URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 8th July

Sat, 08/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 26-30 When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.  So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.  He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him.  When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Reflection Earlier on in chapter 9 we read that Saul has been converted by his dramatic experience on the way to Damascus. However, when he tried to join the disciples they would not let him, it was understandable, as a short time earlier Saul had been violently opposed to them. It was Barnabas who provided the crucial role of ‘go between’ to bring the convert Saul and the established Christians together. This resulted in Saul (who became Paul) becoming a great servant of Christ and a huge influence on the church, then and indeed now.
 
This passage has much to teach us especially in relation to Barnabas, of what a crucial role reconcilers, encouragers play. Today, at the Emirates stadium, London there is the ‘Justone’ event, it is hoped that thousands of Christian will do a Barnabas act of encouraging ‘just one’ non-Christian friend to go to the event with them. It is hoped that these friends will hear the Christian message and respond positively, then there is often the need for another Barnabas type act of helping those who have responded to the gospel to be integrated into a church where they can be ‘let in’, welcomed so that they can grow in faith.
 
There are many other ways in which we need to be reconcilers and encouragers like Barnabas which there is not space to go into here. It is especially poignant if we reflect upon Damascus in Syria where Saul was converted and the situation there now.   Prayer Dear Lord,
we thank you for Saul’s conversion
and for Barnabas’ part in his story.
We give you thanks that people
in our own time
continue to respond to you as Saul did.
We pray that some will do so today at the ‘Justone’ event.
We also pray that we can all be like Barnabas
in encouraging and reconciling.
We also continue to pray for Syria,
that there may be people
who encourage peace and reconciliation in that troubled land.
In Jesus name, we pray,
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Andrew Willett is an Evangelism and Renewal advocate for GEAR and local URC minister. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 7th July

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 20 - 25 And immediately Saul began to proclaim to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ”He is the Son of God.” All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. Reflection Some volte-face! Some mind change! Once an opponent, now an advocate, apparently, and an enthusiastic one. What to make of it all? Confirmed, actually, in his Jewishness, but now with a deeper understanding of its meaning and destiny, Saul was treading a dangerous and unfamiliar path in that Damascus synagogue.

Nonetheless, although no great orator by his own admission, Saul was clearly convincing. Spell-binding oratory can blind us to the inadequacy of the case being put. Powerful speeches can persuade where the content otherwise would not. Saul’s case surely relied on its content and not on its delivery.

Saul was clearly a divisive figure. His message convinced some, but threatened, alienated and scandalised others. Although he attracted followers, many Jews regarded him as a dangerous subversive who had to be dealt with. Things came to a head, and he had to be got out of Damascus for his own safety. This is the stuff of adventure films, this lowering in a basket - but it’s hardly a dignified withdrawal.

Oratory is a great gift in the hands, or mouths, of the good and public-spirited, but it carries a menace when used by the unscrupulous. On the other hand, advocacy of the good can threaten not only those seeking to us harm and evil, but also those excessively wedded to the status quo. We who seek to advance the good have to stand up and be counted, and we may have to carry the bruises on our journey.   Prayer O Lord God,
Give us discerning minds,
But not that negative cast which casts innovation cynically aside.

Give us the wisdom to see the path ahead,
And to avoid those attractive alternative sidelines.

Give us the courage to lead others to positive living,
And the humility, ourselves, to follow wise leadership where we find it.

Give us the resolve to follow wisdom, wherever it may lead,
And the character to avoid folly,
And the insight to discern the difference. Today's Writer Ed Strachan is a Lay Preacher, Elder and member of Heald Green URC in Cheshire. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th July

Thu, 06/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 1- 19 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest  and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.  The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.   In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”  “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,  and after taking some food, he regained his strength.Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. Reflection A few years ago, a colleague and I were encouraging a young adult to become a Christian. Shortly after he agreed   to come to faith, it seemed that all hell broke loose around him. His health problems seemed to get worse, he lost his job and divorced. When he asked us why all that was happening  and whether he made the wrong decision, we could only offer him the reassurance that God and the church family were standing alongside him both practically and spiritually. When we had the same conversation two years later, his life was almost back to normal and he was much stronger in faith.

I have often been puzzled by why  Almighty God allowed Saul to fast and to be blind for three days before being prayed for and baptized? It is not uncommon for God’s people to be humbly broken by God before being spiritually equipped and send out. Saul’s self-righteousness, pride, misguided zeal, status and resistance had to be broken the hard way. This trial probably enabled Saul to truly die to self before being born-again. It appears that painful seasons of brokenness and unexplained suffering may be precursors of great blessings from the Lord. I can personally testify that some of my greatest personal blessings have been preceded by long seasons of unbearable pain, grief, weariness and even unexplained ‘disabilities’. Overtime, I have been learning not to fully despise those seasons or try to explain then away. I have rather been challenged to bear the cross of grief and shame and wait with hope. I understand hope here as the joyful expectation of great things to come.

Ultimately, Saul had to experience a ‘deep’ death to self. Hence, Saul must feel what it means to truly be ‘dead’ before experiencing the delight of new life in Christ.  Although we may not all recall such sense of ‘ deep’ death before committing to Christ,  it seems that ‘deep’ death,  whether gradual or dramatic has the potential  to enable a radical  and ‘deeper’  transformation. Such ‘deep’ death is also likely to give us the impetus, zeal and passion to enable others to come to faith.

