Philippians 1: 3 – 11 (The Message)
“Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
It’s not at all fanciful to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately.
You need to use your head and trust your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”

Let us pray for one another as Paul prayed for the churches he had founded.
Let us pray for the Government that they will make wise decisions, not only about coming out of lock down, how to deal with the rioting, but the many other topics that they are needing to make decisions about as Bills come before parliament day by day.

Verse and prayer Monday 8th June

F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out):

Rev 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Matt 13:44, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

These verses are familiar evangelistic texts used in gospel messages – certainly, I have spoken on the treasure in the field to students many times.

But BOTH of them, in their original context, were addressing Christians, not unbelievers. So they are promises to us!

Someone once told me that “the unhappiest people in the world are uncommitted Christians; they can no longer enjoy the world’s pleasures, but neither can they have the true joy of following Jesus wholeheartedly.” I think there’s some exaggeration there because the world’s pleasures are highly overrated, but he had a point.

The problem we all have is FOMO – fear of missing out. What will we have to give up to commit fully to Christ?

Having been here many times, with a foot in both worlds, so to speak, I find it helpful to go back to verses like these and see there is a HEALTHY FOMO. I don’t want to miss out on anything God has for me. I don’t want to miss out on the invitation to “eat with Jesus”, or to miss out on the hidden treasure. A glimpse of the true treasure makes it far less about “what do I need to give up?” and far more about joyfully doing whatever it takes to make sure I don’t miss out on all that Jesus has for me.

IDEA: (warning: the following may cause your family to think you are nuts!) Go to your front door and open it. Pray to welcome the Lord Jesus in. Then go through each room of your house, open each door prayerfully, inviting Jesus into every part of your life – and praying for those you share a house with (if you do).

PRAY:Jesus, may I not have my foot in two worlds today. Make me wholly yours. I fully welcome You into every part of me. I open the door to You, so that as the song says, “all things that surround become shadows in the light of You.” Amen.

Verse and Prayer for Friday: 5 June 2020

Psalm 8, verses 3-8 in particular:

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  Ye you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour.  You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the seas whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Last Friday we heard God talking to Job, asking Job if humans were equal to God, and thought about God’s creative divinity and human’s inability to control the sea monsters.  Today we read David’s psalm acknowledging God’s divine sovereignty and marvelling that while we are not equal to God He has, nevertheless, given us dominion over the rest of God’s creation; we do not control creation, but we do have dominion over it.  Allowing us to tame it to our needs, He has also entrusted us with responsibility to care for it.

Father God, help us to take our responsibilities seriously, seeking your guidance as to how you want us to care for your world as we use its resources for our sustenance and comfort.  Thank you that fuel consumption has reduced and air quality improved with less traffic on the roads at this time.  Thank you that more people are learning how to grow some of their own food, enjoying fresh produce and the satisfaction that they have grown it, while reducing the environmental damage of food travel miles and saving on wasteful packaging.  O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  

Thursday 4th June

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’

“Be bold, be strong for the Lord your God is with you” – are you singing along yet? Joshua is told many times to be strong and courageous, why? I could suggest a few reasons. Firstly, as Moses successor, he had rather large shoes to fill. Secondly, he had a difficult and daunting task ahead of him. Thirdly, he was human! Neither Joshua nor we are not called to be strong because we are all-powerful, mighty people, nor are we called to be courageous because we are tough fearless men and women, rather we are told to be strong and courageous because our Lord – the Almighty, all-powerful God who has control and authority over every created thing – is with us. So we may note 2 things:

  1. If God is not with you there are a great many reasons and situations that will cause you to realise your weakness and make you afraid and,
  2. It is through our confidence that God is with us that we can be strong and courageous.

Therefore if you are in the first category of people you would do well to call out to God and ask that he draw near to you – and he will for that is why he sent his Son Jesus to earth, to die and rise again – that we, frail and weak, might come to the almighty powerful holy God and be welcomed. If you are in the second group then it is wise to increase this confidence that God is with you – talk to the Lord and hear his voice, open your eyes and see him, read his Word and learn the promises he has made and the truths he has declared – be assured that God is with you and the natural consequence will be a stronger more courageous you.

