Monday, 29 February 2016

40 Acts - Day 17: ' PROPOSE '


Ladies! Today's the day to pop the question if you're so inclined! (KIDDING! But do let us know if there is a 40acts wedding – that would be a first!) Today is a leap year, so technically you have been given the gift of extra time. What do you propose to do with it? How might you use today for someone else's benefit?


‘But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’ (Matthew 6:3) 
and 
‘Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you’ 
(Matthew 5:42 NIV).


‘You Christians only do good because it makes you feel good,’ says every undergrad who’s just discovered Nietzsche. And they’re generally wrong. Most of the time, if you’re British, giving makes you feel faintly embarrassed and massively awkward.

Dear Lord, please don’t let them think that I think I’m better than them because I’m doing this. I should look him in the eye. Show that I truly see him. But not in a poverty tourism way. Aaaa!

I know. Cry me a river. But whether it’s giving to a person sleeping rough (with its practical, ethical and social complexity) or an organisation (with the attendant guilt for spending more on coffee than on charity), giving can easily feel horrific.

This may feel counter-intuitive (and, hey, on a leap day that’s OK), but I say let’s revel in the discomfort of giving. On this leap day, this strange gift of a day, why not take advantage of the discomfort and let it spur us to do something different from what we usually do – what we’re usually comfortable with, in terms of giving?

If you are a spontaneous, random act of kindness and personal touch giver, try something different today. Set up a boring direct debit to a charity that will never send you a sponsor letter. Better still, give to an institution so large there is no danger of them making you feel special. Support administration costs that make mission possible or the infrastructure that pulls nations from poverty. Think about Matthew 6:3 and separate your giving from what works best for you.

If you are an organised, researched, systematised giver, today’s a good day for you to break out too. Just give, without thinking. Without comforting control and predictability.

Decide today that if someone asks, you’ll give, Matthew 5:42 style.

Don’t argue. Just try it. It’s a special day.

Today's blog was written by Jonty Langley. 
Find out more about them and support their chosen charity here

To see today's challenge in full - Click HERE


Morning Prayer - 29 February 2016

Lent

Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my lamentation. Hearken to the voice of my crying, my King and my God, for to you I make my prayer. In the morning, Lord, you will hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal to you, and look up. For you are the God who takes no pleasure in wickedness; no evil can dwell with you. The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all those that work wickedness. You destroy those who speak lies; the bloodthirsty and deceitful the Lord will abhor.

But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy, I will come into your house; I will bow down towards your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness, because of my enemies; make your way straight before my face. For there is no truth in their mouth, in their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, and they flatter with their tongue. Punish them, O God; let them fall through their own devices. Because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them sing out their joy for ever. You will shelter them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; and with your favour you will defend them as with a shield.

Psalm 7
O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all who pursue me, and deliver me, Lest they rend me like a lion and tear me in pieces while there is no one to help me.

O Lord my God, if I have done these things: if there is any wickedness in my hands, If I have repaid my friend with evil, or plundered my enemy without a cause, Then let my enemy pursue me and overtake me, trample my life to the ground, and lay my honour in the dust. Rise up, O Lord, in your wrath; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies. Awaken, my God, the judgement that you have commanded.

Let the assembly of the peoples gather round you; be seated high above them: O Lord, judge the nations. Give judgement for me according to my righteousness, O Lord, and according to the innocence that is in me. Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.

God is my shield that is over me; he saves the true of heart. God is a righteous judge; he is provoked all day long. If they will not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent his bow and made it ready. He has prepared the weapons of death; he makes his arrows shafts of fire. Behold those who are in labour with wickedness, who conceive evil and give birth to lies. They dig a pit and make it deep and fall into the hole that they have made for others. Their mischief rebounds on their own head; their violence falls on their own scalp. I will give thanks to the Lord for his righteousness, and I will make music to the name of the Lord Most High.

Genesis 47.1-27
So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, ‘My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; they are now in the land of Goshen.’ From among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants are shepherds, as our ancestors were.’ They said to Pharaoh, ‘We have come to reside as aliens in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, we ask you, let your servants settle in the land of Goshen.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know that there are capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.’

Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob, and presented him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many are the years of your life?’ Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my earthly sojourn are one hundred and thirty; few and hard have been the years of my life. They do not compare with the years of the life of my ancestors during their long sojourn.’ Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had instructed. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependants.

Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe. The land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. When the money from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan was spent, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, ‘Give us food! Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.’ And Joseph answered, ‘Give me your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.’ So they brought their livestock to Joseph; and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. That year he supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock. When that year was ended, they came to him the following year, and said to him, ‘We cannot hide from my lord that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands. Shall we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food. We with our land will become slaves to Pharaoh; just give us seed, so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.’

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe upon them; and the land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he made slaves of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy; for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh, and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land. Then Joseph said to the people, ‘Now that I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh, here is seed for you; sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.’ They said, ‘You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be slaves to Pharaoh.’ So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth. The land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s.
Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.

Hebrews 4.14-5.10
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honour, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Silence may be kept.

The Collect
Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfection we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Saturday, 27 February 2016

40 Acts - Day 16: '' ADOPT '


Adoption is a central concept in the Christian faith. The Bible says we've been adopted into God's family and taken under his wing. With that in mind, how could you extend that generosity to others who may lack family, friends, role models or guidance?


If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, 
but do not have love, I gain nothing. 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, 
it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
(1 Corinthians 13: 3–7 NIV)

‘How can a creepy show like The Moomins be on children’s TV?’

Growing up in the 1980s, that was one of two questions constantly on my mind.

The other question was ’Am I adopted?’

Ok, you may not have asked yourself about the Moomins, but wondering if you are adopted has to be one of those things that’s crossed everyone’s mind at some point in their life.

When I was 13 my dad passed away and it hit home that if anything were to happen to my mum, adoption could become a reality for me. It also made me realise that not only was I blessed with a strong family unit but I was part of a church where someone was always looking out for me.

At the time, I thought my church was full of weirdos and life’s rich tapestry was there in full colour but, like family, they were my weirdos and the reality is that none of us are ‘normal’ – not even you or me.

There was Edith with her speaking clock in a carrier bag that would go off at the same time every week, Harry who had no concept of personal space, and the ‘hanky man’ who danced and waved his handkerchief during worship times – the unique blend of humanity that’s in every church in one way or another (if you can’t think of anyone odd, then you’re probably that person!).

But each of them looked out for me and expressed the kind of genuine love that the Bible talks about in a way that changed my life. They all took time to ask how I was, encourage me or simply talk to me when it wasn’t comfortable for them to do so. That is what kept me in my faith. Not theology, not judgement, not the Sunday service, but being shown a love that is talked about in 1 Corinthians 13 – a love that adopts.

I have two nephews who are adopted and I appreciate that it’s a big commitment that not all of us are cut out for, but we can all play our part. Whether that’s taking a neighbour under our wing, helping someone who is homeless, visiting someone who is lonely, speaking to a young person at church or coaching a child struggling at school. Imagine the impact it would have on someone who has no support around them.

That is the kind of adopting we can all do.

Today's blog was written by Paul Chenery from TLG.
Find out more about them and support their chosen charity here.

To see today's challenge in full - Click HERE


Morning Prayer - 27 February 2016

Lent

George Herbert, Priest, Poet, 1633

Psalm 3
Lord, how many are my adversaries; many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say to my soul, ‘There is no help for you in your God.’ But you, Lord, are a shield about me; you are my glory, and the lifter up of my head. When I cry aloud to the Lord, he will answer me from his holy hill; I lie down and sleep and rise again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of hordes of the peoples that have set themselves against me all around.

Rise up, O Lord, and deliver me, O my God, for you strike all my enemies on the cheek and break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord: may your blessing be upon your people.

Psalm 25
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me. Let none who look to you be put to shame, but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated. Make me to know your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you have I hoped all the day long. Remember, Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, but think on me in your goodness, O Lord, according to your steadfast love.

Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore shall he teach sinners in the way. He will guide the humble in doing right and teach his way to the lowly. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. For your name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful to my sin, for it is great. Who are those who fear the Lord? Them will he teach in the way that they should choose. Their soul shall dwell at ease and their offspring shall inherit the land. The hidden purpose of the Lord is for those who fear him and he will show them his covenant. 

