Daily devotions

Even though services at the West Church have been resumed a series of short texts will still be provided to help with meditation and strengthen faith.

Friday 18 September 2020

Is.61,8: “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.”

1Thess.4,6: “No one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins.”

Those who know God and call on Christ as Lord will surely manifest this by a strong desire to be honest in all dealings with others and honest in the practice of one’s work; to respect and protect the jobs and labours of others and indeed to promote them; in fact, for God to become the measure and end of all one’s doing.

It will be a desire accompanied, and issuing out of, prayer.

 

Thursday 17 September 2020

Gen.12,4: “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him.”

Gal.3,7: “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.”

Do we trust God with our future? Not with the future of our making, wishing, fearing, planning, but the future as it comes towards us in accordance with God’s word? Do we trust God who does as He says with our future? Faith does, and Abram was an example of it: “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him.”

To us God’s word is given in Jesus, in his words and his call: Follow me! When we trust God with our future because we know it to be in Christ (he died and rose for us!), we become liberated in the present to do things Jesus’ way, to see the demands of the times and serve them with love and gentleness, as ones concerned with giving without fear rather than worried about getting with much fear.

Do we trust God with our future? A task we find help for by immersing ourselves often in the life and words of the Word of God – Jesus Christ. 

 

Tuesday 15th September 2020

Genesis 1:11

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so.”

Psalm 65:9

“You care for the land and water it;

You enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water

to provide the people with corn

for so you have ordained it.”

Psalm 104:14

“He makes grass grow for the cattle,

And plants for man to cultivate-

Bringing forth food from the earth.”

 

“I’m parched.” “I’m starving.”

The world, God’s world is a beautiful place full of bounty and plentiful in resources to sustain God’s people.  David in Psalm 65 recognises the blessing of God’s abundance in providing water and food for his people.  Similarly in Psalm 104 there is described grass for cattle and good land to produce good crops. We rightly celebrate the harvest for we are very dependent on a plentiful supply of food.

But we are beginning to abuse and misuse the gifts of God.  We are wasteful. We pollute the air, land and the seas. We fell trees. We overfish. We kill bees.  What a mess we are making of God’s creation.

We need God’s help to teach us to protect, nurture and preserve the dwindling supplies of His world.  Nature would survive without us.  If we want to stick around we must live in harmony with God’s environment.

Prayer.  Lord help us to appreciate the blessings of your creation and by loving you and living in your ways we may make life sustainable for all people.

 

Friday 11 September 2020

Ps.39,12: “Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping.”

Mt.15,25: “The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.”

What David does in Ps.39 has become quite uncommon, in fact even unfashionable, in our own day. And that is that he takes the trouble he is experiencing personally. In the verses preceding verse 12 he says: “…for you are the one who has done this. Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. When you rebuke and discipline anyone for sin, you consume their wealth like a moth – surely everyone is but a breath.”

Today’s thinking tends to feel compelled to defend God’s goodness against such an assumption and to reassure us that God is never connected to our troubles in this way. But this is not the result of a better understanding of God and His word, it is the result of a widespread, and church-sanctioned, loss of a sense of personal sin and guilt.

Yet the sense of personal sin and God’s response to it leads David into ardent, fervent prayer for help – that is, he seizes upon God’s goodness and mercy in way which, for His faithfulness and justice in Jesus Christ, cannot and won’t fail.

Does the loss of a sense of personal sin account for the loss of the art of ardent, fervent prayer?

Luther said, “Would to God I could always pray with such ardour, for then I would always have this answer: ‘Your request is granted’” (see Mt.15,28!).

 

Thursday 10 September 2020

Jer.32,19: “Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind.”

1Tim.4,10: “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

That God sees the ways of all mankind – knows where they are coming from, what’s in them and where they are going – means that all mankind is answerable to God for them. As the second half of verse 19 continues: “you reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve.”

Or does God not see? Or will He look away? But if so, what of justice? And how can these ways (of all mankind) become just? What is “to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Lk.1,79)?

While there are those who hope that God will not see (leaving them to do things “their way” as they add sin to sin), there are those who hope, and long to hope, that the God who sees is the God who helps.

Does not the life, death and resurrection of Jesus warrant this exactly? Is not all of it, from his birth to his death and resurrection and in line with Old Testament prediction, saying ‘loud and clear’: “God has seen and He has come to help, and His help does not fall short”?

As Christ proved to be the Helper and Saviour to one like Zacchaeus, giving him grace and mercy by bearing his shame to make his ways just, so he is “the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

 

Wednesday 9th September 2020

Gospel Luke 9-1-6

“Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority, over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.’ Then they set out and went from village to village.”

