URC Devotions

Acts 17: 1- 8

Thu, 17/08/2017 - 06:00
96 Acts 17: 1- 8 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 17: 1- 8 

After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.  But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house.  When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also,  and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.”  The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this. Reflection The best bit about being a worship leader is that you get to speak, on a topic of your own choosing, uninterrupted, for pretty much as long as you want to. And when you love the sound of your own voice as much as I do, that’s grand. I’m not bothered if I spot people checking their watches (though I usually try and finish before they take them off and shake them to see if they’re still working) but, so far, I’ve never been heckled during a sermon. I’m the one asking the questions, not them. I am in charge, not them. All that power. It feels great.

So I’m glad Paul has never come to any service I’ve been leading and tried to argue with me about a point I’ve made, or haven’t made. Interrupting me mid-flow with a point of view that I’d not thought about. Or had thought about but dismissed.

I mean, fair enough, I suppose I might learn something from him, or my understanding and world view might be challenged, maybe even my faith, but it would be disruptive wouldn’t it? And it might lead to things, or me, being changed. And we certainly can’t have that. I mean, what’s the point of church worship if it isn’t to give everyone a break from having to think for an hour or so?
 

Prayer

I think, therefore I am.
Remind me, Lord, that I am here to be shaped and challenged
by your word and your people.
Make my ears, eyes, heart and mind
open to change
so that your kingdom may come,
your will be done.
Not mine.

Today's Writer

Leo Roberts is the Children’s and Youth Development Officer for North Western Synod

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 16th August

Wed, 16/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 16: 25-40

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened.  When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted in a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  They answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." Reflection Imagine the scene; two dishevelled prisoners - you’d expect them to be angry - but they’re singing and praying at midnight and calming the other prisoners. The jailer is content; all is well and everything under control, he’s pleasantly surprised by these two and he sneaks off for a little sleep. Then he’s woken by an earthquake, the prison doors have opened and he is sure the prisoners have gone.
 
At that time, a jailer who lost a prisoner had to serve the sentence himself, so rather than suffer shame and humiliation for himself and his family, this poor man decided it was more honourable to take his own life…until Paul yelled that everyone was still there.
 
What a roller-coaster ride for the jailer! Small wonder that he asked Paul and Silas how he could learn to cope with life the way they did, which offered Paul the opportunity to talk with him and his family about Jesus.
 
There’s a lesson here for us as disciples in the 21st century:
 
Our response to difficult situations can be an active demonstration of our love for Christ. At its simplest, we can be sorry for ourselves and complain, or we can be like Paul and Silas, giving thanks and praise to God, whilst believing that God will help us out.
 
However, it’s not that simple. Trusting, thanking and praising God in tough times is a truly difficult thing to do. There are times when it’s inevitable that we feel we’ve been dealt an unfair blow and feel sorry for ourselves, but our love for Christ shines through when we manage to handle these times with grace - serving and loving other people and refusing to be beaten by circumstance - like Paul and Silas did in the prison.
 
We never know when someone who is observing might start to think; ‘I’d like to know how they do that’. Then we too can grasp the opportunity for a conversation about Jesus.
 

Prayer

Lord,
Help us to trust, thank and praise you always,
even when life gets tough.
Help us to respond to difficult situations
in such a way that we share your love;
and guide us as we try to grasp every opportunity
to start conversations about your love in our lives.
Amen

Today's Writer

Linda Rayner is the URC national Co-ordinator for Fresh Expressions.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 15th August

Tue, 15/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 16: 16-24

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Reflection Hot on the heels of the story of the conversion of Lydia comes this curious little vignette. It is easy as we canter through the story of the earliest years of the Church to skip past this event.  Contrasting sharply with opulence and power of the disciple Lydia, a dealer in rich purple cloth, we are introduced to a nameless slave-girl, with a spirit of divination.  

In contrast to Lydia, a respected business-woman, here is a girl who is being mercilessly exploited through an activity about which many of us would hold deep-seated concerns.  I wonder what the back story is for this slave-girl?  How had her ‘gift’ been discovered? Was it all an elaborate act?  Had she been taken into slavery as one of a conquered people, or had she been sold to what we would now understand as traffickers by a desperate family or an uncaring community?  Was she duped and had believed that she was going to Philippi to start the life about which she had dreamed for a long time?  

Who knows?  But what we do know is that there are many many people today, across the world, in a similar position to that slave-girl.  There are people in our country, in our towns and cities, who have been trafficked to these islands for the purpose of domestic, sexual, or other forms of modern day slavery.  There are people in our country who are being abused and violated in the name of making a lot of money for someone or someones else. There are people in our country who are making a lot of money on the backs of and at huge cost to other people.  This is one of greatest sins of our and every age. It is no surprise that the push back, when the activities of these people is exposed and their source of cash is stopped, that they respond as the slave-girl’s captors did.  Paul and Silas were victims of violence themselves, were blamed by an unjust system, and ended up in prison

But what can we do?  We can educate ourselves about this issue through information published by organisations such as Stop the Traffik We can alert ourselves to suspicious activity and alert the appropriate authorities.  If you doubt the power of individuals going about their daily business, then have a look at stories like this one.
 

