Confess: Creating Communities of Healing

I spoke recently on Zoom to St. David’s Church in Exeter and their Thrive community. It was a great afternoon, so I wanted to share my talk with all of you as well. Please accept my apologies for the lack of eye contact, I recorded this video using a separate device to Zoom, so I never looked at the camera.

In this talk I explore how Jesus reframes our narrative from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”, the expanded meaning of “sin” and “forgiveness” that Jesus uses in Luke 5, and how confession is vital to us creating communities that help people find freedom and healing. I finish with a couple of tips on what to do if life is too dark to see God right now. I hope and pray that this is an encouragement to you.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 11

Bible Passage

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” – Acts 2:1-4

A Thought for the Day

Dr. Willie James Jennings’ commentary on this unforgettable moment of our ancestry is some of the most powerful ever written:

“The miracles are not merely in ears. They are also in mouths and in bodies. God, like a lead dancer, is taking hold of her partners, drawing them close and saying, ‘Step this way and now this direction.’ The gesture of speaking another language is born not of the desire of the disciples but of God, and it signifies all that is essential to learn a language. It bears repeating: this is not what the disciples imagined or hoped would manifest the power of the Holy Spirit. To learn a language requires submission to a people. Even if in the person of a single teacher, the learner must submit to that single voice, learning what the words mean as they are bound to events, songs, sayings, jokes, everyday practices, habits of mind and body, all within a land and the journey of a people. Anyone who has learned a language other than their native tongue knows how humbling learning can actually be. An adult in the slow and often arduous efforts of pronunciation may be reduced to a child, and a child at home in that language may become the teacher of an adult. There comes a crucial moment in the learning of any language, if one wished to reach fluency, that enunciation requirements and repetition must give way to sheer wanting. Some people learn a language out of gut-wrenching determination born of necessity. Most, however, who enter a lifetime of fluency, do so because at some point in time they learn to love it.” – “Acts” by Willie James Jennings, pgs 29-30

This was the long-awaited moment where God’s power would come on his people so that they could bear witness. The real twist comes when God’s power to his people reveals that his desire isn’t to enable his people to be rulers, but to be family. Not to force others to join them or else, but to be able to enter the culture of others with humility and love.

This is the real miracle of Pentecost: God’s gift of power was also an act of submission. Because this is what true mission looks like, entering spaces where we are not in control and choosing to be the guest instead of the host. Let this sink in for a moment, when God’s power came on his people for the first time like that it wasn’t to highlight how they were different from everyone else, but to help them be more similar.

As you pray for your five today, and as Thy Kingdom Come reaches its end for this year, pray that God would help you find ways to humble yourself and connect to them and their culture, their ways of thinking and believing. Pray for God’s Spirit to enable you to become a witness just like those first disciples were: not a witness of power, but of submission and love.

Pray for his kingdom to come and his will to be done.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing my prayers over these last 11 days. Thank you that you are drawing [say the names of your five] to yourself. Please empower me by your Spirit to be a witness to each of them. Enable me to enter into their world and help them feel a part of something bigger, a part of your kingdom. Teach me the inclusive ways of your Spirit. By your Spirit, make me a force that drives towards unity instead of division. Amen.”

Praying Something Old

The phrase “maranatha” is well-known to be used by the early church. But depending on how you break it up, it can mean different things. If the phrase is “marana-tha” it means “Lord, come”. But if the phrase is “maran-atha” it means “The Lord has come”.

Use both in your prayers today.

Begin by praying over and over, “Marana Tha!” – Lord, come!

Then move onto praying over and over, “Maran Atha!” – The Lord has come!

Praying Something New

Write God a letter, or a poem, or a song, or a card to express to him your thanks for listening to you for these last 11 days as you’ve prayed; and for bringing your five into his family.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 10

Bible Passage

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb…

You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars – all the heavenly array – do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshipping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of the inheritance, as you now are.” – Deuteronomy 4:9-10, 15-20

A Thought for the Day

Silence can be unnerving, but it can also be restorative and restful. The difference often depends on expectations. When we approach a situation expecting and hoping for quiet, we embrace and enjoy the silence that comes. When we approach a situation expecting noise and clamour, the silence is unsettling and disturbing.

