This week's theme

Seeing aright

Today's reading

1 Peter 1:8-13

Today's prayer

O you whom even the angels cannot fully grasp, fire us with a longing for your truth and beauty, so that we may love you more and more.

From Fresh From the Word 2016

For further thought

Pay particular attention to your longings this day. How is the Spirit speaking through them?

Pay attention to the ways God comes to you this day through all your senses.

In your experience, does understanding lead to faith or vice versa?

How would you judge the state of your physical and spiritual 'eyesight'? What help might you need to see more clearly?

Visit an art gallery in the coming week and search out one or two self-portraits - or do so online. What do you learn?

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Could you imagine that anyone might describe you as being in anyway like Christ? If they did, what do you think that they might mean by it?

Look at yourself in a mirror today. What does your reflection tell you? What does it hide?

List some of the gifts that God has given you that enable you in different ways to build up the people around you.

Take a moment today to hold before God your ideas about the end of the world - the whole world, or the personal world around you.

Try to think of one way in which you might, today, contribute to the peace of your own community, family, workplace or home.

What ordinary people and things is Christ gazing on today?

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Keep a gratitude diary for a week or a month. Simply write down the many things God has provided for you.

What sort of music does your church sing? Does it retell the story of scripture to help you remember and never forget the story of salvation?

Scientists have suggested that wind tides might have been responsible for the parting of the waters. How does nature work in tandem with God's purposes?

Determinism holds sway today. It's not my fault! Blame my genes, my education, my background... How does this affect our discipleship?

We live in a culture of instant coffee, instant noodles, instant messaging, speed reading, speed dating, high-speed internet. What is all this doing to our discipleship?

Worship in the beginning books of the Bible featured no words, music or feelings, only food. What are most worship services today like? Why?

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Think of a time when a hardship turned out to be a blessing. Share that story with someone this weekend.

It is easy to become boxed into your own faith. Today, seek out a different opinion, not to agree with it, but to hear it without prejudice.

Are you resisting change in some way or another? Today, Ascension Day, notice if there is anywhere you are not letting God in.

If you are unfamiliar with the effects of anxiety and depression, try to find out more about them today.

As you go about your day, try to keep present in your mind an awareness of the ways you are using the earth's energy.

Think of a change you often pray to see - in your life or others' - and do something to take a step towards it.

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Do you owe someone an apology for breaking a promise? Has someone made a promise to you but failed to deliver? Can you forgive?

Does someone close to you exhibit a godly kind of power? What are the characteristics that make them powerful in your estimation?

Is there is a difference between determination and obstinacy? Do you need to be more determined? Might you be less obstinate?

Is God leading you to so something for someone else such that he or she may receive greater assurance that God is listening?

If you are part of a team, reflect on your role. Do you hide behind others? How might you grow in confidence while empowering others?

Is our God too small?

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Devote some time to a thoughtful reading of the Eucharistic liturgy of your church. Ask God to speak to you again through the act of communion.

Gather a group of people (Christian and non-Christian) around a meal and spend time discussing a current social issue, sharing how your faith shapes your response to it.

If you've never baked a loaf of bread before, take up the challenge. Use the time spent kneading the dough to meditate on your relationship with God.

As you pray, ask God to reveal any unintentional barriers you've put up. Find a way of intentionally overcoming them and building relationships with others.

If you're not already involved in community action of some kind, look into volunteering your time and gifts to help others.

Find a way to extend fellowship to people via hospitality, such as a meal or even a party.

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Taking, thanking, breaking, sharing, blessing: words to describe our witness in the world.

What food staple represents daily bread in your town, city or region?

The poor need justice not charity.

A ship in a harbour is safe. But that's not what ships are for.

If you can get online, visit http://www.greenchristian.org.uk and search for LOAF.

I might forget to pray but generally remember to eat: how can I make meal-times a religious experience?

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Think about the people you invest the most of your time into right now. Is there someone in your life, who's perhaps harder to love, whom God is calling you to form a deeper relationship with?

What bits of yourself are you putting forward and holding back from God to use to build his kingdom: your time, money or relationships?

Try to spend today being aware of how your worries about the future are impacting on the way you treat people in the now.

Reflect on the 'wilderness' times of uncertainty and discomfort in your own life. What did God teach you in those times?

Spend some time reflecting on how your character has matured as a disciple of Jesus. How are you different from this time last year, this time five years ago, and this time ten years ago?

Think about who the 'familiar strangers' are in your own life. How might you show one of them God's hospitality over the coming week?

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When has 'table-fellowship' sustained you and helped you to learn more about God? If possible, exchange stories of such times - and meals - with someone else.

Set up a bird table or feeding station. If you have one, spend extra time watching the birds there and invite others to join you.

