We need to get involved in the messy business of challenging injustice and getting alongside those who are the victims of our materialistic and ungodly society. Hatred might seem to be a strange word to associate with God, but it stems from the fact that he is a God of love, who loves us and our world so much that he is not willing for evil to succeed. Question What are the things that you hate, and what do you do as a result of hating them? Prayer Loving God, help me to think more and more in the way that you do. Help me to love other people by hating those things which ruin their lives. Amen
11/23/20233 minutes, 47 seconds
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November 22nd - Proverbs 6:9-11

Proverbs 6:9-11 Fridge magnets often contain a lot of wisdom, and laziness is quite a popular theme. With pictures of slumbering cats, I enjoyed the following three: “If I won the award for laziness, I would send someone to pick it up for me”; “For some reason I feel tired tomorrow”; “I’m not lazy, I’m just highly motivated to do nothing.” You’ve got the point. Laziness is a common experience and always has been. The writer of Proverbs wrote about it on a number of occasions and clearly feared it. Without the support of a welfare state or a supportive family a lazy person would starve. It was as simple as that. The problem with the lazy person is that they never get going with anything. They find their bed too attractive. Later on in the book the writer describes the way in which a lazy person is anchored to their bed. He writes: “As a door swings back and forth on its hinges, so the lazy person turns over in bed” (Proverbs 26:14). They live in a dream world, failing to face up to challenges and yet thinking of themselves as incredibly wise (Proverbs 26:16). The apostle Paul ran into the problem of laziness in the church in Thessalonica. What was particularly infuriating to Paul was that they gave a spiritual reason for being idle. They were so convinced of the imminent return of Jesus that they gave up their daily work. But Paul would have none of it. True, Jesus might return at any time, but God wants us to be busily engaged in his work. Paul pointed out that he had been working hard day and night in his ministry and was very harsh in his attitude to those who tried to avoid work. He said that those who were unwilling to work would not eat. He also urged the Thessalonian Christians to keep away from idle people because he was so fearful of their influence (2 Thessalonians 6:15). Whether or not laziness is a problem for you, be sure of this: while we have breath God wants us to work busily for him. Question Why is laziness so damaging, and what do you do to avoid it? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you have work for me to do. Help me to do it with enthusiasm. Amen
11/22/20233 minutes, 56 seconds
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November 21st - Proverbs 4:18-19

Proverbs 4:18-19 All parents long for their children to be happy and to have a good life. Here a father gives loads of very practical advice to his children. At the heart of it is the need to make good decisions and to choose the right way. The writer describes the two possible ways of life and they are in marked contrast. One is a way of light and the other is one of darkness. God’s way is not just characterised by light, but by increasing light. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the writer describes all the blessings that flow for those who follow God’s wisdom and walk in his ways. This results in a life of peace, joy and harmony. It isn’t free of challenges and difficulties, but it is a life of security and blessing. But there is another way. It’s a terrifying option but it is open to everyone. It is a way of darkness and is full of dangers. The lack of light means that the person who follows this path is forever falling over, and making a fool of themselves. The writer devotes a lot of his book to a description of this way of life, because he wants to warn his readers. Laziness, greed and indiscipline are characteristic of this destructive approach to life and the results are disastrous not just for the individual but for all those around them. The point is that every day we have choices to make. Jesus spoke in exactly the same way. In his Sermon on the Mount he spoke about the highway to hell whose gateway is wide. Then he pointed to the gateway to life, which is very narrow, and to the road, which is difficult (Matthew 7:13-14). There is a choice that we all have to make and we need to choose well, and encourage the next generation to do the same. Question How would you share this message with younger people? Prayer Lord God, help me to walk in your way, even when the going is tough. And help me to encourage others to do the same. Amen
11/21/20233 minutes, 24 seconds
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November 20th - Proverbs 3:27-28

Proverbs 3:27-28 Mark Twain, the American writer, said: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well.” I suspect that we can all identify things that we love to put off. It may be an essay, or our tax return or repairing a door hinge, and we just love the idea of following Mark Twain’s advice and giving ourselves one more day. But there are some things that mustn’t be delayed. The writer of Proverbs identifies our need to help our neighbour as soon as we see their need. The significance of the help that the Good Samaritan gave was that it was immediate (Luke 10:25-37). He saw the need and he acted. I would be fascinated to know what you are inclined to procrastinate about. There is no doubt that many things can be put off very effectively to another day. We certainly cannot do everything today. But there are some things that should not be put off. When we receive a cry for help from a friend or neighbour timing might be crucial. As a general rule it has been wisely said that procrastination makes easy things hard and hard things harder. The things we all tend to procrastinate about are the tasks that we find difficult or disagreeable. For example, talking things through with someone who is angry with us or working on a document or speech that we know will not be well received. But the simple wisdom of Proverbs needs to live with us. If we can act now then that’s what we should do, however demanding and difficult it might be. Question What are you inclined to procrastinate about? Think of a specific example and work out a better course of action. Prayer Lord God, forgive me for those times when I procrastinate because of laziness or fear. Help me to act speedily to help those in need. Amen
11/20/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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November 19th - 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 The church in Corinth had clearly got really excited about the spiritual gifts. The gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy were being exercised with enthusiasm. We sense that, in their excitement, there was some competitiveness and confusion between members of the church. Paul certainly had to give them some very clear guidelines as to how these gifts should be used. He put these wonderful spiritual gifts firmly in their place. There is no question that they are amazing God-given gifts, but they don’t last forever. They stand in marked contrast to the gift of love, which is eternal. In common with faith and hope, love will never come to an end. A few weeks ago, we were looking at the Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus encouraged his disciples to focus their attention on the kind of treasure that lasts for ever. He pointed to the transitory nature of worldly possessions. They may look impressive for a while but then they are gone. Here, Paul spoke in exactly the same way, encouraging the church to make sure that they focused their life on those things that last for ever. At the beginning of the next chapter he urged them: “Let love be your highest goal!” Whatever our activities today, we need to ensure that love is at the centre of all that we do. Nothing could possibly be more important than that. Question How will you make love your goal today? Prayer Lord God, forgive me for those times when I struggle to be loving. Give me your strength so that I will make love the focus of all my activities and relationships today. Amen
11/19/20233 minutes, 18 seconds
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November 18th - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 I have no doubt that we all aim to be loving people. So I wonder how accurately this list of love’s attributes describes you. I suspect that the truth is that we all find this list somewhat painful. Yes, we would love to be like this, but then things happen. We get tired; we feel frustrated; people annoy us and we end up being anything but loving. What we need to realise is that the perfect love that is being described here is a picture of God himself. There is no way in which we are going to be able to love like this without God’s help. We need the Holy Spirit to fill us and to give us the strength to be loving in every situation. The Greek word for love that is used in this passage is agape. It is the kind of love that keeps loving whatever happens. This is the love that God has for us. He loves us because he loves us and will keep on loving us whatever we do. It was the love that the father had in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The son had treated his father so badly that he deserved to be severely punished. But the father couldn’t stop loving his wayward son. Every day he stared at the horizon hoping that this might be the day of his son’s return. And when his son did return, nothing could suppress the father’s joy; he rushed to greet his son and welcome him back home. That’s agape love, and it is the love that God has for us –undeserving as we are. May all of our efforts today be full of love, but let’s not try to do it in our own strength. We need the Spirit’s help. Question In what situations are you particularly aware of your need for God to help you to be more loving? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the perfect love that you have shown me. Help me today to allow your Spirit to strengthen and direct me as I seek to pass on your love to others. Amen
11/18/20233 minutes, 52 seconds
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November 17th - 1 Corinthians 12:31

1 Corinthians 12:31 In this chapter, Paul spent a long time carefully describing the spiritual gifts that God has given to his Church. The church in Corinth had become very excited about the gifts but they needed clear guidance as to how they should be used. At this point, Paul pointed out that, exciting and important as gifts are, life at its best is quite simply a life of love. Paul was convinced of the supreme importance of love. So much so that even the most gifted person in the world cannot manage without it. At the beginning of chapter 13 he described a person who speaks like an angel but said that without love their words would be totally empty. They would sound like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. He then built up a picture of the sort of gifted person who seemed to have it all. They had the gift of prophecy and were so good at it that they understood all of God’s secrets, and possessed all knowledge. Just imagine! But more, this person had such enormous faith that shunting mountains around was done with ease. And, to cap it all, they were so committed to their faith that they gave all that they owned to the poor and gladly offered to be a martyr. Wow! Such a person would surely be the most spiritual person who had ever lived. But Paul says that without love then they would have totally missed the point. Loving needs to be the goal of our lives because it is only then that we will reflect the life of Jesus. His life was the perfect example of love, and found its supreme expression in his death on the cross. When we live a life of love, we are actually giving people an opportunity to catch a glimpse of Jesus himself. Question To what extent would you say that love is the goal of your life? Prayer Lord God, thank you for the perfect love that you have shown me in your Son. Help me to reflect his love in the way that I think, speak and act today. Amen
11/17/20233 minutes, 23 seconds
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November 16th - 1 Corinthians 12:18-21

1 Corinthians 12:18-21 Yesterday we saw how Paul drew attention to the problem of inferiority complexes in the Church. In today’s verses, he centres on the problem of superiority complexes. He points out how absurd it would be for one part of the body to look down on another part and suggest that it wasn’t needed. Paul laughs at that kind of thinking, pointing out how ridiculous it would be if a body only had one part. The only way that a body can work is by it having very different parts, and the Church is just the same. We may find it difficult to be in a church in which people are so different from us, but we absolutely rely on other people’s differences in order to be the Church. Diversity is, in fact, the only way to achieve unity. We must never be tempted to look down on other people’s gifts, even if they seem strange to us. It is vital that we find ways of affirming one another and I think we have a special responsibility to spot those gifts that have a low profile. When did you last thank the people who run the crèche, children or youth groups? Or how about those who work in the church office or do the cleaning? Many jobs in the life of a church have become hugely more complex over the last few years. I am delighted that churches take safeguarding so seriously but that involves a great deal of demanding work. The role of treasurers has also become much more complex. The changes have been wise and lead to much greater accountability. All of that is excellent, but it involves people in work that is both incredibly important and hidden away. We need to make sure that they all know that they are loved and appreciated and that their gifts are invaluable to the Church. Question Who in your church is most easily overlooked and how might you be able to show your appreciation to them? Prayer Lord God, help me to value all the different gifts that you have given to your Church. Help me particularly to encourage those whose gifts are most easily overlooked. Amen
11/16/20233 minutes, 36 seconds
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November 15th - 1 Corinthians 12:14-15

1 Corinthians 12:14-15 Many people struggle in life because of an inferiority complex. They are inclined to spend their lives comparing their attributes and abilities with others and convincing themselves that they are no good. This is incredibly sad in any situation and deeply damaging within the Church. Paul insists that every member of the Church is absolutely vital, and so there is never any good reason for one part of the Church to look down on another. He makes the point by laughing at the complete absurdity of a foot looking down on itself because it isn’t a hand, or an ear looking down on itself because it isn’t an eye. It’s completely ridiculous. It is wrong to look down on our gifts, whatever they are, because God has deliberately given us particular gifts. Paul writes: “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have” (1 Corinthians 12:11). What God wants is for us to enjoy the gift that he has given to us, recognising that the Church, the body of Christ, can only work because we are all different from one another. At times all of us probably wish that other Christians were more like us. We get frustrated with the different temperaments, preferences and outlooks of other Christians and we dream of a world in which everybody sees things in the same way as we do. But we need to laugh at the absurdity of that, in just the same way as Paul laughed at the parts of the body that looked down on themselves. Question What would you say to someone who was suffering with a spiritual inferiority complex? Prayer Lord God, thank you for the gift that you have given me. Help me to treasure it and never to look down on it. Amen
11/15/20233 minutes, 7 seconds
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November 14th - 1 Corinthians 12:7

1 Corinthians 12:7 I want to continue focusing on the verse that we looked at yesterday because it is so crucial. I have been a church leader for many years and people have told me regularly that they don’t know what their gift is. Nothing could be more important than to know what your gift is, so let me spend a few moments trying to help you if you are unsure. And if you are absolutely sure what your spiritual gift is, it will be good for you to take a fresh look at it. Firstly, if you don’t know what your gift is then thank God for it. Be positive. We have God’s assurance that he has given you a gift so even though you haven’t got a clue what it is, thank him for this mystery gift. Secondly, ask God what your gift is. I don’t believe that God wants to play games with us. He has given us a gift and we can be sure that he would like us to know what it is. Only then will it be useful in the building the Church, in the way that he intends. Thirdly, open your eyes. Look at your life and reflect on the opportunities you have for serving God. My suspicion is that this is where the problem often lies. We look at some of the gifts of worship leaders and preachers and feel that those gifts are so much more exciting and important than our little gift. We don’t want to be told that our spiritual gift is in listening, cleaning or being helpful. But remember that every single gift is absolutely crucial. Fourthly, ask someone else what they think your gift is. This will clearly need to be someone who knows you well and whom you trust. I suspect that this person will easily identify your gift. Their answer might not be the one you were hoping for, but they may well be right and you need to find peace in fulfilling that role. Fifthly, thank God for your discovered gift and use it. Gifts are not ornaments to be put on a mantlepiece for people to admire. They need to be used and developed. Question What is your gift and how are you helping it to grow? Prayer Loving God, help me to treasure the gift that you have given to me. Help me to become more effective in serving you. Amen
11/14/20233 minutes, 36 seconds
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November 13th - 1 Corinthians 12:7