Prayer

God of justice,
we remember today the story
of this slave-girl,
and we remember too
the stories of the many like her
caught in similar webs
over thousands of years.  

We pray for trafficked people today,
and for their families and communities.  
We pray for an end to this experience,
that victims and communities
will receive peace,
and perpetrators, justice.  

We pray for ourselves
as we are unwittingly
or are complicit in being caught
in the web too.  
We ask too few questions,
and can be quick to
look away.  
Forgive us when we
think or mutter ‘not my problem’,
and help us to learn how to act.

Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Sarah Moore is President of the United Reformed Church in Cumbria, England’s first ecumenical county.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 14th August

Mon, 14/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 16: 11-15 

We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptised, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us. Reflection Throughout the book of Acts it is the Spirit who initiates, urges and inspires grander visions. It is the Spirit who disrupts Paul’s plan and throws him off course in the direction of Europe. Paul’s intention was to visit the churches where he had been before, to strengthen them in their faith. But the Spirit has other ideas (verses 6 and 7) and takes him on a rather bigger adventure. What would have been a journey much like his first one - over land and fairly close to home - turns into a dangerous sea voyage and on to a new continent. The gospel reaches Europe and it happens because the Spirit takes the lead and Paul is willing to follow.

The journey leads straight to Philippi, a city with a strong sense of its own importance. Having failed to connect with the local Jewish community, Paul ends up outside the city walls, by the river, where he finds a group of women who had gathered for prayer. And simple conversations bear their first fruit, when Lydia and her household are baptised. Lydia was an outsider in Philippi; as an immigrant in a Roman city and as a god-fearer in the Jewish community she did not fully belong. And perhaps it is this that makes her open to the stranger’s testimony and willing to trust the good news of Jesus. Her response is hospitality – her first act of discipleship is to open her heart and her home to Paul and his party.

The Spirit enlarged Paul’s and Lydia’s world. Today, through the prompting of the Spirit, God continues to engender imagination and vision and urges us to move into uncharted territory. When the Spirit stirs, may our response be curiosity and courage.
 

Prayer

Spirit of God, urge us on.
Kindle in us courage and joy
in every new adventure.

Today's Writer

Francis Brienen is Deputy General Secretary (Mission).

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 13th August

Sun, 13/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 10
 

O LORD, why do you stand remote
and stay so far away?
Why do you hide yourself from us
when trouble comes our way?

The wicked in his arrogance
hunts down the weak and poor,
Who in the snares that he has set
are caught and held secure.

About the cravings of his heart
he speaks with boastful word;
He praises people filled with greed
while he reviles the LORD.

The wicked does not seek the LORD
because he is so proud,
And in his inmost thoughts there is
no room at all for God.

His ways are always prosperous;
he strikes a haughty pose.
He keeps his distance from your laws;
he sneers at all his foes.

He reassures himself and says,
“No threat will topple me—
I will be happy evermore;
from trouble I’ll be free.”

The wicked’s mouth is always full
of curses, threats and lies;
Evil and trouble from his tongue
continually arise.

He lies in wait near villages
his victims’ blood to spill;
He lurks in secret ambushes
the innocent to kill.

Like lions crouching secretly
he waits for helpless prey.
He pounces on the weak and poor;
his net drags them away.

His victims by his strength are crushed;
his prey collapse and fall.
He thinks, “God does not notice it;
he does not see at all.”

Arise, LORD God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the poor.
Why does the wicked say of God,
“My conduct he’ll ignore”?

But you, O God, do see such wrong
and you will bring redress.
The victim puts his trust in you;
you help the fatherless.

LORD, break the wicked person’s power
and call him to account
For all the evil which he thought
would never be found out.

The LORD will ever reign as king;
his throne will always stand.
The heathen nations of the world
will perish from his land.

O LORD, the needy ones’ desire
you answer from on high;
You give encouragement to them
and listen to their cry.

For you defend the fatherless
and those who are oppressed,
So that from fear of mortal man
the helpless may have rest.

Here you can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the lovely tune Glenluce.  The tune St Flavian is also suggested for this Psalm as is the tune Stroudwater.
Reflection Turning a Blind Eye

Some people have to live with pressures like this all of the time. From neighbours. From nastiness. From crime, corruption or conflict. From greed and graft. From disputes and divisions in the family. From sourness, cynicism and sexism. Because of racism, or rancour, or revenge. We cannot always pick our neighbours or protect ourselves.

So this psalm is a plea and a protest song, calling out from a place of frustration and fear. It starts with the thought that God might have switched off, turned aside and taken a step back. There are people around who are making life a misery. Has God noticed, or is God turning a blind eye? At the very least, God ought to be told about the situation.

‘The wicked’, according to the psalm, are living as atheists. They have decided that God and they can live at a safe distance, neither of them interfering much with the other. God sees nothing, they assume. God is not a reality to reckon with. The world offers them a clear run. They can pick easy targets, and mess their victims’ lives up with impunity. The blind eye is in fact not God’s; it is the wicked who have chosen not to see.