That deep death to self may happen at many stages of our faith journey and  reminds me of the words of John 12.24-25: ‘Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal’ (Message translation)   Prayer Faithful and transforming God,
help us be captives so that we may be truly free,
prompt us to lay down our weapons so as to take Yours,
enslave our weak and poor hearts into your matchless love,
keep our power faint and low till we learn to humbly serve,
assist us in deeply dying to self so that we may be fully equipped,
make our desires  yours, so that they may truly  belong to us,     
and lead us daily  so that we may lead in the world according to your will.
Amen

Inspired from  the hymn ‘make me a captive, Lord’  by George Matheson Today's Writer The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze is Minister of Marlpool, Eastwood and Langley URCs in Derbyshire.
. Bible Version   THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 5th July

Wed, 05/07/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th July table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 8: 26 - 40 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
 
‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
    so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.’
 
The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.  As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. Reflection I could spend my time expounding many traditional opinions here, but instead, I want to share two things that struck me when I was reading a number of commentaries around this passage.
 
The first was the observation by the Rev’d Dr Mona West (a Queer theologian) that the Ethiopian Eunuch passage shows us someone who like each of us, struggles to make sense of Scripture. I know there are many passages, chapters and books of the Bible that I struggle with and many where I cannot see where my place is in it. I am also aware that I am not alone in this, but that at any point in time there will be many people struggling with making sense of the Bible.
 
The second thing that struck me was a comment from a blog post by the Rev’d Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran priest. Nadia talked about the “tent of God” and how we become possessive over it when in actual fact it’s God’s Tent!
 
We don’t always feel that there is a comfortable fit between ourselves and Christianity, or ourselves and our local church, but maybe if we stopped and wondered if there were others who felt this discomfort even more acutely because of “x, y, z”. This means that some folk might not want to talk to them, sit with them, shake their hand, etc, etc, the list goes on. Maybe if we would recognise that the tent isn’t ours and that the passage about the Ethiopian Eunuch reminds us that we all have a place in the story of God, and that even when we wrestle with scripture the overarching message is always that God loves us we would maybe try and be more open and embracing of those we see as other, so that they stop being “the other”.
 
So I challenge you to look around and come alongside someone who is struggling with Scripture or where their place is in Scripture and remember that God’s Tent is bigger than we might be comfortable with and that offers us space to grow too.   Prayer Abundant and Overflowing God
You have a place and a space
For each of us in Your Story.
 
Help us to always remember
That the tent is Yours
And that the Gift of Grace
You extended to us
Is also extended to those
We might not personally
Be comfortable with.
 
With Your Spirit
Enable us to be as open
As the Ethiopian Eunuch
Was to Your Word in
Our lives.
 
Amen. Today's Writer Kirsty-Ann Mabbott is a Church Related Community Worker at St David’s Church in Wales and Bettws 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th July

Tue, 04/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 8: 9 - 25 Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great.  All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”  And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit  (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).  Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,  saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!  You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God.  Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.   For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.”  Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans. Reflection Simon is a fascinating character, isn’t he? Is Simon’s conversion genuine? Does Philip condemn him for wanting to purchase the right to distribute the Holy Spirit, or merely warn him? Is Simon’s request for prayer sincere or some form of protective self-interest?

This is the gospel spreading “from Jerusalem, through all Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth" (1:8). The Holy Spirit is sweeping the most unlikely and alarming people into God’s embrace through Jesus. This is the beginning of “grace-run- amok”  Good News for the whole world – and the challenge to the church then and now is, “Are your hearts open enough to keep up?”

There is no need to assume that Simon’s conversion was any less real than Philip’s other hearers. The key has got to be Simon’s relationship with the spiritual powers.

Philip proclaims Jesus as the Messiah - “God’s Liberator”. The Messiah’s job was to free the people from all the powers and forces that kept them in chains. They wouldn’t distinguish between Roman occupation, demon possession, illness or disability – and neither does Jesus in the gospel stories. Philip’s ministry in Samaria mimics Jesus’ in Galilee, and gets the same dramatic, joyful response.

What Simon has not realised is that there is a connection between religion, economic exploitation, and power. Luke’s gospel is full of stories of Jesus being angry at the way in which religion is used to exercise power over the poor and vulnerable. And here, when Simon is confronted by the Holy Spirit, he sees immediately a way of getting wealthy and powerful.

Peter calls it “gall of bitterness and chains of wickedness”. Jesus talks about Mammon (rather than money). It’s the addictive power that chokes compassion and makes it apparently okay to live at the expense of others. It is able to pervert the very best in us – including our faith. It is a remarkable spiritual power, and it is the very opposite of the Holy Spirit.

Could Simon’s prayer request be a desperate recognition of his own captive helplessness? Would we recognize it in ourselves?   Prayer O God,

There are many who pray far more desperately for the coming of your Kingdom than I do.
They beg you for daily bread because they go to bed hungry.
They pray to be delivered from oppression and exploitation.
They long for people who look and behave like you –
who see their desperation and are moved to tears of compassion or a burning anger
that will not let them rest while things stay as they are.

Fill me with your Holy Spirit, I pray,
that my own heart will overflow with your compassion,
that I will find the courage to stand up against injustice,
that I will make a Jesus-shaped difference to my world.

Grant, by your grace, that I will be the answer to the prayers of the very least
and proclaim with my life as well as my mouth
that Jesus is the Messiah.

Amen. Today's Writer Lawrence Moore is a church mission and discipleship consultant, and attends Worsley Road United Reformed Church in Salford 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 3rd July

Mon, 03/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 8:4 - 8 Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was being said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city. Reflection Calamity and Devastation! Stephen had just achieved the distinction of being the first Christian martyr. He had demonstrated his preaching gifts and been stoned by an angry mob of the Jewish devout.