1 Corinthians 12:7 This short verse contains three incredibly important messages. First of all, the spiritual abilities that we have are a gift from God. They are an expression of his love and generosity and so when we identify a gift, whether in ourselves or someone else, our first response should be to give thanks to God. This is an important point because so often we focus attention on the receiver of the gift rather than the giver. That clearly happened in Corinth where people were strutting around with great pride because of the spiritual gifts that they had received. This was causing great confusion and division in the church and would have been totally avoided if they had kept their focus on God, the giver of their gifts. The second point is that every one of us is gifted. The way in which we often use the term ‘gifted’ might suggest that only a few people have a gift. We are told about gifted guitarists, singers or artists and are left feeling that we missed out somewhere! Paul, however, makes it plain that everyone has a God-given gift. Every gift is different, but no one has been left out. The third point is that gifts are given so that we can help one another. The church in Corinth got into a muddle on many issues, and they clearly made a complete mess of spiritual gifts. People were bragging about their gifts and using them in a way that was deeply damaging for the church. They needed to learn that gifts were given so that the whole church could be blessed and not in order to feed the ego of the gifted person. Spiritual gifts are a wonderful blessing from God but, in common with all of God’s gifts, they need to be handled in the right way. Just like money, sex and power they can either be a blessing or a curse. It is our responsibility to ensure that we keep our eyes fixed on God the giver and that we use spiritual gifts to build up the Church. Question In what way does your own spiritual gift help to build the Church? Prayer Lord God, thank you for the gift that you have given to me. Help me to use it well to bring encouragement and help to others. Amen
11/13/20233 minutes, 35 seconds
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November 12th - 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

1 Corinthians 11:23-24 These words are incredibly important. Remember, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written some years before the earliest Gospel. This is, therefore, the first recorded account of any of the words of Jesus. Paul never met Jesus in the flesh but he was convinced that this command had come from the Lord himself. These words are nearly 2,000 years old but they continue to be a fundamental command to the Christian Church today. The key word in Jesus’ command is “remembrance”. When we share in the communion service we are deliberately recalling what Jesus did when he died on the cross. We are recognising that this was an important moment in history but also an event that continues to transform our lives today. In a miraculous way Jesus meets with us as we gather with our Christian brothers and sisters, and he renews our understanding of our own lives and the life that we share together. There is a beautiful variety of titles for the communion meal including the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving) and the Lord’s Supper. Whatever we call it, it is our opportunity to centre our lives again on the most powerful expression of love and forgiveness that this world has ever seen. However strong we may be in our Christian faith, we easily get distracted by the busyness and demands of life. The communion service brings us back time and again and we need to thank God for this precious gift. Question In what ways does the communion service help you to remember Jesus’ love for you? Prayer Loving God, I thank you for the gift of the communion service and for the way in which it helps me to centre my life on you. Amen
11/12/20233 minutes, 12 seconds
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November 11th - 1 Corinthians 11:17-18

1 Corinthians 11:17-18 Paul loved the church in Corinth with a passion. He had founded the church and so it is not surprising that he longed for the community to thrive. It must have been particularly painful to him that they managed to get so much wrong when they came together to worship. The time when they should have been at their most united seems to have been the time when their divisions were most in evidence. We cannot be entirely clear what the problems were. We do know that their gathering focused on a celebration of the Lord’s Supper, however, the way in which they did so was clearly chaotic. Some people were so eager to eat their food that they didn’t share with others. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that there were both rich and poor people within the church, and the poor were getting left out. Another focus of division may well have been that those from a Jewish background were insisting on kosher food. The fact that there were tensions and divisions in the church is tragic but not really surprising. Because churches are made up of frail and sinful human beings like you and me, every church has its shortcomings. It is, therefore, vital that churches are blessed by people like Paul, who are willing to speak the truth in love. It would have been desperate for the Corinthian church if Paul had kept quiet about its failures. Those within it may well have been surprised and even hurt by the directness of his language, but they needed to hear the truth if they were to grow – and we are just the same Question Who is good at speaking the truth in love in your own church? Prayer Lord God, forgive us for the way in which my church falls short of what you want. Help us to listen with patience and care to those who tell us how we could improve. Amen
11/11/20233 minutes, 15 seconds
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November 10th - 1 Corinthians 10:31,33

1 Corinthians 10:31,33 Life is forever throwing up questions. Just because we have decided to follow Christ, it doesn’t mean that everything is straightforward. We often have very difficult decisions to make, and the answer isn’t immediately obvious. That was clearly the case for Paul who, in both this chapter and chapter 8, was struggling with the very awkward issue of food that had been offered to idols. In one way it wasn’t an issue at all because idols are false gods. But for some people their conscience made them uneasy about eating something that had been offered to an idol. Different Christians may act in different ways, but what matters is that they act out of a desire to please the Lord, and to be helpful to other people. Paul was so determined to help other people to find Jesus as their Lord, that he didn’t want anything to get in the way. The issues we face today are completely different from Paul’s time, but the same principles hold good. When we decide how to use our money, leisure time and homes, we will all come up with different approaches. Our society would tell us that we can do what we like with them. But Paul challenges us to make sure our decisions are shaped by a determination to give glory to God. It isn’t good enough merely to do those things that seem good to us. We need to think through our decisions to ensure that we are doing the best for others, with the hope that through our actions they may also find new life in Christ. Question In what way does this teaching specifically challenge and help decisions that you are making at the moment? Prayer Lord God, help me to give glory to you in all that I do. Amen
11/10/20233 minutes, 6 seconds
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November 9th - 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 Athletics were taken very seriously by the Greeks. The Olympic Games were established in 776 BC and were held in Olympia every four years. Corinth itself had its own games known as the Isthmian Games, which were second only to the Olympics. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the apostle Paul often made references to athletics. In preparation for the games, athletes were put through a punishing regime. They were required to prepare for ten months and the entire focus was upon winning. Unlike today, there were no prizes for coming second or third. The winner in Paul’s day would be given a pine wreath to wear but, great as that honour was, it would soon fade. Paul knew that he was working for an eternal prize and so he was determined to be fit to ensure that he could keep going. Of course, the Christian life doesn’t only have one winner. All of us need to ensure that we keep fit for the work that God has called us to do. A contemporary described Paul as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs”. It would seem unlikely that he was an athlete himself, but he had no doubt of the importance of keeping physically fit. Whether he was in prison or was engaged in his demanding missionary journeys, he needed to keep strong. Not many of us are Olympians but, whatever our age, physical fitness is important if we are to do all that God wants us to do. Question What do you do to keep physically fit? Prayer Lord God, thank you for the gift of my body. Help me to see it as one of your gifts to me, and help me to use it well. Amen
11/9/20233 minutes, 25 seconds
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November 8th - 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, 22-23

1 Corinthians 9:19-20, 22-23 Paul had an incredibly clear focus for his life. His longing was that everyone should have the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. He wanted them to know that Jesus loved them so much that he died for their sins so that they could have eternal life. Nothing in the world was more important to him than this. Paul spoke of his willingness to be completely flexible in the way that he got alongside other people. He was brought up as a Jew, and so he was easily able to identify with them and to understand the questions that they might have about Christian faith. But he was just as willing to draw alongside people with no faith background and to understand where they were coming from. He was willing to become all things to all people in order to help them to meet Jesus for themselves. We can probably all identify the people with whom we most easily get on. They probably share a similar background to us and may be of a similar age and share common interests. That’s all well and good, but Jesus didn’t die on the cross only for people like us. We need to reflect on what it would be like for us to get alongside people who are totally different from us. I visit many churches and am struck by the fact that very often the people who gather are of one type – whether that’s age, educational background, ethnicity or economic status. It’s vital that we keep in mind Paul’s flexibility and the need for us to deliberately reach beyond the people with whom we immediately feel at home. It would be a good exercise for every church to look at the range of people it draws and then compare that to the different people living in the community that it serves. Question What might it mean for you to be “all things to all people” (v22, NIVUK)? Prayer Loving God, help me to get alongside people who are very different from me, so that I might help them to meet you. Amen
11/8/20233 minutes, 49 seconds
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November 7th - 1 Corinthians 8:1-2

1 Corinthians 8:1-2 In writing this letter to the Corinthians, Paul didn’t dodge any of the difficult issues. I suspect that most of us are tempted to avoid grasping nettles, but Paul took on one nettle after another with remarkable confidence. The issue that he grappled with here is totally unfamiliar to us, but we have much to learn from the way in which he handled it. Corinth was a big port and had a very mixed population. The people worshipped a wide variety of deities, and it was quite usual for food to have been taken to the temple gods to be blessed. This posed a major issue for the Christian community. Where should the line be drawn? There were two possible approaches. One was to say that idols aren’t real, so it really doesn’t matter whether the food has been offered to them or not. The other approach was adopted by those who came from a background in which they had been taught to believe that the idols had real power. Now that they had become Christians they found it deeply offensive to eat anything that had been offered to idols. Paul’s answer is really interesting. He said that what matters most is love. So the person who isn’t bothered whether meat had been offered to idols or not, should not eat such food if it might cause another Christian to be offended. They might well be willing to eat food offered to idols as a result of their longer Christian experience and knowledge, but love must shape their actions. It’s not difficult to see the way in which this teaching might shape our actions today. For example, many Christians are happy to drink alcohol but if, in drinking alcohol, you would cause difficulty and offence to someone else, then love would determine that you should refrain. Love needs to drive our actions because it is the only way in which the Church will be strengthened. As another translation of verse 1 puts it: “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (NIVUK). Question In what situation might this teaching be relevant in your own life? Prayer Father God, help me always to be sensitive towards my Christian brothers and sisters, and always to act in a loving way. Amen
11/7/20233 minutes, 40 seconds
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November 6th - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Everything seemed to be going wrong in the Corinthian church. The Christians had become arrogant and were making up their own rules. There was, for example, a case of incest in the church and no action had been taken. There were also reports of Christians taking one another to court. It was all a horrible mess and Paul was eager to put things right. He was particularly concerned that the church should be clear in the matter of sexual ethics. This is not surprising in view of the reputation that Corinth had long possessed of being a hotbed for sexual promiscuity. Our own society, just like Corinth, is characterised by the belief that anything goes sexually. What matters is the freedom of each individual to do what they think is best. Paul countered this kind of thinking by reminding his readers that their bodies were not their own, but gifts from God. They were, therefore, under an obligation to use their bodies in a way that pleased God. They couldn’t simply do whatever they chose. People will often look at Paul’s teaching and suggest that he was limiting people’s freedom. In fact, he was increasing it. There are no chains stronger than the ones that hold people in a life of immorality and self-gratification. His teaching sets us free to live for God without guilt or shame, and to be able to enjoy the amazing bodies that God has given us to the full. We need to remember that sex was God’s idea, and he gave us the precious gift of sexual relationships for our enjoyment. However, in common with every one of God’s gifts, it needs to be enjoyed in the right way. That’s precisely why God has given us the wonderful gift of marriage. Question How does knowing that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit challenge and encourage you? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the gift of my body. Help me always to see it as a precious gift from you, and to use it in a way that will honour you. Amen
11/6/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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November 5th - 1 Corinthians 4:16-17

1 Corinthians 4:16-17 When I was learning to play the cello, my teacher always told me to look carefully at other cellists. He told me that this was really important because I would learn something from all of them. It’s just the same with the Christian life. We can read the Bible and Christian books and listen to sermons but watching other Christians is crucial. From their example, we turn the theory into practice. That was exactly Paul’s point in these verses. He was the last person to suggest that he was a perfect example of Christian faith, but he knew that the church in Corinth needed to learn from his example. They had become arrogant and were making bad decisions and so he sent his young friend Timothy to remind them of their need to imitate him. I would be fascinated to know whose Christian example has been important for you. I think of so many people who have been a blessing to me. I think, for example, of the irrepressible joy of my Indian granny. When I lived in India I was generously welcomed into a loving family. Granny was a widow and was an important part of our family life. The family was poor and life had been a struggle but she had a strong faith. One of the loveliest experiences of living in India was to preach through the interpretation of her son. I would see granny with twinkling eyes listening to everything I said. She loved the Lord so much, but longed to know him better. I also think of the amazing love that people have shown through caring for sick or disabled relatives. They have poured out their lives with such grace and patience. I thank God for them and for the way in which their example gives me strength and encouragement as I live for God. This teaching, of course, works two ways. We should indeed be grateful for those whose Christian example has been a blessing to us. But we need to remember that other people are looking at us and we need to reflect on what kind of example we are setting. Question Think of the three people whose Christian example has been most important to you. What have you learned from them? Prayer Lord God, I thank you for all those people who have helped me to understand how to follow you. Help me never to forget what I have learned. Amen
11/5/20233 minutes, 48 seconds
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November 4th - 1 Corinthians 4:7