Which is this psalm’s discovery. Talk to God about the trouble, and you start to remember that God does see. God sees far more than the wicked have realised. God remembers, reigns, and responds. The fearful of the earth are noticed, held and loved.

Yet .. it doesn’t always seem to work out that way. So why use a psalm like this, when life sometimes struggles to match the theory? One answer might be that prayer stops us being short-sighted. It helps us to see the situation differently. The shadow side of experience is not life’s last word. A God of cross and resurrection will not rest until justice comes and judgment falls, the hurts of time are healed, and the weak of the earth can live without fear.

Prayer

God of the victim, of the shadows,
    of the world’s griefs, pains and pressures,
    we pray for the places and people
    that feel overlooked.
We ask you to see, to speak, to assure, to strengthen,
    and we pray for the day when justice will reign,
    the weak rejoice,
    and the oppressed stand tall,
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Proctor is a member of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge and General Secretary of the URC

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can
update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

URC Daily Devotion 12th August

Sat, 12/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 16:1-10

Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek.  He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium.  Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.  As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.  So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.  They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them;  so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."  When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
 
  Reflection The North Western Synod had a vision.  There was a tiny church in Failsworth which had decided it could no longer carry on and should close.  The church had a thriving scout group, Rainbows and Brownies which meant that large numbers of children were coming through its doors on a regular basis and would need alternative premises if they were to carry on.  The church was persuaded to reverse their decision to close and work commenced to find a suitable scheme to replace the existing tired old building with something more fit for purpose.
 
Enter Muggins - a (not so young) non-stipendiary minister, just completed her training and needing an assignment.  "You cannot be serious!" seemed a good response to the suggestion that this church needed a leader, but it was only for 12 months to get things underway!
 
The thing about visions is that if it's not your vision, it can take time to catch it but by the time the synod moderator retired, Muggins was infected with it and then had to spend a lot of time and effort infecting the new moderator to ensure the project wasn't abandoned.
 
During the life of the project, the Brownies and Rainbows  closed and merged with another local group;  the group scout leader had a stroke and the activities had to be suspended pending new leaders;  the numbers worshipping on Sundays continued to fall, the reserve funds were spent trying to maintain the building.  “We're doomed Mr Mannering, doomed!”
 
Having a vision does not necessarily mean everything will be aligned with that vision, but, as we put out a call for help whilst agonising over our future and plans, what we did discover was that other folk had had visions or prophetic words in the past and also more recently which confirmed that we were, despite appearances, heading in the right direction and a handful of folk stepped up to the plate to work with us.
 
Muggins has been in post now over 10 years, and the building project  is just completed having had many false starts, and unexpected delays, along the way.  But we clung to the vision against the odds and we are looking forward to honouring our gracious God from the shiny new building He has provided us with.
 
The name of the church is Macedonia URC, named after this very passage which was the text of the very first sermon preached back in 1865.
 

Prayer

Lord God,
We thank you that you are intimately involved in our ordinary everyday lives
and that you speak to us and guide us as we seek to do your work in your world.
We thank you for the visions and prophetic words
which have sustained us as we travel through our lives,
which have pointed in a different direction to what we expected,
which have provided assurance that we're on the right path,
even when the physical world seems to tell us otherwise.  
Help us to earnestly seek your help in all aspects of our lives,
and grant us the discernment to know what comes from you
and what is just pandering to our egos and desires.
In Jesus name we pray
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Sheila Coop is Minister at Macedonia URC in Failsworth

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 11th August

Fri, 11/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Clare of Assisi
Founder of the Order of Minoresses (Poor Clares), 1253

Born in 1193 in Assisi of a wealthy family, Clare caught the joy of a new vision of the gospel from Francis' preaching. Escaping from home, first to the Benedictines and then to another order, she chose a contemplative way of life when she founded her own community, which lived in corporate poverty understood as dependence on God, with a fresh, democratic lifestyle. Clare became the first woman to write a religious Rule for women, and in it showed great liberty of spirit in dealing with earlier prescriptions. During the long years after Francis' death, she supported his earlier companions in their desire to remain faithful to his vision, as she did. Some of her last words were: "Blessèd be God, for having created me."

2 Corinthians 4. 6-10

For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
 
 
Reflection We all know of St Francis of Assisi, but only on a recent visit to Italy did I realise that in the next generation (early 1200s) a second saint came from Assisi as well – Clare of Assisi. She was born into a wealthy family, but under the influence of Francis’s preaching she left her home to become a member of a contemplative community. First she joined the Benedictines, but eventually founded her own order, popularly known as ‘the poor Clares’.

The order chose to live in utter poverty – or, as Clare would put it, in utter dependence on God. She was the first woman to write a Rule of Life for a religious order, and through her inspiration her order was (and is) run on democratic rather than authoritarian lines.

In Italy today her order is still key to the Church’s working amongst the poorest in society, not from a benevolent charitable attitude, but from a position of equality with the poorest. The order’s convents are places of refuge for the dispossessed, the refugee, the unlucky and the foolish. All are welcomed with simple hospitality.