Here in Deuteronomy chapter 4 Moses is recounting one such experience of God that the nation of Israel had. He is speaking about the moment he met with God on Mt Sinai, when he “approached the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:21) This encounter with God wasn’t one that took place in silence; there was thunder, a loud trumpet blast, and God himself spoke audibly. However, the people of God were used to “seeing” their God, in the pillar of fire/cloud and in a different sort of way with the idols of Egypt; but here the experience involved “no form of any kind”.

They were in unchartered territory, which is often what periods where God appears to be silent with us feel are like. Most of us don’t have consistent encounters with God in a pillar of fire, or a burning bush, or with his glory filling our lounge like a thick dark cloud. What many of us do have though, is an expectation that God will speak to us; through the Bible, directly into us, through friends, pictures, and nature. When we find ourselves in a situation where we are hoping, expecting, or even needing God to speak, silence can be really hard. And in that context, Moses’ words have a lot of value to us.

The first thing Moses challenges his people to do in these moments of silence where our expectations of how we are encountering God aren’t being met is to remember. It can be so easy to just slip into forgetting how faithful God has been to us and is, how much he loves us, and the ways that we have encountered him before. If you find yourself in a season of silence, whatever that looks like, take some time today to remember. As you pray for your five, remember the way that God has rescued you. As you pray for your five, ask God to help them remember all that he has done for them – whether they knew it was God or not.

The second thing Moses challenges his people to do in these moments of silence is to not rush to define God and make an idol of any shape or kind. Because that too is incredibly tempting when we walk through unchartered territories where we aren’t encountering God in the ways that we are used to. It can be so easy in these moments of darkness or silence to attribute God’s name to things that have helped us, and may have been used by God, but are not God himself. We need to be ok with the uncertainty. As you pray for your five, believe that God can work in them in ways that you have never seen or experienced yourself. As you pray for your five, ask God to be and appear as whatever he needs to in order to connect and rescue them.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, thank you so much that we are never separated from you. No matter how silent or dark this moment is, we can have significantly grounded confidence that you are still here. Please give me the faith to continue to seek you on behalf of [say the names of your five], especially when it seems like you are no where in sight. Meet with them in the centre of their silence and darkness; give them an encounter with you that will change them and their lives forever. Amen.”

Praying Something Old

This prayer comes from St Teresa of Avila in the 16th century AD. Make it your prayer today and then pray it over your five as well.

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.

Praying Something New

Set an alarm on your phone or watch to go off every hour. When the alarm goes off, sit in quiet for a few deep breaths and remind yourself that God is close, that he is there with you. Then simply ask for your five to know he is close too.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 9

Bible Passage

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them…

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him…

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and  is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” – Luke 15:11-12, 20, 28, 31-32

A Thought for the Day

An iconic story about the love a father has for his sons. For two millennia this story has inspired us as a picture of God’s love for us, whether we are living in the rebellion of the younger son or living in the rebellion of the older.

This story is one of three that Jesus told in response to Pharisees and teachers of the law speaking negatively about the sort of people Jesus ate with. So what is Jesus’ response to their complaints? He tells them how much God is a God of celebration. Listen to Henri Nouwen’s words about it:

“Celebration belongs to God’s kingdom. God not only offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, but wants to lift up these gifts as a source of joy for all who witness them. In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. ‘Rejoice with me,’ the shepherd says, ‘I have found my sheep that was lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the woman says, ‘I have found the drachma I lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the father says, ‘this son of mine was lost and is found.’

All these voices are the voices of God. God does not want to keep his joy to himself. He wants everyone to share in it. God’s joy is the joy of his angels and his saints; it is the joy of all who belong to the Kingdom.” – “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen, pg 132

Celebration is at the core of these stories because celebration is at the core of who God is. This series of “lost” stories are very much about the love God shows in searching for those that are lost, that is of course exactly why Jesus had come. But they are also about revealing the depth of God’s love in celebrating the return of those that are lost.

Pause for a moment to think about Jesus framing his meals with the tax collectors and sinners as celebrations. Some of them may well have placed their faith in Jesus, but it would be reasonable to conclude that not everyone sat at those tables were interested in a relationship with Jesus. Yet he celebrated them being found anyway! In those meals Jesus ate and shared, and in the meal he invites us to share with him through communion, Jesus is celebrating those that have been found as well as those that will be.

Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? Because many that have been lost have been found. Because those that haven’t been found yet, will be.

So as you pray for your five today, let it be an act of celebration that all who are lost will one day be found.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, draw me into your celebrations today. Let me feel, and see, and know your joy today at the rescue of my friends and family that is already in place. Fill me with that joy, as if I am already at the table with you and with [say the names of your five] as we all revel in your goodness, grace, and love. By your Spirit, enable me to joyfully live in the truth that you will not fail to bring anyone to sit at your table. Amen.”