Find out more about Rabbis for Human Rights (www.rhr.org.il/eng) and volunteering to help with the olive harvest in Palestine (www.jai-pal.org/en/campaigns/olive-tree-campaign).

Learn more, using the internet or scanning the news, about the persecution of Christians today - particularly in the Middle East.

Where have you experienced God's presence in a shared meal?

Reflect on all the varieties of bread. Find out about pitta or bagels, chappati or cholla, baguettes or ryebread. Try baking,buying and eating a different kind!

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Like the weeping women, let us do the business of the day, but be ready to keep holy and sacred the Lord?s Day.

What aspect of this tremendous story speaks to you today?

Embrace humility today!

God does not ask us to account for the colour of our skin. Does it matter to you whether Simon was black, white or brown?

What miscarriages of justice can you think of in your own society? Where would Jesus be found?

Make the best choices for yourself and others. Beware of the consequences of wrong decisions!

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Change begins with you. What needs to change in you so that evil does not have its way there?

Where in your life right now do you recognise a kairos moment?

Learn something about God and God?s plan for all of creation by observing something in nature ? something simple, like a flower or an ant.

What group or organisation working to get the world right-side up can you support through prayer, or in other ways?

List the things holding you back from offering yourself unreservedly and completely for God?s work and will.

Allow yourself to be surprised afresh by the ordinary and familiar today.

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If the love of God can make us conquerors over evil forces, how can we enable all creation to experience that love, and create a new world devoid of the power of evil?

Christians are called to be a counter-cultural community. Through bearing the fruits of the Spirit, we are invited to proclaim the gospel that another world is possible.

The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is certainty.

What do you think of the idea of God suffering with Israel in Egypt, and with his people wherever they suffer today?

From the fear of the other, let us grow into the beauty of living and growing together so that we may be able to destroy the evil forces.

Instead of blaming the unpleasant realities, let us transform them through radical organic engagement.

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What celebrated cultural trend do you most struggle with? What does it say about people?s view of God and self? How can you lovingly respond?

How have you been a victim of evil intent? How did you respond to the violation? Concerning the culprit, what?s more important: justice or mercy?

What do you fear most? How do you manage that fear? How can the reality of Jesus? death and resurrection defeat the power of it?

Where do you see evil in the world? How can you fight against it? Where do you need God?s protection from the evil one?

Where in your life are you being tested? What would you lose if you gave in to temptation there? Where will you look for help?

When have you felt at odds with a surrounding culture? Why did it make you seem foolish? How does the cross empower you to respond?

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Thank God for all that is good in your life. It is all the gift of God?s presence with you. Write down some of these good things, and thank others for the good they are in your life.

Consider some role models for good, whether historical or of today, global or local, famous or known only to you. Thank God for them, and learn something from them.

If the greatest of all that we can be is love, how might some of the things I do and say change?

How does the worship of your church reflect what you know of Jesus and what he has done? How could the members of your church serve one another better?

Consider where Christ might be working in your neighbourhood, and look for ways you might be able to join in.

Pay attention today, and make note of all that is good, true and beautiful in your life, around you in others, and in this world, and thank God.

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At the end of this week, what are your thoughts on the cosmic powers? How do they relate (or not relate) to your navigation of good and evil?

Do you see Job as a prototype of Jesus?

How do the ill and disabled fit into your church community? How are they included?

Do you see the commitment to being counter-cultural in the outlook of your friends and colleagues of other religions?

How do you feel about hell as an emphatic warning rather than a final destination? Is religion about reconciliation?

What would the impact be of rejecting notions of eventual punishment, is it justice or revenge? Is final judgement God?s idea or ours?

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Where do you think evil came from?

How attached are you to ?the Devil? in Christian theology?

Do you agree that death is part of the natural created order? Is death really ?the wages of sin??

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How would you sum up the Ten Commandments to a new Christian? Share it on our Facebook group today: www. facebook.com/freshfromtheword

Think about popular press and culture: are there groups about whom false witness is built and accepted? How?

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If you are in a covenanted relationship, take a moment to think honestly about the health of your relationship and how you can be a better partner.

Most polls in the UK show support for the death penalty. Why do you think this is? What is the popular opinion on this issue in the country where you live?

What does this commandment mean in practice? Find out about the work of a local charity devoted to early childhood development. How could your church be involved?

Make a point today of noticing invisible work that supports our economy: shelf-stocking, cleaning, caring, warehouse-picking, etc. Do you keep a Sabbath from consumption?

How often and in what context do you swear? Is it an important issue for Christians, why or why not?

Consider these words: ?Until Jesus was all I had, I did not realise Jesus was all I needed.? How do you feel about this statement?