1 Corinthians 4:7 Try to take a few minutes to write a description of your life. You will need to include things like your health, family, friendships, job, house, car, bicycle and other possessions. Then look over the list and remind yourself that absolutely every item is a gift from God. I know you might have put some hard work into making some of them happen, but none of them would be part of your life without God. So, how dare we become arrogant and boast as if they were our own achievements? Paul’s questions are of enormous importance for all of us. The way we answer them will shape the way in which we live our daily lives. When we recognise that God’s hand has given us everything, we will see the need to have a constant attitude of gratitude to God. The person who brags about their achievements and their possessions needs to be pitied. They have totally misunderstood what is going on. Paul often encouraged his readers to be continually thankful to God. In writing to the Thessalonians he said: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He obviously wasn’t saying that everything that happens in life will go wonderfully well. Paul himself faced many hardships and difficulties. What he was saying is that God’s goodness is unending and so, however tough the road may be at times, we have reason to be thankful. Question Are you continually thankful to God? If not, what gets in the way? Prayer Loving God, thank you that I have every reason to be thankful to you, whatever is happening in my life right now. Amen
11/4/20233 minutes, 1 second
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November 3rd - 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 Every day we are bombarded with powerful images of what it means to be successful. The advertising and entertainment industries feed us with a continual stream of pictures of wealthy, powerful, glamorous and successful people and urge us to be like them. Life was different in Paul’s day in so many ways, but the same worldly pressures were present. Here Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to turn their thinking upside down. True wisdom would never be found in following the world’s standards and fashions, but only by following their humble, crucified Lord. Paul’s particular concern was the way in which the Corinthian Christians had lined themselves up behind different leaders. This was such a waste of time and energy, and was a perfect illustration of acting according to this world’s standards. Paul would have none of it. He was simply a servant and the last thing he wanted was to be followed by a group of adoring disciples. Jesus showed the full extent of his love not by being humanly impressive, but by dying on a cross as he was mocked by the crowds. The challenge we face is that we are, every day, encouraged to measure our lives by the world’s standards. Our careers, money, homes and cars are what people see and from which they draw conclusions about us. But Jesus urges us to measure our lives by love. To what extent are we giving ourselves to those around us? Are we willing to help the weak and vulnerable, even though we might get no thanks or reward? Are we sharing the good news of the cross of Christ, or are we looking for something that will sound more attractive to modern ears? Every day God is in the radical business of helping us to turn our thinking upside down. Question In what ways has God upended your thinking over the past year? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you are continually challenging me to think as you think. Amen
11/3/20233 minutes, 28 seconds
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November 2nd - 1 Corinthians 3:10-11

1 Corinthians 3:10-11 Every building needs firm foundations. I’ve just been reading up about the process of preparing good foundations for a self-build. As you can imagine, it’s a major task involving a careful examination of the land with the help of a structural engineer. Then it’s necessary to excavate the ground and prepare it with flood damage-resistant and decay-resistant materials before laying sufficient foundations to take the full load of the construction. It’s a highly involved process but none of that is necessary when we are building the Church of Jesus Christ. He’s already laid the foundations; all we need to do is build. There are two things that you need if you are going to get involved in building up the Church. Firstly, you need to know your role. Paul was clear that he was an expert builder. This might sound like bragging, but it really wasn’t. It was simply the vital task that God had given him to perform. You and I have our own roles to fulfil. Perhaps you are an expert builder, a labourer shifting things around or the person who makes the tea to keep everyone going. What matters crucially is that you know what you are supposed to be doing. Just imagine a building site where everyone was scratching their head wondering what to do next! Secondly, we need to make sure that we are building with the right materials. Paul wrote about the variety of materials that could be used – gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay or straw. The fact is that some of the available materials will last and others won’t. We need to make sure that we choose the ones that are durable. Some people are tempted to focus on building up the church’s reputation, size or income. Those are not bad things but they shouldn’t be our focus. The role of a church is to help people to become stronger and more mature in their discipleship. As we grow in that way, we will truly be the Church that God wants us to be. Question As you think of your church, what are three good building materials and three bad ones? Prayer Lord God, thank you that in Christ we have firm foundations. Help us to be careful and effective builders. Amen
11/2/20233 minutes, 54 seconds
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November 1st - 1 Corinthians 3:5-6

1 Corinthians 3:5-6 The divisions that had opened up in the church in Corinth were clearly causing great problems. Divisions always waste time and energy and Paul was eager to put a stop to them. We cannot be sure why people had grouped behind Paul and Apollos in this way. However, we can easily speculate that because Paul had founded the church in Corinth there were those who felt personally committed to him. Apollos, meanwhile, came from a devout Jewish family in Alexandria, Egypt and would have had a very different upbringing from Paul. It is likely that he would have come under the influence of Philo, the great philosopher, and it may well have been that his preaching was more intellectually impressive than Paul’s. We cannot be sure, and it doesn’t really matter. What is clear is that they, like any other church leaders, were different from one another and difference offers the opportunity for division. I wonder what Christian leaders have shaped your Christian life. I can think of a number of people whose teaching, example and influence have played a part in shaping my Christian discipleship. None of them have been perfect, but all of them have played a valuable part in helping me to understand what it means to follow Jesus. Christian leaders have done the planting and watering but without the breath of God’s spirit no growth would have resulted. These are important verses because they warn us against putting Christian leaders on a pedestal. God has given them a vital role, but if God didn’t give growth nothing would happen. Question How do these verses help you to evaluate and support the work of your Christian leaders? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the gift of godly men and women who have helped me to know you and love you. Thank you that you are constantly at work giving growth. Amen
11/1/20233 minutes, 18 seconds
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October 31st - 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 For the apostle Paul, the cross of Christ lay right at the heart of his message. Take away the cross and he had no good news to share. But he also recognised that it was a really difficult message to pass on. As a Jew he was eager to preach the cross to his own people, but they found the whole idea deeply offensive. Their scriptures told them that anyone who hung from a tree was cursed by God (see Deuteronomy 21:23). When he shared the message with non-Jews their reaction was that it was all nonsense. How could someone being killed be a sign of power and victory? They just didn’t get it. But none of this put Paul off. He was absolutely convinced that the message of the cross was both wise and powerful. Paul was so eager that the cross should be the focus of his message that he was happy that his preaching was unimpressive. He described himself as having been timid and trembling when he first got to Corinth, and said that his message and preaching were very plain (vv3-4). He was glad about this because if he had been impressive and persuasive in his preaching, people might have been swayed by his oratory. He was eager that people should only be touched by the power of God and not by any clever use of words or presentation. The heart of the good news hasn’t changed. It is still the cross, and the fact that Jesus showed his perfect love for us by dying in that most terrible way. Sinless as he was, he was willing to take our sin upon him, so that we might be set free. There are many wonderful things that we will want to share with other people. We want them to know about God’s love and peace. We want them to know that he is a God of justice and truth. We want them to know that he longs to fill them with his Holy Spirit. But right at the heart of all that we say must be the clear presentation that Jesus died on the cross, and that this is still the wisdom and power of God. Question What is your response to the fact that Jesus died on the cross for you? Prayer Loving God, thank you for your perfect love and for the way in which you showed it through Jesus’ death on the cross. Amen
10/31/20233 minutes, 40 seconds
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October 30th - 1 Corinthians 1:10

1 Corinthians 1:10 In this letter, Paul does a lot of straight talking to the Corinthian church. It is significant that the first issue he addresses is unity, because everything depends on it. A disunited church cannot possibly be effective and 2,000 years of Church history have proved that to be the case. Disunity wastes time and energy and prevents any organisation from making headway. In Corinth they had started getting behind different leaders. Some supported Paul, but others preferred Apollos or Peter, while others were only prepared to follow Jesus. It was all getting very messy, and Paul appealed to them to drop this divisiveness. Unity is just as vital today, and we all have a part to play in contributing to it. Absolutely key to unity is humility. Mother Teresa wrote: “Only humility will lead us to unity and unity will lead to peace.” The humble person is willing to listen and to learn. They may have strong views, but they are willing to admit that they might be wrong. They are constantly looking for ways to encourage others and are always inclined to see other people as being better than themselves. I don’t need to say any more to convince you that this is a demanding road, but it is also the one that leads to greatest blessing. We also need to keep in mind that unity is vulnerable. I often think of it as being like a porcelain dish. It is beautiful but also fragile and needs to be looked after. We dare not take it for granted. As Paul said when he wrote to the Ephesians: “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3). Unity will require sheer hard work, but it will always be worth it. Question What are you able to do to contribute to unity in your own church? Prayer Lord God, help me never to take unity for granted, but always to do those things that will help it to flourish. Amen
10/30/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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October 29th - 1 Corinthians 1:4-5

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 These are incredibly generous words aren’t they? But they are also rather surprising when you know what follows. This letter to the church in Corinth is full of very serious criticisms of their life together. Indeed, at times it feels as if they got nothing right. But Paul was determined to start his letter on a positive note, and he did so by pointing to all the ways in which God had blessed them. First of all, Paul gave thanks for the gifts that God had given them. This letter has a great deal to say about the gifts that God gives to his Church. Paul was convinced that God had given the Corinthians everything they needed to be an effective church. He would spend much time in this letter pointing out the way in which they had mishandled those gifts, but there was no question about the generosity of God. Secondly, he rejoiced that they belonged to Jesus. Amidst all the challenges of life in a hostile city, they had the security of a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that was unbreakable. Thirdly, Paul indicated that God had enriched their church in every way. That’s our God! We might make a horrible mess of church life at times, but God is continually bringing enrichment and blessing to his Church as we open our arms to him. This teaches us a great deal. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Paul to have launched into this letter with a tirade about how hopeless the Corinthians were. But he didn’t. He focused on God and the amazing ways in which God had blessed them. Let’s remember that God remains the generous God who loves to equip and bless us. Question Based on these verses what message of encouragement would you put together for your own church? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you are constantly generous and that you have given your Church all the gifts it needs to do your work. Amen
10/29/20233 minutes, 21 seconds
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October 28th - 1 Corinthians 1:1

1 Corinthians 1:1 This is a fairly familiar beginning to one of Paul’s letters, but what interests me today are the last five words “and from our brother Sosthenes”. We always refer to this letter as coming from Paul, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard reference to the fact that it also came from Sosthenes. So who was Sosthenes?. He was obviously a very significant person in Paul’s ministry to be mentioned right at the start of this letter. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be sure who he was and not least because Sosthenes, surprisingly, wasn’t an uncommon name. It is tempting to think that he might be the Sosthenes who we meet in Acts 18, who was chief ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, but we cannot be sure. If it was that Sosthenes it would be fascinating to learn how he became a Christian, but we simply don’t know. However, the presence of this mysterious Sosthenes tells us two really important things. Firstly, Paul believed in working closely with others. There is no question that Paul had a really prominent and important role, but he never worked in isolation. Interestingly, the majority of the letters that we describe as “Paul’s letters” were written with at least one other person and most commonly his young friend, Timothy. I believe it is vital for every Christian to have close friendships with other Christians. We need others with whom we can be totally honest about our joys and struggles. We need people who will be straight with us – people who can tell us when we have slipped up and give us encouragement when we need it. Paul clearly had such people around him, and I have no doubt that his ministry relied on them. Secondly, I am struck by the hiddenness of Sosthenes. Can I be honest with you? I had never even thought about Sosthenes before today! Here is someone who had a crucial role with one of the most famous Christians who has ever lived, and he is almost completely unknown to us. Isn’t that amazing? Whoever he was, he just got on with what he was doing and was clearly a great blessing to Paul in the process. What you and I do may never gain any wider attention, and that doesn’t matter a jot. What matters is, like Sosthenes, we get on and do what God is calling us to do. Question What do you learn from the hiddenness of Sosthenes? Prayer Loving God, thank you for calling me to serve you. Fill me with your Spirit today so that I will be the best that I can be for you, whether or not anyone else notices. Amen
10/28/20233 minutes, 56 seconds
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October 27th - Psalm 10:1

