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URC Daily Devotion 7th September 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 07/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 8: 9-17

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit[i] is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—  for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Reflection These are powerful, life changing verses. What does it mean to be in the Spirit? 

Verse 9 tells us we are no longer in the flesh but because of righteousness (being made right with God through Christ’s death), we are ‘life’, we are alive in the Spirit. It has nothing to do with who we are or what we have done, but it is everything to do with Jesus and His sacrifice. The Spirit was in Jesus and raised him from death. It is exactly the same Spirit who now has taken up residence in our lives, because we believe. It is so simple to believe. It is not supposed to be hard. It is the easiest, least complicated mindset that we can choose to live. Choose to live these verses.  Then, by the Holy Spirit within you, your body will move away from things that are not good for you and you will be led forwards into righteousness, holiness, healing, power, faith, trust and an unfathomable knowledge of who God is for you. 

‘Abba’  is so much more than a substitute for the word father. In Aramaic it means it conveys a depth of devotion, endearment, longing-to-be-with cherishing that our English word cannot convey. To be a child of God is about belonging, a deep closeness, enfolding and being enveloped by God’s never ending love. I heard recently that understanding God’s love is like falling backwards into a great big pile of soft laundry that has just come out of the drier. Burying into the warm, comforting folds of soft sheets, which fill every inch of space around you, is like burying our lives into the heart of God. It’s a great way to teach children to pray and physically feel how much they are loved. Maybe we should try it too?  In childlike abandon, to dwell deeply on and fathom the mystery of what it means to live life in the Spirit. 
 
 

Prayer

Abba! Right now I let myself fall into the comfort of your heart feeling the warmth and softness of your hold; the joy of knowing I am loved.  There is no need to understand you, I just embrace the mystery of your love. I cherish you, Holy Spirit, your presence within me. Nurture, guide, sustain and energise me for the day ahead.   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
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th September 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 06/09/2019 - 09:12
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 8: 1 - 8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit[a] of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Reflection Although these verses are full of release they may cause us inner conflict, perhaps even feeling like a bit of a damper at times; bringing us into the sense of condemnation, which we are told we are no longer subject to. They can come across as being very different to a lot of things that are commonplace in the places of worship of which we are a part, and where we seek to serve our Lord. It does however reflect in clear terms the immensity of just HOW greatly Jesus has set us free in a way in which nobody else has been able to.

We no longer live under the Law with its restrictions, dictates and stranglehold sense of needing to adhere to the “straight and narrow.” The difference is that we are meant to live the life of the Spirit, and not be shackled to those things from the past which may well have dogged our steps. Very clearly we are told to walk in the Spirit, and not according to the flesh.

There needs to be a full realisation of the extent of such freedom into which Jesus has so wonderfully released us. Perhaps something that only the Holy Spirit can truly liberate us into, in His way and timing ridding us of the sense of condemnation. Jesus Himself reminds us that if we know the truth in Him we shall be free (John 8), and that is freedom with great emphasis, and eternal effect. However, such is only as good as the amount of freedom which we allow ourselves to enter into, and appropriate. It is not holding back, but embracing the fullness and the releasing effect of the life of the Spirit which Jesus, in His love for each one of us, longs for us to lay hold of and enjoy.
 
 

Prayer

Gracious Father!
What a gift you have given us!
Freedom from the confines of the law,
and all of its heaviness.
Freedom from the condemnation which at times
was too unwieldy to bear.
Freedom to walk according to the way
which Jesus has prepared for us.
Freedom to set us free to be truly
the people you ask us to be.

Freedom to be walking day by day,
in your life and peace.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

Verena Walder, Lay Preacher and Elder, Tabernacle URC, Mumbles

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 5th September 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 05/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 7: 14 - 25

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin.  I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Reflection It can be a little unnerving to hear Paul talking in terms of not being able to do the good that he wants to do. It’s usually others that he is taking to task for getting things wrong – whether it’s the ‘foolish Galatians’ or the Corinthians that he ‘does not commend’. Not only that, but he quite openly commands the Corinthians to ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’.