My eyes are ever looking to the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am alone and brought very low. The sorrows of my heart have increased; O bring me out of my distress. Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin. Look upon my enemies, for they are many and they bear a violent hatred against me. O keep my soul and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have put my trust in you. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you. Deliver Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Genesis 46.1-7, 28-end
When Israel set out on his journey with all that he had and came to Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s own hand shall close your eyes.’

Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and the goods that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph to lead the way before him into Goshen. When they came to the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, ‘I can die now, having seen for myself that you are still alive.’ Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, ‘I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, “My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.” When Pharaoh calls you, and says, “What is your occupation?” you shall say, “Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors”—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.’

Hebrews 4.1-13
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, ‘As in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest” ’,  though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’ And again in this place it says,  ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ 

Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—‘today’—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ 

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. 

The Collect
 King of glory, king of peace, who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honours to be a priest in the temple of his God and king: grant us also the grace to offer ourselves 
with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Friday, 26 February 2016

40 Acts 2014 - Day Fifteen: ' MORE '


It's easy to do the bare minimum, isn't it?

Or even to simply get the job done.

Our time is precious, after all, and our energy is limited. But there's a universal secret to delighting others: unexpected and undeserved abundance. Going above and beyond. Putting in 110%. Walking the extra mile.

Pick your metaphor and dive right in today.


I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfil His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.
(Philippians 4:12–13 AMP)

Going the extra mile is not just a phrase in our household. It is a lifestyle. Based on Philippians 4:12–13, we have always raised our daughters with the knowledge and belief that they are able to do above and beyond what they think they are physically capable of, because of the God that we serve. In this way, going the extra mile isn’t extraordinary; it becomes the norm.

So how does going the extra mile impact on our lives?

Our family are big givers but, just as we give to and invest in others, God has poured his abundant blessing into us, often from the most unexpected of sources!

Our daughters both mentor and speak into the lives of young people, sharing personal struggles to reassure them that ‘pastor’s kids’ live a normal life too! They share about the challenges they have met as Christian teens (now adults) in a world that doesn’t particularly encourage faith! Kofi and I share our personal ups and downs regularly from the pulpit, to show what God has done in our own lives to encourage others. This would not be possible through our own strength. For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfil your purpose] for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13 AMP)

For our family ‘going the extra mile’ means being real and shining the spotlight on the less than perfect parts of ourselves to encourage and strengthen others. In being available to be used by God and trusting him wholly, our openness and vulnerability has always been met with love and appreciation. So step out of your comfort zone; lean entirely on your faith and trust God to have the rest.

Today's blog was written by Kofi and Jayne Banful from Praise Christian Centre
Find out more about them and support their chosen charity here.


To see today's challenge in full - Click Here

Morning Prayer - 26 February 2016

Lent

Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me out of the roaring pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a rock and made my footing sure. He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many shall see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God. How great your designs for us! There is none that can be compared with you. If I were to proclaim them and tell of them they would be more than I am able to express.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire but my ears you have opened; Burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you have not required; then said I: ‘Lo, I come.
‘In the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will, O my God; I delight to do it: your law is within my heart.’

I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know. Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth from the great congregation. Do not withhold your compassion from me, O Lord; let your love and your faithfulness always preserve me, For innumerable troubles have come about me; my sins have overtaken me so that I cannot look up; they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed who seek after my life to destroy it; let them be driven back and put to shame
who wish me evil. Let those who heap insults upon me be desolate because of their shame. Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; let those who love your salvation say always, ‘The Lord is great.’

Though I am poor and needy, the Lord cares for me. You are my helper and my deliverer; O my God, make no delay.


Psalm 41
Blessed are those who consider the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble.
The Lord preserves them and restores their life, that they may be happy in the land; he will not hand them over to the will of their enemies.