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Think of a time that you have given to someone without expecting anything back and have received something good that you never expected.

As you focus on the positive things in your life, note how this helps you to be content with what you have.

Are there killjoys in your life, people you really struggle to be with? Try to see life from their perspective and perhaps it will change your attitude.

Today, at different points in the day, take five minutes to sit quietly and to focus on God?s love, mercy and grace.

On a piece of paper draw two columns, head them ?Profit? and ?Loss?, list the things in your life that fit into each category.

Think about the people that you admire ? what is it in their lives that you look up to?

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Working for justice and peace is a way of bringing light to our world. How can I support and participate in this work?

How often do I overlook the simple in my search for a life that is fulfilling and open to the needs of others?

What is there in my life that keeps me from putting the interests of others before my own and how can I find a healthy balance between the two?

How do I show joy and delight? Does the laughter and humour I express build warmth and companionship with those whom I love, with whom I work?

In what ways do my concerns about those around me distract me from being more fully present to the call to be Christ in the world?

As this week unfolds, are there colleagues at work, or in your community who need to be thanked and encouraged for the good work they give to others?

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If I?m afraid of the bullies in the playground, it?s because I?ve forgotten that my Dad is bigger than theirs.

Am I satisfied with my Christian witness as it is, or am I restless when I think of those who have still not met Christ?

If I am happy to rest in the love of Christ, am I also willing to respond to his challenge to love and obey him?

Am I a friend of older people, or an ?enemy?? Have I thanked those who have helped me on my journey of faith?

Am I too much influenced by what other people think and say? Is fitting in more important than being true to what I believe?

Which most needs strengthening in my life, the horizontal relationship with other people or the vertical relationship with God?

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Reflect on how your deeds can show the light of Christ to the world.

Consider how you can trust God when you are at your lowest ebb.

Have you thought about mentoring someone younger thanyou? Seek someone out today and start the process.

Reflect on where you saw God's presence in the last 24 hours.

How do you see God's upside-down kingdom played out in your society?

How could you lobby your government on behalf of those who are in poverty?

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Take a few moments to reflect on the gift of creation. What can you do to help sustain the earth?

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In the days ahead, how can you make Christmas real?

Today look out for signs of the word made flesh in your life and your community.

Make up your own acrostic poem, using a familiar Christmas word. Share it, if you like, on our Facebook group page www.facebook.com/freshfromtheword.

What was the most recent experience you had that you would call ‘truly worshipful’?

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The turmoil of life comes to us all, but there is an assurance of stability for the person who chooses to hear God’s words and obey them.

Giving to people without reservation opens the door for receiving from God without reservation. Take the position first, and then receive the reward.

Do not seek everybody’s acceptance. It is all right to be hated by others when you stand for Jesus. Stand up for Jesus because, ultimately, it will pay.

Power came from Jesus to touch others because Jesus touched the source of all power in prayers. Let us embrace this habit and see changes around us.

An accusatory mind will prevent a Christian from benefitting from God’s great work. If not addressed, it can develop into further negative actions.

Levi was ready to follow Jesus – just waiting for the instruction. Someone around you might be waiting for the invitation, so extend the invitation to them.

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The healing of the leper becomes a powerful testimony to the priests and the leper’s family and friends.

Jesus calls us from our daily work in order to serve him by using our skills and talents.

Jesus’ ministry was a holistic one that emphasised both words and deeds.

The evil spirit recognised the authority of Jesus as the Son of God. We are to minister in that same authority granted to us.

It is never easy to minister in our hometown where everyone ‘knows’ us.

Jesus had no other special resources to counter the devil’s claims and lies but the word of God.

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During Advent, how relevant is John’s advice on sharing and contentment in life? How do these challenge a consumption-oriented and market-driven Christmas season?

In what way do we take the young generation for granted? How can we avoid it?

Can we attend worship, pray and fast without any particular agenda or goals? Are these an end in themselves?

What is the extra mile we can walk to ensure the spiritual growth of the next generation?

Shepherds went to the manger to seek the saviour; soldiers were commissioned to slaughter him. What is our approach to the babe: stranglers or seekers?

How do we understand the rejection of Jesus from the time of his birth? How can we celebrate Christmas meaningfully?

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What do you consider ‘success’ in this life to be? Is it more than the accumulation of wealth?

We need to ask ourselves as we grow older if as individuals we have become the people that God would have us be, and ask for grace to achieve our true potential.

Are we sometimes hesitant to share good news? Why might that be, and do we have to be sensitive at times?

How carefully do we plan out our lives? Do we welcome the possibility of God intervening and taking us on a different path?