This is the man who said that if anyone had reason to be confident in the flesh, he had more. Yet, here Paul is saying that nothing good dwells in his flesh. This is clearly a heartfelt experience. The man who spends his whole life trying to live out his faith still struggles at times. He finds it impossible to practice what he preaches.

I, for one, am very glad to hear it, because that is the lived experience of anyone who preaches; indeed, of anyone who has the temerity to try to lead another in the ways of Christ, or even simply to walk the way for themselves. We keep getting things wrong.

Paul has two things to say to us, when we are struggling to walk the way. The first is that the reason that we find it so difficult is that ‘sin dwells within’ us. In other words, we’re never going to get it right all the time, so we should not despair. It’s ultimately not entirely our fault. (We could add: so long as we do our best!)

Secondly, Paul says, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord’. That’s because (as we’ll hear tomorrow) Jesus has dealt with sin and we will not ultimately be condemned.

So let’s carry on doing our best to walk the way, in the full knowledge that we are asking the impossible of ourselves, but that God has it covered, when we get things wrong.

Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
 

Prayer

Living God,
You know each of us, better than we know ourselves.
You know when we struggle to walk your way
and you know when we are not trying as hard as we could.
Thank you that you have dealt with our failure;
that we are not condemned.
Help us to walk each day a little closer to your path.
For you are the way,
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, Moderator of the Mersey 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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URC Daily Devotion 4th September 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 04/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 7: 7 - 13 

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead.  I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. Reflection Here we are in the liminal state between sin and law. Where boundaries which seem clear dissolve the closer one tries to define them. Where thresholds which seem to delineate transitions shift like the sands of the sea. Where the more one tries to pin things down, the further apart they seem to move.
 
Although Barth might claim “the law is quite obviously the point at which sin becomes an observable fact of experience” and “law brings all human possibility into the clear light of an all-embracing [contest]”, everyday life is much more messy. It does not matter whether we are contemplating the Old Testament statement of the Law or statute law in England (or elsewhere), behaviour that might be considered sinful may not be illegal and things which are lawful could be regarded as sinful.
 
It is clear that matters of behaviour, personal conduct and attitude which the “standard” Christian of 1919 would have considered as “obviously” sinful are for many Christians of 2019 matters of personal choice. And vice versa.
 
It depends on the way one interprets the Bible as being the Word of God. In the URC we believe that “The highest authority for what we believe and do is God’s Word in the Bible alive for his people today through the help of the Spirit”. The help of the Spirit is vital in guiding us through liminal regions.
 
I have recently been working through a book of poems* in which a black man and a white woman respond to borders and boundaries experienced by refugees. One poem reminds us that
 
if what culture is
is different ways of seeing things
and what language is
is different ways of saying things
then the challenge is
to gather these
different ways to fight challenges.
 
For “culture” substitute “sin” and for “language” substitute “law” and then define the contest.

*The warriors who do not fight, Alison Phipps and Tawona Sitholé, Wild Goose Publications, 2018
 
 

Prayer

God
you give us life
you give us discernment
you give us freedom
you give us courage
you forgive our sinfulness.
 
Give us strength
to navigate liminality
to plough through the messiness
to face the challenges
of sin and law.
 
Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester 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 3rd September 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 03/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 7: 1-6

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime?  Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband.  Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.  But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
Reflection Paul reflects on the way life changes as circumstances change.  He is writing to knowledgeable people who understand the Law. They had been bound by the Law and he wants them to understand how their lives had changed.  The biggest change in our relationship with God was the life on earth of His son Jesus.

We have been freed from the old Law so we may bear fruit for God.  What sort of fruit do we bear? As I look out of my window, I can now see apples, pears and plums growing in my garden, it is perfectly clear which is which.  A few months ago as I looked at the blossom it was impossible for me to tell what would come from the trees. If I was an expert gardener, I’d been able to tell the difference, but I am not an expert.

Is it clear to those around what fruit you bear for God?  We can look at Christians labouring worldwide with organisations such as Christian Aid and know that they bear the fruit of loving service.  We see many of our churches supporting Christian Aid through their links with Commitment for Life. What a wonderful name for a movement, we should all be committed to living our lives for Jesus.

