Friday 30 April, 2021

Philippians 2:1-11

2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Wow, this is possibly one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. The standard is set incredibly high here- no selfish ambition, vain conceit or looking to your own interests first. Rather, imitate Christ by taking the nature of a servant, valuing others above myself and be willing to even to give your very life for others.

If there is a human alive that doesn’t find this challenging, I’d like to meet them!

I find that there is a rather odd tension in reading this set of instructions on how we should live, yet realising that I will never be able to fully live up to this while I am on this earth. Why am I being asked to do something that is impossible to achieve?

Although I aspire to these qualities, I know that there is only One who has ever attained this. And that is why God has exalted Jesus to the highest place.

I am inherently selfish. Oh how I need God’s help to be even remotely close to having the same love as Christ.

This is humbling, and perhaps the reason for this passage of scripture. To remind us how much we need God’s help and how we can never be ‘good enough’ to achieve our own salvation.

Today I am reminded that my knee is most definitely among those that bow at the name of Jesus!

Written by Shelley Witt

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Thursday 29 April, 2021

Philippians 1:27-30

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[a] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Paul is speaking from prison in this passage. He is speaking words of encouragement to the people in Philippi even in the midst of his difficult situation. These words can be an encouragement to us too. He asks that we base our lives on the reality of the gospel of Christ. Reading the verses leading up to this passage gives us a picture of what he means. He speaks of being filled with love in all he does. He speaks of being filled with the fruit of the Spirit. He asks that these people will receive grace and peace across their lives. He prays for their love to grow and increase beyond measure bringing rich spiritual insight in all things.

These are indicators of how faith in God is growing in each of us – our ability to love, to be kind, to have peace and to bring grace. Living life with Jesus enables us to grow in these characteristics. Given how the world works and how that is likely to make us feel, having these characteristics will mean we will seem different – we will stand out. We will bring our faith into every situation and we will bring God’s love to everyone we meet. This is what Paul did – even in prison he cared for the guards, for everyone in the churches he started and for everyone who had yet to hear about Jesus. He brought love and kindness, peace and grace. What a great idea!

Thank you, Jesus, that you love us beyond imagining and that you can help us love others beyond what we can imagine. Thank you that you brought Good News not just news when you came to save us. Thank you that your message is about your love for us – that you loved us enough to die for us before we were even thought about and that there is now nothing that can separate us from you and your love. Help us to live out that love that we can source from you. Help us to bring your light into our part of the world on a daily basis. Amen

Written by Therese Manning

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Wednesday 28 April, 2021

Philippians 1:18b-26

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[a] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Paul is in prison. He is a man who prior to following Jesus was a religious leader, respected and well known. He was also a Roman citizen, which carried its own privileged status. In other words, he has fallen from worldly renown to worldly shame as a result of following Jesus, now imprisoned as a criminal. And yet he is rejoicing! Here he is saying that he will praise God whatever the outcome of this imprisonment. If he dies, praise God, he gets to be with Jesus! If he lives, praise God, he gets to keep doing God’s work on earth! Seriously?! 

When things do not appear to be going well, this is generally not what my prayers sound like. My prayers tend to be more along the lines of …’have I done something wrong? Did I mishear you God? I trusted you Lord, did all you asked, how have I ended up here?’. In short, my prayers tend to be much more self-centred! 

God, please help me to pray as Paul does in all circumstances – praising you for all that brings glory to your name, even if it costs my own name. Help me await eagerly that moment when I meet you face to face, while thankfully using each day you’ve given me on this earth to glorify you here! 

Written by Rhiannon Mellor

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Tuesday 27 April, 2021

Philippians 1:12-18a

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[a] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[b] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Do you ever think when you are in the middle of something terrible that God will use that situation to highlight the truth of the gospel to someone else?

In troubled times, normally in such a “fog” of the situation, where my mind is consumed with details and emotions that it is difficult to have a higher level of thinking of anything else. When the situation resolves itself there tends to be specific “God moments” that I can pinpoint to tell others and encourage others.  

As Paul writes in this passage, it almost feels to me like he is illuminated in his mind and words (vs 18 “the important thing, whether be false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice”). He is in chains yet still so thankful that many have heard of Jesus and the truth. His words, to this day are inspirational and humbling to all. It feels almost that he is fearless. 

Dear God, thank you that you sent Paul to be such an example for us, even in the year 2021, so many years after his life on earth. Thank you that although he suffered in chains, it was not in vain and that many have heard of Christ because of his life. Lord, teach us to be humble and to rise above our own suffering and remember that in all things you have a plan and purpose for our lives. 

Amen

Written by Susannah Ware

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Monday 26 April, 2021

Philippians 1:1-11

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

It is striking how far from indifferent Paul is towards the Philippians he leads. “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” 

Jesus has so got Paul’s heart, and his affections, that the people he leads are those he longs for. Longs to be with. Longs to partner in the Gospel with. Longs to have God’s fresh grace imparted to. 