If you struggle to see where you are in God’s bigger picture, consider that where you are right now might be where God needs you!

Think about how easily you give in to the temptation of thinking God will never answer your prayers, and bring to mind Zechariah and Elizabeth.

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As Ann Voskamp suggests, nurture an attitude of thanksgiving by keeping a list of good things in your day-to-day life.

Consider what transformation might look like in your life. What changes would you welcome? Which would you shy away from?

How does your (lack of) openness to allowing others into your life, and entering into the lives of others, affect your experience of church?

How might our understanding of Jesus’ suffering on the cross influence how we react to suffering in the lives of individual Christians – including our own?

How secure are you in your identity as a follower of Christ? How do you measure this, and who do you allow to define it?

What difference does it make to be needed by God, not just wanted? In what ways do you (or could you) partner in God’s work?

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Get involved in an interfaith activity in your area or try to find out more about the life and worship of people of another religion.

Do you know someone bereaved whom you could telephone or visit and so bring to life the promise of comfort for mourners in these verses?

Think of something you have been postponing because you are afraid. Do it, discover whether it is more straightforward than expected. Rejoice in your achievement once it is done.

If you have computer access, listen on YouTube to the choir of Lauderdale Road Synagogue singing Psalm 118:26-29 in Hebrew to a cheerful festival tune. www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PMzn7q1-tc

Think whether there is an organisation near you for people who feel at risk that you could help with your time or money.

List twenty-five things that make you want to praise God, either in your own life or historical events from the Exodus until now.

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Think of a time when God has wiped your tears away, and give thanks.

Where are the tensions and difficulties in relationships in your own life and that of your local church? How are you responding?

Think of a time when a stranger ministered to you, and give thanks.

Listen to Bach’s setting of the John or Matthew Passion and pay particular attention to his setting of today’s text.

What makes Jesus weep today, in your local context as well as in the wider world?

Whose tears have been most precious to you, and why?

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Where is the need for gloves to come off in your life, or in the lives of those with whom you have to do?

As you go about your day, look out for bodies that seem to be weeping, and hold them before God.

Where are the places in your neighbourhood that are weeping?

Where, when and how have you experienced the maternal longing of God?

Spend some time considering the image of God as wailing woman. What new insights does this offer?

Who might be praying this psalm in the world today? Read the newspaper or listen to the news with this psalm in mind and heart.

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What has Jesus taught us by spending time with the outcasts of society on his last days on earth? How would we have spent our time if we were in his place?

Have you ever been negligent and failed to watch every second of the day, as our Lord repeatedly ordered us to do?

How attentively do we, with spiritual insight, discern the unfolding of God’s purpose in the changing panorama of events? What signs do you see you around you today of the coming of the kingdom?

Do we, daily, examine ourselves and ask if we deserve to be considered among ‘the chosen people’? How do our standards compare with the biblical standard?

As practising Christians, do we seriously take our Lord’s warning to be on our guard every day of our lives?

Do we believe that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will remain faithful to the end when faced with situations that challenge our faith?

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Where do people of other faiths fit in? Whether or not we’re looking for their conversion, are they seeing the gospel in action in us?

How ready are we to challenge common ‘Messianic’ thinking among Christians and how does this issue impact on relations with Jewish believers?

Are we able to answer the questions about life and faith that others put to us, with a straightforward gentle response that engages with people

How inclusive or exclusive are we? Do we pick up ideas of openness and imagination from Jesus’ words? How would he challenge us today with new things?

How do we respond to those who believe differently? Do we avoid treating as ridiculous what they believe, and insisting on the rightness of our beliefs?

How do we best serve God with all our resources? And, more important, what does God want from us?

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Read on: Look at the way that Peter’s triple denial of Jesus (Luke 22:54-62 – found in other Gospels too) becomes his triple affirmation when he meets the risen Jesus (John 21: 9-17).

Free-range chickens are a less familiar sight for many of us. What word-picture (instead of the mother hen) would you choose today to show Jesus’ love?

Today, wherever you go, keep your eyes open for creatures or growing things. How are they blessed by God? How does their existence bless us?

Do you need to hear those words ‘Don’t be afraid’? Think about why – and thank God.

Nesting, or migrating? How do you see your own life reflected in the lives of the birds described above?

Think of a work of art that has brought a biblical story or theme alive for you. If possible, find a copy and reflect on it.

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Learn more about birds and bird-watching by reading books, watching films or YouTube, visiting bird reserves or aviaries. Consider putting out grains and nuts as birdfood.

List twenty things that tire you and thirty things that encourage your stamina and wellbeing. Can you improve their balance in your life?

Is there something you can do to make your home or your church a more pleasant place to serve God, either through prayer or by hospitality to others?