The Lord sustains them on their sickbed; their sickness, Lord, you will remove. And so I said, ‘Lord, be merciful to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.’ My enemies speak evil about me, asking when I shall die and my name perish. If they come to see me, they utter empty words; their heart gathers mischief; when they go out, they tell it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me, against me they devise evil, Saying that a deadly thing has laid hold on me, and that I will not rise again from where I lie. Even my bosom friend, whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and raise me up, that I may reward them. By this I know that you favour me, that my enemy does not triumph over me. Because of my integrity you uphold me and will set me before your face for ever.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Genesis 45.16-end
When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, ‘Joseph’s brothers have come’, Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.” You are further charged to say, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” ’

The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments. To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel along the way.’

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ He was stunned; he could not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Israel said, ‘Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.’


Hebrews 3.7-end
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
‘Today, if you hear his voice,  do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness,  where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.”  As in my anger I swore,   “They will not enter my rest.” ’ 

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’ 

Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

The Collect
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

40 Acts - Day 14: ' Acknowledge '


Your grandma, your English teacher, your next-door neighbour from all those years ago... All of us know someone who influenced or impacted on our lives for the better.

Today is about acknowledging their generosity, and returning the favour.


Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbour for his good 
and for his true welfare, to edify him (to strengthen him and build him up spiritually). 
(Romans 15:2 AMPC)

It would be hard for me to get across how persistently problematic I was as a child to those who were responsible for my development in life. Since having my own kids, I have discovered a new level of respect for my parents, but I have to admit my teachers had a lot to put up with too. I’m sure many of them must have wondered what they’d done to deserve a John Keskeys in their class and even questioned their vocation. I had that incredible ability to hijack each class, much to the dismay of my teachers. In my drive to squeeze all the fun I could out of each day, I simply did not understand the word ‘consequences’. This was my school life and the root of my teachers’ daily vexation until I left – never to return – or so I thought.
 
I became a Christian at 15 after an encounter with God, and after doing a lot of other reconstructive work in me God eventually revealed his agenda for me and the teachers I’d tormented for so many years.
 
‘I want you to go back to visit all of your teachers and say sorry for the way you treated them.’ Oh dear. I could feel the sense of embarrassment already at the thought of going back to my primary school aged 17.
 
I remember Mrs Badger’s face when I walked through the door of the headmistress’s office. I have tears in my eyes as I recall the moment she looked up and without introduction she said, ‘Hello John.’ I hadn’t seen her in 10 years.
 
The five minutes in her office ‘repenting’ went some way to repairing the damage I’d caused. Much more than that, my words told a bigger story – that the huge investment of time and effort she’d made in me had eventually paid off, even if it had taken a decade to get there. It felt more like obedience than generosity but Mrs Badger graciously received the ‘thank you’ wrapped up in a big sorry.
 
Make today an opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of those who have spent themselves investing in us.

Today's blog was written by John Keskeys from Stewardship
Find out more about them and support their chosen charity here.
To see today's challenge in full - Click HERE

Morning Prayer - 25 February 2016

Lent

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth. My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
 I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing. Lions may lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good. Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them all will the Lord deliver them. He keeps all their bones, so that not one of them is broken. But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord ransoms the life of his servants and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

Genesis 45.1-15
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Send everyone away from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honoured in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.’ Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Hebrews 3.1-6
Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also ‘was faithful in all God’s house.’ Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.

The Collect
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Wednesday, 24 February 2016

40 Acts - Day 13:' Second Fiddle '




For some of us, relinquishing control and sacrificing our own agendas or plans is difficult.

It means that (a) we don't get our own way and (b) we have to trust someone else or put them first.

But practising playing second fiddle sometimes is important and generous: it shows the other person that you recognise their worth.


Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. 
Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 
Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 
(Romans 12:10 The Message)

Fifteen years ago my husband and I visited Bangladesh with World Vision to meet our 11-year-old sponsor child in one of the world’s worst slums, on the edge of Dhaka. We were excited to meet her and confident about our role, which was to gather facts for a book that might encourage people to give and thereby improve conditions for some of the world's forgotten.

We loved the fact that to Jesus there were no unimportant people. However exhausted, however pressured by those in authority, he set aside his own needs to concentrate on whoever stood in front of him, showing respect and love for the marginalised, the children, the women and those who had physical problems which literally placed them out of bounds.