Praying Something Old

This is a prayer written by Church of the City New York. It isn’t old, but it is inspired by Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.

A Liturgy for Those Looking for Joy

When the world expects sadness,

help us, Creator of Light, to look for pockets of joy.

When the world is overwhelmed by darkness,

give us eyes to see little delights.

When the world is caught up in sensationalism,

help us speak of the hidden wonders we’ve discovered,

holding them up for others to see.

The sacred stillness of the early morning,

a quiet moment in the sun,

small children laughing on scooters,

trees bursting into bloom and lillies opening at the corner bodega.

These small joys reveal the truth of the world we live in.

No, there is not peace everywhere

and all pain has not been removed.

But there are still people returning home,

voices that pray,

moments of forgiveness,

signs of hope.

We don’t have to wait until all is well

to celebrate the glimpses of your Kingdom at hand.

Let us not deny sadness,

but transform it into fertile soil for more joy.

Let us not deny the darkness,

but choose to live in the light.

Cynics seek darkness wherever they go,

but joy is the mark of the people of God.

Help us discipline ourselves to choose joy

for the reward is joy itself.

Help us renew our minds until they default to joy and not fear,

for there is so much to frighten us.

Help us believe that the Light can be trusted,

for there is so much darkness to mislead us.

Jesus, you are both the Man of Sorrows and the Man of Complete Joy,

help us to hold both sorrow and joy in the ways you’ve shown us.

Help us to remain in your love

so that your joy may be in us

and our joy may be complete.


Praying Something New

Invite another family to have a communion meal with you today. Not a meal of stale bread and over-alcoholised wine with sombre quietness, but great food, laughter, and celebration. And in the midst of that take time to share joy at those sat at the table now, and those who one day soon will.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 8

Bible Passage

“All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him. The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. ‘Have you seen the one my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother’s house, to the room of the one who conceived me. Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” – Song of Songs 3:1-5

A Thought for the Day

Love comes in all sorts of different forms; and is sparked in all sorts of different moments. The first laughter from an infant, kindness from a stranger, truly being seen by another, an extravagant act of generosity, and so much more – because love is written into the very fabric of everything.

Can you remember the moments love was sparked into life for you? Take a few minutes to close your eyes and go back to those sights and sounds and smells and emotions.

It often arrives in sweet and gentle whispers, seemingly inconspicuous and unimpressive. But through tending and time grows from a cuddly cub into a powerful lioness, dangerous to those that threaten it and supremely safe to those it trusts.

The love God has for us is far beyond all of these pictures and experiences. It is more powerful than a mother’s love for her children, more vibrant than a couple who have spent the better half of a century together, more deep than the bond between people who have survived the darkest moments of life side by side. And it is ours. It is yours. It is your five’s.

And none of us have to go searching in the night for it or lock it in a room because we are afraid to lose it. It is already here, and it isn’t going anywhere.

As you pray for your five today, pray that their eyes would be open to see, their body to feel, and their mind to know this love from God that is fully theirs. Jesus said that he would draw all to himself, your five are not an exception to that promise. Believe that as you lift them up in prayer today.

Love changes us, without question. The love that others feel for us can be incredibly transformative. So too can the love we feel for others. Pray for your five to make that transition today, for their love towards God to sprout, grow, blossom, and mature into pure adoration.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, your love is beyond our wildest dreams. Thank you so much for the love that you have for us, especially all the love you showed us by becoming a man and dying on the cross for us. I don’t want to enjoy this love alone, and am desperate for [say the names of your five] to be able to fully know and feel your love for them. And as they do, tend and nurture by your Spirit the love for you that will emerge from those revelations and experiences. Amen.”

Praying Something Old

According to tradition, Clement of Rome had a series of conversations with the apostles that were written down in something called the “Apostolic Constitutions”. Some of that writing was used as liturgy by the early church, including this prayer. Make it your prayer today and then pray it over your five:

O God, who art the unsearchable abyss of peace,

the ineffable sea of love, the fountain of blessings

and the bestower of affection,

who sendest peace to those that receive it;

Open to us this day the sea of thy love

and water us with plenteous streams

from the riches of thy grace

and from the most sweet springs of thy kindness.

