Daily devotions

During this time of services at the West Church being suspended a series of short texts will be provided to help with meditation and strengthen faith.                          

Friday 29th May 2020

“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

“When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’

“But Simon answered and said to Him, `Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.` And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it he fell down at Jesus` knees, saying, `Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord !`

“For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’ So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” Luke 5:1-11

Picture the scene. Jesus standing on the shore surrounded by a crowd of people listening to the word of God, He noticed the empty boats and the fishermen washing their nets, this was a sure sign that they had stopped fishing because they had caught nothing. Jesus got into Simon`s boat and asked him to go out, away from the shore and to cast out the nets. I can imagine Simon Peter`s frustration. In verse 5 it shows, however, that Simon listens to Jesus and obeys His instructions to let down the nets, this would be the wrong time of day to expect a catch. Simon’s obedience resulted in a large number of fish being caught.

In verse 8 Simon is aware that he has seen a miracle. God at work through Jesus. Simon also realizes his own sinfulness expressed in his words to Jesus ‘Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ and the realization of Jesus’ holiness. Simon knew that Jesus had healed the sick and driven out demons but he was amazed that Jesus cared about his day to day routine and understood his needs. This is true for us too. Jesus desires that all receive salvation through Him.

Jesus does not drive away the sinner who recognizes his or her wretched condition. He accepts the confessing sinner and offers that person the opportunity of reconciliation with God .Then He sends the forgiven sinner out to do the work of God to catch men: Peter`s commission would be to rescue men from the danger of sin.

We too are called to tell others about Jesus, who was crucified for our sins, how He died and rose again. We all have our own story about how and when we believed that Jesus was our Lord and Saviour. It might have been in Sunday School, through a Youth Organization or for some later in life. Maybe it included a losing of faith or leaving church when other interests pulled you away but in time you were led back into fellowship with Christ.

Then Jesus told them this parable:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:3-7

When it comes to throwing out our nets the issue is not how good we are at speaking to people but like Simon whether we are obeying Jesus whenever His holy spirit directs us to tell the gospel story.

In this season of Pentecost let us welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives. Let us recall Jesus’ last words to the disciples:

‘But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Sumaria, and to the ends of the earth’. Acts 1:8

These commands are also spoken to us.

Lord Jesus at this present time many people need to hear the gospel message. By the power of your Holy Spirit at work in us, let us proclaim the Good News message of salvation. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen     

Thursday 28th May 2020

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”

Isaiah 61:1

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”

Acts 13:38-39

I think we would be extremely foolish if we were to deny that pain and suffering are a very real part of many people’s lives. For some the pain might be physical, as a consequence of chronic illness; for others it might be emotional suffering, such as for those who grieve the loss of a loved one. The Roman poet, Virgil, said “sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt” meaning “there are tears at the heart of life itself; and death presses on man’s mind”.

How do we reconcile this with the Christian message? For we know that even among those who walk in the light, there can still be dark times. Many of us still feel imprisoned – whether by our habits and dependencies; by poverty; by suffering in an abusive relationship; by social exclusion; or by a past which overwhelms us. Where is the freedom we were promised?

It is tempting to believe that this is somehow our fault; that if we are not experiencing the freedom that Christ promised then we are doing something wrong; that we are not good enough or that we have failed.

But placing our faith in Christ is not some magical panacea that instantly makes all hardship vanish. We are still physically in the world and subject to the tribulations and sorrows that go along with that.

But whereas before we found ourselves alone in the darkness, we now have a guiding light we can look towards. We have a model in Christ, the Suffering Servant (“He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” – Isaiah 53:3); one who endured not only physical pain but who experienced the agony of separation from God on the cross (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Matt. 27:46). His death and resurrection, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17, means that “this light, temporary suffering is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

Let us heed the words Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor imprisoned for his work against the Nazi party. He was executed in a concentration camp in 1945, just a few weeks before the end of the war. He had spent the previous two years in captivity and, from Tegel military prison around Christmas 1943, uncertain of his future, he wrote a series of morning prayers for his fellow prisoners from which the following is an excerpt.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and to focus my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.

Lord Jesus Christ, you were poor and in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.

You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me when all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is your will that I should know you and turn to you.
Lord, I hear your call and follow;
Help me.

O Holy Spirit,
Give me faith that will protect me from despair, from passions, and from vice;
Give me such love for God and men as will blot out all hatred and bitterness;
Give me the hope that will deliver me from fear and faint-heartedness.