We do our service not because we are forced to do it by laws and fear of retribution, but because we are freed from the captivity of the law and able to flourish as we enjoy our new life in the Spirit.

We are walking the way, living the life of Jesus today as we allow God to flourish in our lives, not as slaves but as free people who can rejoice as we know that we have freedom that Jesus earned for us.
 
 

Prayer

Loving God
I thank you for Jesus,
I thank you that through His sacrifice I am freed from the old laws.
You loved me before I knew you.
You gave the gift of Your Son while we were separated by my sin.
Help me to enjoy my life in Jesus
Help me to bear fruit and share this wonderful life with others.
Enable me to be a fruitful Christian in the world today
 
Amen
 

Today's Writer

John Collings, Lay Preacher, Rutherglen 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 2nd September 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 02/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 6: 15 - 23

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Reflection Come with me to the land of my nightmares. Marmite is discovered to be a wonder-food. (If you like Marmite, pretend with me that you don’t.) More than just packed with B-vitamins, Marmite heals all ills, ends war, solves global warming and even cures the common cold!  Eat Marmite and I’ll never die! Amazing - but I hate it. A law is passed that everyone must eat Marmite every day. Blergh. But it’s the law, so I grudgingly shove down the minimum I can get away with and wash away the taste with chocolate.

And then the law is repealed! Huzzah! I am free. No more Marmite for me! But freedom from Marmite means freedom from its life-giving benefits. The law was designed to bring life, and what I think of as my freedom is actually killing me! Not because anyone is making me die, that’s just how it is without Marmite.

Sigh. If only Marmite were chocolate! If chocolate were the cure-all, which by law I had to eat every day, I’d happily obey. If the law were repealed, I’d still eat, because that law would be in my heart.

That is what God has done for us in Jesus. The Law that was written on stone and made us aware of sin, leading to death, is now written on our hearts and leads to life. Marmite becomes chocolate and we are “obedient from the heart”. We are free from the Law, (Paul poses the question), so should we now abandon it? “No way!” he exclaims. The gift of God is the miracle of turning Marmite into chocolate - putting the law in our hearts so that we obey from love, not duty, and gladly follow the path to eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
To think about: Does it matter what we do, since we are not under law but under grace? Why?
 
 

Prayer

Generous God,
you redeem us from the debts that we have earned,
and give us freely what we have not worked for.

You rescue us from the road to destruction,
and set our feet on the path to life.

You free us from the chains that we ourselves have forged,
and adopt us into your family as beloved children.

Blessed be your name forever.
Amen
 

Today's Writer

Fay Rowland, graduate student, Wesley House Cambridge, St Botolphs, Northants

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 1st September 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 01/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 112

1 Praise God! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD
And finds delight in following his word.
2 His children will be mighty in the land;
His line will know the blessing of God’s hand.

3 Riches and wealth within his house are found;
His righteousness for ever will abound.
4 The man who stands for mercy, truth and right
Will find the darkness turn to morning light.

5 Good is the man who gives and freely lends;
To his affairs with justice he attends.
6 Surely a righteous man will stand secure;
His memory for ever will endure.

7 Though bad news comes, he will not be afraid;
His heart is firm; he trusts the LORD for aid.
8 He will not be alarmed, his heart holds fast;
He’ll view his foes in triumph at the last.

9 He freely shares his riches with the poor;
His righteousness for ever will endure.
The LORD himself exalts his servant’s name;
He gives him strength and dignity and fame.

10 The wicked, seeing this, will feel dismay;
He’ll gnash his teeth and soon will waste away.
The wicked and their dreams will come to nought;
They never will enjoy what they have sought.
 

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Chilton Foliat here.
Reflection Reading this Psalm, I’m struck that our version uses 28 male pronouns, for either God or a person - it’s in the singular, about individuals. Let’s keep travelling along the road toward inclusive language. Witness Brian Wren: ‘… that “man” originally meant “a human being”, male or female or “humankind as a whole” is irrelevant if it no longer conveys those meanings unambiguously.’
 