Psalm 10:1 This is one of many psalms of lament. Like many such psalms it is really a psalm of complaint. David is not at all happy and he wants God to know it. His life is dominated by evil people, and he can’t believe that God doesn’t get involved and do something. He sees his enemies acting wickedly and getting away with it. In fact, worse than that, their lives seem to be very successful, and they live with a confidence that nothing will ever go wrong. I draw great strength from David’s honesty. He doesn’t put on an act before God, but tells him exactly how he feels. I believe that that’s exactly what God wants. The truth is that probably all of us have had times when it has felt as if God was far away. On many occasions people have told me that they felt that their prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling. When we go through a particularly tough time, and especially when we see people doing evil things but still prospering, it is easy for us to feel that God is far away from us. But the truth is that he isn’t. As it has been wisely said: “If it feels that God is far away, guess who moved.” The Lord promises to be with us constantly. As Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Having poured out his complaint, David ended the psalm by concluding that God was in charge, even if it didn’t feel like it. It’s as if David needed to get a whole lot of angst off his chest, and then he was able to get a proper perspective on life. He concluded: “The Lord is king forever and ever!” (v16). He was confident that even though he was facing huge evil and opposition, God’s justice and compassion would have the final word. Question How honest are you in your relationship with God? What have you learned from David’s honesty? Prayer Lord God, help me always to be honest with you. Thank you that I can be confident that you are a God of justice and compassion, and that you will always be with me. Amen
10/27/20233 minutes, 34 seconds
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October 26th - Psalm 9:1-2

Psalm 9:1-2 It’s good for us to ask the question: “What is praise?” It certainly isn’t simply a matter of singing a few Christian songs, beautiful as they may be. And it doesn’t necessarily happen when we attend a service of worship. It has to do with the state of our hearts, not just our mouths. We can read the Bible and sing spiritual songs all day long, but if our words are not flowing from a heart that is in love with God, then we are just going through the motions. In this psalm David speaks of praising God with his whole heart. He knew that his life depended upon God and his praise flowed from the recognition that without the Lord he would have been totally lost. This is a challenge to all of us. Half-hearted worship is totally inappropriate when worshipping the God who has given us everything. CH Spurgeon, the famous Victorian Baptist preacher, put it well when he said: “A half heart is no heart at all.” We can’t be sure when David wrote this psalm, but it has been suggested that it might have been after he had slain Goliath. What is clear, if you read on through the psalm, is that he had been up against fearful opposition. He had been taunted by his enemies and snatched back from the jaws of death (v13). David’s outpouring of praise was rooted in specific experiences of God’s grace and power. We may well not have faced the extreme dangers that David confronted. But we have all been through times of challenge and difficulty. We have faced illness, the death of people close to us, disappointments etc and, through it all, the presence and care of God has never been far away. Our praise needs to be rooted in those experiences just as it was for David. He referred to the marvellous things that God had done. It’s important that we don’t forget the equally marvellous things that God has graciously done in our own lives so that we can use them as a springboard for praise. Question What are three of the marvellous things that God has done in your life? Prayer Lord God, I praise your name because you have blessed my life in countless ways. Help me never to forget the marvellous things that you have done. Amen
10/26/20233 minutes, 46 seconds
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October 25th - Psalm 8:3-4

Psalm 8:3-4 I know very, very little about astronomy. However, whenever I hear about it, I find it mind-blowing. I totally understand where David was coming from in this psalm. Let me give you a few facts about our amazing universe. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so it covers 671 million miles per hour. In a year light travels about 6 trillion miles. Even if you managed to travel at the incredible speed of light it would take 96 billion light years to get from one side of our universe to the other. Let’s leave it there! All we need to conclude is that David asks a really good question. Why on earth should God take the tiniest bit of interest in those miniscule specks of dust that we call human beings? The psalm doesn’t offer an explanation as to why God has acted in this way. It simply affirms that that’s the way it is. God has chosen to give human beings this phenomenally important status and asked us to look after his creation. The punch line of this psalm is simply an outpouring of worship. “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!” (v9). If you ever feel unimportant, then go out on a clear night and gaze at the sky. Without using a telescope it is possible to see the planet of Saturn, which is 746 million miles away. The furthest it is possible to see with the naked eye is the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.5 million light years away. Look hard and remember that, tiny as you are, God cares for you. And if that doesn’t convince you, why not get a telescope?! Question How do you respond to the incredible scale of the universe and the importance that God has placed on your life? Prayer Majestic God, I praise you for your amazing creation. Thank you that you love me so much. I am simply astonished that I am so important to you. Amen
10/25/20233 minutes, 41 seconds
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October 24th - Psalm 7:10-11

Psalm 7:10-11 Evil is an uncomfortable issue. Most of us live peaceful lives and rarely come up against anger and violence. We don’t deny that there is evil in
the world but we hear about it on the news so, usually, are far removed from it in our day-to-day lives. But as we bring our worship to God we have to acknowledge that there is desperate evil in our world. Our psalm today makes clear that God is really angry about this, and so we cannot ignore it. There are people who die in violent conflict, and many of them are completely innocent. There are millions of people who have been displaced from their homes and as they wake up today they are in a place where they don’t want to be. There are also millions of Christians who are unable to worship God openly because of their government’s laws. Evil was on David’s mind because of a particular person when he wrote this psalm. He was having terrible problems with Cush of the tribe of Benjamin. This is the only reference in the Bible to this particular Cush, and it is likely that he was a supporter of King Saul with whom David was locked in conflict for many years. Saul was also from the tribe of Benjamin. What is clear is that Cush was out to get David, who knew that if God didn’t take action then his enemy would maul him like a lion and tear him to pieces (v2). Whether or not you have had such an experience, there are two things that we need to remember about God. Firstly, he hates evil and, secondly, he wants to be our rescuer. God is a God of justice, so whenever we confront injustice or hear about it on the news we need to remind ourselves that God stands with us. He doesn’t ignore the evil, but longs that truth and justice should be found. That’s why it’s so important that Christians get involved in fighting for justice – because it is exactly what God wants. David was clearly in a very dangerous place. The evil that he was facing was life threatening, but he knew that God was his shield. If we didn’t know God, then there would be every reason to be truly terrified of the evil in our world. But having God with us we have nothing to fear. Question In what ways have you faced evil, and how does your Christian faith help you to face it? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you are always with us. Give us your strength and inspiration as we stand up to injustice. Amen
10/24/20233 minutes, 51 seconds
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October 23rd - Psalm 6:2-3

Psalm 6:2-3 When we think of the Psalms, we will often think of the ones that glow with praise and worship. Many of them, of course, are exactly like that. However, the majority are what we call psalms of lament, and this is one of them. Everything seemed to be going wrong and out of the depths of pain and despair David cried out to God. We don’t know what was causing him to feel this way, but he brought his raw emotions to God. He had become disorientated, and he looked to God to put him back on track. It’s vital that we follow David’s example and come to God with complete honesty. There will be many times when our hearts are overflowing with praise and worship. But there will be days when we are struggling with our emotions too. Perhaps we have moved to a new area or started a new job and we are feeling confused and unsure of ourselves. At other times tensions within relationships dominate our minds. Health issues, whether our own or of those close to us, will hold centre stage on other occasions. It would be foolish to put on an act and pretend to God that everything is going fine. That is the last thing he wants. He wants us to come to him as we are. As David presented his distress to God, he was confident that the Lord would answer him. In verse 9 he wrote: “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.” He didn’t state that God had sorted out his problems, but he was absolutely confident that he would do so. Many of the challenges we face in life don’t suddenly disappear when we bring them to God. But, like David, we can be confident that, when we present our dilemmas to God with complete honesty, he will hear us and will respond lovingly. Question When and how do you bring your laments to God? Does your church worship help you to bring prayers of lament to God? Prayer Loving God, thank you that I can be totally honest with you, knowing that you know and love me completely. Amen
10/23/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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October 22nd - Matthew 6:22-23

Matthew 6:22-23 I’ve worn glasses since I was a boy. From time to time people will gaze at my glasses and enquire: “Can you actually see anything out of those glasses?” When I take them off I find that, sure enough, grease and dust has accumulated and a good clean transforms their usefulness. The principle is a simple one. Jesus points out how vital it is that we ensure that our lives are full of light. We need to make sure that we are focusing our attention on those things that will help us to see life generously and clearly. The reason that this is so important is because there is much darkness in the world. With the arrival of the internet we have instant access to destructive and dangerous material as well as resources that inspire and encourage us. Every day we have a choice to make about where we focus our attention. Jesus recognised this when he went on to say that if the light that you think you have is actually darkness, how great is the darkness! We need to know how to identify the light so that we can ensure that our lives are bathed in it. Back to my glasses for a moment. The reason that I don’t realise that my glasses are dirty is that it happens so slowly and gradually. Only with the help of others am I even aware that it has happened! It’s exactly the same with our spiritual sight. We live in a busy world in which there is so much confusion and darkness. It is therefore vital that we are constantly alert and willing to allow others to help us to see when our spiritual eyesight is getting obscured. As Jesus clearly observed, nothing is more important than us having clear spiritual sight. Question What do you do each day to ensure that you are open to the light of Christ? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you help me to see clearly in this often dark and confusing world. Amen
10/22/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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October 21st - Matthew 6:19-21

Matthew 6:19-21 The Bible often confronts us with the question: “Where is your treasure?” It’s a crucial question because the answer to it will determine the way in which we live. Clearly some people store up treasure here on earth, but Jesus points out the absurdity of doing so because earthly treasure cannot last. In the ancient world clothing was an important sign of a person’s wealth to a far greater extent than it is today. Moths were therefore much feared; Jesus points out that our clothing is always at risk of being destroyed. Jesus’ reference to rust is much less clear. The word he used normally refers to eating away and probably refers to the way in which rats, mice and worms could munch their way through a person’s store of grain. At the time that Jesus lived, most house walls were made of hardened mud. Thieves therefore had a reasonably easy task to dig through a wall and carry off an owner’s valuables. The point that Jesus was making was absolutely clear. However carefully you might look after your possessions, they are under continual threat. It would therefore be foolish to store up wealth here on earth. Our security measures these
days might be more impressive than the ones that existed in Jesus’ time, but the principle holds good. The wise person will focus their life on storing up treasure in heaven. This teaching is particularly appropriate in our materialistic society. We are continually encouraged to see money and possessions as the measure of success and happiness. John Henry Jowett, a famous preacher at the start of the 20th century, wisely said: “The real measure of our wealth is how much we’d be worth if we lost all our money.” Question Where are you intentionally storing up treasures, and what would your life be like if you lost all your money? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, help me to focus my energies on storing up treasure in heaven. Amen
10/21/20233 minutes, 21 seconds
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October 20th - Matthew 6:13

Matthew 6:13 Life is full of temptations. There is nothing that we can do to prevent that. Temptations come knocking at the door of our lives continually, encouraging us to cut corners and make unwise decisions. Perhaps you will be tempted today to eat foods that you know are not good for you, to be economical with the truth in conversation with others or to become angry with an awkward person. Whatever it is, you and I will find ourselves being encouraged to be less than the best. There is nothing we can do to stop temptations, but there are things that we can do to stand up to them. Martin Luther wisely observed: “I cannot keep birds from flying over my head, but I can keep them from building a nest in my hair.” There are steps we can take – for example, if overeating cakes is a problem then it is helpful not to visit so many cake shops! It is often very easy to find ways of avoiding temptation, simply by ensuring that we don’t put ourselves in the way of it. The main way of resisting temptation is to seek God’s help and that’s why these words are such an important part of the Lord’s Prayer. When we come to the Lord, we can be confident that he totally understands the reality and pull of temptation. The writer to the Hebrews wrote that Jesus: “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Because we will often cave in when we are tempted, we only experience a part of the temptation. Jesus never gave in to any part of sin and so he understood the full power and destructiveness of temptation. We can therefore be confident that he stands alongside us in our war with sin, and is able to rescue us from the evil one. Question What are the most powerful temptations that you face, and what do you do to try to overcome them? Prayer Lord God, thank you that you fully understand the power of temptations and are able to help us to overcome them. Amen
10/20/20233 minutes, 27 seconds
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October 19th - Matthew 6:12

Matthew 6:12 The word sin is not popular. Most people will readily identify abuse, murder and bank robbing as sin but would be very reluctant to place the label on any of their own misdemeanours. I recall the time when a good friend of ours, who wasn’t a Christian, attended an evangelistic meeting. The evangelist gave an amusing and powerful message in which he made it absolutely clear that we are all sinners. Our friend is the gentlest and kindest of people, and was deeply offended by the evangelist’s language. She couldn’t bring herself to believe that she could ever be considered to be a sinner. However, Jesus was quite clear that we are, indeed, all sinners and, therefore, in need of forgiveness. The word for sin that is used here literally means debt. We have all thought, said and done things that have rung up a debt. And the problem is that we have no way of paying that debt. All we can do is to own up to our debts and find someone who would be willing to pay them on our behalf. That is precisely what Jesus came to do. Through his death on the cross he came to pay the price for our sin. There is nothing that we could ever do to rub out the debt. We are entirely dependent on Christ’s willingness to set us free and, amazingly, that’s what he promises to do for all those who own up to their sin and resolve to live a new life in partnership with him. Forgiveness is a gift that, once we have received it, we are under a duty to pass on. People will often hurt and offend us without intending to do so and so we don’t need to go around saying “I forgive you” to everyone. Most of the time forgiveness is a matter of action. So we show our forgiveness by continuing to love and care for those who have hurt us. We make sure that, tempting as it may well be, we don’t try to hit back and even the scores. We have to make the choice to live a life of forgiveness daily. Question Who have you needed to forgive recently and how did you do it? Prayer Loving Father, thank you for the amazing gift of your forgiveness. Help me always to pass on your love and forgiveness to others. Amen
10/19/20233 minutes, 31 seconds
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October 18th - Matthew 6:11