Make us children of quietness and heirs of peace,

enkindle in us the fire of thy love;

sow in us thy fear;

strengthen our weakness by thy power;

bind us closely to thee and to each other

in our firm and indissoluble bond of unity.

Praying Something New

Spend some time with Jesus today. Go for a walk, imagining that he is walking beside you. Sit on a park bench with a cup of coffee, leaving a space beside you for Jesus. Prepare a nice meal and sit and eat, talking to Jesus as you do. Build a relationship with Jesus as you would your closest friend.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 7

Bible Passage

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew. Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.” – Deuteronomy 33:26-29

A Thought for the Day

One of the central ways that God reveals himself is as our “helper”. In Hebrew the word is “ezer” and it is used to describe God over a dozen times throughout the Old Testament. However, in our culture when we think of someone being a “helper” we often imagine lower working-class individuals working in hospitality – cleaning hotel rooms, or being a nanny to a family of children, or waiting on tables.

This couldn’t be further from the imagery used alongside the word “ezer” in the Bible. Instead, when God is being our “help” we see him defeating our enemies, rescuing us from certain death, being a source of power and strength in the midst of our helplessness. Here in Deuteronomy God’s role in the life of Israel as “helper” is also described as being their “shield and glorious sword”. It all sounds a lot more like a superhero than it does some subservient occupation.

Today, as you pray for your five, pray for God to be their help, their rescuer, the superhero they most need in this moment.

Contrary to current traditional beliefs in culture and most religions, this superhero role of God’s reflects his femininity, not masculinity. We know from Genesis 1:27 that God made both male and female in their image, so both the fullness of masculinity and femininity, and everything in between or beyond, are present in God. We also know that this role of being a rescuer and source of strength is one that God embedded into the female half of his creation as the same word, “ezer”, is used in Genesis 2:18 to describe God’s plan for making Eve. So much so, that it would be entirely appropriate to use the pronoun “she” for God when we are referring to her ability to rescue and save us.

Eve was not created to be subservient to Adam, Genesis 3:16 clearly tells us that was one of the consequences of sin, which means it was not how God intended his creation to operate. The word patriarchy is used to describe this ideology of females being made somehow less than and subservient to males. But as patriarchy is the result of sin, to live in a way that sustains or enables patriarchy is to willingly choose the consequences of sin over God’s promise of restored creation.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Mother, you are our rescuer and saviour! You are our help in times of need, our refuge in times of distress, our protector in times of danger. I call on you, El Shaddai, to come and rescue [say the names of your five] today. Continue to rescue them from sin and death, despair and hopelessness, disease and pain, sorrow and uncertainty, oppression and abuse. You are the only one who can rescue them, restore them, and return them to the true image of yourself that they were designed to be. Do not delay God, let this rescue be carried out today. Amen.”

Praying Something Old

This ancient prayer was used as part of a series of prayer sung while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Pray it over yourself and over your five as we all continue down the road of life:

Psalm 121

I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber;

Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life;

The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Praying Something New

Try using feminine imagery, pronouns, and language as you pray to God today. Referring to God as our mother, talking about loving us in her womb, and other imagery (like God as our help and rescuer) is really common throughout the Bible.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 6

Bible Passage

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” – Ephesians 6:18-20

A Thought for the Day

As we are at the halfway point of praying for our five, it would be good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of how God is building his kingdom where we live and work and play.

Who else is God using to build his kingdom where you live? How can you equip, enable, celebrate, or bless them today?

Listen to what JR Woodward and Dan White Jr say in their book “Church as Movement” about making a difference where we live:

“We have a natural tendency to be myopic when we set out to do something significant in a place. We gain energy by spinning a narrative that ‘no one else is doing what I’m doing.’ In my (Dan’s) section of the city diverse people have been faithfully working for the kingdom of God. We have differing theologies and personalities, but it would be quite arrogant for me to claim special status in this place… Our territorialism is destructive to the flourishing of the kingdom of God. The first-century disciples were as tempted by this as we are: “‘Master… we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you’” (Lk 9:49-50). The disciples had a strong we-they mentality even though they knew what it felt like to be outsiders in the empire. We must fight this impulse. God is doing something significant in your parish; spread out your arms to lay hold of it.” – “The Church as Movement by JR Woodward and Dan White Jr, pgs 208-209

Here are a series of questions to think through, and maybe discuss with other people in your community, like a house group or social club or gathering of neighbours:

  • Who is pursuing justice for others in your community?
  • Who is seeking to meet the practical needs (like food, shelter, healthcare, friendship, DIY, etc.) of others in your community?
  • Who is responsible for educating children in your community?
  • Who else in your community might be praying for five friends right now, and looking for ways to share the good news of Jesus with them?
  • What other places of worship are trying to create space for people to encounter God?