Today’s Bible passage – surely Paul at his best – reflects a similar dependence on God. Paul did not surrender all his worldly wealth in the same way as Clare, but he was very aware of his own fragility and that of his followers. Like Clare he saw that the very fragility which is so often frustrating to those who wish to run effective religious institutions, is in fact their greatest strength. It is in the fragility that utter dependence on God is found. It is in the poor clay jars of his dispirited followers that Jesus himself is found.

In the United Kingdom and across the Western world, churches are very keen to develop effective evangelism strategies, and to use some of their wealth for the purpose. Perhaps Paul and Clare can teach us rich Western churches a thing or two. The best evangelism strategy might just be, like Clare, to jettison our wealth and use our poverty for the purpose instead. Their experience is that it is a far better strategy for evangelism than anything money could buy.

Prayer

God of peace,
who in the poverty of the blessed Clare
gave us a clear light to shine in the darkness of this world:
give us grace so to follow in her footsteps
that we may, at the last, rejoice with her in your eternal glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

(Based on the Collect for Clare of Assisi in Exciting Holiness, 2nd edition © European Province of the Society of Saint Francis, 2003; Canterbury Press, Norwich)

Today's Writer

The Revd Gethin Rhys is National Assembly Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches Together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can
update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

URC Daily Devotion 10th August

Thu, 10/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 15: 36-41

After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we have proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Reflection This account of a deep disagreement between Paul and Barnabas proves to spell the end of a wonderful friendship. When Paul first tried to join the disciples on his arrival in Jerusalem and met with suspicion, Barnabas persuaded them to trust Paul by giving a full account of Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road, and introducing Paul properly to the followers of Jesus. They had worked together to spread the Gospel for some time. Sadly, after they went on separate missionary journeys, they never saw one another again.

The important thing to come out of the disagreement was that both men kept focussed on doing the will of Christ. Perhaps even more work was done as they both embarked on separate missionary journeys.
How can this short passage speak to us today?

There seem to be four points.

Firstly it helps put disagreements in perspective. Neither Paul nor Barnabas were distracted from their main purpose of spreading the Gospel. God guided them both to continue to serve him separately. In church fellowships there can, for all of us, be difficult decisions to make but, if we continue to follow God’s call, it can and, on occasion, will take us in different directions.

Barnabas gave John Mark a second chance and don’t we all need that from time to time? God celebrates us for who we are rather than for what we have done. Barnabas helped God in giving Mark a second chance. They returned to Cyprus to work while Paul and Silas visited the mainland cities of his first campaign. Mark responded to Barnabas’ help and later won the respect of Paul and Peter. Years later, when Paul was in prison and needed support and encouragement, he sent a message to Timothy: “Get Mark and bring him with you.” Mark had matured to become an experienced disciple.

This would probably not have happened without Barnabas. He was sympathetic to Mark, his nephew, and gave him the encouragement which he needed, as we all do. Would that all churches could realise the crucial importance of this attitude. We all find it easy to criticise but how much better to give love and encouragement to all those whom we know or meet in our Christian communities and outside?

It is true that, if Paul had not been firm, Mark might never have seen the need to change, to find increased strength and persistence in God’s service. However, Mark needed the patience of Barnabas. Without him, Mark might have been lost as a follower and witness to Jesus.

We, too, can help others as Barnabas did, and, in doing so, increase our faith and love for one another. May we look out for those who need support in their faith, show patience always and always give encouragement and a second chance.
 

Prayer

Loving God,
we ask for your help and encouragement.
May we always give those we meet
encouragement and guidance in your name.
May we in return receive the same
from others we encounter.
We thank you for your enduring love
which gives us strength each day,
and helps us to be faithful followers.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen

Today's Writer

Hilary Jackson is a lay preacher in NW Synod, now living in North Yorkshire.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 9th August

Wed, 09/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 15: 30-36

So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter.   When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation.   Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.   After they had been there for some time, they were sent off in peace by the believers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, and there, with many others, they taught and proclaimed the word of the Lord. After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Reflection The Jerusalem Council has come to an end. It has been decided that, in accord with God’s will, Paul and Barnabas are to engage in missionary activities amongst the Gentiles. They return to Antioch in triumph, along with two Jerusalem delegates, Judas and Silas, bearing a letter of authorisation from the Council for distribution among the “believers who are from the Gentiles.” Judas and Silas are well received as they exhort and strengthen the assembly, boding well for future relationships between Antioch and Jerusalem. After they leave, Paul and Barnabas continue to teach and proclaim the good news until Paul decides they should follow up his previous mission and revisit the converts made on that occasion. This is the prelude to a significant regrouping of leaders and new avenues of work.

Prayer

Most loving God,
 
Grant your blessing today
to all who in any part of the world are serving in Christ’s name:
all ministers of the gospel,
church fellowships and councils;
teachers and missionary workers,
NGOs, doctors and nurses who seek to bring healing often at great personal cost.
 
Accomplish in them your purposes and sustain them with your joy.
 