Matthew 6:11 The Lord’s Prayer starts by looking at God and the coming of his kingdom. It now moves to three specific requests, the first of which is food. Nothing is more basic than nourishment – whether we are thinking about physical or spiritual food. Our bodies soon become weak and sick if we ignore the need to eat properly, and exactly the same is true of our spiritual strength. It simply isn’t possible to remain strong in our relationship with God if we are not being regularly fed with spiritual nourishment. Our bodies give us very clear signs of our need to eat. If we miss a meal, we normally feel so uncomfortable that we take decisive action. Our spiritual hunger, however, is different. Although we will immediately suffer from not being spiritually fed, it is possible to get so distracted by life that we forget how desperately we need a good spiritual meal. We put it off until we have a bit more time. The fact is that we have as much need to be fed spiritually as physically, and the result of not being well nourished spiritually is disastrous. It’s also important to notice that this is not a personal prayer. We are asking God to give us our daily bread. As we pray this prayer, we are acknowledging that we are part of a world that needs feeding, physically and spiritually. The population of the world is now about 8 billion. It has doubled in the past 50 years, but even so there is more than enough food for everyone. However, the distribution of that food is so unbalanced that there will be millions of people who go hungry today. We desperately need to pray for those who are working hard to ensure that everyone has enough to eat. God also wants to feed us spiritually. Jesus described himself as the bread of life and he is able to give us exactly what we need to keep us strong. It’s right that we pray for ourselves but let’s never forget to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters and the spiritual food that they need to keep strong too. Question What spiritual food is most important in sustaining us in our lives for God? Prayer Lord God, give us today the food we need. Amen
10/18/20233 minutes, 34 seconds
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October 17th - Matthew 6:10

Matthew 6:10 Jesus often spoke about the kingdom of God. He wasn’t talking about something remote but a living reality now for those who were willing to live in line with God’s will. The kingdom of God comes to our homes, churches, businesses and communities when we decide to let God take control. It’s wonderful to see the way in which the Lord’s Prayer flows. It starts with us proclaiming that God is our Father and that we need to honour and reverence his name. That immediately leads to us into the practical task of bringing into reality the kingdom of God where we live. Incredible as it may sound, we are able to see the kingdom of God come about in our lives today, in the same way as it is in heaven. This is clearly a prayer that can only truly be prayed by people who are determined to live as disciples of Jesus. In praying this prayer, we are declaring our commitment to turn this world upside down. I mentioned yesterday that one of the striking features of the Lord’s Prayer is that it is so short. However, its revolutionary nature means that we dare not pray it quickly. It is probably best to think of the prayer as being a model prayer. As we pray it, we need to use it to help us to reflect on what it will mean to live our lives in line with God’s will. Think, for example, of all that you will be doing today. Think of your activities, family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Reflect on your hopes, concerns and plans for the day ahead. As you pray the Lord’s Prayer you are expressing your desire that all your relationships and activities will be shaped by God’s will today. I fear that we can get so used to the Lord’s Prayer that it is reduced to something very similar to the babbling prayers of the Gentiles, about which Jesus warned his disciples. The best way of preventing that is to pray it slowly and thoughtfully, inviting the Holy Spirit to help us to apply it radically to every part of our lives. Question In what specific ways are you praying for God’s kingdom to come today? Prayer Loving Father, may I see your kingdom coming in my life today, as I walk in step with your Spirit. Amen
10/17/20233 minutes, 34 seconds
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October 16th - Matthew 6:9

Matthew 6:9 So begins the Lord’s Prayer. I find everything about this prayer interesting. First of all, I find it surprising how short it is! When I hear people praying, they often speak for a good few minutes. I’m not criticising that, but the prayer Jesus gave to his disciples is all over in about 30 seconds. I also find it interesting that Jesus only gave his disciples one prayer. I have a number of books on prayer on my shelves and I would have thought that Jesus might have come up with a range of prayers that could be prayed at different times. But he didn’t. That tells me that this prayer is incredibly important, and we would do well to use it as a model that shapes and inspires all our prayers. The prayer begins by addressing God as Father. That was a very significant title to use because it emphasises the fact that Christian faith is all about relationship. We come in our prayers not to a remote celestial being but to someone who looks at us as his children. Human fathers vary in quality and some are complete failures in the role. But when we come to our Heavenly Father, we know that we have come into the presence of someone who loves us completely. As King David put it in Psalm 103:13-14: “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” When we address God as Father we are immediately recognising the fact that we belong to a family. We have brothers and sisters stretching back through the centuries and in every part of the world today. It is impossible to feel lonely when we pray the Lord’s Prayer! As we begin this wonderful prayer may we recognise that God is so great that he needs to be deeply respected. Many of us were brought up to pray “hallowed be thy name”. We are saying that because God is so holy, powerful and gracious we want the whole world to recognise who he is. And, in order for that to happen, we need to make sure that everything that we say and do shows our own respect and reverence for him. Question In what ways will you seek to show your respect for God today? Prayer Loving Father, thank you for the liberty that we have to come into your presence. Help us to treasure every opportunity we have for praying to you. Amen
10/16/20233 minutes, 44 seconds
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October 15th - Matthew 6:7-8

Matthew 6:7-8 Having read these verses, the obvious question is: “If God knows everything why bother praying?” The reason for praying is because of the relationship that God wants to have with us. He wants us to spend time with him because that’s what friends do! Jesus made it clear that the nature of the relationship that he wanted with his disciples was one of friendship and not of a master relating to his servants. When Jesus spoke about babbling “on and on as the Gentiles do” he was talking about a form of prayer that is found in many religions. When the prophets of Baal were up against Elijah on Mount Carmel we are told that they spent half a day crying out: “O Baal, answer us!” (1 Kings 18:26). They were wasting their breath and Elijah mocked them, helpfully suggesting that their god might be daydreaming, relieving himself, away on a day trip or fast asleep. And then in Acts 19 we read how the Ephesian mob spent two hours crying out: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34). Constant repetition is found in many religions, but Jesus points out that it is totally inappropriate in our relationship with God. Jesus wanted to encourage his followers to develop their relationship with God by simply spending time with him. He told them to go and hide away in a quiet place where they could be alone with God. It is good that we tell God what is happening in our lives and what our concerns are. We do so not to put God in the picture but in order to let him speak to us and shape our thinking and responses. It is good that we worship him and praise him for his goodness, and spend time seeking his forgiveness for our many failings. But at the same time we also need to give God our silence, so that we can hear from him. Too much of our praying is noisy and demanding, when God just wants to spend time with us and let us receive from him. Question What do you do to ensure that you have quality time alone with God? Prayer Loving God, thank you that you invite us to pray. Help me to make prayer a priority in my life. Amen
10/15/20233 minutes, 44 seconds
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October 14th - Matthew 6:1-2

Matthew 6:1-2 Every Jew knew that giving to the poor was one of their key responsibilities. Jesus confirmed that this would continue to be a major duty for his followers too. However, his main concern was the way in which it was done. It needed to be done secretly because gifts were, first of all, to be given to God. Those who were trying to impress other people and win their praise had totally missed the point. There is no evidence that anyone actually commissioned trumpeters to accompany their giving, but the point that Jesus was making is clear enough. Don’t do anything to draw other people’s attention to your giving. We give our gifts because of our love for God and our desire to please him. If we do it to win the praise of other people, then the focus is completely wrong and our giving is clearly not an act of worship at all. It’s just a pathetic act of showing off. Jesus was harsh in his criticism of the religious people because their play acting was giving the Jewish religion a bad name. The same is true today. People love to see Christians who are genuine but are quick to criticise anything that comes across as phony. I am always delighted to see Christians working so hard as Street Pastors or in food banks and night shelters. Such quiet, loving, caring service brings joy to the heart of God. Question What should we all be doing to ensure that we are not acting hypocritically? Prayer Lord, thank you for the privilege of giving. Help me to ensure that my giving is always to you, and never to impress other people. Amen
10/14/20233 minutes, 7 seconds
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October 13th - Matthew 5:21-22

Matthew 5:21-22 Far from scrapping the Jewish law, Jesus had come to intensify it, and here’s the first example. Everybody knows that it is wrong to murder, but Jesus dug much, much deeper by stating that it is wrong merely to be angry. What he was saying was that if you could solve the problem of anger there would never be another murder. We need to address the roots of the problem, and that’s precisely why Jesus came into the world. In the rest of the chapter Jesus talked about five other areas of the law – lust, divorce, making vows, taking revenge and our relationship with our enemies. In each case he stated the law of Moses and then went on to intensify the command. For example, everyone knew that it was wrong to commit adultery, but Jesus pointed out that what was really wrong was what was going on in people’s minds long before they took any action (v28). This radical teaching challenges every part of our lives because Jesus is saying that our thinking needs to be totally renewed. It isn’t enough that we have merely kept the law and stayed out of trouble. God wants us to live so close to him that our very thinking will be motivated by his love, grace, generosity and peace. Question In what ways is God reshaping your thinking at the moment? Prayer Loving God, I invite your Spirit to renew my thinking so that I will live more closely to you. Amen
10/13/20233 minutes, 1 second
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October 12th - Matthew 5:17

Matthew 5:17 Throughout his ministry, Jesus seemed to be in constant conflict with the teachers of the Jewish law. So it isn’t surprising that there were those who assumed that his intention was to scrap it. Look at the way in which he failed to observe the regulations about handwashing, or the fact that
he healed people on the Sabbath even though the law clearly forbade any kind of work on that day. Jesus didn’t object to the law but rather the way in which it was being applied. Take the law of the Sabbath for example. Jesus completely upheld Moses’ command to keep the Sabbath holy, but he objected to the ridiculous layers of complicated regulations that the Jews had added to that vital law. The Jewish lawyers delighted in giving everything a precise definition, so a word like work had to be very precisely defined. All kinds of things were defined as work, such as carrying a burden. This meant that the word burden had to be defined. The lawyers argued endlessly on such issues as to whether a person could or could not lift a lamp from one place to another on the Sabbath. They tried to work out whether a tailor had committed a sin if he went out with a needle in his robe. They even discussed whether it was lawful for someone to go out on the Sabbath with their false teeth or an artificial limb. It would be incredibly funny if it wasn’t so serious. Jesus came not to scrap the law of Moses, but to do away with the absurd weight of detailed regulations that had been laid on top. His purpose was to help people to live their lives for God and not for these absurd rules. And that is still Jesus’ intention today. He wants us to share our lives with him so that we can find true fulfilment in him, and not be burdened down by regulations. Question Do you think we are ever guilty of making up unhelpful rules and regulations? Prayer Lord Jesus, thank you that you came to help us to live life to the full. Amen
10/12/20233 minutes, 29 seconds
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October 11th - Matthew 5:15-16

Matthew 5:15-16 There are two words for good in Greek. One is agathos, which simply defines a thing as good in quality. The other is kalos – that refers to things that are not merely good but also beautiful and attractive. The word used here to describe the good deeds that we must do is kalos. This is a really important point. God doesn’t simply want us to do correct things but things that are beautiful and which are attractive to those around us. I often see Christians doing beautiful things and I have no doubt that it brings God enormous pleasure. I think of people who care for the dying. One of the most wonderful developments over the past 50 years has been the growth of hospices. Dame Cicely Saunders was at the heart of this development. She was a strong Christian and this was her conviction: “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.” Thank God for those who have poured out their Christian love in this way, but I think of a thousand other ways in which, day in day out, people are turning their love for Jesus into concrete action. I think of those working with disabled people, migrants, asylum seekers, the homeless and the elderly. The work is often costly and challenging, and it is beautiful because it springs from the heart of a generous God who cares. The Church is famous for speaking a lot of words. That is understandable and right because we have good news to share. But if those words are not backed up by good and beautiful deeds then the words will ring hollow, and people will fail to see the light. Jesus’ vision was for followers whose beautiful deeds would shine the light of his presence for all to see. Question What are the good deeds that flow from your own church into the community? Prayer Loving God, I pray that the good things that I and my friends do today will encourage many people to praise you. Amen
10/11/20233 minutes, 39 seconds
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October 10th - Matthew 5:14