Look up the website of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel; see pictures of the many beautiful birds that visit or live in the country.

Find a way to give encouragement or support to someone who needs it, either by giving food or time or a listening ear or money.

In much of the developed world, a lot of food is thrown away, wasting environmental resources. Try to buy only what you will use this week.

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Imagine a gathering of God’s kingdom people, and then picture the camp of the grumblers and fault-finders. Which would you rather be in?

Which of your own motivations can you identify as being for your own gain?

For what aspect of God’s coming kingdom will you pray today?

Investigate and consider supporting a local or national campaign for a living wage.

In what part of your life do your allegiances and priorities need reconsidering?

How can you sow peace today?

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Is the Christian group I belong to looking inside our church walls, occupied in keeping our practices and traditions, or facing the outside world and its needs?

How is social life organised in your neighbourhood, town, place of work, church? Is there room for changes? Who will take action?

Which things in my life are proof that I have accepted the word planted in my heart? Is this word truly part of me?

Like an athlete getting ready for a competition, we too need spiritual preparation for the trials of life. What do you do in this respect? Are you getting good results?

Think of the areas of your life where your actions could be improved, better to reflect your Christian faith.

Does the church tolerate the forms of slavery existing in your country? Has it been vocal against it, or has it also acted as slave master?

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In what way does the Sunday school version of the Joseph story differ from its biblical version? How can we present an unsanitised version of Joseph’s character to children?

As you read through the book of Genesis have you ever noticed that different chapters use different names for God? What do you think is the reason for this?

Look up the hymn ‘O Love that wilt not let me go’ written by George Matheson. Read through the words and try to find the story behind the hymn.

Beware of the prosperity gospel! When was the last time you heard a sermon suggesting that those who trust in Jesus will live trouble-free lives?

Read through Genesis and trace the plot of God’s promise to Abraham. How many Gentiles respond positively to Abraham and his descendants and receive God’s blessing?

Are there longstanding disagreements in your family that need forgiveness and healing? Act now to defuse the bomb. Be reconciled.

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Circumstances beyond our control, and our attitude, will decide what was a blessing and what was a curse.

What is the church doing about unemployment in your town, city, or country? What could you do?

Where in your life do you need to trust in God’s providence?

Find a copy of the recent critically acclaimed movie 12 Years a Slave and watch it to gain insight into the way Christian faith was used to support nineteenth-century slavery.

Which of the Benedictine maxims above appeal to you, or speak to a habit that would help you in your working day?

Imagine God’s Spirit hovering over a chaotic part of your life or the life of the world.

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How important is it to not to feel like a burden to others? What is the best work a person can do?

Who do you know that works in front of a computer a lot? How might you show them that you respect their work?

Do I accept a level of unfairness in my workplace? Are there ways I could challenge unfairness without causing more harm than good?

What motivations do I share with the people who work near me? What do the people in church each Sunday do during the working week?

How are we distracted by good looks and charm (our own or others’!)?

With so many distractions in life, where could I go to imagine God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven?

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Compare Songs of Songs 8:5-14 and 1 Corinthians 13. In what ways do the passages agree and in what ways do they differ?

Do you think all human longing is an expression of our need for God?

Does not even the spiritual life require embodiment for its expression?

Do you think the Christian tradition too often associates sex with shame?

If you are in a long-term relationship, are you giving it the time and attention it deserves?

Are you listening carefully to women’s voices and paying proper attention to the opinions and thoughts of women?

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A notorious evildoer comes into your church and says ‘I want to change. Can you help me to get to know God?’ How would you react?

How good are you at sharing God’s compassion and forgiveness with everyone you meet, not just those you approve of? How can you do better?

Which of the sons in the parable do you most resemble?

If God spares evil people who repent, what does this say about God’s justice?

Can you recall an occasion when you were disobedient, careless or stupid and God started again with you? What happened?

How difficult do you find it to trust God to care for you in hard places?

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What are my blind spots? Where do I fail to see, as my Creator sees, with a loving and kindly vision?

Reflect on time as gift from God. Do I need to change my attitude to its use?

Are we aware of the burdens that weigh others down? Where do we fail to notice and to act?

Where can I make time for myself? Where do I need love and attention?

Reflect today on the true meaning of Christian hope and trust.

Reflect on Ecclesiastes 3.4: ‘A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.’ Do we fail to pay attention to the griefs that inhibit our flourishing?

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Do you pray for justice for the most vulnerable? How are you involved in seeing justice come?

Consider your own attentiveness to Jesus: are you more like Martha or Mary?

How do we love God with all our heart, soul and strength

Is there someone you know who might gain hope from hearing your testimony to God’s love and power today?