His example had been the solid ground on which we had tried to live our lives and perhaps we saw visiting Shanaj and her family as an opportunity to demonstrate this.

We had not anticipated a lesson in what that really means.

I had taken gifts, colourfully wrapped, and we had both imagined handing them over to Shanaj and her brother and sister. Pictured their eyes shining as they excitedly tore off the paper.

It wasn't like that. After politely thanking me they calmly placed the unwrapped parcels behind them, and returned their attention to us.

I panicked. Had I broken some cultural rule? Did they not like the colour of the wrapping paper?

Oh no, our translator explained, they will be wanting more than anything to open their presents, but they have been taught to value the giver more than the gift.

So here we had it. Three children, the poorest of the poor, setting aside their own agenda to show respect and love to us because at that moment they wanted to demonstrate that we were the most important people in their world.

Today's blog was written by Bridget Plass.

Find out more about her and support her chosen charity here.

To see today's challenge in full - Click HERE

Morning Prayer - 24 February 2016

Lent

Psalm 35
Contend, O Lord, with those that contend with me; fight against those that fight against me. Take up shield and buckler and rise up to help me. Draw the spear and bar the way against those who pursue me; say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’

Let those who seek after my life be sham d and disgraced; let those who plot my ruin fall back and be put to confusion.
Let them be as chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord thrusting them down.
Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
For they have secretly spread a net for me without a cause; without any cause they have dug a pit for my soul. Let ruin come upon them unawares; let them be caught in the net they laid; let them fall in it to their destruction. Then will my soul be joyful in the Lord and glory in his salvation.

My very bones will say, ‘Lord, who is like you? You deliver the poor from those that are too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who would despoil them.’

False witnesses rose up against me; they charged me with things I knew not. They rewarded me evil for good, to the desolation of my soul. But as for me, when they were sick I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting; When my prayer returned empty to my bosom, it was as though I grieved for my friend or brother; I behaved as one who mourns for his mother, bowed down and brought very low. But when I stumbled, they gathered in delight; they gathered together against me; as if they were strangers I did not know they tore at me without ceasing. When I fell they mocked me; they gnashed at me with their teeth. O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my soul from their ravages, and my poor life from the young lions. 

I will give you thanks in the great congregation; I will praise you in the mighty throng. Do not let my treacherous foes rejoice over me, or those who hate me without a cause mock me with their glances. For they do not speak of peace, but invent deceitful schemes against those that are quiet in the land. They opened wide their mouths and derided me, saying ‘We have seen it with our very eyes.’

This you have seen, O Lord; do not keep silent; go not far from me, O Lord. Awake, arise, to my cause, to my defence, my God and my Lord! Give me justice, O Lord my God, according to your righteousness; let them not triumph over me. Let them not say to themselves, ‘Our heart’s desire!’ Let them not say, ‘We have swallowed him up.’

Let all who rejoice at my trouble be put to shame and confusion; let those who boast against me
be clothed with shame and dishonour. Let those who favour my cause rejoice and be glad; let them say always, ‘Great is the Lord, who delights in his servant’s well-being.’ So shall my tongue be talking of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.

Genesis 44.18-end
Then Judah stepped up to him and said, ‘O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, “Have you a father or a brother?” And we said to my lord, “We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.” We said to my lord, “The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.” Then you said to your servants, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.” When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, “Go again, buy us a little food”, we said, “We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” Then your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my grey hairs in sorrow to Sheol.” Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the grey hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became surety for the boy to my father, saying, “If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.” Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.’

Hebrews 2.10-end
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
‘I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’ 

And again,
‘I will put my trust in him.’

And again,
‘Here am I and the children whom God has given me.’

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. 

The Collect
Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.



Tuesday, 23 February 2016

40Acts - Day Twelve: ' Chocolate Tuesday '


Chocolate. Everywhere.


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 
(Galatians 5:22–23 ESV)

Back in 2013 I had a little idea. I called my sister and told her I wanted to buy 100 Easter eggs and give them away – would she like to come? She was so excited, especially as we rode up and down the supermarket aisles filling the trolley with some of her favourites! That weekend, we gathered a few more friends and headed into the local community – what fun! 

