A Good Samaritan?

The truth about the Good Samaritan (a parable told by Jesus recorded in Luke 10:25-37) is that the Samaritans were hated by the Jews at the time.

So in a lovely twist, Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of the story to show the religious leaders that he just did naturally what they found excuses not to do. Hate is a dangerous thing.

We help people because it’s basic to our humanity, it’s the right thing to do. This we can agree with humanists, agnostics and atheists. Indeed, they often say their motives are purer than ours.

As Christians, we also help people because God demonstrated his love for humanity through Jesus. Jesus cared for people, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – in other words, Christians need to be like Jesus, simple.

Who are those who are ‘hated’ today? Who are those who are looked down on and despised? Who are the marginalised people? What do we think about immigrants? Who are excluded by the church? What is our attitude to LGBTQ+ people? How do we treat those who are not ‘like’ us?

God’s love is for all, it’s boundless. Human love should reach across our self-imposed discrimination and prejudice. How will this affect the way you respond to others this week?

Trinity Sunday (2021)

Today’s Sunday Devotional is a guest post by Stephen Poxon, one that he shared on Facebook and is reproduced here with permission:

In this year’s church calendar, May 30th is marked as Trinity Sunday. Here is a hymn you may wish to use in services and meetings, set to Bishop Michael Baughen’s marvellous tune Majestas (Name of all Majesty).

Grace wrapped in mystery,
Older than history,
God the eternal, the great three-in-one!
Father on sapphire throne,
Son as the Virgin’s own,
Spirit our lives to hone;
These we adore!

God the ineffable
Loves the unlovable;
Heartbeat of mercy, thrice-keen to restore
Those who have lost their way,
Wand’rers and those astray;
Kindness threefold display;
Him we adore!

Trinity, one-in-three,
Equal in majesty,
Godhead united in glorious power!
Brooding o’er ancient earth,
Humbled by lowly birth,
Trio of matchless worth,
This we adore!

God inexplicable,
High, indivisible,
Peerless in splendour, in love unsurpassed!
Yet, seen at Calvary;
Salvation’s bravery,
All for unworthy me!
Now I adore!

© Stephen Poxon
Trinity Sunday 2021

See also: Speaking Generally

The Breath of God (Pentecost)

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit…” John 20:22 (for the context of the whole chapter click here).

Just as air is vital for our physical survival, so the regular breath of God is essential for our spiritual health. We readily understand the physical world, but the concept of the spiritual realm can be less easy to grasp. Indeed, the idea of spirituality is frequently mentioned, but often not defined, and its very nature makes it somewhat nebulous.

In the Bible, the word for ‘spirit’ and the words for wind and breath are closely linked. John portrays the Risen Christ breathing on his disciples his life giving breath, the very energy of his being in an act of new creation.

This life giving energy of the Spirit transforms men and women, shaping them to share God’s radiance and Christ’s saving love. It’s an energy that binds his people together, summed up in the Greek word koinonia, which we can translate as communion and fellowship.

The Holy Spirit at Pentecost recreates us in the image of the God of love, and enables us to live in Christian fellowship. This is the heart of Christian spirituality, not a vague and spongy otherworldliness. The transforming grace of the Holy Spirit also creates a passion in individual lives and collective fellowships for the welfare of others and a deep longing for God.

Pentecostal spirituality is about human lives being shaped by the life of Jesus Christ, with people finding their meaning and identity in the pattern of his self giving love. This Christian spirituality is not an escape from the world, but living in the real world, a world that can be transformed by God’s grace.

Let me share some words and poetry by Harry Read:

We had not long been appointed as Territorial Commanders to the Australia Eastern Territory, when we met the wise, gracious and widely experienced Colonel and Mrs Colonel George Carpenter, the son and daughter-in-law of the late General and Mrs General George L. Carpenter.

In the course of a thoroughly enjoyable exchange of experiences, Colonel George’s wise words to the fledgling Territorial Commanders were: “You don’t have to work harder, just hoist your sails higher to catch the ‘Wind of the Spirit’.”

With sound of rushing wind the Spirit came,
His very nature full of mystery.
The ‘Wind of God’, His Word reveals His name,
The cleansing, stirring wind of liberty.

Like Trade Winds He maintains His course with ease;
An evidence, and means of massive power
At times unscheduled, like a wayward breeze
Caressing life and bloom on tree and flower.

“Great Wind of God, refresh our stagnant world,
Bring life to every heart and mind and soul.
Direct our ways as we, with sails unfurled
Ourselves abandon, to Thy strong control.”

We need not strive a meagre goal to gain –
We hoist the sails and He will take the strain.

…suddenly there came from the sky a noise like that of a strong driving wind…
Acts 2:1-3 (New English Bible)

Language of the Soul, Harry Read’s latest book of prayer poetry is available in every country in paperback or Kindle.