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Fleur Houston is a retired minister and member of Macclesfield & Bollington URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 8th August

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 15: 22 - 29

Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” Reflection One of my weaknesses is that my facial expressions too often portray what I am thinking.  Sometimes someone is telling me some news and my facial expression is bursting with joy and amazement, like when I heard the news that a couple in our congregation who have wanted to have a family for so long are now expecting a baby.  Sometimes though when the news is less encouraging, or is something that isn’t what I would have wanted or expected, well my face portrays my disbelief and on a number of occasions, I guess like many of us, I’ve heard that phrase, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger - I’m just passing the message on.’  In this passage we hear of the messengers that are sent from the Council of Jerusalem to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to communicate the decision made.  Regardless of whether Judas and Silas actually agreed with the decision of the council (well, James, really) they now have a crucial role to play in fulfilling the unanimous decision of the church to send them.
 
First, Judas and Silas confirm the decision for the church in Antioch.  By sending representatives, with the consent of the whole Church, this confirmed that this was a decision that the whole Church was standing by, not just what Paul and Barnabas wanted to see happen in their particular part of the Church family.  
 
Second, Judas and Silas bring clarity of the decision for the church in Antioch.  It would have been so easy for Paul and Barnabas to head back to Antioch telling everyone that they had argued well, and had won the debate.  Paul and Barnabas would be seen as local heroes who had won a victory.  I wonder whether part of Judas and Silas’ role was to bring a clarity of the decision - for when we are about decision-making in the Church it is not about winning or losing debates or arguments, claiming victory or being defeated.  The only question is whether God’s will has been done - and so  the letter makes no reference to Paul’s wonderful oration but simply that the decision made ‘seemed good to the Holy Spirit.’
 
Third, Judas and Silas are sent to further communicate the decision.  I have on occasion found myself in trouble having written an email that has been read by the recipient with an un-intended tone of voice, or with a nuance that I wasn’t expecting.  I have learnt the hard way that when a careful decision has been made, a difficult decision has been made, it is much better, and much clearer, if news is shared face to face rather than simply by letter or email.  And so Judas and Silas are sent so they can tell the ‘same things to you’ as contained in the letter - so news can be shared clearly, with the correct nuances and with pastoral concern.
 
It seems to me that whether we think of decisions made by the Councils of the Church today or the messages we want to communicate to the world about Jesus Christ, we need those, like Judas and Silas, who are called to confirm, bring clarity, and communicate well.
 

Prayer

Lord God,
We praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit.
Thank-you for the way in which the Spirit moves amongst us as your people and Church.
Thank-you for the Councils of the Church today
and we pray that your Spirit would move in Church Meetings,
Elders Meetings, Synod, Mission Council and General Assembly.  
Forgive us when our attitude is to win our point,
rather than search for that which seems good to the Holy Spirit.
We pray for all those that you have specifically called, like Judas and Silas,
to communicate, bring clarity and confirmation of decisions made
and in particular we think of our own Communications teams
within Synods and Church House.
Help us, Holy Spirit, to each take our part
n communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ
to our communities and throughout the world.
 
These things we ask of you Father, in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Paul Robinson is the minister of the United Church in Rhyl.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 7th August

Mon, 07/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 15: 12-21

The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.   After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘My brothers, listen to me.  Simeon has related how God first looked favourably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name.  This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it,  and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.

Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things  known from long ago.”  Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God,  but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.   For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the  synagogues.’
Reflection Sometimes we make a casual decision that turns out to be one of the more important ones of our life, but at other times we know we are facing a decision that will massively affect our future. I wonder if the folk meeting in Jerusalem, trying to find a way of encouraging the Gentile converts while keeping on board the Jews who now followed Christ and wanted the Gentiles to go through the same processes and rules as they did, were aware of the significance of the moment?

How would you have dealt with all this? I find it interesting that the things we might have considered significant – maintaining the number of converts; the success of the Gentile mission (however you choose to define success!) - don’t seem to have featured. Instead, what was shared was what God had done and was doing; the ‘signs and wonders’ that had been manifested among the Gentiles, and it is God’s leading, concentrating on Peter’s testimony and on the connection with scripture, on which James focused when he closed the debate and gave his decision.

It was a decision with considerable implications for the Gentiles, for the apparently light restrictions would have affected much of their lives. Meat offered to idols or that had not been completely bled was sold in the butchers’ shops, so avoiding it meant being picky about the butcher you chose; probably meant that you had to refuse dinner invitations from friends just in case they’d shopped in the wrong place, and in a society that laid great store on giving and responding to hospitality, this could lead to you losing face and place in society.

Of course, this ruling would still have disappointed some in the Jerusalem church who were wanting to protect the Law, even though James ended by pointing out that the Law was proclaimed week by week in the synagogues, a sign that the early Church remained part of the Synagogue for some considerable time.

But then, surely any move forward disappoints someone!  At the present time we are faced with much change in the Church; ahead of us probably lies a time of real upheaval, and I wonder how we are reacting? My feeling is that we are less likely to take the approach of looking for what God is doing in the world and in the Church because firstly it can be hard to discern (counting people in our churches is easier!) and secondly because the implications of what we find may clash with our prejudices – and we ALL have prejudices! Then, of course, what we decide may actually make life hard for us, and maybe we have to be ready for that.