As we handed out the Easter eggs, we found people started to smile, laugh, talk and respond. Conversation flowed and I caught a glimpse of how an act of kindness could be a catalyst for building new relationships and forming stronger communities. That day sharethemiracle was born, and last Easter teams across the UK reached out to over 15,000 people in their communities, often with chocolate Easter eggs and invitations.

It’s amazing how well people respond to free chocolate. It’s something everyone can get involved in and a great conversation starter. I can genuinely say from my own experience that you’ll quickly see that, far from being sceptical, people start to respond with a wonderful openness that will inspire you! In one exchange, a woman was near to tears as she accepted an egg. Her husband was very unwell in hospital and the egg we gave her just happened to be his favourite. In another, some schoolchildren were handing out eggs, and as one lady accepted an egg she told them that the last time she’d seen a member of their school they were trying to knock down her garden fence! She saw this as a real act of reconciliation.

We celebrate the greatest act of kindness at Easter, so why not grab the challenge, reach out to your community and prepare to be amazed by what happens!

Today's blog was written by Dan Usher from Share the Miracle UK
Find out more about them and support their chosen charity here.

To see today's challenge in full - click HERE

Morning Prayer - 23 February 2016

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr, c.155

Psalm 50
The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth; our God comes and will not keep silence. Consuming fire goes out before him and a mighty tempest stirs about him. He calls the heaven above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful, who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.’

Let the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
‘I will testify against you, O Israel; for I am God, your God. 
 I will not reprove you for your sacrifices, for your burnt offerings are always before me.
 I will take no bull out of your house, nor he-goat out of your folds,
 For all the beasts of the forest are mine, the cattle upon a thousand hills.
 I know every bird of the mountains and the insect of the field is mine.
 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the whole world is mine and all that fills it.
 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfil your vows to God Most High.
 Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall honour me.’

But to the wicked, says God:
‘Why do you recite my statute and take my covenant upon your lips, Since you refuse to be disciplined and have cast my words behind you? When you saw a thief, you made friends with him and you threw in your lot with adulterers. You have loosed your lips for evil and harnessed your tongue to deceit. You sit and speak evil of your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things have you done, and should I keep silence? 

Did you think that I am even such a one as yourself?
But no, I must reprove you, and set before your eyes the things that you have done. You that forget God, consider this well, lest I tear you apart and there is none to deliver you.
Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honours me and to those who keep my way will I show the salvation of God.’

Genesis 44.1-17 
Then he commanded the steward of his house, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the top of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph told him. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, ‘Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, “Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup? Is it not from this that my lord drinks? Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.” ’

When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them. They said to him, ‘Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover, the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.’ He said, ‘Even so; in accordance with your words, let it be: he with whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you shall go free.’ Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.

Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house while he was still there; and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, ‘What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that one such as I can practise divination?’ And Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord’s slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.’ But he said, ‘Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the one in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.’

Hebrews 2.1-9
Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere, ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honour, subjecting all things under their feet.’

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

The Collect
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Polycarp boldness to confess the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world and courage to die for his faith: grant that we also may be ready to give an answer for the faith that is in us and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Monday, 22 February 2016

40Acts - Day 11 ' L.O.V.E. '



Love means a lot of different things to different people. It might look like hanging up the bathroom towels after you use them, instead of leaving them on the floor. It might look like a special surprise. It might look like a day spent in someone's company. It might just be a pat on the back and a smile. But each of us is built to give and receive love. It's a basic need. So give it to someone today.


God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. 
(John 3:16 NCV)

Without oxygen and food and water, we can't survive. But there’s something else. Something just as crucial to our survival.

In one orphanage, it was discovered the babies were not thriving. And, even though they were being fed properly, some were dying. Researchers finally uncovered the reason. These babies were not being held or touched. They were not being loved.
                   
Without love a baby will not survive. And neither will we.

Love, like oxygen, is vital.

We use the word LOVE about all kinds of things – we love our spouse. Or a kitten. Or a holiday by the sea. Or a film. Or a cup of tea. Or a chocolate biscuit.

We use the word lightly. What is love? Hasn’t it got it to be more than that…?

