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URC Daily Devotion 25th August 2019

URC Devotions - 11 hours 29 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Listen to the podcast via https://devotions.urc.org.uk/

 

Psalm 111

1 Praise to the LORD! I will extol him
while gathering with the upright.
2 Great are the works of God, and pondered
by all who in them take delight.

3 His deeds are glorious and majestic;
his righteousness endures always.
4 He caused his works to be remembered;
kind is the LORD and full of grace.

5 Food he provides for those who fear him;
his covenant for ever stands.
6 His mighty works he showed his people
by giving them the nations’ lands.

7 Faithful and just are all his actions;
all his commands are faithful too,
8 Steadfast for ever and for ever.
The works of God are right and true.

9 He sent redemption for his people;
his covenant remains the same,
Ordained by him throughout all ages—
holy and awesome is his name.

10 Fear of the LORD gives rise to wisdom;
All those who walk in upright ways
Have insight and good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the tune Genevan Psalm here.
 
Reflection
I love the Psalms, they have so much to offer us in worship and in life; they offer a glimpse of what a real, faith-filled life looks like.  We sometimes overlook them, perhaps because they appear difficult to relate to, they seem so divorced from daily life.

I write this as Brexit and our elected officials are in flux – no-one appears to know what is happening.  It is not the only headline: terrorists attack mosques in New Zealand and churches in Sri Lanka; knife crime is out of control; severe flooding has caused devastation in parts of southern Africa, and head teachers worry about how their schools will survive, let alone thrive.  Yet our Psalm encourages us to praise God – for many that may seem hard, if not impossible.

The Psalmist not only tells us to praise God but why we should.  We are reminded of what God has done, from feeding to redeeming and everything in between.  But more than that, in an ever-changing world, God is constant; trustworthy; faithful. We may despair of ever finding our way, but God is there – always and forever.

Perhaps that’s what we need to be reminded of, we need to remember what God has done for us and that God is there for us. For when we are told that fear of the Lord is wisdom, it is not fear in that we should be frightened of God, no, it is remembering God with awe and respect because of what he has done. 

When we objectively look at what God has done for us, we can offer praise.  Just think of praising God, when even in the depth of our souls, the whole world appears to be against us, surely that is real wisdom, in fear of the Lord.
 

Prayer

Loving Lord, from the depths of our being we offer you praise and glory. When life is hard, help us to remember all you have done for us, so we may offer you praise and glory. When life is good, help us to remember to give thanks for all you have done for us, so we may offer you praise and glory. Lord, for life itself, we offer you praise and glory.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees, East Wales Regional Minister.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 24th August 2019

URC Devotions - Sat, 24/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 24th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

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Romans 3: 9 - 20

What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written:
‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
  there is no one who has understanding,
       there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
   there is no one who shows kindness,
       there is not even one.’
‘Their throats are opened graves;
   they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of vipers is under their lips.’
‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
   ruin and misery are in their paths,
and the way of peace they have not known.’
   ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
Reflection
Today’s Scripture reading offers a damning assessment of humanity. But these words have a chilling resonance when we read it in the context of today’s news headlines. 

The damage to the environment speaks for itself. Plastic waste drifts ashore on remote Pacific islands, micro-fibres are blowing on the winds in the Pyrenees, and sweet wrappers have been found in the ocean depths. We even have a growing junk problem in low-Earth orbit threatening human space flight and satellite operations. 

We have sought to exercise mastery over nature and tainted the world around. It seems that even the ends of the earth are stained with the damage of human excess.

In his essay The Abolition of Man C S Lewis writes that we do not just seek to control the natural world. We also seek to control the metaphysical world - the spiritual space around us. We dictate the terms that we will relate to God. We have even declared that God is dead. We are trying to be masters of our reality and damaging the sacred spaces in the process.

So how should we travel through the physical and spiritual sacred spaces around us? The prophet Micah offers us a simple rule of thumb. “The Lord has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8)
 

Prayer

Creator God, please forgive us for holding such misplaced illusions of self-grandeur.
May we walk through these lands remembering that they were crafted by your hands. 
May we remember that the Heavens are your domain, and we can only enter by your gracious invitation. 
Help us to treat each other with the dignity that you have bestowed on all humanity.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Today's Writer

Daniel Harris, Ordinand, St Neots 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 23rd August 2019

URC Devotions - Fri, 23/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church
 

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Romans 3: 1 - 8

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?  Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?  By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
‘So that you may be justified in your words,  and prevail in your judging.’
But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?  But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’? Their condemnation is deserved!
Reflection
This passage challenges me to look at the difference my faith and behaviour makes to my present life. Some of the Roman church had fallen into entitlement and presumption, thinking that because of their Jewish background and privilege they were always going to be forgiven and blessed as God’s chosen people. They assumed sin really didn’t matter because it allowed God to be glorified more!

I read here about how important it is that life is lived in the fullness of all that God has for me, everyday. There is no ‘sleeping on the job’ when it comes to living a new life in Christ. I am blessed and filled with all that God has when I live alive in prayer, come afresh to worship Him each day and give Him glory through how I live in honesty and truthfulness. God, I believe, doesn’t actually need our worship or to be glorified. He is not dependant on how I live, but His heart is only longing for me to ‘get it’, to realise how much I am loved. My sin doesn’t bring Him more glory just because I then need more forgiveness. The Romans were missing the point and therefore missing the reason that Jesus died as the ultimate sacrifice. Forgiveness is gifted to us by the blood of Christ and to ‘mess’ with that doesn’t grow our hearts and minds into the mature people and the mature Church that brings God real glory.
 