But as you mull over all this, spare a thought and a prayer for those, like James, thrust into taking a lead at crucial times; those who chair the significant meeting and appear calm (have to be calm!) but are inwardly terrified and plagued with sudden inner doubts even as the will of the meeting becomes clear. They are human too!
 

Prayer

Eternal, living Lord God,
thank you for those who have guided and helped us
through the difficult, painful decisions we have had to take,
in our own lives and in the church.
By your Holy Spirit, keep us alert
to your word and action in the world today;
guide us in these uncertain times
to make good and wise decisions;
assure us by the presence of the living Jesus in our lives,
for we ask it in His name. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Crofton is a retired minister living near Durham.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion

Sun, 06/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 9
 

I’ll praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
your wonders I’ll proclaim.
I will rejoice in you, Most High,
and praise your holy name.

Before you all my enemies fall,
they turn their backs and flee.
For you upheld my right and cause
and judged me righteously.

You have rebuked the nations, LORD;
the wicked you destroyed.
You blotted out the heathen’s name—
for ever made it void.

The enemy have met their doom,
destroyed eternally.
You have uprooted all their towns;
they’re lost to memory.

The LORD for ever reigns on high;
his throne for judgment stands.
He’ll judge the world in righteousness,
with justice rule the lands.

The LORD will be a hiding place
for those who are oppressed,
And he will be a strong defence
for those who are distressed.

All those who know your name, O LORD,
in you their trust will place,
For you do not abandon those
who seek your gracious face.

Sing praises to the LORD who sits
in Zion on his throne;
Among the nations of the world
proclaim what he has done.

For he, the avenger of man’s blood,
remembers evermore;
The cry of the afflicted one
he never will ignore.

O LORD, see how my enemies
are persecuting me.
Have mercy! From the gates of death
lift me and set me free,

So that in Zion’s city gates
your praise I may declare,
And that I may exult with joy
in your salvation there.

The nations all have fallen down
into the pit they made;
Their feet are tangled in the net
which they themselves have laid.

The LORD is known by righteous acts;
his justice always stands.
The wicked are ensnared in traps,v=
the work of their own hands.

The wicked will return to where
the dead have their abode,
Where all the heathen nations go
that have forgotten God.

The needy will not be ignored,
forgotten all their days;
The hopes and longings of the poor
will not be crushed always.

Arise, LORD! Let not man prevail;
judge nations from your throne.
That they may know how frail they are,
with fear, LORD, strike them down.

This has been set to a number of tunes.  Here you can hear a congregation sing it to the tune Glasgow.  The Free Church also suggest the tune Martyrs which you can hear here.  It can also be sung to Dunfermline which can be heard here. Reflection Part of Israel’s hymnbook, Psalms 9 and 10 are bound together as an acrostic poem - lines begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This aids memorising the text, still an important part of Jewish tradition - though largely lost in modern Christian teaching (who still recalls prizes for learning and repeating Bible passages?)

The two psalms differ in tone: Psalm 9 is largely praise and thanksgiving; Psalm 10 one of lament and supplication. If praise coming before lament seems the wrong way round to us, it may be closer to actual life experience than we’re prepared to admit. We connect to the Psalms through the filter of memory, and their poetry can evoke deep contrary emotions in us. In life we can, and do hold apparently contradictory feelings close together eg grief and gratitude, reconciliation and resentment, greed and generosity. The juxtaposition of contrasting elements in psalms 9 and 10 is not so strange.

Psalm 9 is set in Yahweh’s court. Israel’s God is present, listening and willing to judge and act. God’s verdict is crucial for the other two parties present: the speaker - the ‘I’ who speaks for the ‘oppressed’, ‘poor’, ‘afflicted’, ‘distressed’, ‘needy’; and the ‘enemy’ - described as ‘the wicked’, ‘the nations’.

God’s actions, which are just and utterly reliable are celebrated in two ways: God’s destructive power towards enemies (‘destroyed’, ‘blotted out’, uprooted’); and God’s constructive power exercised towards faithful people (‘upheld my right and cause’, judged me righteously’, rebuked the nations’). Walter Brueggemann writes ‘In this poem the decisive party is Yahweh who governs powerfully and equitably. Yahweh is the one who takes all the decisive actions’.

The events precipitating this hearing are not hypothetical or imagined, but real. They draw on the experience of the marginalised, the powerless, the exploited, the abused: those who cannot or do not get a fair hearing in society. This Psalm assures them that their concerns do not go unheard, and divine justice shall prevail,  despite recurring appearances of evil.

Believing the truth of this today, what role shall the Church - you and I - play in God’s determination that justice and truth shall prevail? How shall Scripture’s word live in us, and make a difference?