But then I lingered at verse 7: ‘Though bad news comes, [the righteous] will not be afraid…’.  Really? If, as Psalms 111 and 112 suggest, a righteous person is one who keeps the commandments of God, can we unfailingly claim that they will not be afraid? Well, if righteousness is just about narrowly, anxiously obeying some rules, then there is little evidence that such a righteous one is exempt from fear. Real fear can be a visceral thing – a discombobulating gut-wrenching, not least when breaking the law or feeling that life is spinning out of control. Often, all that eases fear is someone else’s companionship – their walking with us through the ‘bad news’. Is that what this Psalmist means?
 
Alternatively, the commandments can be seen as about our relationship with God, and with each other. To keep the commandments – like practising justice,  caring for the poor - nourishes our trust in God and our confidence in those around us. Thus could it be that ‘when bad news comes’ the righteous - the one who finds God’s grace in the commandments – is indeed less afraid? Maybe that is why the hymn, Abide with me, means so much to us. We sing it when bad news comes; it is our reaching out for the hand of God in the risen Christ, who so reliably, so resiliently walks with us. ‘I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless.’
 
 

Prayer

Eternal God,
we come seeking you,
but not to test you,
nor, in finding you,
to bind you to an image or a gesture.
We need from you no tricks to prove you exist.
No miracles.
Just a clearer sense of your love,
by which, walking with you as our companion,
we are freed from fear,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.
 
after a poem of Rainer Maria Rilke
 

Today's Writer

The Revd Nigel Uden, Downing Place URC, Fulbourn URC and Stetchworth & Cheveley URC in Cambridgeshire and a Moderator of the General Assembly.

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 31st August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 31/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 31st August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 6: 1 - 14

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.  For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
 
Reflection
The Greek phrase translated here as “By no means” has, in my opinion rather more force than the translation gives it.   It means “ No way! Not ever! “ It has the force of “ How could you ever think that?!” Indeed that is the vein in which Paul carries on his thoughts here.   Here is complex theology, truly Paul, condensing many deep and difficult thoughts into a few sentences. He is countering those in the church who are saying “ Well then, if God’s loves us we can behave as we like - it won’t matter!   Indeed when we behave badly, it will show God’s grace more fully”. Of course we never think like that.. or do we? Do we ever think “ It won’t matter if I just do this or that God will forgive me?” Sometimes I see behaviour in our churches that makes me wonder if some brothers and sisters even think at all about their behaviour.   And what about those wrong things I keep doing? Paul, here, is lifting our thinking higher. He recounts all that God in Christ has done for us and he recounts our baptism too. In his usual logical style he goes on to say that for a Christian to keep on sinning wilfully makes no sense whatsoever. In doing as we please we are living in denial of God’s grace, not promoting it.   Instead, let us allow God’s love to be our motive to better being and doing. Let us desire with all our hearts to please God who loves us, precisely because God loves us. And we know that for sure because of Jesus who is the Christ. We are set free, not to sin but to love and do good!

Prayer

Holy God, have mercy on us when our thinking about you and ourselves gets screwed up. Thank you for reminding us of the lengths you have gone to for us and for your world.  May we always show your love in our lives. May we always treat one another with deep respect and care. Forgive us the times when we have failed. In the name of our saviour Jesus. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek, East Midlands Synod Moderator.

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 30th August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 30/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 5: 12 - 21

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.  And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Reflection
How many times have you seen the sign “Trespassers will be prosecuted”?  We have all strayed and are guilty of trespassing, not necessarily onto someone else’s land but often in the way we think and act.  We are guilty of straying away from God’s loving, perfect, way and straying into a path that leads to somewhere dark and godless.  
 
In this illustration of God’s grace to us Paul uses the picture of the courtroom with those who are trespassers condemned before the pure, holy and righteous judge. However we also have an advocate, a defence barrister who, not only defends us but stands in our place and take the punishment we should get. We are justified, or found not guilty before God. Paul tells us that we can’t earn this pardon from the judge through our works as it is a free gift. 