Prayer

My Saviour, Lord and King,
to worship you daily is a privilege, a gift and a joy.
Today I open my heart afresh and lay my life exposed in your presence.
I settle myself in your throne room and drink your refreshing water.
I taste the nourishment of your Word to me as I read.
Lord, be in front, behind, above and holding my life, surrounding everything I do.
Thank you for your never ending presence that strengthens and guides every day.
Amen

Today's Writer

Jo Patel, Wattisfield URC, Suffolk

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
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Our 1000th Devotion

URC Devotions - Thu, 22/08/2019 - 10:59
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Our 1000th Inspiration Arrives In Your Inbox Tomorrow

The lovely URC Communications team have put this new item together:

Daily Devotions, the United Reformed Church’s (URC) series of digital daily Bible readings, reflections and prayers, reaches its 1000th edition on 23 August.

The devotions are written by more than 100 people from across the denomination.

More than 3,000 subscribers receive the inspirational readings in their inboxes at 6am each day, and hundreds more follow online.

The Rev'd Andy Braunston, Minister of Barrhead, Priesthill, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster, created the project when working for the Metropolitan Congregation in Manchester in 2016. He sent out his own reflections on the weekly lectionary readings to members of the congregation.  This then evolved into the Devotions we know today.

He said:

“I am so pleased that so many people both read the Devotions and have volunteered to write for them. 
“Many people have commented that the devotions are a way in which the URC expresses a form of unity, each day, normally first thing in the morning, so many of us are reading, reflecting and praying about the same passage.”

A small team of people work with Andy to advise on themes and sometimes suggest writers for a particular series, for example, the Rev'd Dr Janet Tollington's series on Job and the Rev'd Michael Hopkin's series on the Lord's Prayer.
One of the writers, the Rev'd Fiona Thomas, URC Secretary for Education and Learning, shares her experience in writing a devotion:

“I enjoy the discipline of staying within the word limit and writing a short prayer, always aware that the people who offer these on the day before or after may be coming at the text from a completely different direction from myself. That diversity is refreshing, and as a subscriber to the devotions I find the divergent interpretations of scripture startling and refreshing, whether I agree with them or not.”

More than 50% of subscribers recently took part in a survey which showed long-term engagement with the devotions, and a substantial number of new readers.

Almost 70% of readers were involved in a local URC and another 12% in an ecumenical church that included the URC. Roman Catholics, members of the Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of England also read the devotions.

Around 45% of respondents felt the devotions were relevant almost every day to their own faith journeys and another 53% said they were often relevant. 

“Given the diverse nature of our writers and our readers this is quite an achievement; especially as everyone involved are volunteers,” continued Andy.

“One of the most moving aspects of the feedback is that some people use the devotions as they can no longer get to church. This is sometimes due to illness or the fact their church has closed. In this small way the devotions allow people to keep contact with the spiritual tradition which has nurtured them for years.”

The Daily Devotions are a great tool for local churches for use in small groups, Elders' meetings or even as sermon starters. They are also available in an A5 book for people to print off for those in their congregations who don't have access to the internet.

You can now listen to the Daily Devotions as audio files here

 
 
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URC Daily Devotion 22nd August 2019

URC Devotions - Thu, 22/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Listen to the Podcast here Share Tweet Forward

Romans 2: 17 - 29

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law,  and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth,  you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? You that boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law?  For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’
Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.
Reflection
When I was teaching a class of 4 year olds, job-sharing with my friend, we both wore glasses. One day, whilst reading with a small girl, she sighed and said: ‘I wish I could get glasses like you both because then I would be able to read words as well, not just talk about the pictures’. Sometimes in life we are like that: we expect to grow and develop without any effort.

The first time I made coffee at church I heard the comment: ‘Oh dear, she is using the mugs!’ In churches we like to make ‘rules’ about how things are done, from the Communion cloths (starched/ square?) and chalice (full or empty?) to the placing of chairs (in rows, evenly spaced!). We like our routines and structures because they make us feel safe; this can become an issue when our ways of doing things exclude others or limit change. How easy is it to become so familiar with our ways and habits that we fail to see we are excluding others?

In this reading, Paul is telling those in positions of responsibility that faith is not about just following rules. This text has real echoes of Jesus’ teaching as cited in St Matthew 7:5 about removing the log out of our own eye so we can see the speck in our neighbour’s! To grow in faith takes time, thought, study and involves being prepared to be challenged, open minded and willing to reflect on our words, actions and accepted attitudes.

God calls us to go out and share the Gospel and to do so from the heart. If we do those things faithfully, we cannot fail to be changed by what occurs. God knows we will be blessed because of it; so will the Church and so will the world.
 

Prayer

Dear God, help us when we get so hooked up on doing things right, following the rules, being the certain type of person. May we heed reminders of the need to intentionally include and find ways to look to the heart of relationships, not just at the practicalities. May we find time to reflect and accept your promptings to change. This we pray from the heart. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills, Minister at Newport Pagnell URC and West End United Church, Wolverton.

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
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URC Daily Devotion 21st August 2019

URC Devotions - Wed, 21/08/2019 - 06:00
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Wednesday 21st August

Romans 2: 1 - 16

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’  Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life;  while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

Reflection

Following what amounts to a rant in Chapter 1, Paul now addresses the practical implications of living according to God’s revelation through Christ.
          