Jesus, I give you my heart, not in a moment, or on this refocussing occasion. I remind myself – my heart is surrendered to you for good. The rest of my days. That you who lay full and rightful claim to my heart may fill me with your affections for people. That I won’t just care for others because it is easy to, or out of obligation, but because your affections are flowing through me to those around me! Amen. 

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Sunday 25 April, 2021

Romans 16:17-27

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. [24] 25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

As the letter to the Romans comes to a conclusion, I thought it was interesting what the apostle Paul felt were the most important things to address, as he signed off.

Firstly, a warning, then statements of faith, purpose and blessing. What underscores all this is the revelation of the truth of the gospel – God’s plan of salvation revealed in the person of Jesus Christ – vs 25-26.

Then as today, the gospel of truth was being warped and misused by “those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned” (v17). I think of political and ideological messages with a Christian veneer, the point of which is to divide and push an agenda. While it is essential Christian voices are heard in public debate, Paul is reminding us not to be hijacked by messages which are feeding others’ appetites. V19 in The Message puts it fairly clearly – “…I want you to be smart, making sure every “good” thing is the real thing. Don’t be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil.” The test – is this teaching or debate submitting to Jesus, and pointing me to the Lord?

Paul’s warning to “keep away” from these manipulators is challenging (v17) – do we engage in the debate or challenge the teaching to win over or care for our friends who may be influenced by them? Will we then run the risk of being simply drawn into arguments and away from the truth?

Dear Lord, my focus must be on the wisdom I find in you – drawing close to your heart, pursuing your character in my life and being in your Word. Holy Spirit fill me today with wisdom and desire for your truth.

Amen

Written by Claire Moore

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Saturday 24 April, 2021

Romans 16:1-16

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon[a][b] of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

This passage is a wonderful reminder of the way we should be dealing with one another within the church. Paul encourages the believers in Rome to treat one another in the following ways…

Shower her with hospitality, embrace her with Honour, provide her with whatever she needs, respect them, give my love to them, so thankful for them, give my loving greetings, make sure they are honoured.

And the reasons he instructed this were because they were…

A sister in the faith, shining minister of the church, belongs to the Lord, set apart for Him, great leader, champion for many, partners in ministry serving Jesus, risked their lives, toiled and laboured extremely hard, diligently served the Lord.

Dear Lord, we thank you for the leaders of our church and for those who are working in ministry alongside them, faithful servants who work tirelessly in your name. Lord, please strengthen them, equip them and encourage them and spur us on to be treating them in a way that honours and pleases you. Amen

Written by Jocelyn Petschack

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Friday 23 April, 2021

Romans 15:23-33

23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. 30 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

I have travelled to India and Nepal a number of times and am always impressed and touched by the connection that exists between Christians, even when we have never met and are from very different cultures. Here we see Paul writing to Christians in Rome, whom he has never met, but writing with a warmth and trust for them. He is looking forward to their company, expecting them to support him financially and spiritually on his proposed journey to Spain and asking them to pray for him for his journey to deliver aid to the church in Jerusalem.

It is a bit sad reading Paul’s hopeful plans and knowing that, despite the prayer of the Roman Christians, he was arrested and imprisoned while in Jerusalem and ended up coming to Rome in chains instead of freely. However, we also know that “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul shared the gospel with many of the soldiers he was chained to (a captive audience!) and the gospel spread among Caesar’s household, so God definitely brought good out of that situation.

Where does that leave me? I rejoice at the worldwide family I am in! As family care for each other through good times and bad I have a fresh desire to connect with, pray for and support Christians in other places.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that your death and resurrection means that I have a new, worldwide family. Please help me to love them as you do. Amen

Written by Megan Cornell

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Thursday 22 April, 2021

Romans 15:14-22

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” 22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you

Do you know? I always thought of Paul as a church planter/builder/teacher. But this passage reveals Paul’s clear and succinct purpose statement – go where the gospel isn’t. (v20)

What about me? Do I stay in the safe place and serve only in the church, where people have heard and received the gospel? Do I invest my time in “preaching to the choir”? Do I see my life outside the church, where my neighbours, friends and workmates who have never heard the gospel, as my highest calling?

Lord, thanks for your servant Paul and his example. Show me how I can do the same – to go where the gospel isn’t. 

Amen

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

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Wednesday 21 April, 2021

Romans 15:7-13

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” 10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.” 12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you (v7)

To feel welcomed by someone is an incredible gift. I’m not talking about a polite greeting but when someone expresses their desire to include you in their space. They want to bring you closer and have you join them.

Maybe you can remember a time when you were warmly welcomed to a friend’s house and they prepared a meal for you. Or perhaps you stopped by their house and they were happy to see you and gave you a hug and invited you inside. To feel welcomed is to be embraced for who you are. Feeling welcomed brings the healing power of love to a person. It has the power to encourage a crushed spirit and bring hope to a broken heart. A welcome brings life.

This is what Jesus does for you when he says “Come”. He invites you to come close. He wants to share his heart and hope with you. Then we can share it with others and bring them close too.

Lord Jesus, I am so grateful for your invitation to come. Your welcome fills my heart with hope and love. 

Written by Gab Martin

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