We all want to give our families what they need, all the time. But we know there are times when that is not always easy to do. It can be very worrying. But today’s Gospel story tells us that we should always lean and trust God to provide for us and if we do our bit, then God has promised we will be provided for.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the disciples to go and do as Jesus was telling them to do? Tell people of the Kingdom of God, heal the sick. Jesus told them to take nothing. All they had was the belief that he had instilled into them the power and authority to be able to do what he was sending them out to do. It was Jesus expecting his disciples to trust in him. They did what was expected. They had absolute trust in God and in turn God provided the needful for the disciples. We need to be like the disciples and follow Jesus. We have many worries which bring us down, and we try to fix it ourselves first. If we only did what we should do and turn our worries over to God, then we would get the help much more quickly.  I know it’s a saying but it is quite obvious in the Christian world, “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Therefore, if we ask God and we turn to him even if we do not understand fully why we have the worries and cannot solve them. Then he will provide a solution to the problem. Maybe not right away but we will see the answer when it is the right time. And sometimes, it is not quite what we want but it will be God’s will for us.  May we always follow God’s will. And remember that God provides for us. all we have do to help is work in his name, trust in his ways, and love one another as he loves us.

Thank you Father that every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from You, Father. (James 1:17)

 

Tuesday 8th September 2020.

Exodus 20:16

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour”

2 Chronicles 18:15-22

“The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’

Then Micaiah answered, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master.  Let each one go home in peace.’’

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad.’

Micaiah continued, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing on his right and on his left.  And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ One said this and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’  ‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.

‘I will go and be a lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets,’ he said.

 ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord.  ‘Go and do it’”

Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body”

 

“It wasn’t me, honest.” “He did it.”  We all lie from time to time. As children we fear the wrath of our parents and teachers if we tell the truth about our misdemeanours.  Sometimes we lie openly without shame.  We can praise and compliment people patronisingly.  We can say what we think people want to hear or to curry their favour.

This is what happened to King Ahab in 2 Chronicles. He and Jehoshaphat, King of Judah sought the opinion of their prophets on whether to attack the Arameans in the city of Ramoth Gilead.  The prophets, 400 of them, without exception said that they should attack and God would be with them.

But one prophet, Micaiah, summoned reluctantly by King Ahab spoke the truth as given to him by God.  Contrary to the opinion of the 400 false prophets Micaiah indicated that the king would be victorious but that because of the king’s evil ways he would die.  King Ahab was not too pleased to hear this and ordered Micaiah to be put in prison but his prophesy came to pass and Ahab died in the battle.

It may be painful and embarrassing to lie and be caught out doing so but we should heed the 9th Commandment (Exodus 20:16) and Paul’s instruction to the church in Ephesus to ‘beware falsehoods and speak truthfully…’  We should aim to find favour and grace with God by being truthful rather than deceiving our neighbours.

 

Thursday 3rd September 2020

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.”

Acts 16:25-34

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Hebrews 13:2

Hospitality was valued in both the Old and New Testament to a far greater extent than it is valued in modern Western culture. Given the unforgiving terrain, scorching temperatures for large parts of the year and the ever-present threat of bandits on the road, hospitality was ongoing need. As well as providing security and shelter, the important elements of hospitality included the opportunity for cleansing dusty feet, scented oil to soften dried skin and mask odours of the road, alongside food and companionship.

Hospitality was also a sacred duty and the injunction to extend hospitality to strangers was frequently rooted in the recognition of our shared need. “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34).

Frequently, the manner in which hospitality is offered or withheld is used in the Bible as a litmus to indicate the true righteousness or otherwise of the characters involved. The immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah was matched by the appalling manner in which they treated their visitors (Genesis 19) and this is counterpointed in the preceding chapter with the immaculate manner in which Abraham welcomed visitors into his household, not realising that he was actually entertaining God. In the New Testament (Luke 7:36-50), we see a supposedly sinful woman welcoming Jesus as an honoured guest whereas Simon, a Pharisee of higher social standing, offers neither water for washing nor oil. The Pharisee is condemned by Jesus whereas the sinful woman is told that her sins are forgiven.

Acts 16 shows two further examples of hospitality. First, Paul is welcomed by Lydia (“If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” Acts 16:15) and then, after their miraculous escape from jail, Paul and Silas are welcomed into the home of the jailer who had been guarding them. Very often, those who welcome guests under their roof are shown to be those who also welcome God into their lives and so it is in this chapter. By way of contrast, the local authorities – instead of protecting these outsiders – had thrown Paul and Silas into jail (“These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice” Acts 16:20). Contrast that with the command given in Leviticus 19:34 above.

