Week of Prayer Day 8 – Feeling Sheepish?

Reading: Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name.

This psalm is a great favorite for a lot of people and it sounds amazing doesn’t it? It’s such a beautiful picture of us as sheep being led by our Shepherd.

But God comparing us to sheep is hardly a compliment. Sorry to offend you if you’ve a high view of sheep, but sheep are generally very stupid. There are other animals that we might have preferred to be compared to, maybe a dolphin, a chimp or a dog? But the fact is God compared us to sheep.

Sheep are thick, they play a perpetual follow the leader and if one runs they all tend to follow, they can’t defend themselves, or even escape from any threat. Sheep are pretty much woolly jumpers and lamb chops waiting to happen, all that’s needed is a spinning wheel and some mint sauce. So then sheep need their shepherd. If the shepherd do his job properly… well then they are dead. God knows that we are like that too, and it would be good for us is we acknowledged it.

Those opening lines are good aren’t they, comforting and true, but equally true are the words that follow in verse 4: Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

We love the green pastures and the still waters, but we don’t like dark and difficult valleys. Though as is clear here, it’s not if the valleys come, but when.  So let’s Thank God that the Shepherd who was with David is with us too.

Reflect: Am I staying close to my Shepherd, listening to His voice, accepting His guidance, and enjoying His protection?

Act: over the next week, use this Psalm as a lead into your prayer time, allowing The Lord space to speak and taking time to listen to His comfort, His words of correction and His perfect guidance.

Children’s Prayer Activity

Day

Look in the mirror today and thank God for all the  things He helps you with and give Him a smile 🙂 in the mirror as you thank Him for making you such a special person.

What next? Remember to talk and listen to God every day, as He loves to get to know you better. You could learn this short bible verse about prayer

Never stop praying.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

Week of Prayer – Day 7 Where’s Tonto?

Reading: Mark 6: 6-12

Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

12 So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. 13 And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

Christians aren’t supposed to be ‘Lone Rangers’, we’re called to be joined together in a church family, witnessing together, living our lives, not independently but interdependently, sharing genuine love and care; in short we are called to disciple one another.

In our text today, Jesus sends His first ‘church group’ out and whilst there is material enough here for many sermons, let’s just consider the basic facts, that the disciples were:

  • sent in pairs;
  • sent by Jesus, and so they went in His authority;
  • to take nothing;
  • to walk away if the Gospel wasn’t welcomed;
  • obedient – they preached the gospel, prayed and God healed and delivered people through them.

But how does this relate to you and me today? Again, in so many ways that we won’t have space to explore in depth here, but in essence I believe that this text is a incredible reminder that our tendency to live our lives in ‘little boxes’ is wrong. Christians are not called to specialise, yes some will be gifted in certain areas and we should use our gifts for the benefit of the whole church, for God’s glory, but…we are all called to be disciples, we are all called to disciple one another, we are all called to evangelise, we are all called to share what we have, we are all called to be praying people, we are all called to follow our Lord only, and to trust in Him only for our needs.

These disciples were called to live and love and serve together, in the big group of the church, in the smaller numbers as we read in the gospels at times, there a threes and fours, and here in pairs.

We need each other, I need you and you need me, and that can be uncomfortable at times, but the way of Christ is discipleship, not to lives life of lone rangers.

Reflect: Am I obediently following Jesus’ model for my life as an interdependent part of His church, am I letting others disciple me, and am I willing to give of myself to disciple others? Might I be too much of a lone ranger?

Act: take time today and over the coming weeks to take a stock take of things with God. Ensure that you are regularly praying with others within our church, meeting to study the Bible and share real fellowship with others within our church, and encourage and be encouraged, as you pray and work with others within our church to tell others that amazing Good News of Salvation.

Children’s Prayer Activity

Day 7 

Today use a ball inside or outside. Each time you catch or kick it think of anything you have done today that has made you and God sad. Talk to God about it as you play with the ball.

 

Week of Prayer – Day 6 Unchanged?

Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Those who know me will know that I have an eclectic taste in music from classical to punk, rock to soul, jazz to folk. And as I was thinking and praying through what to post this morning, I found myself thinking of the lyrics to a classic punk song (oh dear I can almost hear you groan…) they go like this:

“my daddy was a bankrobber
but he never hurt nobody
he just loved to live that way
and he loved to steal your money”

Now I’m not going to suggest that within this lyric there is some deep theological point, I don’t think Joe Strummer went in for much theology, but I do see parallels with the way some of us might think at stages in our Christian journey. You see there is such a danger of us living a life that is unchanged from the life we had before we were set free by Christ. Our text reminds us that a Christian is a new creation in Christ, and if we are new creations, we ought not to be using excuses from our old lives to stay in that rut that we were in before Christ redeemed us. Do you ever hear yourself saying, when you’ve acted in a less than Christian way, “well I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am”. The point is, for Christians that’s not true, we can’t say that, because our bad attitude is part of the way we were, not the way we are… we are new creations! Will we mess up, yes, but when we confess our sins Christ forgives us, restores us, and keeps on that miraculous work of recreating us in His image.

Reflect: today and everyday consider how profound a truth it is that: if you have accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, you are being recreated in His image.  

Act: in your prayer time today: give thanks to Christ for that freedom won for us at immense cost to Him, and  take time to consider with Him which part of that old person you’ll take apart together, so that He can further that great exciting, fulfilling work of recreation in you.

Children’s Prayer Activity

Day 6

Praying for others and ourselves is an important part of our everyday prayers. It is great to talk to and listen to God.

Week of Prayer – Day 5 Never unnoticed…

Reading – Mark 10:21

…Jesus, looking at him, loved him…

Nothing is hidden to God—He sees everything; He is omniscient, which means, of course, that God sees even the sins we have successfully hidden from everyone else. How do you feel about that? It is a bit awkward to say the least isn’t it? Yes, we might think that, but really, we should be delighted, because our all-seeing God is also the one who loves us more than any other. Yes, He sees our sin and it hurts Him, so we need to come to Him, repentant and asking for forgiveness, but in seeing everything, He is pleased when He sees signs of obedience and responses to His love in us.

Today’s reading gives us a great picture of this in practice. As the rich young man reels off his long list of the good things he does, Jesus looks at him only the He can, He looks with amazing love. He tells the man that he is on the right track doing a good job, that spiritually, he’s getting there. Then his searching gaze rests on the one thing that is holding this man back: his love for all the things he has, and he has a lot… Jesus tells him a difficult truth, that only by giving away the thing he loves more than Jesus will he find true freedom.

It seems this rich young man sees the truth of Jesus’ diagnosis but gives the impression that he is unwilling to do anything about it. So he turns away sad.

Does he ever respond? That we do not know, but we do know that Jesus’ words hit the mark and so it’s possible that he after all became one of the first believers.

We can do nothing to make others respond to the truth, but when it comes to ourselves, we can do everything that is needed to respond to Jesus.

Reflect: As you spend a quiet time with Jesus in prayer today, thank Him that He looks on you with love.

Act: First Ask Jesus to show you all that is obedient and good in you. He knows how hard you try to follow His way; He hears, remembers and answers every prayer that you have ever prayed to Him. He feels everything that hurts in your body and your spirit. Now let him show you how precious you are to Him.

Next take another step. Ask Jesus put his finger on one thing you may love more than Him—one thing that may be holding you back. Perhaps its money or belongings like the rich young man. Perhaps you are trapped in a persistent sin, or perhaps you are holding a grudge that you are having a hard time letting go of. Ask Jesus, as He shows you these things, to take your hand, stay close and help you beat them in His power, in His strength; let go of them, take hold of Jesus and let Him, who loves you, encourage you and show you the way of healing and moving forward that He is providing for you.

Children’s Prayer Activity

Sometimes we need to say sorry in our prayer time –

 

 

 

Be quiet for a few moments today and think if you have made someone sad or angry.

Ask God to help you not to do it again.

Week of Prayer – Day 4 What does God want?

Reading -Hebrews 10:22

let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Just read those first 9 word’s again and let them sink in a bit – The writer of this passage is desperate for us to see that not only do we need to be close to God, sharing with God, speaking with God, but that it is actually possible for to do that, because He has made it possible. The sad thing is though, so many Christians settle for living their lives at a distance from God.

This going right into God’s presence isn’t a physical thing, it is not something we have to work at with all our effort. We don’t have to face a certain direction or go into a special building, we don’t have going to ask a special man wearing weird clothes to let us in. So how do we “go right into the presence of God?” Simply by an invisible act of our heart. You can do it while standing absolutely still, walking, sitting, driving, while lying in a hospital, or on the train or in fact anywhere.