This is one of the passages that sparked the revolution called the Reformation. No more would we have to do or say the right thing to gain God’s freedom. The work is done, Jesus has taken the punishment for us on the Cross, it is a free gift of grace. In fact there is nothing we can do because none of our works would be enough. I feel the great triumph of this passage is the fact that there is no sin “too big” not to be covered by God’s amazing grace. As Paul puts it “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” 

It can be easy to lose sight of this amazing truth and slip back into a works based attitude, whereby we have to gain God’s acceptance and forgiveness through our own efforts. However God’s gift of grace is free, and it is offered in love and is for those whose life is in Christ. So today accept afresh God’s wonderful free gift of grace and give thanks for the freedom that Jesus brings us.
 

Prayer

Amazing grace- 
how sweet the sound-
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed.

Thank you Jesus!
Amen

Amazing Grace: John Newton (1725-1807)
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Stuart Nixon, Pioneer Minister, Birchwood, Warrington

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 29th August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 29/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 5: 1 - 11

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we  have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
 
Reflection
Verses 1-5 of this passage underline the necessity of involvement in the purposes of God by dedicating our lives to the good works of proclaiming and demonstrating God’s love. In verses 6 – 11 we find this Epistle portion that brings us back to the very centre and core of our religion. Faith doesn’t save us because it’s a good work, but because it’s the hand that reaches out to take the salvation God has prepared for us. Daily repentance won’t make or keep us Christian but it is our realization of and response both to our unworthiness and to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  Our obedience to God doesn’t make us right, but the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes us right with God. It is by the miracle of God’s grace that we stand justified before Him, not by sorrow over sin or confession of faith or consecration to divine purposes.

This will always be something mysterious and something that we will have difficulty in understanding. But what we can’t understand, we can still celebrate. Through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s act of grace and gift of love, we have been made the very sons and daughters of God. We were once the enemies of God, totally estranged from him, but God’s love for us, however, is far greater that the evil that brings death and destruction. His grace is more powerful than human wickedness. This is the grace that was wrought and revealed by Jesus Christ, and it is this grace that grants us everlasting life.
 

Prayer

Loving God, every day should be a day of celebration, a day to sing or shout or proclaim your eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. May our churches, our homes and our lives resound with the glad, joyful sounds of celebration. Amen

Today's Writer

Sue Knight Assembly Accredited Lay Preacher, Reigate Park 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 28th August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 28/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 4: 13 - 25

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.  If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,  as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. Reflection
Faith and trust, they are intangible yet crucial to our lives. How many people have talked about a time their trust was broken? How many of us struggle to trust God because we have had our trust betrayed by those who were central to our lives? How often are faith and trust intermingled?
 
Paul reminds us in this reading that Abraham had both faith and trust in God without any “proof” and that it is this faith and trust that not only made him righteous but also the sort of example we as Jesus followers should be encouraged by. Abraham didn’t “do stuff” to be saved and marked as one of God’s, he simply believed and trusted.
 
This is definitely easier said than done though because although we want to believe that people are good and respectful to each other but we know that some people have abused that, we know that some churches which have been open to the public have been vandalised. As individuals I’m sure there are countless things that could be given as examples, but does all of this make us stop believing in God or believing that there is good in people? It might dent our faith for a while or cause us to ask God why, but hopefully it does not mean we turn our backs on humanity or God.
 
Paul emphasises Abraham’s story because it speaks to us as individuals and ties our present and future to our past as people of faith. This emphasis calls us to trust God whether we know and understand what is happening in our lives or not. It reminds the church that God has a hand over everything and even though that means we are still called to be proactive in situations, God is involved in that and every situation.
 

Prayer

Faithful God
 
You love us unconditionally, even when we break trust with each other and you.
 
Enable us to have stronger faith in you and learn how to better trust one another and be trusted so we can more effectively be your hands and feet in the world.
 
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker at Ansty Road and St Columba’s, Coventry.

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 27th August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 27/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 4: 1-12

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’  Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.  So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness irrespective of works:

‘Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
   and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.’

Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’  How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them,  and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised. Reflection
Even the most tangled knot can be untangled with skill and patience.

The Letter to the Romans can be a challenging read: Paul sought to expound the new faith to a mainly Jewish audience with centuries of tradition.