At the end of his first epistle, Peter reminds us that, as Christians, we ourselves are foreigners and exiles in a strange land (1 Peter 2:11). Pray that God will open our eyes to identify fellow travellers who need our help and that he will open our hearts so that we feel driven to offer them the love, welcome, protection and nurture that God has shown to us.

 

Wednesday 1st September 2020

Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30

The rhythms of our lives have been dramatically changed. Many people suffer from anxiety when their patterns are altered and events become difficult to predict. Yet, here, Jesus also offers hope in times of uncertainty. Jesus says: ‘Come to me.’ If we respond, we will learn from him, finding new ways of being, and we will be able to rest, because he eases the anxiety that comes from change. New ways of living have been revealed to infants, he says, which could mean for us that children and young people will assume leadership roles as the Church moves forward after periods of change and confusion.  

Matthew 14.13-21. Hope for young people by inspiring a young boy to share his food, through Jesus a large crowd was fed.  Being together is important, which is why Jesus wanted the people to stay.  The way in which he achieved this offers hope to the Church that, despite the separation during this year, we can stay together spiritually, even when physical meetings are impossible. What keeps the crowd together is an act of generosity, significantly the response to Jesus of a young person. Our enforced separation has taught us the value of staying together; this passage shows us how we might do this in the times ahead, following the lead of the young, sharing our time and resources with one another. Recent weeks and months have been unprecedented for our own lives, the life of the nation, the world and the Church. It is into these new and extraordinary times as ever, when we turn to the Bible, we can find fresh truths in familiar passages. Matthew’s messages of hope, reflections and activities   We have learned to be very resourceful throughout the pandemic and this will help to inspire us to put our trust anew in Jesus, rather than in physical buildings or earthly expressions of faith?

Matthew 14.22-33 Jesus invites Peter to make himself vulnerable as a demonstration of faith. The life of the Church has changed dramatically this year with rules around social distancing and public gatherings. Change may be necessary sometimes, but it is also frightening, because it can make us vulnerable. None of us wants to perform an action that ends with a cry of ‘Lord, save me’ issuing from our lips. However, this Bible passage shows us that when Jesus invites us to ‘come’, this is often an invitation to vulnerability. Peter demonstrates this when he begins to sink, but he also demonstrates that our hope in these situations lies in keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. We may be called to risky or scary actions, so we must keep looking to Christ so that our faith in him may conquer doubts about our own capabilities. Has this left you feeling vulnerable, more susceptible to the risk of sinking as Peter did? What are the practical ways in which you keep your focus on Jesus?  Over the past few months in cyberspaces rather than physical spaces, expressing togetherness in new and sometimes alien ways. This has led to us asking questions about what it means to be Church. This Bible passage finds Jesus investing his hope in Peter as the rock on which the Church will be built. It’s interesting that Jesus’ rock was not a rock at all, but a person. Our church buildings, impressive as many may be, are, by way of contrast, not people but merely rocks. Simon Peter was a person, but he was a person who recognised Jesus’ true nature; this is what made him a suitable foundation stone for the future Church. Keep a rock somewhere and you will see it often as a reminder of the firm foundation you are building your life upon.  All that I am, all that I do, all who I shall meet this day I offer to you now, Lord God

 

Tuesday 1st September 2020

1 Chronicles 28:20

“David also said to Solomon his son, be courageous and do the work.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”

Psalm 27:1

“The Lord is my light and my salvation-

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strong hold of my life-

Of whom shall I be afraid?

Proverbs 29:25

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare,

But whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Fear haunts us all our life.  We fear our parents’ wrath. We fear the bully in the playground. We are fearful of failing exams. We fret about our health and we can be terrified of dying.

The Bible has many references to fear and how to deal with it. King David in 1 Chronicles 28:20 gives advice to his son, Solomon who is afraid of the responsibility of building the temple.  He urges him to be strong and immerse himself in the work ‘…for the Lord God, my God, is with you.’

 

There is a message here for us as we worry and despair about riots, poverty, hurricanes, rampant viruses and whether our children or grandchildren are safe at school. Rather than curl up in a quivering heap we should heed the Psalmist 27:1 ‘The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?’

 

Faced with problems in our daily lives we should ask God for his help to calmly assess what is making us fearful.  It is surprising how often answers are forthcoming.  ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.’  Psalm 121:1 King James Version.