Amen”

Wednesday 27th May 2020

Father, Son and Holy Spirit just as you are one help us to be one, one church, one faith, one body of Christ.
John 17:1-11

Jesus explicitly claims to be one with God. What does this oneness with God mean? For one thing it means that Jesus and God share the same glory. Glory comes from being in the presence of God. So Jesus reflects the Father’s glory because he was in the presence of God. Oneness also means that when Jesus spoke he was communicating the word of the Father. So both the signs and explanations that we read about in the Gospel of John are both not just from Jesus but also from God and in this sense Jesus and God are one. But oneness goes beyond what Jesus did and said. The scripture passage tells us that Jesus has been with God from before creation. In the beginning Jesus already existed with God. So oneness means that everything Jesus said and did was from God with whom Jesus has always existed and will exist forever. So, Jesus talks, acts, and exists in oneness with God.
Knowledge that leads to Eternal Life. Jesus spoke not just from scripture, but from God himself. And it is through the knowledge of God that Jesus can provide what we need to receive the gift of eternal life. So Jesus not only reveals knowledge of God to us but reveals to all believer’s knowledge that results in eternal life.

So what is this knowledge of God that Jesus reveals to all believers? The knowledge Jesus was giving the believers throughout the Gospel of John was contained in those two simple words, “I am”. So, if we believe that Jesus and God are one then we will have eternal life.  What Jesus wants and asked the Father to do is to make all of his believers one just as Jesus and God are one. Here Jesus is calling for the unity of the church. The oneness of the church is not something that we can do alone without a clear resolution. What we need is a gift. Unity in the church is a gift from God. So there is one thing we can all do. We can imitate Jesus and pray. Pray that the entire church will confess that Jesus is one with God and trust that one day God will make all of us one with Christ
The song “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Do we really walk with each other, walk hand in hand? Do we really work with each other, work side by side? We will if all of praise, honor and glory is given the one Father, Son and Holy Spirit whom we worship today.  And that is why everyone who believes that Jesus Christ in one with God is welcomed to be one.

O God, you are the giver of life. We pray for the church in the whole world. Give strength to those who are searching together for that kind of obedience which creates unity. Heal the divisions separating your children one from another, so that they will make fast, with bonds of peace, the unity which the Spirit gives. Amen.

Tuesday 26th May 2020

“He who guards his lips guards his life,

He who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  (Colossians 4:6)

 

The proverbs of Solomon were written by him or collected by him from others.  They were seen as guidelines for Godly living.  They are as relevant today as they were in Solomon’s time.

How often do we ‘put our foot in it’ or want ‘the ground to open up and swallow us’ when we blurt out what was better left unsaid?  We fall easily into the trap of making hurtful and untrue comments.   “The tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts” (James 3:5)

At this time of stress in our lives we need to keep calm and support each other.  We need to be empathetic with those suffering separation from their loved ones, those who are alone, mentally distressed, bereaved or struggling with physical disabilities or drug addiction.

It is a time to act on the good news of the love of God.  That is what Paul, in prison at the time, was writing about to the Colossian and other churches who were mixing up their Christian teachings with paganism and other philosophies.  When speaking about God, he implies, make it positive and ‘tasty’ (‘seasoned with salt’) and full of grace.

Even in our current adversity we need to keep positive and remember that in spite of our fears, doubts and thoughtless words God loves us and, through Jesus Christ’s example, He is there to help us walk in his ways.

Monday 25th May 2020

Thy Kingdom Come

(Ascension - Pentecost)

Through the centuries Christians have gathered at this time for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Thy Kingdom Come, a global prayer movement, picks up on that. Between the 21st May and 31st May we pray, throughout the world, that the Spirit will inspire us and equip us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with family, friends, communities and networks. When we do that, we are following the example of the disciples in Acts 1 v14, who, in a ground-breaking manner, united in constant heartfelt prayer.

When we accept Jesus as Lord great change takes place in our lives as we accept Him as Saviour, Master and Friend. ‘If anyone is in Christ he is in a new creation,’ writes St. Paul (2 Corinthians 5 v17). We have the capacity to demonstrate God’s transforming love and to bring change to the lives of those whose needs are the greatest.

Let us pray, today, for those who are in need of care across our world.

Gracious and most loving God, we thank you for the love and grace shown to us in Jesus Christ. We thank you for the fellowship of other believers in our churches, whatever their denomination. We thank you for our families, friends, and our communities. Lord, never before will many of us have had our precious families and friends so much on our minds as in recent months. Separation, through social isolation, has brought many of us together and for that we give you thanks. If we have taken each other for granted in the past, let us never do that in the future.