When I was invited to be a magistrate I had to wrestle with St Luke 6.37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Like many others I needed to distinguish between my role as a citizen and my personal dealings with others, and trust that, under God’s guidance, I would make the right decisions. Putting it another way, I realised that God is not particularly interested in how many sermons I preach, but whether I practise what I preach.
          
Here Paul makes this point so very clearly but in doing so seems to offer a religion of works, not of faith alone: “For he will repay according to each one’s deeds.” Paul was heavily influenced by his Pharisaic background and is explaining how the system of Law was meant to work, even if it did not. However in the context of the whole of the Letter to the Romans it becomes very clear that it is through God’s grace that we are justified by faith alone; as we shall read in 3.20, “For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the Law, for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
          
But it remains the case, does it not, that others do judge us by our actions and our words?  This puts a great responsibility on us as followers of Jesus Christ. This passage emphasises that “God shows no partiality” – a radical, revolutionary revelation to Paul, the Pharisee, brought up to draw such a clear distinction between Jew and Gentile. In our complex society how readily do we reflect God’s love and lack of partiality?
 
Prayer
 
Gracious God:  guide us, we pray, that in all our dealings with others we may not rush to judgment but seek to understand all who are born to be your children. In our lives may we give a clear example of what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ: trusting in his power Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired Minister, Member of Verwood United Reformed Church Copyright
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Podcast Link

URC Devotions - Tue, 20/08/2019 - 09:27
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Link to Podcasts

Dear Friends,

the link to the Podcast has been missed off the Devotions for the last couple of days.  We're looking to correct this but if it is missed off in future please go to

devotions.urc.org.uk

and you will find it there.  On a computer the link is at the top of the page on some phones and tablets you have to scroll down to the bottom!

best wishes

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URC Daily Devotion 20th August 2019

URC Devotions - Tue, 20/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 1: 18 - 31

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves,  because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.
Reflection Paul found, in Jesus, new life, meaning, and understanding of his faith.  A good preacher - today’s passage is part of a sermon as Paul’s letters were written to be read aloud.  His Jewish listeners would feel smug - critiquing pagans was always good for that!

Rome was the heart of the Empire where most lived lives of desperation surrounded by the wealthy few with their riches, slaves, and decadence.  Roman sexual mores were rather more complex than our own, being defined by roles and actions not identity. The Imperial family wasn’t a shining example of restraint.  Augustus’ wife, Livia, was rumoured to have killed various relations. Tiberius’ wife, Julia, publicly flaunted her infidelities whilst he was rumoured to have rather distasteful sexual appetites.  Caligula lived life to such excess that he was killed by his own guards - but not before declaring himself to be a god. Claudius’ wife, Messalina seemed to follow the family custom of wanton abandon.  

Paul saw Roman sexual mores as depraved -  a punishment by God on pagans who who worshipped creation rather than the Creator.  We, however, have a different (though changing) understanding of sexuality. We see sexuality as a given facet of human nature and identity -  not a reward, or punishment, for idolatry. We know of faithful Christians whose love and witness would have been unthinkable to Paul.

This doesn’t mean we can ignore or write off this passage - there is much here for us.   It’s always tempting to be dazzled by created things rather than the Creator, to ignore God in the midst of life, to see our foolishness as wisdom, and to treat others as objects for our own ends.    Selfishness and self-centredness manifest themselves over and over again through the centuries, taking on new forms and identities, tempting us to new patterns of idolatry. Pray that we see it in ourselves, have the courage to act, and not distract ourselves by using this passage as a weapon against others.

Prayer

O God,
you call us from darkness into light,
to turn from our idols of technology, status and wealth,
and worship you, our Creator.
Give us the wisdom
to discern you at work in our world,
recognise your image in our diversity,
and understand, not weaponize, the Word.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston, a minister in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster working with Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton 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
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URC Daily Devotion 19th August 2019

URC Devotions - Mon, 19/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 1: 16 - 17 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’ Reflection
Paul’s boldly proclaims that he is unashamed of the Gospel.  “Gospel”, of course, means Good News. Why would anyone be ashamed of Good News?  When we receive our own good news, don’t we long to tell others about it, so that they can share in our excitement?
 
However, Paul is eager to share this good news with the people in Rome.  He wants them to be excited about a Jew, a common carpenter (as they might have seen Him), and one who suffered the indignity of crucifixion, the form of execution for the lowest and worst of criminals.  What is more, Jesus was killed in Jerusalem, an insignificant capital of an insignificant and remote Roman colony. How could this possibly represent good news to the fine people of Rome?
 
In these two verses, Paul sets out a summary of all he is about to explain at length and in detail.  The Gospel is the power of God to save all people who have faith – Jew, Gentile, citizen, slave, conquerors and vanquished alike.  We are all within God’s reach through faith in Jesus.
 

Prayer

Thanks be to You, O God.
You have a plan to save us all through Your Son.
 
Deepen our faith in You that we might know Your power to save us.
 
Oh, and God – help us to get excited over the Good News about Jesus, so that we too are unashamed of the Gospel and eager to share it.
 
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Steve Faber, Moderator, West Midlands 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
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URC Daily Devotion 18th August 2019

URC Devotions - Sun, 18/08/2019 - 09:15
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward This is a text block. You can use it to add text to your template.