Remember that the people you meet today may be struggling in some way that you might not know, but God does. Pray for them.

Gratitude forms hearts of awe. Take time today to consider your gratefulness for God’s presence in your life, and to rest a little in that mystery.

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Pay attention to what is happening around you. Take responsibility for changing it. Make a conscious effort to be present to the God who is present to you.

Consider the places, spaces and moments you wish to name as wisdom-encounters. Imagine a ‘come dine with me’ TV show with Proverbs 9:5-6 as a strapline!

Consider the subtle and overt ways in which God is being marginalised in our lives. Name some of the events/happenings/people for which you wish to give God thanks. What would your version of Hannah’s prayer be like?

‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it’ (Jeremiah 6:16). Where and how is the call of God working in your life?

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). Consider scheduling a resting time in your diary. As communities of rest, what are spaces for rest that churches create/offer?

How does the knowledge of this all-attentive God who loves each of us intensely, shape your relationships and response to what you may be currently wrestling with?

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Ask yourself how the truth of Christ’s overall authority should be reflected in the way you think and live in the world.

Ask yourself how much you accept to be modelled by the word of God.

Reflect on how much the sacrifice of Christ conquers the power of sin in your life, and give thanks.

Reflect on the ways in which the lordship of Christ should be expressed in different domains of your life. What will be different?

How aware are you of the fact that God hears our cries and knows our needs?

What is the model you follow in your journey of discipleship and in ministry to others? How can Jesus’ self-emptying model inform the life of your community?

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What do I hold on to that is no longer life giving at this point in my life? Are there things that hold me back from exploring my faith more deeply?

Do I see groups and organisations that help children in need as co-builders of the kingdom of God here on earth?

Is it possible to let the hard questions we face become an opening into a deepening sense of God’s grace and protection in our lives?

Take time to recall moments when you have seen the hand of God in the most unexpected places, and give thanks for that memory.

When do you find it easier to look for recognition rather than recognising where Christ is in the ordinary encounters of your daily life?

How hard do we find it to trust God with what seem to be the impossible situations we encounter in our lives?

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Choose one difficult relationship you are experiencing. How can you bring about peace in it?

Are you doing anything in your community to eliminate violence in public media or to eliminate war toys for children?

In failed relationships, is it because one or both parties didn’t try hard enough?

Is there a peace or justice issue that threatens to bring social conflict in your community? What can your group do to redress the underlying injustice?

Unity is God’s purpose. What can we do to help bring people together? Write a letter to someone within your church, urging forgiveness and reconciliation.

Instead of judging, what should occupy our energy? What do you need to do to promote unity in diversity?

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What might it mean to seek the peace and prosperity of where you are? Remember those for whom shalom/peace is a distant hope.

Pray for a place of conflict; pray for true peace with justice. Consider how you might seek others’ prosperity. What might that mean for you?

How can you not just seek peace but pursue it? What could you change in your life, community, or the wider world to pursue peace?

What might be the barriers to true, ‘whole life’ worship of God? What in your life might need changing? (Don’t dwell on guilt; seek forgiveness!)

How in harmony with your fellow human beings are you? How in harmony with God’s world are you? What could you change?

If you could have God change or transform one thing in your life what might it be? What tools do you have to work for peace?

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Take up the challenge described above and resolve to pray for politicians in more depth.

Research what it’s like to be a Christian in a hostile environment, and commit to holding those people in prayer.

Investigate the latest anti-corruption or anti-tax evasion campaigns and pray for the contexts in which this is an action.

Think of an area of your life that you need to entrust to God. Write it down and, over the course of the day, read it over again and lift it up in prayer.

it. For the last three years, I’ve been training for ordination, learning all the things a church leader is meant to know. As an ordinand in a church placement, I’ve had some responsibility but always with the safety net of two ordained people

Spend some time thinking about your various responsibilities and those who support you with them. Pray for each area and all those involved.

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Stand up for the powerless and the powerful will move against you.

Power without accountability is like bricks without straw: it doesn’t work, the house will fall. Where do I see power that must be challenged?

In what ways, in my time, is it given to me to speak truth to power?

In my circumstances, are there orders that I must never obey?

We take Jesus as our model for private life. Is he our model for public life and leadership too?

Good leaders from time to time may look to their people for forgiveness. When last did a leading politician do this? When last did I?

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Are we ready to make any sacrifices today? Reflect on what modern society ‘preaches’ today and what it means to follow Jesus now.

Read the newspaper today, on paper or on the internet, and look for positive news. Can you see there any signs of God’s goodwill for all of us? Take a moment to reflect and pray.

What about Jesus’ compassion? We live in a society that seems to have lost those sorts of feelings. Instead of compassion, blame and fear take the lead. Reflect on what the Gospel is telling us about this.