We come to you at this difficult time to pray for the poor, the elderly, the sick and those who are lonely. None of those people should suffer as a consequence of the pandemic. We pray for the families, friends and colleagues left grieving for those who have died in recent weeks. Surround them with Your love and ours. We pray for those working in the caring professions and the services who have been looking after our loved ones with courage.

We pray that we can show others, through our own way of living and being, how rich our lives are when we walk in Your way and take the path that You would have us take.  Always, give us the courage, Lord, to express our love for You openly and without hesitation. Let us rejoice. Let us show our love for you.

Lord, we pray that You may be invited into the hearts and souls of those who have not sought you out, those who may have spurned You. We pray that they open their eyes so that they may see the wealth of goodness that loving You will bring to them.

Heavenly Father, across the world, there has never been a better time for us to care for each other. Let us always act with kindness and thoughtfulness towards others. Let us be willing to remove barriers in communities, between communities, in countries and between countries.  We pray that we work for the common good of all in Your name, the name of Jesus our Saviour.                                                                                                                    Amen

Friday 22nd May 2020

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He   separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness He called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day.” Genesis 1:3 - 4

Night and darkness can overstimulate our imagination. Fear and worry grow, making mountains from molehills.

When you were a child did you like to have a bedside lamp burning or a light shining from the hallway because you were afraid to be alone in the dark? Perhaps you dreamt of monsters or unknown horrors ready to pounce from the shadows.

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

“I have seen you in the sanctuary and behold your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

“They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.

“But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.” Psalm 63 v 1-11

This Psalm of David tells us about his sleepless and uncomfortable nights, we can relate to this as we also can have many reasons why we cannot rest. Fear of what lies ahead, decisions that must be made, the illness of a loved one, financial difficulties, and loneliness, to mention a few. We welcome daylight when it appears. Think back to what gave you comfort and a feeling of security when you were a child, the light from the lamp piercing the darkness.

Our light is Jesus.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

Jesus is the true light pointing us to Him and our heavenly Father.

We should follow David’s example in Psalm 63 by turning our thoughts to God. David remembered all the ways God had already helped him and he greeted the next day with songs of praise.

Sleepless nights can be turned into a quiet time of reflection, thanksgiving and worship Let us use disturbed nights when we feel helpless by turning to God asking for His help and guidance making a point to thank Him for his many blessings day by day. This is a sure way to find rest and peace.

Thank you Jesus that you are the light in our darkness help us to walk in your light for you are our guiding light giving us courage and strength in our daily lives. Amen.     

Thursday 21st May 2020

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”

1 Kings 19:11-13

This passage takes place shortly after the dramatic showdown on Mt Carmel (18:20-39), when Elijah had challenged the priests of Baal to demonstrate that their god was more powerful than Jehovah. Following their abject failure, Elijah had all the priests of Baal slain (18:40) and now Elijah is on the run from the vengeful queen Jezebel (19:2-3).

Elijah knows well the power of his God; even before the spectacle on Mt. Carmel, Jehovah had brought a young boy back to life (17:22) at Elijah’s request. And yet, Elijah instantly recognised that God was in neither the wind, the earthquake nor the fire but was instead to be found in the gentle whisper. As soon as he hears it (19:13) Elijah recognises the presence of God (as he shows by covering his face) and goes out to receive instruction. This is a man completely in tune with God.

It is no surprise that this passage appealed to John Greenleaf Whittier. A prominent anti-slavery campaigner, Whittier was a member of the Quaker movement. Accordingly he shared with them a belief in the importance of a personal direct relationship with God, valued simplicity, honesty and non-violence and believed that faith had to be made manifest in one’s actions (“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” – James 2:17). In 1872, he wrote a poem railing against the intoxicating, showy vanity of modern religious experience and urged the reader to seek the “still, small voice” of God rather than chasing the “earthquake, wind and fire”. We sing the final verses of that poem as the hymn, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”.

We live in an era of 24 x 7 x 365 rolling news; our senses are assailed on all sides by shouted opinions and ultimately meaningless distractions; and many of us find that the sheer pace of modern life overwhelms us. When we feel helpless, constantly tossed about, what wisdom and relief we find in John Greenleaf Whittier’s call to quiet contemplation and devotion.

 “Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.”