It’s why I wrote this entry in my devotional:

What is love? Is it a feeling in your heart?

The Bible says Love is much more: it is patient and kind, never bears a grudge, doesn’t demand its own way, always wants the best for someone else, never puts itself first, never gets jealous, isn’t proud, doesn’t boast, isn’t rude, always hopes, never stops.

Oh dear, that’s quite a list. Who can love like that?

Only one.

He left his father and his throne and came to live with us. And showed us what love was really like.

Because, you see, Love isn’t mostly a list. It’s a Person.

May the One whose name is Love,
The One who made us from love, to love,
May he fill our hearts
And our souls
And our minds today.
And may we be open doors
Through which He may love the world.

Today's blog was written by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
Find out more about her and support her chosen charity here.

To see today's challenge in full - click Here

Morning Prayer - 22 February 2016

Lent

Psalm 26
Give judgement for me, O Lord, for I have walked with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind. For your love is before my eyes; I have walked in your truth. I have not joined the company of the false, nor consorted with the deceitful. I hate the gathering of evildoers and I will not sit down with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, that I may go about your altar, To make heard the voice of thanksgiving and tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Lord, I love the house of your habitation and the place where your glory abides. Sweep me not away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty, Whose hands are full of wicked schemes and their right hand full of bribes. As for me, I will walk with integrity; redeem me, Lord, and be merciful to me. My foot stands firm; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.

Psalm 32
Happy the one whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.
Happy the one to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

For I held my tongue; my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long. Your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up like the drought in summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful make their prayers to you in time of trouble; in the great water flood, it shall not reach them.

You are a place for me to hide in; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance.
‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye. Be not like horse and mule which have no understanding; whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.’

Great tribulations remain for the wicked, but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord. Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Genesis 43.16-end
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, ‘Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.’ The man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, ‘It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys.’ So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the entrance to the house. They said, ‘Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food; and when we came to the lodging-place we opened our sacks, and there was each one’s money in the top of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it back with us. Moreover, we have brought down with us additional money to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.’ He replied, ‘Rest assured, do not be afraid; your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your sacks for you; I received your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them. When the steward had brought the men into Joseph’s house, and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they had heard that they would dine there.

When Joseph came home, they brought him the present that they had carried into the house, and bowed to the ground before him. He inquired about their welfare, and said, ‘Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’ They said, ‘Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.’ And they bowed their heads and did obeisance. Then he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, ‘Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!’ With that, Joseph hurried out, because he was overcome with affection for his brother, and he was about to weep. So he went into a private room and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and controlling himself he said, ‘Serve the meal.’ They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. When they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

Hebrews 1
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’?

Or again,
‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’

Of the angels he says,
‘He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.’

But of the Son he says,
‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’

And,
‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.’

But to which of the angels has he ever said,
‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?

Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

The Collect
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Can't make it to church - 21 February 2016

Today is the second Sunday of Lent - the forty days of reflection and preparing ourselves for the celebration that is Easter. But of course, before eh celebration comes the awfully bloody and brutal goings on that are Good Friday and the crucifixion. Many people think of Lent as  time for 'giving up'
but in fact it is a time of 'taking up' - taking up the time to reflect and taking up our own crosses and denying ourselves (Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23,Mark 8:34) - so the many who think of the giving up of chocolate during Lent - might be denying themselves, but they are selling Lent short!

Today is also an 'Ember Day' - A day when we pray for those who are preparing for ordination (and this is a long path and so during these times (four periods of three days) we pray for those testing calling, training and preparing for ordination (well, I do!).

So what are the readings telling us today? The Old Testament find God and Abram drawing up a legal contract as part of Abram's call - for soon he will no longer be 'Abram' (noble or exalted father) by 'Abraham' (father of a multitude or nation).

To show Abram He was serious about this, God entered into a legal contract - for passing between the two lines of halved animal is saying, 'If I break this covenant, may it be the same for me as these animals!' This is 'The Covenant' - - circumcision is the sign of the Covenant, not the constructing and enacting of it. Here we have the promise of the 'Promised Land' making it's appearance too - for there is always great promise when we enter into relationship with God.