Matthew 5:14 One of the most famous of Jesus’ I am sayings was: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Those words don’t come as any surprise to us. He was the Son of God and was without sin. He was clearly able to claim that his perfect life radiated light for all to see. But in today’s verse we are told that we are the light of the world, despite being far from perfect. Jesus’ challenging words have some very practical implications. First of all, to be of any use, light must be put in a prominent position. Just as you cannot hide a city on a hilltop so too Christians need to shine their light for all to see. These days you will often hear people say that religious faith is a private matter, as if it is something that you can do quietly at home without affecting anyone else. That is precisely not the case with Christian faith. It must be shared. Most of the time the influence we will have will not be with our words but with our actions. As people see the sacrificial love of Christians for one another and for vulnerable members of the community, they will see something of the light. It is clear that the light that shines from us is not our light. What we are doing is simply reflecting the light of Christ to others. So the other major implication of this amazing verse is that we need to ensure that we are staying very close to Jesus. It’s as we get to know him better and build our lives on his words, that we will have light to share with others. And that light will, like all light, help to guide people as they pick their way through this confusing and often very dark world. Question In what ways might you be able to be a light for Christ today? Prayer Lord Jesus, I worship you because you are the light of the world. Help me to stay so close to you that I will be able to pass on your light to others. Amen
10/10/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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October 9th - Matthew 5:13

Matthew 5:13 I love it when I hear people being described as the salt of the earth. I wonder who you think about when that expression is used. Let me tell you about three people who spring to my mind. Some years ago I went to stay with an elderly couple who lived in a small community and on my first morning with them they invited me to go for a walk with them. They lived in the middle of the town and within moments the wife popped into the butcher’s shop to hand in a birthday card for one of the staff. And then every few yards they stopped to catch up on the news of different people, asking about how job interviews and hospital visits had gone. They kept apologising to me for bumping in to so many people, but I was being given a stunning picture of the salty influence that they had on their community. I also think of an aunt of mine who had a senior role in social services. She then retired but her caring continued. She was forever trying to spot the vulnerable and needy people in her community. It was very sad when she died but, appropriately and poignantly, she did so while taking a neighbour to hospital. Her life was one of constant service. She was truly the salt of the earth. The quantity of salt that we use on a meal is normally very small, but its influence is huge. We may be inclined to look down on the little acts of kindness that we perform but the influence for God will be immense. The only reason why salt is useful is because it is different from the medium into which it is put. If it was exactly the same, then there would be no point in having it. I believe that Jesus calls us to be different from our communities – not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of blessing them with God’s love, forgiveness and generosity. Question Who would you describe as being the salt of the earth, and in what way do they inspire you? Prayer Lord God, thank you for calling me to be salt for you. Help me to have a good influence on all the people I meet today. Amen
10/9/20233 minutes, 34 seconds
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October 8th - Matthew 5:10-12

Matthew 5:10-12 This is the last of Jesus’ Beatitudes. They are all amazing statements, and they give us the best possible introduction to Jesus’ teaching. He was introducing his disciples to an upside-down kingdom. When you see things from Jesus’ point of view, everything looks different; this final Beatitude makes that clearest of all. In these few words Jesus sums up what all of us would try very carefully to avoid. Being mocked, persecuted, lied about and having all sorts of evil things said about you is surely as bad as life gets. But Jesus affirms that the person who experiences these things should be incredibly happy. This sounds so completely contrary to normal thinking that we need to handle Jesus’ words very carefully. Jesus was clearly saying that living in tune with God’s will is the best that life can be, however fierce the opposition. To be part of God’s eternal kingdom of love, joy and peace is better in every way than anything that this world can offer. What Jesus was doing was equipping his disciples to face life in the Roman empire, where they would be under continual pressure at home, at work and in the community. The Romans were, in fact, very tolerant of other religions and tried to bring order and unity to the empire by simply requiring that once a year the people would burn incense at one of the many images of the emperor and declare: “Caesar is Lord.” It seemed like a modest request, but it was too much for the Christians who knew that it was simply untrue. Only Jesus is Lord. Many Christians died through their refusal to worship the emperor, but they knew that they couldn’t compromise even for a moment. Opposition will come in many different ways. Some will be sneered at because of their commitment to Christ and be thought of as rather simple and weak. Others have to live with continual mocking even within their family. Some will be disliked at work because they insist on sticking to the rules and not cutting corners. In some parts of the world the opposition from authoritarian governments makes it illegal to meet with other Christians. In countries where another religion is dominant, believers are under constant pressure and are sometimes the focus of physical violence. In all these amazing Beatitudes Jesus was declaring that seeking first the kingdom of God is life at its best, however tough it might be at the time. QUESTION In what ways has Jesus turned your thinking about life upside down? PRAYER Lord God, I thank you for the privilege of knowing you and being part of your kingdom. Help me to stand strongly for you whatever challenges and difficulties I might face. Amen
10/8/20234 minutes, 34 seconds
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October 7th - Matthew 5:9

Matthew 5:9 There is apparently an unofficial United Nations motto that says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will take flak from both sides.” Any suggestion that the making of peace is easy will only come from those who haven’t started making any. Making peace involves getting alongside people who are angry and hurt. It involves bringing people together who hate and mistrust one another. It calls us to step courageously into the middle of disputes with the hope that we can bring peace. It’s not surprising that Jesus said that peacemakers are called the children of God, because God is the supreme peacemaker. That is precisely why he sent his son Jesus into the world. The apostle Paul wrote: “Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us” (Ephesians 2:14). The hatred that existed between Jews and Gentiles was so intense that any thought of peace seemed impossible. But Jesus achieved it through his death on the cross. No wonder people who take on the tough job of peacemaking are identified as belonging to the family of our peacemaking God. Each one of us will be given opportunities to make peace daily. We may do it by praying about a difficult situation, or by sharing a word of encouragement, or by offering to talk through a tense situation with a colleague, neighbour, friend or family member. And we need to remind ourselves that as we take steps to make peace, however small and insignificant they may seem, we are getting involved in the work of God himself. We are showing that we truly belong to his family. Question In what ways might you be able to make peace today? Prayer God of peace, thank you for bringing peace into my life. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I will be able to share peace with those around me today. Amen
10/7/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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October 6th - Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5:8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. One of the greatest privileges of my life in recent years has been to spend a good deal of time with people who are blind or partially sighted. I am constantly blessed by them and am conscious that they are often far more aware of what is going on than those of us with sight. We get distracted by the visual clues and don’t listen nearly as hard as they do. This Beatitude naturally causes me to think of my blind friends and forces me to ask what Jesus meant when he talked about seeing God. In his Gospel, John makes it clear that no one has seen God. So what did Jesus mean? I believe that Jesus is saying that the person whose heart is purely focused on him has uninterrupted closeness to God. There is nothing in the way. It is describing life at its best, when we have a complete awareness of God. Having a pure heart is an important theme in the psalms. In Psalm 24, David asks the question: “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies” (Psalm 24:3-4). In this life it is impossible for us to be completely pure and without sin, but the closer we get to the Lord the purer our minds will be. The more we deliberately open our lives to the breath of God’s Spirit, the more he will be able to help us to avoid and reject all impurity. There have been some remarkable and terrifying stories of fatbergs in recent years. A fatberg is a very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products. In 2019 a town in Devon developed a fatberg that was 210 feet long! It is easy both to imagine the disruption that the fatberg caused and the relief to the town when it was destroyed. A fatberg is made up of tiny elements all of which might look quite innocent by themselves, but together they are destructive. Our task day by day is to spot the impurities and sins that so easily and subtly creep into our lives, to ensure that they don’t grow into something that blocks our relationship with God. We can be sure that the clearer we keep our lives, the closer we will live to God and all his blessings. Question What can you do today to keep yourself pure? Prayer Lord God, give me your strength today to stand up to anything that might spoil my relationship with you. Amen
10/6/20234 minutes, 3 seconds
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October 5th - Matthew 5:7

Matthew 5:7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. The simple fact is that we rely totally on the truth that God is merciful. We have sinned against him and those around us and if he were to insist on being just then we wouldn’t stand a chance. However, God is ‘rich in mercy’, to use Paul’s wonderful expression in Ephesians 2:4. God has chosen to set us free from our sin because of his love for us. That all sounds wonderful, but we need to realise that God doesn’t merely ask us to show mercy but demands that we do. Receiving his mercy and hugging it to ourselves is not an option. Since we have received mercy, we are required to be merciful to others. Showing mercy sounds easy and straightforward right up to the moment when we need to put it into practice. When people have been rude to us or gone out of their way to hurt us, we all instinctively want to hit back. We want justice because we shouldn’t be treated like this. It isn’t right. Jesus isn’t denying the reality of our suffering. He knew all about being abused and ill-treated. However, he calls us not to fight back or to seek justice, but to show mercy. The person who has learned to show mercy has learned the meaning of sympathy. The word sympathy comes from the Greek word pathos and literally means to ‘suffer with’ another person. We do this by seeking to walk in their shoes. Yes, we have been unfairly treated and that’s not right, but the person who has harmed us has their own difficulties and struggles. Perhaps the way in which they spoke or acted towards us is because of their own inner turmoil. As we understand more about them it will be increasingly easy to forgive them. As the French proverb says: “To know all is to forgive all.” However hard it may be we need to forgive them and, in that way, offer them the opportunity for their healing. This is tough in the extreme, but that’s what Jesus is saying with the sure knowledge that, if we act mercifully, we will be shown mercy. Question In what situations have you needed to show mercy recently? Prayer Lord God, I praise you that you are rich in mercy and have always been so generous and forgiving to me. Give me the strength to be merciful to others when they have hurt and offended me. Amen
10/5/20233 minutes, 48 seconds
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October 4th - Matthew 5:6

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. For us, hunger and thirst will normally be very brief experiences, easily satiated by going to the fridge or turning on a tap. But many Jesus was speaking to originally would have had a very different experience because they were poor and therefore extremely vulnerable. If they had a bad harvest they would most likely go hungry. And because water would often be drawn from a well or a river they might have had a long journey to get more of it. Hungering and thirsting would have been common experiences. Let’s remind ourselves too that our New Testament is a translation from Greek. In our verse today the translators have chosen to use the word ‘justice’ as being the thing for which people hunger and thirst. Justice is certainly part of it, but the Greek word has a much broader meaning than that. It is basically everything good and right that characterises the kingdom of God. The word is often translated by the word ‘righteousness’, that is to say everything that is in tune with God’s will. Everything that is best. The big question is: “Why doesn’t everyone hunger and thirst for everything that is best if God promises to satisfy us?” Surely, it’s obvious that everyone would want that. But, sadly many Christians don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness. They are happy to attend church regularly and make a financial contribution, but hungering and thirsting hardly describes their attitude towards God. The reasons for this are many but often their attitude is affected by distraction. They do love God but they are really busy with their family, work, hobbies or sport. None of those things are necessarily bad, but God wants us to put him and his kingdom first. When we reflect on the incredible way God can bless our lives surely we should start hungering and thirsting for him. When we do so, we have the incredible promise that we will be satisfied. Question Do you hunger and thirst for God’s kingdom? If not, why do you think that might be? Prayer Loving God, give me a deeper desire for you. Give me such a longing for your kingdom that I will hunger and thirst for your will. Amen
10/4/20233 minutes, 37 seconds
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October 3rd - Matthew 5:5

Matthew 5:5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. It’s impossible to exaggerate the revolutionary nature of Jesus’ words. He was introducing his disciples to a totally new upside-down kingdom. This Beatitude reminds me of the words of Mary’s song of praise when she was pregnant with Jesus. She sang: “His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.” (Luke 1:51-52) The kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in was going to be shaped by obedience to God’s will, not by earthly power, prestige and influence. The key to God’s kingdom is humility. Martin Luther wrote: “Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing of him.” It is when we recognise our frailty and weakness that God is able to make something of us. Humility is a vital quality in every part of life. For example, the person who pretends that they know everything is unteachable. But the person who recognises that they are ignorant, puts themselves in the best possible position to gain knowledge. JC Ryle was the first bishop of Liverpool and he wrote: “Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity.” Our relationship with Christ needs to begin with us freely acknowledging our inadequacies and failures. He is then able to forgive us and renew us by his Spirit. He can then give us gifts that will enable us to serve him effectively. But as long as we are hanging on to our self-confidence and pride the Lord is powerless to bless us. Humility is the door through which we enter into this amazing new kingdom that Jesus established, in which the love, joy and peace of God are in control. The power structures of the world no longer have any relevance because God is King. Question What has helped you to understand humility in your own life? Prayer Lord God, forgive the foolishness of my pride. Help me to become increasingly humble as I live for you. Amen
10/3/20233 minutes, 26 seconds
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October 2nd - Matthew 5:4