Prayer

Gracious God,
your Son Jesus Christ
teaches us that you are just and merciful,
you bring freedom to the oppressed
and hope to the despairing.
Give us eyes to see and hearts to care
for those who suffer injustice and neglect.
May your Spirit teach us that you can use
even our small contributions
to make a difference for good in others’ lives.
So may the psalmist’s song
‘I’ll praise you Lord with all my heart,
your wonders I’ll proclaim’
be heard in many likely and unlikely places.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Young is a retired minister of the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can
update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

URC Daily Devotion 5th August

Sat, 05/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 15: 5 - 12

But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said,  ‘It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.’ The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’ The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. Reflection The Council at Jerusalem is understood by some as being the first Council of the Church.  It was a meeting with as far as we know, a single item on the agenda: whether or not Gentile followers needed to be circumcised or not.  Some thought that they should; others not.  Unsurprisingly while this was the presenting issue, there was actually a deeper one, and this concerned the relationship between the fledgeling Church and the Jewish tradition from which Christianity was birthed.  

The Gentile argument ultimately won the day.  Few Christian people today, or indeed for much of the history of the Church, understand or identify themselves as Jewish.  We hold great respect for our friends and neighbours within that tradition and give thanks for the many gifts that they have bequeathed to us.  But we recognise that God has given the Jewish people and the Church different though complementary vocations.
 
This is one of the first recorded instances of Christ’s people meeting together in council with the intention of prayerfully discerning the mind of Christ.  It is an account of one of the earliest meetings of what we might now describe as a synod.  Meeting in council was a habit that evolved early in the history of the Church, there were seven universally accepted ecumenical councils that met before the close of the Second Council of Nicea in 787 CE.  More councils followed in both eastern and western portions of the Church, the most recent and best known being the Second Vatican Council that met between 1962 and 1965 revolutionising the life of the modern Roman Catholic Church.  

Many of us, if we’re honest, have ambivalent relationships with meetings.  The United Reformed Church has a strong tradition and understanding that we can most faithfully discern the mind of Christ today when we meet to engage in this task in what we label ‘the councils of the church’: elders and church meetings, the national and provincial synods, and at General Assembly.  But despite the grand and high intentions, sometimes these meetings can feel anything but life-giving and Spirit-filled.  Sometimes all I can think about in the middle of a particularly dreary item of business is what I’m going to have for dinner!  
But this work is important.  Without it, where would we be?  How would we discern Christ’s call to us as communities, as individuals, and as a denomination otherwise?  We would have a way, no doubt, but not the best or most faithful?  
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
we give thanks for the hard work of
councils and meetings of your Church
over many generations.  

We thank you for their faithfulness and witness,
and for the good gifts that we have
inherited from those
who have walked this way before us.
 
We pray now for the councils of
the United Reformed Church.
For our own, and for those of our
neighbours.
We pray for each church and elders meeting;
for each of the meetings
of our thirteen synods,
and for the General Assembly.  

Give to each the gift
of wisdom and faithfulness,
that all may be able to discern
between that which is good
and that which is better.

We pray for ourselves as we participate,
that we fulfil the role
to which we have each been called.
In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.  

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Sarah Moore is President of the United Reformed Church in Cumbria, England’s first ecumenical county.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 4th August

Fri, 04/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 15: 1-4

Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’  And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders.  So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers.  When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. Reflection I am not sure if it is comforting or not to know that arguments have been going on in the Church for as long as it has been around.  How easily we get bogged down in rules and regulations – in what we think is important.  Go to many church meetings and it is the minutiae, the little things we choose to fixate on.  Now that’s not to say they aren’t important, for some people they will be very important and so cannot be dismissed out of hand.

But at the same time, how many Christians find their joy in, and passion for, the Gospel diminished or restricted by arguments that surface between church members?

The conflict in Jerusalem centred around the idea that non-Jews could not be saved unless they were first circumcised – circumcision being a sign of covenant belonging.  Was this just another rule to be obeyed or did it reflect the ethical norms of the day and the early church was just having to adapt to a constantly evolving situation?  Indeed, what would our issues be today – infant or believers’ baptism perhaps, or communion and who can receive it?

We have to be careful we don’t let rules and regulations get in the way of the Spirit.  Yes, rules are important to ensure safety and good practice, but when they accidentally, or deliberately, obstruct God’s work, then we have done something wrong.
 

Prayer

Loving Lord,
we are only human
and sometimes our humanity gets the better of us.
Help us, in our discussions and decision making,
to channel the Spirit and be of the mind of Christ
so that what we say and do
reflects your purposes and plans for all people.  
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees is the Minister of Port Glasgow and Greenock East URCs in Scotland.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 3rd August

Thu, 03/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 14: 19 - 27

But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.’ And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.
Reflection ‘End of the mission’ – in more ways than one:

1. Victory of the opponents?   It might have been!  Some Jews from Antioch and Iconium caught up with the missionaries in Lystra, won over the crowds, stoned Paul and dragged his body out of the city, thinking he was dead.  But surrounded by the disciples Paul rose up and went back into the city!

2. The furthest point of the missionary journey?   Yes, but it didn’t finish there.  From Derbe they could have headed straight to Paul’s home town by the shortest route, but they turned back into the fray!