The faithful had been scattered, although their leaders had stayed put in Jerusalem. Philip, a deacon colleague of Stephen, went into Samaria and preached the Gospel there - strange days for a devout Jew! And they had listened - in Samaria! Unclean spirits were cast out - in Samaria! And there was great joy - in Samaria!

Philip was in Samaria because Jerusalem had become too hot to hold him and his message. It was the hated and despised Samaria, with its hated and despised Samaritans, that had already proved fertile soil for the seed, that proved to be so again. What a turn-around! Who would have thought it? Well, that’s Luke all over for you, pointing out these strange matters, unexpected places and spaces of hope.

Stephen and Philip were strange places of hope themselves. They had both been recruited to carry out charitable, administrative tasks. Necessary tasks, but somewhat run of the mill. Stephen had shown courage, eloquence and charisma. Philip was developing as an insightful and effective evangelist.

We never know where the flowers will bloom, do we? When we feel depressed and cast down about the effectiveness of the Church and the effect of the Gospel around us, we could do worse than remember Stephen and Philip, and, of course, Samaria.   Prayer Dear Lord our God,
Let us not bemoan the closed doors,
but enable us to seek and find the open ones.

May our words and works be so positive
as to provoke a reaction - friendly or hostile.

May we come to terms with the rough
as we rejoice at the smooth.

May our demeanour be resolute,
as our approach is understanding.

And may our lives be such as to commend us,
and what we stand for, to the world
Amen Today's Writer Ed Strachan is a Lay Preacher, Elder and member of Heald Green United Reformed Church in Cheshire. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 2nd July

Sun, 02/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Psalm 4
  O hear my cry, my righteous God.
Relieve me; I’m distressed.
Display your mercy to me now,
and answer my request.

The glory of my name, O men,
how long will you despise?
How long will you delude yourselves,
still searching after lies?

Know that the LORD has set apart
the godly as his own;
The LORD will hear me when I call
and my request make known.

In anger do not break God’s law;
consider and be still.
Present a righteous sacrifice,
and wait upon his will.

“O who can show us any good?”
I hear so many say.
O LORD, shine on us with your light;
show us your face, I pray.

You filled my heart with greater joy
than others may have found
As they rejoiced at harvest time,
when grain and wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace;
my heart will rest secure,
For you alone, O gracious LORD,
will keep me safe and sure.
You can hear a congregation sing this to the tune Ayrshire here Reflection In this early psalm, it’s as if the writer is playing with two different emotions at once. We read both of gratitude that the heart is filled with joy, the larder with bounty, and of pleading for relief from distress, from drought or dearth. How authentically human that is. Which of us doesn’t know days marked by this heady cocktail of delight and difficulty, of contentment and concern?
 
In the first verse of the metrical version the psalmist prays, ‘relieve me’. That’s an interpretation of the original psalm’s longing for wideness in a narrow place, which rather acutely captures the way that life’s trials can make us feel trapped, squeezed, maybe even struggling to breathe, Poverty, bullying, grief, worry, over-work, no work – these and many another ordeal often leave us with a sense of being hemmed-in. In our worst times, perhaps we have even despaired of ever seeing good again. We long for a renewed experience of space, of freedom, of more abundant life.
 
The Psalm goes on to hint at various ways in which walking with the Lord might lead us into a sense of airy liberty – what Psalm 23 evocatively calls ‘quiet waters’, ‘green pastures’. Keeping the law, offering sacrificial service, speaking into God’s open ear, resting in the sense of belonging to God, relishing an abundance of joy that is better than the best of harvests, and so on. They are signs of being immersed in God’s covenant love, which for Christians reaches its pinnacle in Christ. It is resting in that covenant love which nourishes the psalmist’s sense of liberty, of breathing freely, of having life-giving space, such that each day’s troubles can be borne with the steady breathing of faith and courage, and every evening it’s possible to lie and down and sleep in peace.
 
When I was a choir boy one of the first anthems I learned was S. S. Wesley’s Lead me, Lord; it’s still offered as an introit in many a church. Wesley draws upon the end of this Psalm – ‘for it is thou, Lord, thou Lord only, that makest me dwell in safety.’ And that ultimate freedom of being safe in God’s care is inextricably linked to our walking with God. The anthem begins, ‘Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness’. There we see the fine balance of the covenant. God’s covenant with us is inviolate, and it calls out of us an answering covenant response of faithful obedience and trust; of ‘walking the way, living the life of Jesus today’, wherein we are offered perfect freedom. Prayer Gracious God, thank you for your covenant love,
which we see supremely in Jesus Christ.
Today, whether I’m feeling stiflingly hemmed-in or gratefully free,
lead me in your righteousness,
for it is you who makes me dwell in safety,
through Jesus Christ, Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Nigel Uden is Minister of St Columba’s and Fulbourn URCs in Cambridge. Bible Version   Sing Psalms!  
(C) Psalmody and Praise Committee
Free Church of Scotland
15 North Bank Street
Edinburgh
EH1 2LS Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 1st July

Sat, 01/07/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st July table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 8 1 - 3 And Saul approved of their killing him.  That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison. Reflection Saul approved of the killing of Stephen, and that makes very uncomfortable reading, knowing that Saul not just approved of killing, but actively entered houses where he knew early Christian disciples and converts were meeting, and committed them to prison. This was an intense wave of persecution for the early Christian movement. Persecution does not happen by accident, it is planned and logically executed. Persecution can take many forms and for many reasons, but primarily in this passage, Saul saw the Christians as a threat to the foundation of Jewish tradition and belief, and needed to be eradicated.