Order your copy here:
http://www.bit.ly/Prayer-Read
http://www.bit.ly/prayer-readUSA

And Heart Talk, Harry Read’s first book of prayer poetry, is now also available on Kindle here:

https://tinyurl.com/Heart-Talk-Read
https://tinyurl.com/Heart-Talk-ReadUSA

Candidates Sunday 2021

A simple Sunday devotional to encourage you to join in with this important day in the Salvation Army calendar in the UK. It’s an opportunity to consider God’s calling. Click here for a whole range of resources which you can use for a devotional time today.

Candidates Sunday is an important day in the territorial calendar. It is a day when we’re encouraged to put a specific focus on considering God’s calling on our lives and what that calling might mean … what it might look like … where it might take us. Within that broad subject, it is a day when we’re encouraged to think about how The Salvation Army needs officers and territorial envoys … people who are willing to sign up and step out into a new ministry with God. It is an opportunity to encourage and challenge those who are sensing that God is speaking to them about a specific calling he has on their lives. Source

Become aware of Him (Harry Read)

For my Sunday devotional today, I share some words of Salvation Army Officer Harry Read that he previously shared on Facebook.

Many years ago when I was preparing the script for the Cadet’s Commissioning at The Royal Albert Hall in London, I had the feeling that a special kind of song was needed. More than once I’d started writing the verses but the inspiration wasn’t flowing. However it slowly dawned on me that the song was closer to hand than I had imagined because the Lord – It had to be, the Lord – was leading me to John, our son. Through conversation and observation I was aware of the larger issues of life that John was facing. It seemed obvious to me to me that, through him, the theme of the song was clear but that wasn’t the time to reveal its source.

The verses were written and with his consummate skill the then Captain Robert Redhead wrote the music. The Cadets sang it wonderfully well, possibly because they too related to the theme of the song and, quite quickly, the song became part of our International music ministry.

Quite some time later, when John and his lovely wife, Anne, were married and Cadets at the International Training College, I shared with them the source of the song. Obviously they were moved and, in the family since then, we have always called the song, ‘John’s Song’.

Jesus knows your way,
The road your feet now tread;
Jesus knows your way,
The steps that lie ahead.
Far past the distant view
With dangers ever new,
He knows your way
And walks that way with you.

Chorus:
Become aware of Him,
For he is ever near;
Speak out your prayer to Him
For He will ever hear.
Stretch out your hand to Him,
He’s ever by your side;
Leave all you’ve planned to Him
And let Him guide.

Jesus knows your heart,
Those depths of hidden fire,
Jesus knows your heart,
Those heights of pure desire,
His love can scan and tell
The forces that rebel,
He knows your heart
And longs within to dwell.

Jesus knows your life
The man whom time has made;
Jesus knows your life
With all its light and shade,
Knows what you ought to be,
Sees your great destiny;
He knows your life
And offers Calvary.

Ephesians 3: 16, 17a
“…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”.

Language of the Soul, my latest book of prayer poetry is available in every country in paperback or Kindle.

Order your copy here:
http://www.bit.ly/Prayer-Read
http://www.bit.ly/prayer-readUSA

And Heart Talk, my first book of prayer poetry, is now also available on Kindle here:

https://tinyurl.com/Heart-Talk-Read
https://tinyurl.com/Heart-Talk-ReadUSA

15 Days with Francis of Assisi

I’ve just finished this helpful devotional book, and I’d like to share it with you.

One of a series, 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Francis of Assisi aims to lead you (over fifteen prayer periods) to a place where prayer is possible. But, if you already have a regular experience and practice of prayer, to lead you to a deeper place, a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

The following prayer and reflective questions (which end each chapter of exposition) will give you a taste of the book:

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no one is worthy to praise your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

How do ecological issues such as global warming, famine, air quality and nuclear detonations affect the quality of your spiritual life and the survival of our planet? Is it easier to find God in the beauty and harmony of creation than it is in the suffering and struggles of our dark nights? In the sufferings of the poor, the dying, the hungry? As you ponder the beauty of creation, what does this mean for your spiritual life? “Beauty will save the world” (Dostoevsky), what does this mean for you? Of all the elements (earth, air, fire, water) which is the one to which you most relate? Is death a sister or a friend for you?

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.

Celtic Morning Prayer

I’ve posted before about the Northumbria Community, a dispersed, worldwide, network Christian Community, committed to a new way for living. Source

Over the years, I’ve found their Daily Prayer books and website helpful, especially in troubled times when they provide much needed grounding and routine.

The Daily Office – Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer – is at the core of the life of the Northumbria Community. A regular cycle of daily prayers constitutes the essential rhythm of life around which other activities can take their proper place. Source

In this simple Sunday devotional I would like to point you to their Morning Prayer, which can be used by individuals or groups.

Why not take some time to thoughtfully pray this today and in the coming days?

Peace be with you

This Sunday’s devotional comes from a Lectionary reading for the Third Sunday of Easter (2021), namely Luke 24:36-48 in my preferred translation (NIVUK):

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

This is one of the post-resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus recorded in the New Testament. But, before you read on, you might like to read the preceding verses and last Sunday’s devotional Walk humbly with God.

The news of Jesus’ resurrection was becoming known; the disciples were gossiping the good news and enjoying wonderful moments of fellowship and food.