This is the heart of the gospel — this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and the crucifixion are all about — about  the incredible fact that God has done the most amazing and costly thing to make it possible for us to come close to Him. That was the whole point of Him sending His Son to suffer and to die so that through Him we might maybe decide to come back to Him, to enjoy God’s presence and start to have life as it was supposed to be.

It is not that God needs us. If we turn our backs on Him He isn’t any less God, He doesn’t lose out. He does not need us in order to be content, but He loves us that much that He wants us to be with Him so we might know more of His love.

Reflect: Do you want to know what God wants most in your life?  It is this, that you come as you are invited.

Act: During this week of prayer take Him at His word and dive right into His presence.

Children’s Prayer Activity

Day 4

Thank God for the family you are part of and for your church family. Why not draw a

picture/take a photo of your family and use it as you pray to God today.

Week of Prayer – Day 3 Have You Ever Wrestled With God?

Reading – Genesis 32:22-31

During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.

 

The Bible shows us two amazingly intimate ‘one to one’ meetings that Jacob has with God, the first is in 28:10–17, but in this passage we’ve seen Jacob spending the whole night wrestling with God, wrestling because he is insistent that God would bless him, so desperate for a blessing that he will not let go, that is, not until he is blessed.

I wonder do you hesitate to wrestle with God over things dear to you? Jacob didn’t think twice, and I believe that we shouldn’t either. You see being a follower of Jesus is not just about being saved, but it’s about pursuing God, in His word and face to face in prayer.

After this encounter with God, Jacob is left physically weaker with a dodgy hip but in reality, he is stronger… he is stronger because he was blessed by God. He goes on in his life better equipped to deal with his past, his present and his future, because he has wrestled over some difficult things with God, and in wrestling he was changed, changed to be ready, able and willing to accept God’s blessing, accept God’s leading and most importantly to accept that God’s plan and God’s will are supreme over everything and God’s love and justice is without question.

Reflect: Jacob wrestled with God… God won and Jacob was blessed – just think that through as you go through the day!

Act: Take hold of God today and wrestle in prayer with Him, maybe it’s a break-through that’s not coming, perhaps it’s just the courage to keep on track, maybe it’s a sin you can’t shake off, or a hurt you can’t let go of… Wrestling in prayer is a hard task and it will permanently change you but don’t let that stop you, because that’s the way of blessing.

Children’s Prayer Activity

Day 3

Let’s thank God for all He has made –which is your favourite day of creation?

Week of Prayer – Day 2 Stop, Look and Listen

Reading – 1 John 5:20

And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.

No, it’s not the Stylistics song I have in mind, or the Green Cross Code, though that’s closer to the mark…

The question today is a big one and it is this: “Do you really want to know God?” Obviously I’m hoping the answer is yes, and if it is yes, here is where the Stop, Look and Listen comes in.

Stop trying to get close to God by following your own feelings, whims and opinions about who God is, without first seeing and agreeing who He says He is, because what we know about Him is completely dependent on what He has shown us about Himself. It is completely impossible know God until you take notice of what He has revealed to us about Himself. You see as with everything, the conversation starts with God, we get to know Him when we respond.

Look at what God has shown us. The Bible has been described as a window in which we can see what God will show us about Himself: His creation, His love, His plan, and of course importantly His desire for us to have a perfect and eternal relationship with Him, made possible through that once for all sacrifice as He came as our Saviour. As you seek God, ask Him in a simple prayer, every time you open your Bible, to show you more of Himself.

Listen – having asked, listen to what God has to say to you, if you’re not in the habit it will take patience and practice, but keep listening. Read your Bible, and listen to Him speak to you through it, and as you do, notice how you discover more about Jesus, His love for you and His plan for you.

Reflect: Do I know God as I should, or is the god I think I know my own invention. Might I need to stop, look and listen more?

 Act: Take things at the pace God sets for you, don’t try and spend hours just listening for a start, but do stop daily and gradually increase the time you spend looking at God’s word and listening to Him as you actively believe that as our text says:

the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God.

Children’s Prayer Activity

Day 2

Why not print out and colour in the picture today? Bring it to church on Sunday to share with your friends.