Psalm 110

1 The LORD said to my Lord:
“Sit here at my right hand,
Until I make your foes a stool
on which your feet may stand.”

2 The LORD will make your reign
extend from Zion’s hill;
With royal power you’ll rule among
those who oppose your will.

3 When you display your power,
your people flock to you;
At dawn, arrayed in holiness,
your youth will come like dew.

4 Unchangeably the LORD
with solemn purpose swore:
“Just like Melchizedek you are
a priest for evermore.”

5 The Lord’s at your right hand;
there he will ever stay.
He on his day of wrath will crush
the kings who bar his way.

6 The nations he will judge;
the dead in heaps will lie.
The mighty of the earth he’ll crush—
all who his rule defy.

7 A brook beside the way
his thirst will satisfy;
And, thus refreshed, he will with joy
lift up his head on high.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Selma here.
 
Reflection
Melchizedek is something of a mystery.  He is described in Genesis 14 as the King of Salem (probably Jerusalem), a name which means king of peace.  Yet he arrives to praise God for giving Abram victory in battle. This Psalm does not read like a song of peace, but rather seems to exalt war and the bloody defeat of enemies. 
Melchizedek is also described as a priest,  and he gives Abram a blessing from ‘God Most High’.  He shares an offering of bread and wine, and receives Abram’s offering to God.

Part of the mystery is the lack of further detail.  Melchizedek is not part of a family line, or given a history. He is not described as king of a tribe or priest of a holy site.  And he vanishes never to appear again. So mysterious is he, in both his identity and actions, that many have wondered if this is in fact a ‘theophany’, an appearance of Christ, the true King of Peace and Priest forever.  The letter to the Hebrews picks up on this, describing Christ as our High Priest in heaven – distancing Christ from the rather more human Levitical Priesthood of the Temple. And this Psalm alludes to the now and not yet of Christ’s reign, mixing images of conflict and worship in describing how this will be established.

I am most struck by the description of youth flocking to the king’s hill, like the refreshment of the early morning dew.  How might we foster this gathering, and allow the Church to be soaked in the refreshing perspective of youth? Can we pray for such a dawn to break?  Perhaps the current engagement of young people in climate crisis issues is the foretaste of such a new dawn. Could all ages be blessed by such holiness?
 

Prayer

Lord, may we be open
to your unexpected appearance
as king and priest.
Challenge us to fight evil.
Make us your offering of praise.
Help us welcome all ages into your presence
so we too may enjoy the blessings
of the dew of youth
and see your kingdom come.
Amen
 

Today's Writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe Community Oxford

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URC Daily Devotion 17th August 2019

URC Devotions - Sat, 17/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 1: 8 - 15

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.  For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—  or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish  —hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Reflection I’ve lived ‘in community’ a number of times in my life. Just like a family situation, you occasionally find yourself getting under each other’s feet, getting on people’s nerves, being frustrated with someone’s behaviour, unable to find a compromise, or even being angry about how someone’s behaved. Of course, as well as being the recipient, we too do our fair share to aggravate, frustrate or annoy. Community life can be a rough ride.

But community life can be inspiring. People encourage one another or give each other support. You can feel down and yet find yourself inspired by the wisdom and generosity of others. People can share a perspective on life that you’ve never seen, or offer a solution to a problem you’re struggling to see. And just as others can inspire, we too play our part in guiding and encouraging. Community living can open our eyes. 

Church life is community living too. We may not live in the same house as others who share our Christian life, but when we gather in community (as our congregations tend to be ‘gathered’) we share together in the communal living of the Church. We should long to share with one another in spiritual gifts to strengthen each other. We should long to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. We should long to take part in mission to share our faith with our local communities. 

Yet we must remember that our Churches are not always places where people feel able to step over the threshold and be part of the community. Church life is difficult for people for a variety of reasons. While this restricts, we know that when we share communally, when we meet and build each other up, the life of the Church is enriched and strengthened and we can live God’s mission for the Church. We must break down barriers in our Church so we can all be encouraged and inspired by the common faith we share. 

Prayer

May we be inspired by faith as we inspire others.
May we be encouraged in faith as we encourage others. 
May we be love for others as we seek to love the world, 
in Jesus’s name. Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, is the Trust Secretary for the Yorkshire Synod.

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URC Daily Devotion 16th August 2019

URC Devotions - Fri, 16/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 1: 1-7

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,  the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,  including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Reflection Recently I was at a meeting where people were asked to introduce themselves by sharing an experience in their life that still shaped who they are today.  One person had grown up in a single parent household when that was still unusual, another had become the carer for an elderly parent at age 11, yet another had lived in a war zone.  All these events had deeply shaped their identity and how they viewed the world.
When the apostle Paul introduced himself to the Christians in Rome, there is one event that had deeply shaped him. That is his encounter with the risen Christ. That shaped his identity and his entire outlook on life.
Paul is writing to a Christian community of Jewish origin. A community he did not establish and had never visited, so introductions matter!
His greeting is striking. He used only his own name – no co-sender – and called himself a servant of Christ, who was called to be an apostle and who was set apart for the gospel. Scholars think that how Paul describes the gospel in verses 3 and 4 are not his own words, but a Jewish Christian formulation that would have been known to the Roman Christians.  It may be that he was trying to show that what he had preached agreed with what the Romans believed.
But perhaps it was simpler. Perhaps Paul was merely trying to express that even though they had never met, they had one thing in common: a new identity in Christ. They were God’s beloved, called to belong to Jesus Christ and to be saints: people of grace and peace.
There are many things that shape our identity. Our life stories; our relationships with family, partners and friends; our work and our interests; our goals in life. To what extent have your life experiences been shaped and challenged by the encounter with Christ? When asked to introduce yourself, what story would you tell?