3. The objective of the mission?   Acts 14:21 gives a summary of what Paul and Barnabas did in Derbe.  ‘Having evangelised that city and having discipled many they returned to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch,’ is how Luke wrote it in Greek.  His word for ‘many’ can also mean ‘enough’.  They had discipled enough to get the new Christian group started on their new way of life in Christ in that setting.

That is also the objective identified in what we call the Great Commission.  Matthew 28:18-20 in Greek has only one imperative verb: disciple!  ‘Disciple all the nations!’

Incidents recorded in other parts of Acts 13 and 14 show the approach that Paul and Barnabas took to discipling the different societies they met along the way: living with them for a while, responding to the various features and challenges of their cultures, and together developing their understanding and experience of the purposes and power of God the creator known through Jesus.

Maybe this will help us when we think more about Walking the Way, living the life of Jesus today which is being developed as the URC’s renewed emphasis on discipleship and mission.

4. Embedding the transformation?   Paul and Barnabas returned to those communities, establishing the souls of the new disciples, encouraging their faith, appointing elders in each assembly, and with prayer and fasting entrusted them to the Lord.

5. Debrief, feedback and evaluation?   The conclusion of this mission came through returning to Antioch in Syria, to the congregation which had committed them to the grace of God.  Paul and Barnabas spoke of what God had done with them, and how God had opened a door of faith to the nations.

And so God’s mission continues …
 

Prayer

God our Father,
thank you for opening the door
and for calling us to walk your way.
As we are going along, in whatever situation,
help us to fulfil our part in the transformation of society
by the grace of your love
in Christ.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Bernie Collins is a retired minister and member at Avenue St Andrew’s URC, Southampton and Convenor, URC Mission Committee

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 2nd August

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 14: 8 - 18

In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth.  He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man sprang up and began to walk.  When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”  Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.  The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice.  When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.  In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”  Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them. Reflection What an exciting passage this is.  You could imagine this being enacted by Charlton Heston et al (or does that just show my age?)  Understanding the background of Lystra helped me; and I hope it helps you.  On all previous occasions, and most subsequent ones, the Christian missionaries began their activity in the synagogue – crucially - among the people who already had some understanding of God.  This was very different.  There is no mention of a synagogue, and the people, who had good knowledge of Greek gods, had no knowledge of the God of Abraham.  The legendary history of Lycaonia includes a story that once Zeus and Hermes had come to this earth in disguise.  None of the peoples would give them hospitality other than the last two old peasants, Philemon and Baucis.  The offended gods then wiped out the entire population, except Philemon and Baucis, and made them guardians of the splendid temple.  Clearly those who saw and heard Paul and Barnabas were very mindful of that situation and did not want to suffer the same fate as their ancestors.

It took considerable effort from Paul and Barnabas to prevent the Lystrians from honouring them as gods.  But Paul, ever the quick thinker, seized the opportunity to introduce the one and true God to them at a most basic level, recognising that he was talking to an audience at ‘ground zero.’   This resonates with our experiences today as we venture outside the walls of our churches.
 

Prayer

Dear Father God,
we give thanks for all your missionaries,
and particularly for those who take the name of Jesus to the ‘unchurched’ today.
We pray that you will give them the courage and stamina to face their challenges
and the quick wits to read the situation and respond as Paul and Barnabas did in Lystra.
Amen

Today's Writer

Alan Yates is the Moderator of General Assembly 2016 to 2018

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 1st August

Tue, 01/08/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 14: 1 - 7

The same thing occurred in Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers.  But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.  So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who testified to the word of his grace by granting signs and wonders to be done through them.  But the residents of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.  And when an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to maltreat them and to stone them, the apostles learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; and there they continued proclaiming the good news. Reflection When our latest effort to get people interested in our local church has had no more success than the previous one, we read these stories in Acts wistfully. All it needed was for a couple of lay preachers to turn up and, far from putting up a wall of indifference, the locals responded by queuing up to start Walking the Way of Jesus. If only.

But in Iconium it was not quite your average family service. Paul and Barnabas made the focus of their work not the local church but the home of a rival religion. They also “stayed a long time” so the brevity of the Bible’s report should not mislead us into thinking that converting initial enthusiasm into long haul discipleship was that easy. And their reward was to have to flee for their lives, an experience not shared by many URC preachers recently.

A culture that expects all good things to be instant and painless sets the wrong benchmark for discipleship. Immersed in that culture, we have to work hard to believe God’s timings are not always in line with our preferences. There is a longer story than any of us know. Our job is to contribute what we can where we can.   
 

Prayer

God who ranges over eternity

Guide me in my discipleship:
show me when I need to face the many discipleship demands of Church life
and when I need to face the different discipleship demands outside Church life.

As today unfolds,
help me see the opportunities to speak of the wonders of your grace.

As my life unfolds,
reassure me that whether hopes are fulfilled or flattened,
my service in my place can be part of your purposes for every place.

Amen.

Today's Writer

John Ellis is Immediate Past Moderator of the General Assembly and Church Secretary within the Tudeley and Five Oak Green LEP in Kent

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Pages