  

Another year passes but God’s love goes on and on and on

You may not know me…

But I know everything about you. I know when you sit down and when you get up. I’m familiar with all your ways. Psalm 139: 1-3

Even the hairs on your head are numbered. Matthew 10:29-31

You see, you were made in my image. Genesis 1:27

And in me you live and move and have life. Acts 17:28

For you’re my child. Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5

And I chose you when I planned creation. Ephesians 1:11-12

You were no mistake, because all your days are written in my book. Psalm 139:15-16

I decided the exact time of your birth and where you’d live. Acts 17:26

You’re wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

And was at your side from the day you were born. Psalm 71:6

I’ve been lied about by those who don’t know me. John 8:41-44

But I am the cause and supply of all love. 1 John 4:16

And I love you so much! I want to share that love with you. 1 John 3:1

Because you’re my child and I am your Father. 1 John 3:1

I give you more than your earthly father ever could. Matthew 7:11

You see I’m the perfect Father. Matthew 5:48

Every good thing you’ve ever had, or will ever have, comes from me. James 1:17

I’ve met all your needs. Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future is filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

You see I love you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

And I never stop thinking of you. Psalms 139:17-18

And I love to calm you with my singing. Zephaniah 3:17

I won’t leave you. Jeremiah 32:40

You’re treasured by me. Exodus 19:5

I want to show wonderful things. Jeremiah 33:3

So remember if you seek me with your whole heart, you will find me. Deuteronomy 4:29

Love me, and then I will give you your heart’s desire. Psalm 37:4

Remember it’s me who gives you right desires. Philippians 2:13

And I’m able to do more for you than you could ever imagine. Ephesians 3:20

I’m your greatest encourager. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I’m your loving Father comforting you in difficult times. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When your heart’s breaking, I’m with you. Psalm 34:18

I’ve carried you close to my heart, like a shepherd would. Isaiah 40:11

One day I’ll wipe away all your tears. Revelation 21:3-4

And take away all the pain you’ve suffered. Revelation 21:3-4

I’m your Father, and I love you just as I love my son, Jesus. John 17:23

You see it’s in Jesus, I showed my love for you. John 17:26

He’s the exact image of who I AM. Hebrews 1:3

He came to show that I am on your side. Romans 8:31

And to tell you that because of Jesus, I can wipe out your sins. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Because of Jesus you can know me as your perfect Father. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate demonstration of love for you. 1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. Romans 8:31-32

And if you accept the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me. 1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you from my love again. Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen. Luke 15:7

I’ve always been Father, and will always be Father. Ephesians 3:14-15

But here’s the important question…Will you be my child?  John 1:12-13

I’m waiting for you.  Luke 15:11-32

Almighty God

Your loving Dad

A Committed Christian?

So often in our Christian lives we spend inordinate amounts of time talking about prayer, wanting to seek the Lord and do His will; which I believe are great sentiments, but as we approach the end of the year I’m drawn back to some words we used at the start of our year in our covenant service, words which were borrowed from a great puritan called Richard Alleine:

I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly give all things to you. Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. This my covenant with you my God, made here on earth, let it be confirmed in heaven. Amen

Why not take that prayer again, study it, meditate on it, discuss it and consider: as individuals, and as Christ’s Church, have we yet made this prayer our own? How can we encourage one another, and what is the Lord asking of us as individuals walking in covenant with Him? If studying in a group: spend a good time in prayer seeking the Lord for each other and the wider Church. When studying alone: also, of course, pray through the issues that arise in your heart.

Christian Witness in the shadow of #BREXIT

It’s incredibly concerning to see that across social media, and within our state broadcaster and other media, there is an appalling lack of wisdom in words uttered and views shared when it comes to the outcome of the referendum last week. What is even more shocking is the lack of grace, wisdom and love being shown across the Christian Church:

Democracy is an amazing thing…

…and the democratic process last week is proof of that. There will be those who are delighted that their view prevailed and others sad that theirs didn’t…

…but complaints against democracy are a very dangerous 

I have no doubt that just under half of the readers of this will be sore at the outcome, and just over half will be delighted, but what is required now is for people of all political views, of both the in and the out voters to stop battling and start getting on with the all important job of moving ahead positively; to avoid either vitriol or triumphalism and take a measured positive step, followed by another and another.

however we exercised our democratic right on June 23rd 2016, Britain can an will be great, but only if we so choose…

Christians are at risk of being appalling witnesses by showing a severe lack of compassion and wisdom in this!

Let’s not let this political vacuum intensify the spiritual vacuum – Let’s show the love of Christ as we navigate through the minefield of politics ahead, and let us stand firmly on His Word: continuing to be salt and light to a fallen world, and facing the future with His hope, be steadfast in sharing that hope with the world around us.

Ps 133:1: How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

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