 
 

Prayer

God of love,
called by you, may we know who we are:
you call us beloved,
you call us to belonging,
you call us to follow,
you call us to be holy,
you call us to be saints.
In all that we are,
in all that we say and do,
may we share your grace and peace
and by our love may the world know that we are yours. Amen.

Today's Writer

Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary (Mission), URC

Bible Version

 
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The Letter to the Romans

URC Devotions - Thu, 15/08/2019 - 18:30
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The Epistle to the Romans

Dear <<First Name>>

Congratulations for persevering with the Book of Daniel - I hope, despite the length of some of the passages, you've found it rewarding.

We now turn to something rather different.  The Epistle to the Romans is the longest of Paul’s letters and, in summary, was written to explain that salvation is offered to humanity through Jesus.  Much of the letter is a complex argument, aimed at Jewish converts to Christianity who were brought up to see themselves as morally superior to licentious gentiles.  Paul turns the tables on them showing that both Jew and Gentile needed to have faith in Christ.  The letter also has lots of practical instructions around Christian living.

Over the next few weeks we work through this Epistle together and I hope you find it rewarding.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 15th August 2019

URC Devotions - Thu, 15/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daniel 12

‘At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth  shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, keep the words secret and the book sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be running back and forth, and evil  shall increase.’

Then I, Daniel, looked, and two others appeared, one standing on this bank of the stream and one on the other.  One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was upstream, ‘How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?’  The man clothed in linen, who was upstream, raised his right hand and his left hand towards heaven. And I heard him swear by the one who lives for ever that it would be for a time, two times, and half a time,  and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things would be accomplished. I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?’  He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. From the time that the regular burnt-offering is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.  But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.’
 
Reflection Daniel is writing in the midst of terrible suffering. People are running to and fro searching in vain for a word from God, the wicked are acting wickedly and evil is on the increase.  Where will all this end?
 
He is given a vision – a remarkable prediction of resurrection and judgement that is unique in the Old Testament.  Now this is not a theological teaching, a dogmatic statement, but a splendid flight of imagination, Biblically based.   Daniel envisages human life on earth in the light of eternity. People who were faithful but lost their lives will awake and be vindicated; those who were wicked but seemed to triumph will be exposed to everlasting contempt and shame.  The discerning leaders who set people right may have been despised, may even have lost their lives, but would have a special place of honour in the new Jerusalem.
 
There is only one problem.  Daniel is to close up these words, keep them secret and seal his book until the final crisis comes.  The time is not yet. In the interim, Daniel’s readers are challenged to be steadfast and faithful and encourage others to  join them.
 
The vision crosses generations.  It shapes the way we see Jesus, the wise leader who died a martyr and rose from the dead to strengthen and encourage his followers.  It affirms that God’s justice and righteousness will ultimately have the last word – even if this is beyond the limits of our human experience and imagination.  In the end, we are to remain faithful to the heavenly vision. And the last words of the book are not of striving but of peace. Go your way, says the man in linen, go your way and rest.
 
 

Prayer

Living God,
you are the source of all wisdom.
Make me wise to see all things against the background of eternity, and make me brave to face all the changes in my life which such a vision may entail,
through the grace of Jesus Christ my saviour, 
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton URC.

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URC Daily Devotion 14th August 2019

URC Devotions - Wed, 14/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daniel 11: 40-45

At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack him. But the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. He shall advance against countries and pass through like a flood. He shall come into the beautiful land, and tens of thousands shall fall victim, but Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites shall escape from his power. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the riches of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall follow in his train. But reports from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to bring ruin and complete destruction to many.  He shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with no one to help him. Reflection As visions often are, there is something poetic about this one;  the beauty of the writing almost throws you off the scent of the horror of this apocalypse. As you read through it, however, the formula is familiar, and it’s almost obvious that the last line is going to read “yet he shall come to his end, with no-one to help him”. I often wonder about despotic leaders today –can they not see how things are going to end for them?
 
Someone once told me that a prophet is someone who ‘tells it like it is’. Sometimes for us all, despotic leaders or not, we have missed the truth of our own story, and we need the voice of a prophet telling it like it is, reflecting it back to us, so that we may see it in truth.
 
Who might be speaking into your life or church with a prophetic voice?
 
I, like the kings who sought Daniel’s interpretation of their dreams, would have trusted him. There's something about him and the way he lived, a prophet of impeccable qualities, not just a seer of visions, but a servant of God, through whom Gods’ power shone, whilst he was seemingly at the mercy of ruthless kings.
 
Are we as church a prophetic voice? It’s surely something we should be concerned with, but do we have the same impeccable qualities that Daniel did. Are we a humble and vulnerable enough community for God’s power to shine through us?
 
Perhaps we need to see our own truth in a new light. Listen out today for the voices who ‘tell it like it is’. Those whose experience of racism, sexism, disability, poverty, the ‘hostile environment’, the benefit system, hatred and abuse, speak challenge to our privilege. Is there an obvious conclusion to our story?
 
 

Prayer

Challenging God,
speak truth to our lives,
through those we meet, live and work with.
 
May we also ‘tell it like it is’.
Give us courage to speak our own truth,
that it might influence others to examine their stories.
 
Then give us the wisdom, humility and courage
to live that truth together as your church,
no matter how hard or life changing it may be.
 Amen
 

Today's Writer

Liz Kam, Church Related Community Worker, Levenshulme Inspire, Manchester.