The world is not so different today. Christians are persecuted for a variety of reasons. Many Christians are living under the tyranny of Islamic extremists, such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, and others live in countries that are similar to a political cauldron. The top country for persecuted Christians is North Korea, a place where Christian men, women and children, meet secretly to pray, share fellowship and read the Scriptures, and if caught they are imprisoned, tortured and even murdered for following Christ.

This passage from Acts, which illustrates Christian persecution 2000 yrs ago, is not so different in the 21 century.

Let us hope and pray that God touches hearts of persecutors, as he did with Saul, and echo words from Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.
  Prayer Lord,
In the corners of our world, where persecution reigns,
Give your strength to those who bodies are frail.
In the dusty roads, well-trodden by victims of oppression,
Give your courage to those who cling to your love.
In the fragile voice that speaks of peace, amid the reign of hatred surrounding them,
Give your hope to those whose heart is breaking.
In the hardened hearts of perpetrators,
May your Spirit of tenderness and compassion find her home.
In Jesus name we pray
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d  Ruth Dillon is minister of Fleet and Hindhead URCs. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 30th June

Fri, 30/06/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 7: 55 - 60  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Reflection I have just heard the story of a Christian leader who described how he spent years trying to convert his best friend, only to see him become a Christian months after they lost contact. The leader joked that he somehow missed on the reward and pride of being the one who finally led him to Christ. The good news may be that the leader kept proclaiming the gospel in spite of years of failure.

Stephen speaks and acts like a living sacrifice, who boldly gives a historical, personal and prophetic account of the hope within him. This perhaps begs some questions to be asked: what is the point of being full of wisdom and Spirit  if this leads to an apparently useless and  barbaric death?  It is clear that the early Church needed people like Stephen: full of grace, power and with the gift to perform signs and wonders. Had his life been needlessly wasted? What is the point to challenge stiff-necked people if it only drives them to anger and even murder? Have we ever felt that the output of our endeavours is not worth the effort we make or the price we pay?

If yes then such feelings may betray the reality that our judgement  has perhaps been blurred by conflict, opposition,  denial, rejection,  disappointment,  apparent failure and even our delusional, internal scripts. What life and people throw at us may taint our perspective on what God is accomplishing through us and behind the scenes of our awareness.

Among that crowd , stood  a young man named Saul who was destined to be the one of the greatest evangelist ever: one whose journeys and writings would contribute to the salvation  of billions of souls over the centuries. Saul, more than anyone else might have been the real audience in this narrative.  Going back to the initial question: was Saul worth Stephen’s apparent failure and death?  I am selfishly tempted to answer ‘ yes’.  It has been argued that seeds were sown in Saul’s heart that day, perhaps because of Stephen’s attitude. Indeed Stephen was bold proclaiming the truth regardless of the opposition and the cost; he humbly  prayed when he could  have posed all kinds of theodicy questions; and he passionately begged God  not to hold anything against his executioners and their accomplices.  Could such witness have prepared the merciless and stiff-necked Saul for the Damascus’s encounter?

I am encouraged to know afresh that all one does in witness and service for people is always worth the cost, even the cost of apparent failure and death.  How refreshing is it to be reminded that people around us, however they appear, have God’s potential to accomplish  much more than us in the future! Stephen’ s self-sacrificial attitude looks like the living Good News, which puzzles Saul and sets him on a journey of discipleship.     Prayer God of faithfulness ,
thank you for those who loved us sacrificially long before we deserve it,
those who failed that we may succeed,
and those  who humbly and faithfully laid their lives down so that ours could flourish.
Omniscient God, help us to always have  Your bigger picture in mind and at heart;
grant us courage to remain faithful in adversity,
boldness to proclaim the gospel whatever the cost and response,
grace to know that  all have an invaluable potential and  inheritance in you,
and wisdom to discern your glory, even when hidden in powerlessness.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze is Minister of Marlpool, Eastwood and Langley URCs in Derbyshire. Bible Version   THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 29th June

Thu, 29/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; 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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 7:  1-54 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?”  And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’  Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living.  He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child.  And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years.  ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’  Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

“The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.  Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh.  Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all;  so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors,  and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

“But as the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt.  He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die.  At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house;  and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.  He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand.  The next day he came to some of them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?’  But the man who was wronging his neighbor pushed Moses  aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?  Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons.

“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush.  When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord:   ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.  I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’

“It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.  He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.  This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’  He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us.  Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,  saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’  At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices
   forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
No; you took along the tent of Moloch,
   and the star of your god Rephan,
       the images that you made to worship;
so I will remove you beyond Babylon.’


“Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen.  Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him.  Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,

‘Heaven is my throne,
   and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
   or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these things?’


“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.  Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. Reflection To Stephen the deacon, charged with practical duties like the distribution of food, is attributed the longest sermon recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. We know from the preceding chapter that Stephen was transparent to the purposes of God. He is one who is ‘full of grace and power’ and his wise words and actions underscored his holiness.

The sermon infuriates his listeners because it attacks the very foundations of their righteousness. The patriarchs from whom the tribes take their names were not models of righteousness. Instead God raised up the self absorbed Joseph and delivered him from his own flesh and blood through the Pharoah of Egypt. The God whom we worship is not therefore a tribal deity preferencing religious or even moral rectitude. Instead, he can only be truly known as a redeemer or saviour. How offensive for such a lesson to be delivered to the guardians of that religious orthodoxy by someone who was not even racially a son of Abraham and yet was presuming to teach them Israel’s salvation history!

Our ancestors, says Stephen, were not willing to obey the law. The events which formed us simply were not following the designation  of the faithful nation, God’s chosen people. Instead they worshipped what they made with their hands - those things being so much easier to control. God turned away.