Matthew 5:4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. If you listen to the news regularly you will be well aware that a lot of mourning goes on in our world. It always has. Today there will be people experiencing the agony of losing a loved one. Their world has suddenly been turned upside down. There are also millions of people mourning because they have been forced to leave their homeland. There are said to be nearly 300 million migrants across our world, forced to leave their homes because of war, famine or persecution. I cannot begin to imagine how horrifying it must be to live with such complete insecurity. This Beatitude does not claim that God will suddenly make all sadness disappear. But he is the God who meets with us and transforms all our experiences. Through the years I have visited many homes just after a terrible accident has happened or a relative has suddenly died. It’s very difficult to find words to say on such occasions, but I have always found incredible peace in being able to tell people that God is with them in the middle of their crisis. We have been able to pray and thank God that he will never leave our side. There can be no greater comfort than that. In these brief sayings we cannot possibly know all that was in Jesus’ mind when he said them. He was probably also thinking of those who mourn because of their sin. We all have good reason to mourn in that way. We have let God down in our thoughts, words and actions. We should definitely mourn when we think of our failings, but we don’t need to wallow in our sense of failure. Jesus came to offer his forgiveness to everyone who genuinely mourns because of their sin, and is willing to repent and live a new life. Thank God for the comfort that he is willing to give us. Question In what ways have you experienced God comforting you when you have been through a difficult time? Prayer Loving God, thank you for the comfort that you give me as I face the challenges and difficulties of life. Amen
10/1/20233 minutes, 20 seconds
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October 1st - Matthew 5:3

Matthew 5:3 Jesus said: “God blesses those who are poor and realise their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” This is the first of Jesus’ famous sayings at the start of his Sermon on the Mount, popularly known as the Beatitudes. It takes us right to heart of Jesus’ Good News. It’s vital that we understand what Jesus was actually saying, and also what he was not saying. He was definitely not saying that poverty is a wonderful thing, because it isn’t. Poverty is a tragic state that limits life and opportunity and causes real suffering to those who experience it. Jesus was talking about people who realise that they are unable to cope without God. They recognise that they can only be helped by God reaching out to and blessing them. The truth is that God longs to bless everyone, but he is unable to do so until we realise our need. All the time we imagine that we can cope by ourselves, God cannot get close to us. The wonderful thing about this saying of Jesus is that he is not promising his blessings in the distant future. His blessings come here and now to the person who is open to him. The moment we recognise our need of him, God is ready to bless us. And his blessing is to admit us to his kingdom. Once again this isn’t something distant from us but happens wherever God is allowed to be in charge. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.” God’s kingdom comes wherever we welcome God as King. That can happen in our lives right now if only we will admit that we need him, and are willing to open our lives to him. Question Are you willing to recognise your complete need of God today? Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, I welcome you into my life. I have failed in so many ways and displeased you. Please forgive me and help me to commit every part of my life to you. Amen
10/1/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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September 30th - Deuteronomy 31:7-8

Deuteronomy 31:7-8 Moses said to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous!...Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Forty years before Moses spoke these words, Joshua had been one of twelve spies who had been sent into the promised land. Moses had asked them to make an assessment of Canaan and ten of the spies brought back an overwhelmingly negative report. They drew attention to the great height of the people who lived in the land and the size of their walls which, they claimed, even reached up to the sky! The people were, not surprisingly, thoroughly demoralised and concluded that the best thing to do would be to race back to slavery in Egypt. Only two of the spies brought a positive report - Joshua and Caleb. As a result, the people were condemned to 40 years in the desert and only Joshua and Caleb were eventually allowed to enter the promised land. Although Joshua had 40 years to prepare for this moment, it was still a huge challenge. He needed considerable courage. Moses knew he was the right man to lead the people, but he also knew he couldn’t do it alone. He needed to know God had not only gone ahead of him, but would stay with him as he led the people into Canaan. It's a wonderful privilege when we know what God wants us to do. Perhaps it is to teach children about God, work with the homeless, pastor a church or set up a business. Whatever it is, you will need courage. Every job that God gives us to do involves challenges. We may struggle to get all the people and resources we need. We will probably confront people who are negative about the work we are doing. In order to be strong for God, we, like Joshua, need to know that God has gone before us to prepare the way, and that he will be with us on every step of the journey. Question - In what way does the knowledge of God’s presence with you give you courage? Prayer - Lord God, thank you that when you give me a job you always go before me and stay right beside me. Give me courage as I serve you today. Amen
9/30/20233 minutes, 33 seconds
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September 29th - Deuteronomy 30:11-12, 14

Deuteronomy 30:11-12, 14 Moses said: “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.” We are all sinners and are very conscious of our failings. So it is very easy for us to feel overwhelmed by the invitation to live for God. Just like Isaiah, we feel utterly unqualified for such a role. But here Moses encourages the people to believe that they could do it. It wasn’t too difficult for them. God’s commands were not out of reach. They wouldn’t need to make a special visit to heaven or cross the seas to discover it. It was immediately available to them. This is a really important message. So often, people put off the challenge to obey God today because they feel it’s too difficult to take on at the moment. They want to give it more time. Life is rather busy just now so they think it would be better to wait until the holidays, the children have left home, retirement…or some other distant time. Moses would say to us: “Act now. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect.” Moses himself tried to wriggle out of obeying the Lord. He was, after all, on the run for murdering an Egyptian for many years. That’s why he fled to the desert and was working as a shepherd. He felt spectacularly ill equipped to do the job that God wanted him to do. He needed to learn that even a murderer with a speech impediment was able to serve God. It wasn’t too difficult for him, if he only trusted the Lord. Question - What is it that God is calling you to do for him today? Prayer - Lord God, thank you that you call me to serve you and you also enable me to do so. Amen
9/29/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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September 28th - Deuteronomy 14:22-23

Deuteronomy 14:22-23 Moses declared: “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honoured—and eat it there in his presence.” Giving one tenth of your income to the Lord was a principle established from the earliest days. In Genesis 14:20, Abram offers a tithe to Melchizedek, the king of Salem. Moses was concerned that this should now be the basis of the people of Israel’s life in the promised land. There are two main reasons why it was important. Firstly, it was a fundamental part of their worship. As they brought a tithe of their corn, wine, oil, cattle or sheep to God, they were recognising that everything had come from his hands in the first place. Secondly, the tithe was intensely practical. The Levites were not to be given land because their responsibilities were to serve the Lord. So they were completely dependent on the support of others, and the tithe was a way of supporting them. Additionally, Moses said, the tithe was to be used to support foreigners, orphans and widows. In the Old Testament, we hear about a number of different tithes that the people were to bring to God and, on top of that, they were encouraged to bring free-will offerings. People often ask what we should bring to God today. I don’t believe there is any law about this, but there are principles which can helpfully guide us. In 2 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul tells us that Christians should give their gifts to God regularly, proportionately and cheerfully. God is constantly blessing us, so there needs to be a regular (rather than once in a blue moon) response. The gift we give also needs to bear relationship to God’s generosity to us. A tithe may be right, but we may be in a position to give considerably more. And giving in the right spirit is essential. If you can’t give cheerfully, it would be much better to not give at all. Giving reluctantly is a miserable business for the giver and the receiver. We serve a God who has only ever given his gifts joyfully to us - and he wants us to walk in his footsteps. Question - What are the key principles which guide your giving to the Church and to charities? Prayer - Loving God, thank you for your amazing generosity to me. Help me to be increasingly generous and cheerful in my giving. Amen
9/28/20233 minutes, 49 seconds
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September 27th - Deuteronomy 13:1-3

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 Moses declared: “Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— do not listen to them.” As Moses prepared the people of Israel to enter the promised land, he was deeply concerned that they might be led astray from God. He knew their security and prosperity depended on them staying faithful to the God who had brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness. But he also knew they would hear other voices. There would be people who would set themselves up as prophets and who would try to lure the people away to worship other gods. He wasn’t wrong! The Old Testament tells us about frequent occasions when the people were persuaded to follow other gods. They lurched from one god to another with sickening regularity. The situation wasn’t so very different in the New Testament. The gods might have taken on a different appearance, but the early Church was continually challenged by people who tried to draw Christians away from God. The apostle Paul was forever battling with false teachers. He said to the Church in Thessalonica: “Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). He knew the Church would only survive if Christians were alert to potential false teaching. Today we have access to more voices than ever. This can lead to enormous blessing but also desperate confusion. It is important that we listen carefully to the apostle Paul’s words. We shouldn’t ever scoff at those who claim to speak in God’s name, but we should test what they say. Many so-called prophets are merely peddling their own thoughts and convictions. But having examined what they say in the light of scripture, we should then hang on to everything that is good. Question - When you hear a word of prophecy how do you test it? Prayer - Loving God, thank you for the ways in which you speak to me. Help me to test everything that I hear, and to hold on to what is good. Amen
9/27/20233 minutes, 27 seconds
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September 26th - Deuteronomy 14:2

Deuteronomy 14:2 Moses declared: “You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.” The word ‘holy’ means something that is special. Moses wanted the people of Israel to know they were so special to God that they needed to live a life that was distinct from the people around them. They were to ensure that all that they did was pleasing to him. They followed strict dietary rules and ensured that they did everything possible to avoid getting mixed up in other religions. They belonged to the God of Israel and only to him. They were his own special treasure. When Peter wrote his first letter, he used very similar language to describe the Church. In 1 Peter 2:9, he wrote: “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” The Church has not been called to offer the sacrifices that the people of Israel were commanded to give. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross has made them unnecessary. And the Church is no longer required to follow meticulous dietary laws. But Christians are still called to be holy. Our lives are not to be shaped by the world’s morality and materialism, but by God. Living holy lives is never easy. Every day our society pressures us to be shaped by its goals and values. We need to keep close to the Lord and ensure his Spirit is guiding our decisions and actions. As J B Phillips put it in his famous translation of Romans 12:2: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within.” Question - In what ways do you stand up to society’s pressures to conform to its moral and materialistic expectations? Prayer - Loving God, thank you that your Spirit is helping to remould my mind. Help me to be strong in living for you today. Amen
9/25/20233 minutes, 29 seconds
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September 25th - Deuteronomy 11:26

Deuteronomy 11:26 Moses declared, “Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse!” The book of Deuteronomy gives us the sermon that Moses preached as the people gazed at the promised land. God had told Moses that he would not enter into Canaan and, so, he stood on Mount Nebo looking at the land which God had promised to give to his people. He knew God well enough to know he longed to bless them. He wanted this new chapter in the life of the people of Israel to be full of blessing and happiness, but he also knew it was down to the choices they would make. They had the power to choose a blessing or a curse. This is a stark message, and it is precisely the one that we face today. We can choose God’s blessing, but we are not forced to. We have free will. If we choose to go our own way, that’s up to us. It might seem as if we are not making any particular decisions sometimes. However, stand back from your life for a moment. Everything you do, from the moment you wake up, is guided by your own personal decision. It could all be very different. From time to time, it’s good to take a fresh look at our activities and relationships to ensure we are making the best use of our time and deliberately avoiding the pitfalls. Moses’ greatest concern was that the people would forget about God. They might even try out some of the other gods worshipped by people in the promised land. Their decisions would have consequences. If they made bad decisions, they would be cursed. As much as God longed to bless them, he wouldn’t be able to do so if they disobeyed his commands. We live in a society in which there are many false gods and alluring distractions. We need to be as clear as Moses: ultimately, the choices we make can lead to blessing or curses. Question - What are you going to do today to ensure that you make the right decisions? Prayer - Lord God, thank you that you are constantly with me as I live today. Help me to make good decisions, that will honour you and build your kingdom. Amen
9/24/20233 minutes, 28 seconds
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September 24th - Deuteronomy 10:18-19

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 “God ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. You must fear the Lord your God and worship him and cling to him.” I’ve never been a widow or an orphan but, for two years, I was a foreigner, living in India. It was the most amazing experience. Everything felt different. The language, constantly warm weather and hot curries were just the start of it. Indian customs and attitudes to life were totally unfamiliar. I was surrounded by the love and generosity of the Indian family I lived with, but there was no disguising the fact that I was a foreigner. I belonged to another country. And I can easily understand how foreigners can feel vulnerable and threatened. Moses reminded the people of Israel that they had once been foreigners themselves. They lived in Egypt for 400 years and, although that was an extremely long time, they never belonged there. They were always foreigners, and were constantly threatened and abused. Moses was keen the people should remember their past and ensure they were always generous to the foreigners that they met. Like orphans and widows, they were likely to be the most vulnerable members of society. Everyone is important to God. Everyone deserves to be cared for and loved, and so God’s people need to take special care of those who are vulnerable and weak. From beginning to end, the Bible consistently challenges people who love God to have a special care for those who are vulnerable. As James 1:27 puts it: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” Let’s go into today with our eyes open to those in need, and to the opportunities we may have to show them care and support. Question - Which groups of people are particularly vulnerable in our modern society? What more could you do to help them? Prayer - Lord God, help me to show your love to the vulnerable members of my community. Amen
9/23/20233 minutes, 31 seconds
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September 23rd - Deuteronomy 8:10-11