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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
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URC Daily Devotion 13th August 2019

URC Devotions - Tue, 13/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daniel 11: 1 - 39

As for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to support and strengthen him.

‘Now I will announce the truth to you. Three more kings shall arise in Persia. The fourth shall be far richer than all of them, and when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. Then a warrior king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and take action as he pleases.  And while still rising in power, his kingdom shall be broken and divided towards the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted and go to others besides these.

‘Then the king of the south shall grow strong, but one of his officers shall grow stronger than he and shall rule a realm greater than his own realm. 6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to ratify the agreement. But she shall not retain her power, and his offspring shall not endure. She shall be given up, she and her attendants and her child and the one who supported her.

‘In those times  a branch from her roots shall rise up in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall take action against them and prevail.  Even their gods, with their idols and with their precious vessels of silver and gold, he shall carry off to Egypt as spoils of war. For some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north;  then the latter shall invade the realm of the king of the south, but will return to his own land.

‘His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall advance like a flood and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. Moved with rage, the king of the south shall go out and do battle against the king of the north, who shall muster a great multitude, which shall, however, be defeated by his enemy. When the multitude has been carried off, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall overthrow tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, larger than the former, and after some years[a] he shall advance with a great army and abundant supplies.

‘In those times many shall rise against the king of the south. The lawless among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfil the vision, but they shall fail. Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siege-works, and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, not even his picked troops, for there shall be no strength to resist. But he who comes against him shall take the actions he pleases, and no one shall withstand him. He shall take a position in the beautiful land, and all of it shall be in his power. He shall set his mind to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of peace[b] and perform them. In order to destroy the kingdom, he shall give him a woman in marriage; but it shall not succeed or be to his advantage. Afterwards he shall turn to the coastlands, and shall capture many. But a commander shall put an end to his insolence; indeed, he shall turn his insolence back upon him.  Then he shall turn back towards the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

‘Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an official for the glory of the kingdom; but within a few days he shall be broken, though not in anger or in battle. In his place shall arise a contemptible person on whom royal majesty had not been conferred; he shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom through intrigue.  Armies shall be utterly swept away and broken before him, and the prince of the covenant as well. And after an alliance is made with him, he shall act deceitfully and become strong with a small party. Without warning he shall come into the richest parts of the province and do what none of his predecessors had ever done, lavishing plunder, spoil, and wealth on them. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time.  He shall stir up his power and determination against the king of the south with a great army, and the king of the south shall wage war with a much greater and stronger army. But he shall not succeed, for plots shall be devised against him by those who eat of the royal rations. They shall break him, his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall slain. The two kings, their minds bent on evil, shall sit at one table and exchange lies. But it shall not succeed, for there remains an end at the time appointed. He shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. He shall work his will, and return to his own land.

‘At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but this time it shall not be as it was before. For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall lose heart and withdraw. He shall be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay heed to those who forsake the holy covenant. Forces sent by him shall occupy and profane the temple and fortress. They shall abolish the regular burnt-offering and set up the abomination that makes desolate. He shall seduce with intrigue those who violate the covenant; but the people who are loyal to their God shall stand firm and take action.  The wise among the people shall give understanding to many; for some days, however, they shall fall by sword and flame, and suffer captivity and plunder. When they fall victim, they shall receive a little help, and many shall join them insincerely. Some of the wise shall fall, so that they may be refined, purified, and cleansed, until the time of the end, for there is still an interval until the time appointed.

‘The king shall act as he pleases. He shall exalt himself and consider himself greater than any god, and shall speak horrendous things against the God of gods. He shall prosper until the period of wrath is completed, for what is determined shall be done. He shall pay no respect to the gods of his ancestors, or to the one beloved by women; he shall pay no respect to any other god, for he shall consider himself greater than all. He shall honour the god of fortresses instead of these; a god whom his ancestors did not know he shall honour with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He shall deal with the strongest fortresses by the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall make more wealthy, and shall appoint them as rulers over many, and shall distribute the land for a price. Reflection Lord , our shepherd,
we confess you as our Alpha and Omega.
Grant us the grace to cultivate honesty to you and others,
make us grateful for the beliefs we firmly hold,
make us humble and help us in our unbelief,
may our lives, whatever we may go through, look like a living mystery,
puzzling to world around us and drawing many to Thy Kingdom.
 
At the time of writing this reflection, we are about to launch the  ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ movement in the UK. It is a global prayer movement whose aims include enabling the realization that every aspect of our life is a matrix for prayer.
Our story follows Daniel’s powerful prayer. It depicts kings and kingdoms waging war: trying to conquer by force what Daniel just managed to obtain by humility, fasting and prayer. Many attempts have been made to historically locate these events in the eschatological timeline. Yet, I want to focus on the believers’ reactions and life-styles in this succession of violent turmoil.  What do we do when we are not on the winning side? When idolatry seems more successful than faith in the Lamb of God?
Our first call may be to acknowledge our struggles, brokenness, bewilderment and even confusion. I think God is honoured by honesty and can even reward it.  This requires ambiguous prayers, such as a prayer of Joan of Arc, whose integrity was not acknowledged in her time: ‘  if I am not, may God put me there; and if I am may God so keep me’
Our second call may be to remain faithful to our calling and identity in Christ.  Verse 36b promises us that ‘…but the people who are loyal to their God shall stand firm and take action’  That faithfulness needs to be countercultural and yet inspiring to others around us. Cardinal Suhard has captured this so beautiful:
‘to be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, not even stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist’
 

Prayer

Lord , our shepherd,
we confess you as our Alpha and Omega.
Grant us the grace to cultivate honesty to you and others,
make us grateful for the beliefs we firmly hold,
make us humble and help us in our unbelief,
may our lives, whatever we may go through, look like a living mystery,
puzzling to world around us and drawing many to Thy Kingdom.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze,  Marlpool, Eastwood and Langley URCs in Northamptonshire

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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
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URC Daily Devotion 12th August 2019

URC Devotions - Mon, 12/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daniel 10

In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. The word was true, and it concerned a great conflict. He understood the word, having received understanding in the vision.