However the human divine dialogue continued through the tent of meeting. An earthly temple, however ornate, cannot contain the glory of God. God is on the move redeeming and rescuing and using very unlikely people to achieve his holy purposes.

You are the problem says Stephen, you are stubborn, self willed, and failed to recognise the day of the Lord when it dawned in Jesus. No wonder his hearers were infuriated. Perhaps we too can understand their fury?

Yet as Stephen speaks of his vision of Jesus, their rage boils over and the religiously righteous do what they always do, they turn to violence to enforce their version of God’s will against the prophet of God. As Dean Inge famously said ‘ A priest is never so happy as when he has a prophet to stone.’   Prayer God of glory,
We don’t like being told that our religious beliefs
frustrate your audacious purposes of love.
Keep talking to us,
Help us to recognize the prophetic voice,
Prevent us from lashing out against those who are bearers of your truth,
Set your record straight in us,
So that unbeknown to us,
People may glimpse your grace and truth,
In Jesus name,
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Richard Church is the  Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) and a member of Islington 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 28th June

Wed, 28/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; 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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 6: 8-15 Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.  Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen.  But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.’ And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. Reflection “You shall not bear false witness” – one of the foundation commandments of the Jewish religion, but Stephen’s accusers seem to have had no scruples about inciting others to give false witness claiming that Stephen attacked their faith and practices.

This tragic event arose out of an argument in the synagogue of Greek speakers. It is clear from the preceding item in Acts 6 that there was tension in the Christian community between Greek and Hebrew speakers about the distribution of supplies and as a result Stephen was one of the first seven “deacons.” Perhaps members of the Greek speaking synagogue knew something about this and were troubled, feeling threatened by the loss of some of their members to the new Christian heresy, as they saw it. They could not refute what Stephen had to say and so they jettisoned one of the building blocks of their religion to use lies to attack him. The false accusations were presented before the Council whose members looked intently at Stephen whose “face was like the face of an angel” – a messenger from God.

Occasionally (all too rarely?) we can find ourselves in the presence of someone whose holiness and Christian faith shines out – and how do we feel in such situations? Uncomfortable and unworthy perhaps – even tempted to find reasons to disparage such a person rather than be inspired to be more Christ-like ourselves. At any rate Stephen’s witness was such that rather than accept what he had to say a lynch mob was formed.

None of us likes what we feel precious being attacked and it can be hard to admit that an alternative view may in fact be correct; “argument weak, shout louder” has been a response resorted to in so many situations over many generations! But telling lies is far worse, and is being “economical with the truth” so much better? In this incident lying led to murder.

Pray God that when we feel threatened we can resist the temptation to twist facts into lies, bear false witness and seek to exact a form of vengeance against those who unsettle us.

“We are not like that” nor, in their own eyes, were those who attacked Stephen.   Prayer Gracious God,
we give thanks for the witness of Stephen
and of so many faithful Christians in every generation.
We pray for others and for ourselves
that when what we hold dear is threatened
we may have grace and wisdom to accept new insights
that build up our faith
but also have the strength needed
to resist all that would undermine true witness
to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
Amen Today's Writer The Revd Julian Macro is a retired minister and member of Verwood United Reformed Church 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 27th June

Tue, 27/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardBottomImageContent{ padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockInner{ padding-top:0 !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockOuter{ padding-top:9px !important; padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; 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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 6: 1- 7   Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.  And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables.  Therefore, friends,  select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.’ What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Reflection Sadly there’s nothing new in experiencing the Church as something less than one big happy family. Here we see believers who in the early flush of faith had all things in common falling into factionalism. Maybe the sharing of resources that first marked their life together had led some individuals into poverty, and now they had a sense that their own group were not being treated fairly. Study Church history, and you have the sense that the great causes of division over the ages have been theological and ecclesiological; but pick up an honest history of some local congregation, and you discover conflicts of a very different order.

How we deal with conflict in the local church is a real test for us all: do we face it, or do we pretend it is not there and ignore it? The Jerusalem congregation has strong leadership, and the twelve have a positive proposal to put to them. The way forward is going to be to develop local leadership – but that is only going to work if those who are chosen are then ready to develop and play a full part in this new ministry within the church.

But just what form this ministry will take is yet to be made clear. There’s something a bit uncomfortable about the implication that devoting oneself to prayer is somehow superior to a ministry of waiting at tables: didn’t Jesus come among us as one who serves? But we’d be missing the point if we thought that these seven appointed men are proto-deacons, or indeed if we thought any of these passages provide a clear pattern for later developments of ministries and orders. Stephen is never going to be remembered as an organiser, whatever might have been in the minds of those who appointed him. Once we allow the Holy Spirit a part in resolving our differences and guiding our futures, we can forget about the neat and tidy solutions we might have been planning.   Prayer Everyday God
through the hurts and quarrels and frustrations
that still mark the life of your church
keep us faithful to you.
And through the quiet influence of your Spirit
may we find new and better ways
of journeying together. Today's Writer The Rev’d John Durell is a retired minister in Northern 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 26th June

Mon, 26/06/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 5: 34 - 42   But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, ‘Fellow-Israelites,consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’

They were convinced by him, and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. Reflection Today’s Devotion narrative text from Acts continues on from last Saturday’s, where Peter and other Apostles are before the council of priests. Like in any court of law, there comes a point in proceedings when those responsible for making the decisions are in closed session away from the ‘accused’ to discuss, evaluate and decide. The events in today’s passage are very similar to this.

Gamaliel is an unlikely, unsung hero of New Testament times: a Pharisee, a teacher of the Jewish Law, but as we see in today’s text, a man of an open mind. He had clearly seen a number of false Messiahs or false saviours: he mentions two of them, Theudas and Judas, and how their movements died out.