Wednesday 20th May 2020

Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12.  Reflection:

Home” a place where normally you are happy to get back to on a daily basis. Whether it be large or small, it is where most people like to be at the end of our normal day to day activities. Yet as we know we have spent so many weeks now in our homes lately as we shelter in order to keep safe from the pandemic virus. In the background of virtual classrooms, webinars, broadcasts, on line meetings etc. we see many differing backgrounds, from boardrooms to small cottages. Life for all aspects can be interesting to see.  For some, home is comforting and safe. Other homes cry out under the weight of loneliness, boredom, and depression. And there are those who have no home at all, a circumstance that grows as people lose jobs, “couch surfing” is impossible, and even begging on the streets yields nothing but an empty pail.

The early disciples acted to rectify inequalities in distribution, prayerfully appointing respected members of the community to make sure everyone got what they needed. They were determined to be like Jesus Christ, to everyone who came to them. In addition to a suitable earthly dwelling, they worked to provide the kind of “home” that Jesus taught about – one not made by human hands. In the dwelling place of God, each one of us has a room. There we truly belong and are accepted as we are, with no outcasts, no condemnation, and no shame. Just as it was in the early church, this crisis has brought so many inequalities to the fore.

The Gospel challenges us to think of ways that we can use the resources we have to change that in even a small way. What can we do to help provide food, safety net, healthcare, solace, and sense of belonging to those who have so little? How can we be Christ to others? The issues are overwhelming and growing more the longer this crisis lasts. We cannot solve it, by ourselves but we cannot be still. We can help make a difference. We can pray for all the essential workers. Remember, Jesus told us, Whoever, believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater than these.”

Spirit of truth, come close to us. Unite us into the body of Christ. Enable us to worship God in Spirit and in truth. Help us to support and encourage each other. Help us to love as we are loved. Spirit of truth, come and abide in us.  Amen.

Tuesday 19th May 2020

Deuteronomy 33:27  Moses song.

“The eternal God is your refuge,

And underneath are the everlasting arms.

He will drive out your enemy before you,

Saying, ‘Destroy him!’

 John 16:33

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

In adversity it is expected that we show courage and fortitude but we do not always feel courageous or strong particularly when we face a threat to our own lives or those of our loved ones.  In Deuteronomy Moses, nigh unto death, sings a song of encouragement to his sons and asks God to bless them individually for their talents. Verse 27 is part of the blessing on Asher who will need courage for protecting the Israelites from their enemies.  Asher is exhorted to put his faith in God; to be his refuge in adversity.

This chimes with John 16:33 where Jesus, having heard the disciples say that they believed in him, tells them to ‘take heart’.  We might say ‘Take courage, be not afraid.’  Jesus, and through Him, the Father will be our refuge.  We need this faith, this strength, this courage as we face the current invisible enemy.  Then when it is defeated we shall find peace.

Monday 18th May 2020

Time for God.

Now people of Israel, listen to what the Lord your God demands of you: Worship the Lord and do all that he commands. Love him, serve him with all your heart and obey all of his laws. I am giving them to you today for your benefit. Deuteronomy 10: 11-13. 

Sometimes, we might ask, ‘What does God want me to do?’ Moses tells us that we should revere Him, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him and observe His commands.

The coronavirus pandemic is shaping our lives at the moment with the necessary rules and regulations, set out by our Government, aiming at saving lives.  Some people go to work and apply the social distancing rule, others stay at home because that same rule cannot be applied in their workplace. Some stay at home because they need to ‘shield’, while others volunteer to support those who are ‘shielding’. Our lives have been turned upside down.

Until recently, when the daily lives of many of us consisted of rushing about in a physical, mental and emotional sense from one end of the day to the next, some of us were beginning to ask what it was all about. We had become lost, unhappy, frustrated, ill-at-ease and wanted to jump off the turning wheel of constant activity, but did not know how to do so or felt guilty at the thought.   

It is not our will that we are caught up in the coronavirus pandemic. Nor has it been the will of many of us to have been caught up in another pandemic: that of busyness, a condition which has crept into our lives silently in recent years and has become part of our culture. How often do we say, ‘I haven’t had time’. How often have we done nothing to resolve the fact that we have not had time – time for our families, friends and most importantly, time for God. 

In recent weeks many of us have had more time on our hands than we could ever wish for because of COVID-19. We are doing as we have been asked. We are staying at home.

I wonder how many of us have used those extra hours to spend more time with God – in worship, in prayer or in reading the Bible? The more we get to know God, the more we shall live as God would wish us to live.

Today, let us take the time to place ourselves in God’s hands. Do as Moses asks. Revere God, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him and observe His commands. In God we can find our peace.

Amen.