Deuteronomy 8:10-11 “When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.” Moses preached this sermon just before the people of Israel crossed into the promised land. An exciting new life awaited them, but it was going to be different from anything they had ever known. For a generation they had been wandering in the wilderness, and so their new settled life in Canaan would present lots of entirely new challenges. Firstly, it would be easy for them to forget about the Lord. They would be so busy setting up home, establishing their farms and bringing up their families that they would simply neglect the God who had brought them to the promised land. And in forgetting about the Lord, they would then neglect to obey all the loving regulations that he had given them to ensure their happiness, peace and security. It’s no different today. It is incredibly easy to forget about the Lord, not through any deliberate intention to do so, but simply because life gets busy. Perhaps we get a new job, move to a different area, have an illness or take up a new hobby and, suddenly, our faith gets sidelined. We need to beware. The second danger which Moses identified was pride. When the people arrived in the promised land, saw their flocks, herds and beautiful homes, they might conclude that they had been responsible for their success. They might totally forget their history and the way in which the Lord had led them to their new life. That is something that can just as easily happen to us as well. When we look at our possessions, it is very tempting to pat ourselves on the back and think that our success is our own work. Like the people of Israel, we need to remember our history. We need to look to the Lord who gave us life and ensure that we are living our lives for him. Question - In what ways might your responsibilities and possessions distract you from following the Lord? Prayer - Loving God, thank you for your generosity to me. Help me always to remember that everything I am and have has come as a gift from you. Amen
9/22/20233 minutes, 34 seconds
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September 22nd - Deuteronomy 8:10-11

Deuteronomy 8:10-11 Moses preached this sermon just before the people of Israel crossed into the promised land. An exciting new life awaited them, but it was going to be different from anything they had ever known. For a generation they had been wandering in the wilderness, and so their new settled life in Canaan would present lots of entirely new challenges. Firstly, it would be easy for them to forget about the Lord. They would be so busy setting up home, establishing their farms and bringing up their families that they would simply neglect the God who had brought them to the promised land. And in forgetting about the Lord, they would then neglect to obey all the loving regulations that he had given them to ensure their happiness, peace and security. It’s no different today. It is incredibly easy to forget about the Lord, not through any deliberate intention to do so, but simply because life gets busy. Perhaps we get a new job, move to a different area, have an illness or take up a new hobby and, suddenly, our faith gets sidelined. We need to beware. The second danger which Moses identified was pride. When the people arrived in the promised land, saw their flocks, herds and beautiful homes, they might conclude that they had been responsible for their success. They might totally forget their history and the way in which the Lord had led them to their new life. That is something that can just as easily happen to us as well. When we look at our possessions, it is very tempting to pat ourselves on the back and think that our success is our own work. Like the people of Israel, we need to remember our history. We need to look to the Lord who gave us life and ensure that we are living our lives for him. QUESTION In what ways might your responsibilities and possessions distract you from following
the Lord? PRAYER Loving God, thank you for your generosity to me. Help me always to remember that everything I am and have has come as a gift from you. Amen
9/22/20233 minutes, 41 seconds
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September 21st - Deuteronomy 7:7

Deuteronomy 7:7 The people of Israel were very special to God. But it is only natural to ask the question: “Why?” Why should God favour one particular nation over all the rest? In his sermon, Moses considers this question and concludes that the only possible explanation was love. The Israelites were not powerful and strong. Far from it, they formed a little nation that had spent much of its life in slavery. But God decided to show them his love. The verb that Moses used in Hebrew is really interesting, because it’s not a typical religious word. It literally means ‘to hang on to’ someone. God decided to hang on to the people of Israel through thick and thin. He had made a commitment to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and he wasn’t going to let them down. Love is always a miraculous gift. You can’t buy love or force it to happen. That’s true of all our human relationships and supremely true of God’s relationship with us. God loves you and me and there is nothing we can do to change that fact. He is determined to hang on to us whatever happens. John 3:16 reads: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” If you want an explanation for God’s love, I can’t give it to you. He simply loves us and there is nothing we can do to make him love us more or less. But the key question is: What are we going to do with God’s love? We can’t stop him loving us, but we have every right to reject him. For much of the time, the people of Israel defiantly went their own way. We often do exactly the same. But the best possible response is to recognise God’s love and live in the light of it, so we can share his love with the broken and confused world in which we live. QUESTION How do you respond to the fact that God loves you, and in what ways might it shape your actions today? PRAYER Lord God, thank you for your perfect love for me. Help me to share your love generously today in my words and actions. Amen
9/21/20233 minutes, 5 seconds
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September 20th - Deuteronomy 6:20-21

Deuteronomy 6:20-21 One of the greatest blessings of my life has been that, for much of the time, I have lived with small children – and one of the joys that children bring is in their questioning. I have noticed this is particularly intense around the age of four or five. Their theological questioning leaves learned professors standing! They want to know who made God, where heaven is, why God stopped making dinosaurs and why he allows suffering. And all before eight o’clock in the morning! You may well have had a similar experience. Moses anticipated that children would ask questions. He knew they may ask why God had given his people so many laws. And Moses was keen that the children shouldn’t be fobbed off with slick answers. They needed to be told about the turbulent history of the people of Israel. They needed to know how God had saved their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Although it happened a long time ago, they needed to understand the great things that God could do. He was the God who saved the people of Israel then, and he is still able to do amazing things today. We need to welcome the questions of our children and grandchildren. Taking them seriously is crucial. We won’t always have perfect answers, but it is vital we value their questions and give them a thoughtful and clear answer, so that they will come to understand just how great God is. QUESTION What do you think is the best way of helping children learn more about God? PRAYER Lord God, I thank you for the awesome responsibility of teaching children about you. Help me to always be patient in answering their questions. Amen
9/20/20233 minutes, 9 seconds
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September 19th - Deuteronomy 6:4-6

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 These words stand right at the heart of the Jewish faith. In Jewish worship, they are repeated in both morning and evening prayers. They are a continual reminder of the fundamental truth that there is only one God, and he deserves total devotion. These words are known as the Shema and the people of Israel were commanded to keep repeating them to their children. They were so fundamental that Moses told them to: “talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). They were also told to write the words on tiny fragments of paper and put them in leather pouches called phylacteries, which were tied around their hands and foreheads. The words were also placed on the doorposts of their homes. They did everything possible to ensure these words were not forgotten. Repetition is often a characteristic of a loving relationship. I regularly tell my wife and children that I love them. I don’t do this because I think that they are unsure of my love, but because love is such a fundamental part of the life we share together. The same is true when we worship God. Most of what we pray and sing about is very similar to what we expressed the last time we worshipped! However, we need continually to repeat the truths that form the foundation of our lives. Amid all the rush and busyness of life, they are words which pull us back to the fundamentals of our faith in God. QUESTION To what extent could you claim to be loving God with all your heart, soul and strength? PRAYER Loving God, help me to put you at the centre of my life. Amen
9/19/20233 minutes, 27 seconds
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September 18th - Deuteronomy 4:9

Deuteronomy 4:9 In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses was preparing the people of Israel for their entry into the promised land. What they were about to experience was something entirely different from the many years they had spent in the wilderness. They would be able to settle down and enjoy food and drink. It would be a land truly flowing with milk and honey. But they would also face enormous obstacles. The people who lived in Canaan were not going to welcome them with open arms. Moses sought to equip them for this experience and, at the heart of his message, was their need to remember their history. They had incredible experiences of God’s provision in the 40 years since they left Egypt, and they needed to keep reminding themselves of all that he had done. More than that, they needed to tell their children and grandchildren about it, too. It’s interesting how often the Bible addresses the issue of forgetting. It clearly isn’t a new problem! Moses could foresee that people would quickly get involved in their new way of life in the promised land, and the memory of the wilderness years would be lost. So he took careful steps to ensure they kept remembering all that God had done. We may often find ourselves in exactly the same place. Life is so full and challenging that it is the easiest thing in the world to forget how God has blessed us. The best answer to this is to keep sharing our testimony, and listening to the testimonies of others. We have all experienced times of sadness, bereavement, success and new birth. Through all of this, God has been faithful to us and given us the strength to carry on. We strengthen one another by sharing what God has done. QUESTION What have been some of the key moments in your Christian life that you need to keep remembering? PRAYER Lord God, thank you for all the ways in which you have blessed my life. May I never forget the ways in which you have strengthened me. Amen
9/18/20233 minutes, 18 seconds
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September 17th - Deuteronomy 1:30-31

Deuteronomy 1:30-31 In the opening chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people of their history. The journey from the Nile river to the promised land of Canaan took less than two weeks. When they arrived in Kadesh-barnea, just south of the border with Canaan, Moses encouraged them to enter the land that God had promised to give them. But the people were cautious. They suggested spies should be sent in, to find out whether it was safe to proceed. When the 12 spies returned, most focused on the problems. They reported that the inhabitants of the promised land were taller and more powerful than they were, and their towns and walls were enormous. They even said they had seen giants. This was enough to scare the Israelites, who suggested it would be better to head back to slavery in Egypt. The fact that two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, gave a very positive report did nothing to calm their nerves. God responded angrily. The spies’ report was based on 40 days in the promised land, and so God punished them with 40 years in the wilderness. They had to wait for a new generation to arise, and only Joshua and Caleb were permitted to enter into Canaan. Even Moses himself was not allowed to enter it. The message of Moses’ sermon is that God can be trusted completely. He goes in front of us, preparing the way and, so, there is no need to be anxious. He cares for us in just the same way as a father cares for his children. We don’t need to investigate every aspect of the future. We can simply trust ourselves to him. QUESTION As you think of your own future are you convinced that God can be trusted to lead you in the right way? PRAYER Loving God, thank you that you promise to be with me every moment, whatever the future holds. Help me to place my complete confidence in you. Amen
9/17/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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September 16th - Deuteronomy 1:12-13

Deuteronomy 1:12-13 Moses was a great man. He had been appointed by God to lead the people out of Egypt, but there was no way in which he could do this by himself. He needed lots of help, particularly from wise people who could help to resolve all the difficult issues that arose. From all the very honest accounts we have of those 40 wilderness years, we know the people were often in a bad mood. They frequently complained about the harsh conditions and often wished they could turn the clock back and return to slavery in Egypt. But what we read about was probably just the tip of the iceberg. Grumbles were part of daily life, and it simply wasn’t possible for one person to handle them all. The appointment of well-respected people from each tribe was a wise way forward. Although it is sad to hear that there were so many problems during those wilderness years, this story should offer us a degree of reassurance. We shouldn’t be surprised when we face problems and bickering. It’s sad, but it’s often a fact of life. We need to ensure we have effective ways of handling these challenges. Every leader needs to be able to share their concerns with others. The load needs to be spread. This is precisely why the New Testament teaches us that the Church is the body of Christ, made of people with very different gifts. If one person thinks that they can run the church all by themself, they are deeply mistaken. We need a wide range of gifts and abilities to do God’s work. That’s what Moses discovered and it’s still true today. QUESTION If you are Christian leader, how do you share the load? If you are not a Christian leader, please pray that your leaders will find effective ways of sharing their responsibilities. PRAYER Loving God, I thank you for the gift of leadership and pray that those whom you call as leaders will work effectively with others. Amen
9/16/20233 minutes, 52 seconds
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September 15th - Deuteronomy 1:2-3

Deuteronomy 1:12-13 Moses was a great man. He had been appointed by God to lead the people out of Egypt, but there was no way in which he could do this by himself. He needed lots of help, particularly from wise people who could help to resolve all the difficult issues that arose. From all the very honest accounts we have of those 40 wilderness years, we know the people were often in a bad mood. They frequently complained about the harsh conditions and often wished they could turn the clock back and return to slavery in Egypt. But what we read about was probably just the tip of the iceberg. Grumbles were part of daily life, and it simply wasn’t possible for one person to handle them all. The appointment of well-respected people from each tribe was a wise way forward. Although it is sad to hear that there were so many problems during those wilderness years, this story should offer us a degree of reassurance. We shouldn’t be surprised when we face problems and bickering. It’s sad, but it’s often a fact of life. We need to ensure we have effective ways of handling these challenges. Every leader needs to be able to share their concerns with others. The load needs to be spread. This is precisely why the New Testament teaches us that the Church is the body of Christ, made of people with very different gifts. If one person thinks that they can run the church all by themself, they are deeply mistaken. We need a wide range of gifts and abilities to do God’s work. That’s what Moses discovered and it’s still true today. QUESTION If you are Christian leader, how do you share the load? If you are not a Christian leader, please pray that your leaders will find effective ways of sharing their responsibilities. PRAYER Loving God, I thank you for the gift of leadership and pray that those whom you call as leaders will work effectively with others. Amen
9/15/20233 minutes, 31 seconds
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September 14th - Psalm 5:3

Psalm 5:3 Let’s be clear that God loves to hear from us at any time. Morning, noon or night he loves to hear our prayers. But there is something very important about us coming to God in the morning when the day is still new. It’s a fresh page and so far we have done nothing to mess it up! It may well be that you find it better to have a quiet reflective time with God later in the day and that’s fine. But I urge you not to miss the opportunity to start the day with