Gamaliel had the wisdom to leave the door open for God. He knew that any religious movement not of God would die out, but if God were in the movement, then there would be nothing humankind could do to defeat God’s purpose. In Gamaliel’s words: “…if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them - in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (Acts 5:39)

Looking at the decreasing size and number of congregations, it can sometimes be disheartening. URC attendance in 1980 was 138,300; in 2016, just 33,100 ( Source: www.faithsurvey.co.uk ) Even at its peak in the 1920s, UK church attendance was around 30% ( Source: www.brin.ac.uk ); in 2015, that figure was around 3%.

Despite the Romans’ brutal suppression of Christianity, the faith survived and grew, and it became a world-wide faith. Almost 2000 years have passed since Jesus’ historically documented time on earth, and globally, 1 in 3 people identify as Christian. Weighing the history and the statistical evidence against Gamaliel’s declaration, clearly it is of God.

500 years ago, the Reformation began, bringing about massive changes to all Christian churches. In the Statement Concerning the Nature, Faith and Order of the URC, we read: “Faith alive and active: gift of an eternal source, renewed for every generation.”

Let us ask ourselves the question: what are we doing to cooperate as God seeks to renew the Church?   Prayer O Loving God,
You are the Living God, the only God, ever to be praised.
We give thanks to You for Your grace.
Help us to respond to the prompting of your Word.
Send Your Holy Spirit on us,
That we might be renewed for this and every generation.
Source, Guide and Goal of all that is: to You be eternal glory. Amen. Today's Writer Walt Johnson is a member and elder of Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC, Chorlton, Manchester. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 25th June

Sun, 25/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Psalm 3
  O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many up against me rise!
They all are saying now of me,
“In vain he on his God relies.”

But you are my protector, LORD;
You are a shield around me spread.
My glory comes from you alone,
The one who raises up my head.

When to the LORD I lift my voice,
In face of those who hate me still,
The LORD will hear my cry to him
And answer from his holy hill.

I settle down and sleep in peace;
I wake in God’s upholding hand.
I will not fear ten thousand foes
Who circling round against me stand.

Arise, O LORD! Save me, my God!
Deliver for your mercy’s sake!
Strike all my en’mies on the jaw;
The wicked’s teeth in pieces break.

The LORD alone deliverance sends;
No other source of help have we.
Therefore upon your people all
May your eternal blessing be.
This can be sung to the tune Galilee  or the tune Uffingham Reflection How many are my foes! How many up against me rise! The psalmist is amazed by the growing opposition. How many?! It is a familiar feeling to many of us. How many? How many more difficult days can there be? How much more worrying news? How many more challenges for our world and our future?

But rather than allowing fear and worry to triumph the psalmists find courage and confidence in the knowledge that God is present. They dwell on what they know of God’s character, they draw strength and faith from God’s actions in their lives so far. They meditate on God’s encompassing protection, in the evocative image of a shield.

The shield is the most often mentioned ‘weapon’ in the Psalms, reminding us of God's protection, our help, our shade and our strength. Focusing on God as a shield, the psalmist can inspire us to lift our heads up in faith, despite an uncertain future. We may rattle our swords in anger or frustration, but this shield, God’s shield, is much more powerful.

Recalling all God has done for us before, how God has sustained us safely through other dark nights, we, like the psalmist, can pray for deliverance with confidence and praise, knowing that deliverance comes from God alone. Prayer God of protection and blessing,
You surround us, sustain us and shield us,
Your actions of yesterday give us assurance for today.
God of promise and deliverance,
Lift our heads, our hearts and our hopes,
So we may look confidently towards tomorrow.
Amen Today's Writer Jo Clare-Young is an ordinand at Westminster College and member of Cuxton URC in Kent Bible Version   Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street
Edinburgh, EH1 2LS. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 24th June

Sat, 24/06/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 5: 22 - 33 But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in prison; so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”

Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on.

Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.”  Then, the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

When they had brought them, they made them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them saying,  “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”

But Peter and the apostles answered “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
  Reflection Some strong words and accusations flying about here!

Let’s set the scene. The jail is locked, the guards are outside but no one is inside, how can this be? More importantly where are they? Where have Peter and the Apostles gone and what are they doing?
Well, they are doing exactly what they were doing when they were arrested; they are preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So, the captain and the temple police go and get them. Temple police! That set me wondering, but of course it was the temple police who came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane (Luke 22:52) so they bring the Apostles and Peter back in and say  “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

Many years ago I spent ten years in what I call my ‘spiritual wilderness.’ I was brought up in Church life, steeped in it, taking youth services and was a Deacon in my late teens, only to drift away in my late twenties. I drifted back ten years later and many passages that I’d read in church without much understanding, suddenly started to make sense and this was one of them.

The preacher that day – I won’t name names - read this passage and asked, ‘What would you do if you had been arrested and told you would only be released on condition you stopped preaching?”

I said,  “exactly what I would do at work – tell them what they wanted to hear then please myself!” In other words, had I been Peter I would have said ‘Yes, fine I’ll go away and be good, I’ll not trouble you any more,’ then once on the street I’d continue as before. My logic being that I wouldn’t be of any use to anyone in prison.

This is the worldly view – very hypocritical and with no integrity whatsoever. Hopefully I’ve learned since – but I’m still aware that there is a lot of cynicism out there.

Anyway, back to Peter and the other apostles. No such cynicism or hypocrisy with them. Peter leaves the accusers in no doubt, about whom Jesus is with his heated reply. In a nutshell:

“We must obey GOD not you. It was GOD who raised Jesus from the dead, whom YOU killed by hanging him on a cross. GOD exalted him as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The pre Pentecost Peter denied Jesus. The post Pentecost Peter swore his love for Jesus, and here Peter is in no doubt about his mission or his message. So strong a message, that his accusers wanted to put them to death.