Have you ever thought of volunteering to help in community or church services? Are you ready for that? Talk about it with your friends or church group. Don’t hesitate. There’s always lots to do for those in need!

Do you believe Jesus can change your life? In what ways? Talk with your church group and friends about it.

Plan how to get involved in community organisations that help those in difficulties. Is your church ready to open its doors without prejudices and judgement?

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Are we discouraged because of the size of the task ahead? Is it because we think it’s up to us, not up to Jesus?

Do we live lives different enough to disturb people, and are we confident enough not to mind if they don't like us because of it?

Have Christians been too willing to try to impose their views on people rather than just offering them?

Are there times in our lives when we have grieved too soon and missed God’s blessing of resurrection?

Do we make faith too complicated and give people the impression they have to jump through too many hoops to become Christians?

Restoration and healing are sometimes costly. How do we make them worth it?

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Which relationships create space for you to be in the presence of Jesus? What are the broken relationships you need Jesus to help you restore?

What are the distractions around you that are stopping you from hearing God? How can you make space in your life to hear God?

In what areas of your life do you feel inadequate? How might God transform those inadequacies and turn them into small wonders?

What is stopping you and your faith community from seeing growth? How can you keep the expectation of reproduction and growth central to your faith?

Who are the ‘small’ people in your sphere of influence that are overlooked? How will you and your faith community seek to serve that group?

What do you and your faith community do when confronted with needs? What are the issues around you that small acts of kindness could transform?

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The next time you celebrate the Lord’s Supper, remember there is always room at God’s holy table for more hungry people. Invite them in.

Learn the names of the children in your church and pray for them. If there are no children in your church, pray that God will send some soon.

When you next take Holy Communion, remember that people from east, west, north and south are welcome at the Lord’s feast.

Make a list today of all the signs of God’s kingdom at work in your community.

Can a diverse range of people find a home in your church? What more could you do to make all feel welcome?

Who are the young people in your church or fellowship? What more could you be doing to encourage them?

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Take a moment to give thanks for those who raised you in Christian faith either as a child or as an adult, and for those whose lives you have touched with your faith.

How do or might you live out the values of the kingdom, to which you belong, by your commitment to the world, to which you don’t?

Which questions are a potential stumbling block for your faith? Is your faith strengthened by the wrestling, or challenged by the lack of answers?

Whom do you find it especially hard to love? With whom do you never agree? Understanding is not always easy, but start by praying for them.

Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9). How might you be a peacemaker, locally or globally?

How does it make you feel to know that Christ is glorified in you? How will you show that glory in your life this week?

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In the world we will have trouble and face persecution. But don’t worry! Jesus has overcome the world. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

By the resurrection and ascension power of Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, let us powerfully share God’s word always.

Make your ‘joy be complete’ by committing yourself to help a needy person in your church or community this week. Challenge your peers to join you.

Is it right to question God about the death of a loved one? Is it truly possible to experience permanent joy after temporary grief?

The Christian’s life is not free from trials, troubles and challenges. While we are experiencing them, we are being rescued by Christ. Discuss, giving examples.

Read again verses19 and 20 and compare with Romans 8:38-39. What did you learn from the comparison? How can you live out what you have learned?

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Is there something God is wanting to say to you? What truth does the Spirit want to guide you into?

What do the words, ‘sin, righteousness and judgement’ mean to you? Can you love more without being aware of what hinders that love?

Is there anything in our own church culture that we think serves God, but isn’t really doing so? How can we be sure of what service God wants? How can we help those who are misguided?

How might people pick up the wrong idea about who Jesus is? Have you ever misunderstood his works or his words? How can you help people to know Jesus?

Have you ever been unjustly treated, and repaid evil for good? How do you feel about it now? How can you protect yourself while still loving that person?

Do you have a clear sense of what God wants you to say? What frightens you when you talk about God? How can you overcome this fear?

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Seek out opportunities to thank your closest friends for the trust and at-home-ness they give to you. Review your list of virtual friends and either take steps to make the friendship genuine or else weed out those who are included only to make up the numb

Who are the unacknowledged heroes in your community? How can you support them?

Set aside a day for personal retreat and use this prayer as your focus.

Do we sometimes limit our perception of the work of the kingdom to those activities that have the unhelpfully limited label, ‘full-time Christian work’?

Consider what ordinary, mundane encounters in your life today might in truth be unlikely but real steps along your own pilgrim way.

Practise approaching the Bible with an attitude of listening before attempting to analyse or interpret.

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Sometimes sitting and praying without words brings our thoughts and emotions in sync with God’s peace. Stop, and listen to God speak.