At that time I, Daniel, had been mourning for three weeks.  I had eaten no rich food, no meat or wine had entered my mouth, and I had not anointed myself at all, for the full three weeks.  On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris), I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude.  I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; the people who were with me did not see the vision, though a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone to see this great vision. My strength left me, and my complexion grew deathly pale, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance, face to the ground.

But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees.  He said to me, ‘Daniel, greatly beloved, pay attention to the words that I am going to speak to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.’ So while he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling.  He said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia,  and have come to help you understand what is to happen to your people at the end of days. For there is a further vision for those days.’

While he was speaking these words to me, I turned my face towards the ground and was speechless. Then one in human form touched my lips, and I opened my mouth to speak, and said to the one who stood before me, ‘My lord, because of the vision such pains have come upon me that I retain no strength.  How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For I am shaking, no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.’

Again one in human form touched me and strengthened me.  He said, ‘Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous!’ When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.’ Then he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? Now I must return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I am through with him, the prince of Greece will come. But I am to tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth. There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince.
Reflection I am amazed by how you can control satellites from command centres on earth.  Spiritually, we can have a huge impact on what goes on in this heavenly realm; more impact than we can see and are even aware of. 

This reading emphasizes that Daniel’s faith and faithfulness influence the deployment and ministry of angels and archangels. The same promise is made to all of us. I wonder what made him have such an impact in the heavenly realm?  Daniel, humbled himself, sought understanding, and prayed.

Firstly, he approached the throne of grace with the right attitude: humility. Such humility can involve exalting God. The Lord’s prayer begins with worship. Likewise, it is good practice to always start praying by humbling ourselves in worship and thanksgiving, however much we itch to utter petitions and hurl our needs.

Secondly, his humility did not lead him to offer a comprehensive shopping list, but to fast and seek understanding. This requires taking time to listen to God as we pray. This also involves the Spirit who helps us to pray (Rom 8. 26-27) and can even take over on our behalf.

Finally, Daniel prayed in such a way that Archangel Michael, who must be very busy, is deployed by Jesus to rescue the angelic messenger sent to Daniel. How amazing it is to know that Christians can influence the deployment of angels from heaven to earth. This revelation should only encourage us to pray with humility, discernment and persistence.

That is probably why, John Wesley once argued that lay or ordained preachers, who ’ fear nothing but sin, desire nothing but God … they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer’
 
 

Prayer

Prayer-answering Lord,
give us a fresh awareness of the power of persistent prayer.
Faithful Lord,
help us to be discerning you at work even while we are praying.
Mighty God,
dazzle us with your glory.
Lord our friend,
by your grace, help us stand where even angels fail to tread.
Lord of the heaven’s army,
send down your messengers to bring us your life-changing and hopeful Word.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze,  Marlpool, Eastwood and Langley URCs in Northamptonshire

Bible Version

 
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URC Daily Devotion 11th August 2019

URC Devotions - Sun, 11/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 109: 1-20

1 O my God, whose name I worship,
be not silent, LORD, I pray;
2 For the wicked and deceitful
speak against me every day.

They have uttered lies against me;
with malicious tongues they fight.
3 Without cause they rush upon me,
closing in with words of spite.

4 In return for love they blame me,
though for them I daily pray.
5 They reward my good with evil,
for my friendship hate repay.

6 Set an evil man against him
at his right hand to denounce.
7 May his very prayers condemn him;
let the court his guilt pronounce.

8 May his rule pass to another;
short and wretched be his life.
9 Fatherless shall be his children;
make a widow of his wife.

10 May his children beg and wander,
driven from their ruined gate.
11 May his goods be seized and taken—
strangers plunder his estate.

12 May no one take pity on him
or his orphans in their plight.
13 May his fam’ly line be ended,
and their names be lost to sight.

This could be set to any 8787 tune.

14 May the LORD remember ever
all his parents’ sin and shame.
15 May their sin be held against them,
and forgotten be their name.

16 For he never thought of helping
those in trouble or distress;
But to death the poor he hounded,
and the weak and comfortless.

17 He was always cursing others—
may his curse on him rebound;
He took no delight in blessing—
far from him may it be found.

18 He wore cursing as his garment—
to his bones it soaked like oil;
It poured down his throat like water.
19 May his curses round him coil.

May they cling to him for ever,
wrapped around him like a cloak.
20 May this be the LORD’s repayment
to those false, accusing folk.
 
 
Reflection I’d be surprised if anyone announced this was their favourite Psalm. It confronts us with such anger and vindictiveness, even against the enemy’s descendants. Surely we’re not like that, we people of the New Testament? Haven’t we moved on in our understanding of God, our God of love who forgives everyone who turns to Him in repentance? And as we exchange handshakes, hugs and smiles at church on Sunday morning, aren’t we living out of love and not this primitive desire for vindication when we are wronged?