I wonder, if I was arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?   Prayer Lord,
thank you that we are blessed with the scriptures
and that through the lives of those gone before
we have examples of living faith.
Thank you that we can practice our faith without fear of persecution
and we pray that, in some way, the time will come
when all will be free to practice their faith in freedom
as we learn to truly love you and so learn to love one another.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Lena Talbot is Minister of Revidge Fold, Trinity Brownhill and Westbury Gardens URCs in Blackburn. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 23rd June

Fri, 23/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 5: 17-21 Provoked mightily by all this, the Chief Priest and those on his side, mainly the sect of Sadducees, went into action, arrested the apostles and put them in the town jail. But during the night an angel of God opened the jailhouse door and led them out. He said, “Go to the Temple and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life.”  Promptly obedient, they entered the Temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching. Meanwhile, the Chief Priest and his cronies convened the High Council, Israel’s senate, and sent to the jail to have the prisoners brought in. When the police got there, they couldn’t find them anywhere in the jail. They went back and reported, “We found the jail locked tight as a drum and the guards posted at the doors, but when we went inside we didn’t find a soul.” Reflection This passage again shows us the way that Paul is willing to be sent to the highest authority in the Roman Empire in order to defend his faith, something that perhaps we could take note of in today’s society. It is so very easy for those of us in Europe and other ‘Western’ cultures to exercise our rights to religious freedom and to attend church as and when we wish or are able. It is our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not able to worship freely in places across the world, and could be punished purely for their faith, that we must remember when we read this passage.

Do you feel the pain of those persecuted for their faith or have you always been able to exercise your faith publically? Jesus calls us to a life of service, sacrifice and grace. It is when we truly accept who we are as followers of Jesus, that we are able to serve him. However we must realise that serving our Lord is something that we cannot do without asking the question “What sacrifices am I willing to make for my faith?”. Being willing to make sacrifices in modern times and in the West is not having to risk your life to worship, but perhaps try and remember the last time you went to church instead of attending a football match on a Sunday or the last time you attended a mid-week service instead of being tied up with other social engagements. Christ calls us to make these sacrifices, small they may seem, but in doing so we are able to glorify God through them.   Prayer Loving God,
Through your love you sent your Son to us, so that we may live.
Jesus gave the greatest sacrifice, his life, so that we could be made free.
Help us be willing to make the same commitment to you, in our busy lives.
In Jesus’ name, Amen. Today's Writer Jake Convery is organist at Congleton 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.


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URC Daily Devotin 22nd June

Thu, 22/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotin 22nd June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; 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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 12: 5-16 Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured. Reflection How many times I have preached on this text the wrong way round – in such a way that it must have left congregations feeling rubbish that their church life is nothing like that in Acts, no communal sharing, no dramatic miracles, not even a healing of a cold! This can’t be what God wants us to feel. But maybe there is a real challenge to us today in this reading. Do we risk our life in the body of Christ, its power, and its health by attempting things without the power of the Holy Spirit?

As we read through Acts, it is a testimony of Christians being discipled by the Holy Spirit – indeed it is “Walking the Way,” but – more like hop, skip and jumping the Way, or as one man did, “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). That was the disciples healing one man, but in today’s reading they are healing many. They begin their church life spending time together, but soon are sharing their possessions as the mission needs. They speak of Jesus to anyone who will listen, but it isn’t long before they are witnessing to those in authority, and persecution begins, until by Chapter 8 we read of a scattered Church. They needed to be prepared for that – and through the power of the Holy Spirit, miracles and wonders were happening - summed up in the reading, that “yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord” and when people brought “the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, they were all cured”.
    
This is not a church boasting of the wonderful things it is doing, but one humbled by the immense task of the mission before them, ever-increasing persecution and the eventual breaking up of their fellowship to the four corners of the world. Notice that people were bringing loved ones from the towns of Judaea – already, ready or not, we are taken into phase two of God’s mission, firstly Jerusalem, but then Judaea! Keep up! Keep following! Soon, it would be the strange folk of Samaria, and then the Pagan world itself! They could not have survived in their own strength, let alone been effective witnesses for Jesus. The miracles and wonders were great to convince the crowds, but I am sure they also built up the confidence of the believers themselves. The lesson for our discipleship I hear, is simply to know more and more how much God has given us in Jesus Christ, and how totally dependent we are on the Holy Spirit to empower us with the same love that raised Jesus from the dead, for our discipleship today.   Prayer Holy Spirit:
When God’s Mission is just too awesome,
give to us just one person to share the good news.
When God’s Mission loses its excitement,
give to us the unexpected answer to prayer.
When God’s Mission is overwhelmed by problems,
give to us renewal of Faith in Jesus.
When God’s Healing is no longer believed,
give to us reassurance of answered prayer.
When God’s Healing seems impossible,
give to us vision to see the Healing in every day of our life.
When God’s Healing does not come,
give to us Faith to believe the Healing in Eternity.   
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Kevin Watson is Moderator of General Assembly 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 21st June

Wed, 21/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardBottomImageContent{ padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockInner{ padding-top:0 !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockOuter{ padding-top:9px !important; padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 5: 1-11 But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things. Reflection The story of Ananias and Sapphira can often catch us off guard. Following the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension and then the descending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Luke has been painting a positive picture as the seeds of early Church activity are planted. The apostles take the lead and set out the shape of how this community of Jesus followers should operate. They seem united and committed about how they should live and worship and they do so with confidence. All is well. That is until we encounter the disturbing events in Acts 5: 1-11.