Paul, as ever brings us something to mull over too. Paul speaks of those who oppose Jesus, the Christ, from the position of having been one of those who did the same thing. Those who live for themselves, those 'whose god is their belly'. Everyone has to choose who they are going to serve: Words from Bob Dylan's song 'Gotta serve somebody''

You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

And like Abram, we can serve God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), or we can serve the gods of this age and our own ambitions, desires and excesses. Each choice brings benefits - with God it is in the 'Now' with the extra added focus on eternity with Him. For those in the world, they get what they get now and then ... well, we'll have to talk about that sometime - but as Paul puts it: 'Their end is destruction!'

Doesn't leave much wiggle room there, does he?


And on to the Gospel - Luke 13 talks about life, death - repentance and judgement. In verse five we find. "But unless you turn away from your sins, you will all die too.” - Jesus talk about the religious people, those who look like they are true believers and points out that the inner person lives the truth about themselves and that sometimes the way we behave in public denies the secrets of our own hearts. Who do we do things for? God or us? 

Jesus, when warned, tells those who came that He would de what He came to do and to honour God  - and more besides, He was going to go into Jerusalem, that place where so many of the prophets had perished and there, in the lion's den, where the cries of Hosanna would ring, then would the final act begin. This is a statement of intent and a pointer to Palm Sunday - Jesus knew He would not be killed where He was (for I assume He was in Bethany, the Home of Mary, Marthas and Lazarus) because Jerusalem was the place it was all going to kick off - end - and three days later - Begin.

What covenants have we made? What plans does God have for us? Are we willing to take them upon ourselves? Who are you going to choose to serve?

The Collect
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Genesis 15.1-12,17-18
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.’ But the word of the Lord came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’ But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,"

Philippians 3.17 - 4.1
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Luke 13.31-35
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’





Saturday, 20 February 2016

Morning Prayer - 20 February 2016

Ember Day

Psalm 59
Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; set me high above those that rise up against me. Save me from the evildoers and from murderous foes deliver me. For see how they lie in wait for my soul and the mighty stir up trouble against me. Not for any fault or sin of mine, O Lord; for no offence, they run and prepare themselves for war. 

Rouse yourself, come to my aid and see; for you are the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Awake, and judge all the nations; show no mercy to the evil traitors. They return at nightfall and snarl like dogs and prowl about the city. They pour out evil words with their mouths; swords are on their lips; ‘For who’, they say, ‘can hear us?’ But you laugh at them, O Lord; you hold all the nations in derision. For you, O my strength, will I watch; you, O God, are my strong tower. My God in his steadfast love will come to me; he will let me behold the downfall of my enemies.

Slay them not, lest my people forget; send them reeling by your might and bring them down, O Lord our shield. 
For the sins of their mouth, for the words of their lips, let them be taken in their pride. 
For the cursing and falsehood they have uttered, consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more. And they shall know that God rules in Jacob, and to the ends of the earth. And still they return at nightfall and snarl like dogs and prowl about the city. Though they forage for something to devour, and howl if they are not filled, yet will I sing of your strength and every morning praise your steadfast love; For you have been my stronghold, my refuge in the day of my trouble. To you, O my strength, will I sing; for you, O God, are my refuge, my God of steadfast love.

Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul is athirst for you. My flesh also faints for you, as in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So would I gaze upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory.

Your loving-kindness is better than life itself and so my lips shall praise you. I will bless you as long as I live and lift up my hands in your name. My soul shall be satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips, When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night. For you have been my helper and under the shadow of your wings will I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand shall hold me fast. But those who seek my soul to destroy it shall go down to the depths of the earth; Let them fall by the edge of the sword and become a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all those who swear by him shall be glad, for the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

Genesis 43.1-15
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go again, buy us a little more food.’ But Judah said to him, ‘The man solemnly warned us, saying, “You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.” If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, “You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.” ’ Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?’ They replied, ‘The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, “Bring your brother down”?’ Then Judah said to his father Israel, ‘Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die—you and we and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame for ever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.’

Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man—a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.’ So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.

Galatians 6
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.

Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. 

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

The Collect
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Collect
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.