When Alexander the Great encountered the Gordian Knot – a legendary knot of extreme complexity – his unexpected solution was to slice the knot with his sword. 

Lawyers use legal precedent to strengthen their arguments; preachers quote well-known theologians to support their sermons. In a similarly skilful move, the Jewish scholar Paul slices powerfully into this theological question by referencing two ‘big names’ – Abraham and David.

The question Paul is seeking to answer is: how does a person ‘get in’ to be a Christian.

By skilfully choosing Abraham and referring to a time in Abraham’s life before the covenant (of circumcision), Paul explains that God’s promise of salvation is for all (v.11).

One of the many things I find inspiring in the Hebrew Scriptures is the very long-term patience. What was it that Abraham believed of God? Abraham believed God’s promise to give him countless descendants. According to Genesis 12-17, the promise was 24 years in the making to the birth of Isaac.

Paul’s quote from David refers to Psalm 32:1-2 and extends his teaching that the forgiveness of sins is also for all (vv.7-8).

Paul adds that salvation and forgiveness are gracious gifts from God, “irrespective of works” (v.6).

As the Roman recipients of Paul’s letter worked through theological change which brought God’s love to all, 500 years ago, in the Reformation, Luther and others tore down barriers which separated folk from a straightforward understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness to all:

sola gratia; sola fide; sola scriptura – only by grace; only by faith; only though the Scriptures.
 

Prayer

Loving God, 
You are the living God, the only God, ever to be praised.

We acknowledge Your gift...
giving thanks for the means of Your grace in Jesus.

We give You thanks for Your Word,
alive for all people today, through the help of Your Spirit.

We give You thanks for our Faith: 
alive and active...renewed for every generation.

You are our Source, Guide, and Goal of all that is:
to You be eternal glory. Amen.
 

Today's Writer

Walt Johnson |  Elder | Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC, Chorton, 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
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URC Daily Devotion 26th August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 26/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th August 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 3: 21 - 31

But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;  they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.  Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Reflection The first section of Romans states the need for the Gospel.  But now, Paul says, God has provided a solution, His Son, Jesus Christ, His gift of redemption for us. God is for everyone, and the relationship between Himself and humans is restored on the basis of faith, not by following the law.
 
Buen Camino! I am writing while walking the way of the Camino Frances, the 500 mile pilgrim route from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela.  It is marked by frequent pointers – brass shells in pavements and cobbles, blue signs with yellow shells, stone mileposts, and often simply yellow arrows painted on the road, lampposts, walls or whatever is available.  It’s hard to go wrong.
 
I have been struck by the wayside crosses, often ancient and worn, sometimes modern, some formed simply by pilgrims taking two sticks and weaving them into a fence, where there may be hundreds of others. Each cross represents a person or community for whom the cross has meaning as a symbol of the gift of grace through the redemption of Christ.
 
On the Camino, there is no distinction.  Pilgrims come from all over the world, for many different reasons, and are welcomed by the local communities through which we pass.  We walk the same path, carry the same loads, have the same needs for shelter, water, food, rest and companionship. The Camino is a microcosm of God’s kingdom, to which we all belong.  
 
I have been following arrows all along the way. In a tiny chapel in the mountains near Astorga, I suddenly saw the arrows in a different light.  An arrow in the floor points to the Lord’s Table and the Cross behind it, symbols of the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus: Jesus who says ‘Yo soy el Camino’ – I am the Way.
 

Prayer

O God, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name…
Be for us our companion on the walk,
our guide at the crossroads,
our breath in our weariness,
our protection in danger,
our shade in the heat,
our light in the darkness,
our consolation in our discouragements,
and our strength in our intentions.
 
So that we may arrive safe and sound.  Amen

Camino de Santiago Pilgrim’s Blessing (abridged)
 

Today's Writer

Ruth Tompsett, Elder, Newport Pagnell 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
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URC Daily Devotion 25th August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 25/08/2019 - 06:00
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 Daily 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
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URC Daily Devotion 23rd August 2019

URC Daily 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 Daily Devotions - Thu, 22/08/2019 - 10:59
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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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 Daily 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
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 21st August 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 21/08/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st August 2019 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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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
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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