To transfer all private ownership to common ownership seems a big ask from the apostles. However, it was a way to ensure an even distribution of resources that meant “there was not a needy person among them” (4:34) and it was a policy that appeared to work. But does that mean everything? Clearly for those with little or nothing this would be a popular community to be part of but for those with assets, this was a bigger test of faith. Ananias and Sapphira fell into the latter category so perhaps as an insurance policy just in the case this Jesus movement did not work out, they retain some of the proceeds from their sale.

However, this is a decision that backfires when they are both found out. The problem here though is not that they have decided to keep some funds to themselves, it is they have tried to do so in a way that gave the impression they had not. The Acts description of the perfect church has been shattered by the actions of Ananias and Sapphira. Luke could of course have left this story out but that would have given a false impression of the early Church. It consisted of real people with real weakness so in this sense was no different to the church we are part of today. This story contains a warning for us when we are tempted to present ourselves through our words and actions as better than we are. At the end of the day it is only ourselves that we are fooling but it is God that we are letting down. For Ananias and Sapphira the realisation of this was just too much when directly challenged by someone with the authority of Peter.   Prayer God of wisdom and love,
You know me better than I know myself.
You know my weaknesses.
You know the times when I have given way to temptation.
You know my strengths.
And you know my heart.
Forgive me for the times I have failed you.
Enable me to serve you as you desire
and be the person you want me to be.
Amen Today's Writer David Scott is an ordinand at the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 20th June

Tue, 20/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 4: 32-37 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Reflection For some readers, the first thing they notice about this text is the part about the holding of everything in common and the end of private ownership. Perhaps Marx comes to mind and the maxim that ‘property is theft’. They will light on the parts about the lands and houses being sold so that no one was hungry or in need. Barnabas from Cyprus sells a field, gets a new name and a firm place in the history of early Christianity.

For other readers this passage is not so much about the end of private property, but about the impressive authority of the apostles. There are no less than four references to ‘the apostles’ in these short verses and they add up to a kind of insistence that the apostles had a huge amount of power and authority. They gave their testimony to the resurrection with great power. The money from the sales of possessions were laid at their feet. And the apostles gave people new names –they who turned Joseph into Barnabas, a ‘son of encouragement.’ They have the power to preach the Gospel, they have power over the money and even over the identity and naming of new members of the community. For some readers, this passage is about the apostles and their significance and belongs not in the political category (where we are inclined to put ideas about property and redistribution), but in the ecclesiological box (where we put the things that make the Church what it is, including ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’).

I find some things difficult about both readings (and no doubt there are other readings that might trouble me too). I am rather attached to the relatively small (or should that be large?) amount of private property that I have. I dread ending my days in a place where I might wear a nightie that someone else chose. The things I treasure are freighted with memory that no one else would see in them. I am content to give generously and to change the world for good, but I am reluctant to live in a community where everything is owned in common. Similarly, I am wary of a model of Church where some have the kind of authority described here, to claim a privileged witness to the Gospel, to control the money and to name others.

So, this reading challenges me. I am challenged to let my own life be shaped by the witness of the apostles as much as people were in the first century. My possessions and my possessing, my politics and my giving, should be shaped by their authoritative witness. I have been ruthlessly shaped by a culture that values privacy and individuality, and that rejects external authority. But my life is given to Christ, whose Gospel and challenge I have heard through the witness of the apostles. May this text, and their witness, speak to me still, and let me hear it.     Prayer O Christ who calls me into your Church,
let me discover again that the Church is One,
rejoicing in its unity and diversity,
reaching out to meet my brothers and sisters.

O Christ who calls me into your Church,
teach me what it means for the Church to be Holy,
and to be touched by that promise,
that my life may be holy too.

O Christ who calls me into your Church,
show me how Catholic is your community,
the broadness of its tent
and the wonder of its peoples.

O Christ who calls me into your Church,
let me hear again and again
the witness of the apostles
and find those who faithfully echo their testimony today.

Shape me into your body
and give me grace to be conformed to you,
nonconformist though I am.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton 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.


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URC Daily Devotion 19th June

Mon, 19/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 4: 23-31 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Reflection I’m reminded of the testimony of a retired vicar when I read this. He and a mission team overseas were praying fervently when their building began to shake. They remembered this passage where the fledgling church in Jerusalem prayed for boldness after Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin. The group continued their task with fresh expectation and their mission proved fruitful.

Peter and John were ordered not to preach any further about the resurrection in Jesus. They had no intention of obeying: ‘We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20). Their community didn’t dwell on the threats. They didn’t keep quiet for safety’s sake.

These early believers were realistic about the opposition they would face. Their prayer for boldness shows they acknowledged their fear. But they were convinced that God’s mission would be fulfilled even if they drew back from the task before them. They focussed on God’s creative and redemptive power in Jesus.

We’re well-aware that any opposition to our expression of faith in the U.K. is minimal compared to persecution of Christians elsewhere. We value the privilege of freedom of worship too lightly, and practise our faith superficially. The early Church knew their dependence on God as they encountered opposition and persecution; many of our persecuted friends in Christ know this dependence in a way we do not. As we thank God for our freedom to worship, and pray for persecuted believers, let’s also pray for boldness to believe that God continues to act in mighty ways despite the feebleness and frailty born of comfortable complacency.   Prayer Creator God, strengthen the suffering and persecuted;
Redeeming God, shake the comfortable and complacent;
Sustaining God, embolden us all.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Dr Gillian Poucher is  Minister of Gainsborough 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.


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