Father God, you made a way for me, a weak and sinful person, to come to you. So through faith in Jesus Christ I come. Jesus you promised to always be with me and so I will talk to you and listen to you and look for you today. Holy Spirit my heart is your home. Live in me, make me alert to the opportunities of partnering with you today. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I receive your wisdom, strength and courage to face the challenges of today for I know you are with me. Amen.

Wednesday 3rd June

Mark 6:34, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.”
My brother’s first job when he left school was as an assistant shepherd on the East Cheshire hills. His ‘crook’ was not a nicely shaped staff with a curving loop at the end as you see in the pictures, but a broom handle with a horn from a ram (or a ‘tup’ as we say in the north 😊) taped onto the end. It looked rough but it was to hook round lamb’s necks when then wandered off or got into trouble and pull them back.
Many times I have felt the uncomfortable tug of the Shepherd’s crook, guiding me back to Him. How? By not letting me be satisfied with anything less than Him; by nudging me and turning my thoughts back to Him again and again (“Leave me alone, I don’t want to bother with all that just now”, I have heard myself say!); by trying to distract myself by (for example) finishing a whole series of novels and still ending up deeply dissatisfied. Until finally, the Shepherd nudged me back to Him and I realised just how desperately hungry I was. Like the crowd waiting for Him, Jesus is there with the compassion to meet our deepest need – which is for Himself.
Lockdown is the consequence of a dangerous pandemic, but it can also have a positive side effect, giving us the space to respond to the Shepherd’s call.
IDEA: Think back and ask yourself whether you have heard or felt the Shepherd’s call pulling you back or closer to Him? What have you tried to do to distract yourself?  Has it worked or are you still hungry? What would it mean for us to run TO the Shepherd like the crowd did in Mark 6, rather than AWAY from Him today?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I want to come home. I run no further in the wrong direction. Instead, I turn and run to You, knowing that You will meet me with the compassion to fill my deepest need. “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” because they remind me You are there (Psalm 23:4). Feed me, lead me and satisfy me with your love. Amen

Tuesday 2nd June

Mark 1: 32 – 37
By sunset the courtyard was filled with the sick and demon-possessed, brought to Jesus for healing; and a huge crowd of people from all over the city of Capernaum gathered outside the door to watch.  Jesus healed great numbers of sick folk that evening and ordered many demons to come out of their victims.  (But He refused to allow the demons to speak, because they knew Who He was).
The next morning He was up long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.
Later, Simon and the others went out to find Him and told Him, “Everyone is asking for You.”
At sunset Jesus had the crowds at HIS feet, by sunrise He is at the FATHER’S feet.
C.S.Lewis observed,  “It comes every moment you wake up each morning.  All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  The first job each morning consists in simply shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”                               – Mere Christianity
Pray that you will start the day at the feet of Jesus however busy the day appears to be.

Monday 1st June

Isaiah 30:15,18-21 NLTAThis is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.
According to the media, during lockdown one in four people in Britain has tuned in to an online church service, and one in 20 has tried to pray. As we long for people around us to seek the Lord, that all comes as wonderful news. But Isaiah reminds us that merely watching an online service or Googling the word “prayer” is not enough, because people are fickle and will turn anywhere if they are desperate for help. God wants us to come to Him in absolute trust. He graciously waits for people to turn and put their confidence in Him, and then He is quick to draw us close in love and compassion. 
Heavenly Father, at the start of this new week, I am determined to return to You and rest in You alone, for You only are my salvation and my strength. I choose to turn to You first no matter what happens, to not get pulled away when things get frantic and stressed. As life slowly begins to return to ‘normal’, I want to hold on to the quietness and confidence of spirit that Your Holy Spirit gives, and obey Your voice of guidance every step of the way.And we pray for all those who don’t know You yet, but tried to find help from You during lockdown. In Your mercy, please continue to work in their hearts through Your Holy Spirit and draw them to You.