But I wonder. Maybe this Psalm reveals something we’d prefer remained hidden. When lies are spoken against us, when we hurt and smart after simply doing our best, isn’t there a childlike cry in our hearts of ‘It’s not fair!’ And we all want fair, even though our parents’ answer to our cry was, so often, ‘Life’s not fair!’

God’s not fair either. We see in the Bible and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that God is not fair. He is outrageous. Outrageous in love. He calls us to take that momentous leap out of our child’s heart and into His, where there is empowering for a better way to deal with the injustices of life. Settling for ‘fair’ is way below second best.
 
 

Prayer

‘Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.’
And give us Your outrageous love to bless those who do not bless us.
 

Today's Writer

Dorothy Courtis, Elder and Lay Preacher, Wortwell URC.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
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URC Daily Devotion 10th August 2019

URC Devotions - Sat, 10/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daniel 9: 20 - 27

While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God— while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding.  At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved. So consider the word and understand the vision:
‘Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.  Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.  He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.’
Reflection Do I want to use my 300 words to try and work out how long Israel will have to wait in exile? Not really!
 
Daniel prayed, confessing the sins of Israel, and Gabriel came to him with reassuring words. Reassuring in that, at some point (buried in the complicated chronology), the Exile will come to an end. The take-home message of the vision is that the end of this terrible time will come.
 
I am, then, interested to consider what this divine message may have done for the community.
 
On my first hearing, I must confess to being heartbroken that Israel was having to wait. The Exile was an appalling period and I grieve that any people or nation should face such injustice, then or now, but perhaps knowing that it would eventually end was comforting in some small way.
 
There is a sense of God’s longer ‘plan’ here: despite the machinations of humanity, God consistently promises, as he did to Julian of Norwich, that ‘all will be well’. That can sound a bit blasé when you’re facing the heat of the fire, but Gabriel is reassuring us that pain and injustice is not God’s plan – so take heart!
 
This does not mean, sit back and let God’s plan unfold.
It means, be expectant of God’s plan and be part of its unfolding.
 
There is an important relationship in Daniel’s prayer, between confession and action. 
Confessing Israel’s sin is a first step towards changing that behaviour.
Confessing the world’s injustice is the first step towards God’s justice.
Confessing the damage we cause to the natural environment is the first step towards reconnecting with creation.
Confessing the pain we cause others and the pain we cause ourselves, is the first step towards community and wholeness.
 
As you watch or read the news today, take a moment to confess humanity’s iniquity, as a first step towards God’s Kingdom. Take time to remember Gabriel’s message, that this period of ‘exile’ is not what God desires for us and it will end.
 
 

Prayer

Loving God,
help us to connect confession and action
and to know, deep in our hearts, that pain and injustice are not part of your plan.
Inspire expectation and hope within us as we walk your way with joy!
Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon

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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th August 2019

URC Devotions - Fri, 09/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daniel 9: 1 - 19

In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.  I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying,

‘Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances.  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

‘Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you.  Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

‘All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. So the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you.  He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers, by bringing upon us a calamity so great that what has been done against Jerusalem has never before been done under the whole heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us. We did not entreat the favour of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and reflecting on his fidelity.  So the Lord kept watch over this calamity until he brought it upon us. Indeed, the Lord our God is right in all that he has done; for we have disobeyed his voice.

‘And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and made your name renowned even to this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly.  O Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; because of our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors, Jerusalem and your people have become a disgrace among all our neighbours.  Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplication, and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolated sanctuary. Incline your ear, O my God, and hear. Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name. We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!’
Reflection Our exploration of these apocalyptic (that is, to do with the End Times) writings continues.  We will, perhaps, never fully understand what is meant by books such as this until we reach those End Times.  That doesn’t stop endless speculation and interpretation, and neither should it. What point would there be in having visions such as this recorded in Scripture unless we were meant to wrestle with them and seek to discern meaning under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

It would be a gross error, however, to obsess over them and dig out “meaning” that is not intended.

Daniel had been wrestling with Jeremiah’s prophecy of seventy years of exile for the people of Judah.  He was getting nowhere in making sense of it all. Then he prayed and fasted and confessed his sins and the sins of the people.  He worshipped God and he prayed for God’s mercy. You will have to wait until this time tomorrow to find out the result of this!

But let’s think of the process.  Daniel was studying the Scriptures and finding a part of them difficult to understand.  His response was not to turn to the next chapter or a different book. It wasn’t to put his “Bible” (such as he had) down and walk away.  Neither was it to start to make things up – to pull out meaning that wasn’t there.

Rather, it was to commit to more prayer and continued study.  He might well have brought to mind those passages in Leviticus 26 and 2 Chronicles 7 that when God’s people humble themselves and seek God in prayer, then God will hear us them from heaven and answer our prayers.

What shall we learn from this?  Can we become like Daniel? Can we take after the first Christians who devoted themselves to studying the Scriptures and to prayer, and then sought to apply what they learnt of God (see Acts 2:42, Acts 6:4, etc.)?
 
 

Prayer

When we are careless with Your Word, finding meaning You did not put there, forgive us.
When we neglect Your Word, finding distraction easy and excuses plentiful, forgive us.
When we break fellowship with You, through shutting you into small corners of our lives, forgive us.

Help us to keep You at the centre of our being, and the motive for our doing.  Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Steve Faber, Synod Moderator, West Midlands 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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