As Christians, the moments we share with each other in worship, fellowship and feasting are so important. The Last Supper in the upper room was a highly significant occasion, as well as being a tremendously poignant one. As we meet together, we’re sharing something divine. The Risen Christ comes and blesses us with his presence.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

Jesus spoke about peace on many occasions. In the Beatitudes he challenged his hearers to be peacemakers, not just peace lovers.

On Palm Sunday he wept over Jerusalem he longed that they might have peace, but it was hidden from their eyes. They didn’t want to see it.

In a passage from John’s Gospel, where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, he says to the disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Later he says: ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33

What incredible moments these must have been as they gathered in the presence of the Risen Lord. Such moments of collective insight and clarity, everything falling into place, especially as Jesus opened up the Hebrew scriptures to them.

The lights came on in their hearts and lives, and he outlined the message they were to declare to the world.

Thinking about the peace Jesus brings, I conclude with these later words of Paul: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8

See also The Letter of Joy (Chapter 4) and Peace (Henry Vaughan)

Walk humbly with God

With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Bible Reading: Micah 6:6-8

This Old Testament passage from the Prophet Micah is one of the most well-known texts of the twelve Minor Prophets. Although much less is known about the Micah than the Major Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah (for example), he can be dated to approximately 721 BCE, the time period of the deportation of the northern part of the land of Israel during the oppression of the nation of Assyria.

Micah was a prophet in the southern part of the country, Judah, but he would have been well aware of the devastation and oppression caused by Assyria in the northern part of his country. Micah speaks out from God’s perspective against idolatry, injustice, rebellion and empty worship, but he also proclaims God’s delight in pardoning the penitent.

The wonderful thing about the prophets is that, although they spoke to a specific historical situation, their words are timeless. So it is with Micah.

Micah addressed the people of God with the message that their hearts and their worship must be right, because only then can we truly connect with God and be his people in the world. Only when our hearts and worship are right will we have the strength, creativity and passion to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.

After Easter we often consider the lovely story in Luke’s Gospel of the Walk to Emmaus. It’s a story of an actual walk, but it also describes a journey of faith. You can read it in Luke 24:13-35.

Walking was the main method of transportation then. It would be normal for many conversations to take place as people walked together. And so it was on that day that two of Jesus’ followers are journeying home to Emmaus. They are talking and grieving over the fact that the unthinkable has happened, that Jesus had been captured, tortured and crucified.

They tell the stranger who joins them on their journey that, equally unthinkable, some of the women of their group had reported an empty tomb, a fact that was confirmed by some of the men of their group (women’s testimony being unacceptable then).

Their physical walk turns into a spiritual journey through the Scriptures, as Jesus in his unrecognized reality, reminds them that they are too slow to believe all that the prophets have declared. Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

It’s when the journey is complete, when the walking is done, that Jesus’ followers recognize him in his action of the breaking of the bread. He opened the Scriptures to them during the journey, and that opening enabled them to truly recognize him and believe.

As followers of Jesus, we journey together as all brothers and sisters in Christ, responding, as his diverse and united people, to the call to walk with the vulnerable, to proclaim his name, and move forward in vibrant faith.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28

This beautiful and familiar passage from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians reminds us that are united in Christ, and move forward together.

Although it doesn’t overtly use the vocabulary of walking or journeying, it’s about God always making the divine way towards us. God approached the Galatians in an unmerited and unconditional way, and approaches us in a like manner.

We are all different, but our unity in Christ should draw us closer in our respect for each another, recognising and celebrating our differences.

We are all Easter people in a Good Friday world.

In a world of injustice, there is hope. It’s at the point where God’s love and justice meet, in the Cross of Jesus. That symbol of vulnerability is at the heart of our faith, the place where God’s love was demonstrated and his justice shown.

Let’s make sure we walk together as Christians, and with all those who are seeking peace, justice and righteousness in the world.

Easter Sunday 2021

One of the main things which sent the first disciples out into the world with the message of salvation was the conviction embodied in the first Christian creed: Jesus is Lord!

It’s found in Acts 2 in one of the first sermons ever preached…let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, who you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

For those first disciples, this Lordship of Jesus was at the heart of everything.

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5

Belief and theology can get very complicated. The Church of England has 39 Articles of Belief, the Salvation Army has 11 Doctrines. The early church had just three words: Jesus is Lord!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Of course, it was only after the Resurrection that Jesus was called LORD as the highest title for him. When the word was used in the gospels, its meaning was nearer to ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’, it was only later that Jesus was distinctively and characteristically called ‘The Lord’.

There are so many names for Jesus, ‘Saviour’ being especially associated with Good Friday, and ‘Lord’ with Easter Sunday. Saviour and Lord are both important. Just like Good Friday and Easter, they go together. Accepting Jesus as Saviour implies crowning him as Lord.

We accept Jesus as Saviour on Good Friday and crown him as Lord on Easter Sunday. The two go together. On this Easter Sunday, let’s humbly bow before him and crown him Lord of all.

See also: Resurrection (Rob Bell)