Do we need to see to believe? Faith means trusting God wholeheartedly. We do not see God, however we see the many works of God’s love.

Can you see the underlying love behind the instructions to obey? If not, what is clouding the love? It is awesome that someone truly cares!

Do you make promises you feel that you may not be able to keep? Promises made need to be realistic, simple, and – most important – kept.

Do you forget at times that we are just like our parents? Do you forget at times that children imitate what parents do?

Do you feel at times you are always ‘poking in the dark’? The answer is nearby. Faith in Christ will show you the way.

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Wisdom on full stops from comedian Gracie Allen: ‘Never place a period where God has placed a comma.’

Some church members refer to themselves as ‘followers of Jesus’. This implies confession of faith and adherence to Jesus’s teachings. Might such a claim also resonate with Jesus’ depiction of the sheep–shepherd relationship?

When unexpected good fortune finds us, do we perceive something at work beyond what we can explain?

Some say doubt is the opposite of faith, others say the opposite of faith is certainty. Which is closer to your understanding?

According to the principles of community organising, there is a clear preference for ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’ to bring about change. How might that relate to this scene of Easter evening?

Read Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Mindful’ from Why I Wake Early – a fine poem that explores the art of seeing.

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When Perfect Love reigns, people who formerly lived in fear find themselves called out with linen and spices. Let us follow Joseph and Nicodemus and do likewise.

If you make one step towards God today, he will walk across the universe to meet you.

‘Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’ (verse 17). How could knowing this truth about God change the way you do things?

They say, ‘Keep your enemies close,’ but can enemies be flipped? What can we learn about how God changes hearts that can mend relationships in our world?

In John’s Gospel ‘glory’ refers to the cross. Is this paradox true in your story? Can God be glorified in outcomes that feel like utter failure? I hope so!

Do you ever wonder what the people who walk past your church pray about? How might your faith community respond if God asked you to love your neighbours with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18)?

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What more can you discover about how the targets that make up the Millennium Goals have been met?

Take an opportunity to do something today that consciously responds to the needs of those you see around you.

See what you can discover about the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiatives (MDRI). You could start at www.one.org/international/issues/debt-cancellation

Notice today your use of water: for drinking, cooking, washing, cleaning and other sanitary needs. How much water do you think you use each day?

Try to find out who the biggest land-owners in your own neighbourhood are. How do they use the land they occupy?

Where are your sabbath places? When are your sabbath times?

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How can we identify with the global scope of the Millennium Development Goals? Scripture helps open the personal stories behind statistics quoted in millions.

Today take a moment to imagine Jesus calling you to him, before sending you out. What gifts does he see? What might he say?

Today investigate any of the charities that combat disease, such as The Leprosy Mission or Rotary International’s campaign to end polio. Can you help in some way?

Sit and hear the question the guide asked Ezekiel: ‘Son of man, do you see this?’ What does God want to make sure you see today?

What is your government doing about health care for the most vulnerable, who can’t afford the care Namaan can?

How has HIV/Aids affected your community, or not? How have you seen people of faith respond, or not? Join a discussion on our Facebook group today.

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Being ‘born again’ uses a feminine image for God. How might this image broaden our understanding of God’s concern for the health of infants and mothers?

What are the specific needs of little girls in your community, like the one Jesus took by the hand? How can your community nourish them?

Who are the untouchables in your community? *Lyrics by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh © Chrysalis One Music

What are the gravest dangers threatening the health of infants and pregnant women in your community?

Umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu is an African proverb that says that a person becomes a person because of people; or, more personally put, I am because we are.

We are all wonderfully made by God. How will you appreciate today that all your fellow human beings are so wonderfully yet so differently made?

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Work with others to gather an archive of the stories of women who have offered leadership and ministry in your faith community.

In your faith community are there some people who are never offered leadership roles or whose vocation is denied? Why? What might you do to encourage them?

Visit a local art/craft gallery or exhibition and consider what spirituality might be revealed.

Search out and meditate upon other biblical texts that use feminine imagery to describe the divine nature.

What do you know about migrant workers in your community? How might you engage in the practice of radical hospitality?

Are there barriers to female leadership in your church? In the community? What action could you take?

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International
community

Ms.Leena, an Engineering student volunteer with The Fellowship of Professional Workers in India, visiting farm households in Ranga Reddy District introducing Anudina Dyanamalika.

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This week's writer

Nicola Slee is a theologian and poet based at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham.

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About us

The International Bible Reading Association is part of Christian Education and serves the church in five continents to encourage regular Bible reading.

Introducing Charles Waters, bank manager and Sunday School teacher – not a scholar, preacher, or public speaker – who had a gift for organisation and a vision for making the Bible accessible to all.

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