The answers to these questions could be a great place to start being a part of the bigger picture of what God is doing in your community. Pray for them, and then ask some of these questions:

Is there something you could do today to encourage someone on this list in their work? Or publicly celebrate their efforts and achievements? Is there someone on this list you could listen to and learn from about your community? Is there someone on this list you could support with your skills, experience, money, network, or time?

Today, make an effort to step out of your bubble and join in with the other things that God is doing in your community right now.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, we are so sorry for the times, like Elijah in the desert, that we have allowed ourselves to believe that we are the only ones carrying your torch in our community. Please forgive us. We are so sorry for being so blind to the ways you are building your kingdom through others in our community, especially those that are really different to us. Please forgive us. I ask today that you would bless, fill with your life, all those in our community that can aid in the building of your kingdom through justice, mercy, and sharing your good news. I especially pray for [say the names of the people and organisations from the previous questions], that they would both be filled with your life and be able to multiply it for our community.”

Praying Something Old

Try making this your prayer today, from Clement of Rome who lived in the first century AD:

“We ask you, Master, be our helper and defender. Rescue those of our number in distress; raise up the fallen; assist the needy; heal the sick; turn back those of your people who stray; feed the hungry; release our captives; revive the weak; encourage those who lose heart. Let all the nations realize that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your Child, and that we are your people and the sheep of your pasture.”

Praying Something New

Use Lectio Divina to meditate on Luke 9:43-50. If you have never done it before, you can follow these four steps:

  • Read: Read the passage out loud a few times. What stands out to you?
  • Imagine: Imagine the story and yourself in it. What do you notice? What is said to you?
  • Think: Sit quietly for a few moments and contemplate what you experienced.
  • Pray: Talk to God about what you experienced and learned.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 5

Bible Passage

“He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” – Hebrews 9:24-26

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1

A Thought for the Day

What does it mean to “offer your bodies”? It is one of the most well-heard phrases in Christian circles. We know that it is about sacrificing ourselves in a way that somehow reflects Jesus’ sacrifice for us. But what does it even mean that he sacrificed himself? If Jesus’ sacrifice was about being punished on our behalf, wouldn’t that mean our sacrifice would also need to be about absorbing punishment?

Take a moment to consider NT Wright’s words from his book, “The Day the Revolution Began”:

“Only when we give full early Christian weight to the phrase “in accordance with the Bible” will we discover the full early Christian meaning of the phrase “for our sins.” And this means renouncing the Platonized views of salvation, the moralizing reduction of the human plight, and ultimately the paganized views of how salvation is accomplished. The first blunts the leading edge of the revolution. The second treats one part of the problem as if it were the whole thing. The third produces a distorted parody of the true biblical picture.”

Jesus was an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, but just like the animal sacrifices before him, that wasn’t about punishment but about cleansing. It wasn’t about absorbing God’s wrath it was about defeating sin. It wasn’t about providing insurance against hell it was about enabling us to be the people that God created in his image.

When we “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice”, or “lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” we are using everything that makes up life (our breath, time, skills, energy, experience, values, relationships, strengths, words, etc.) to join in God’s work of restoration in this world. All things will not have been made new, nor will sin have been fully defeated, if anyone from your five is left eternally debilitated and destroyed by sin.

So, what if, offering your bodies as a living sacrifice today is about joining God in rescuing the five people you have been praying for? Be a living sacrifice as you give up time to pray. Be a living sacrifice as you share with them what God has done for them. Be a living sacrifice as you seek to help them experience the fullness of God’s kingdom through community, provision, and love. Today, be a living sacrifice.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, today I want to offer myself as a living sacrifice for [say the names of your five]. Please help me to see how I can do that. Show me what I can give, what I can say, what I can do to help them experience and embrace the fullness of your kingdom, paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know the destructive power of sin, but Jesus proved himself to be greater than sin. Let that truth ring out through the rescue and redemption of these friends today. Amen.”

Praying Something Old

John Wesley used this prayer as part of his service encouraging Christians to renew their covenant with God, beginning in the middle of the 18th century AD. Wesley claims the prayer originated with Richard Alleine, a puritan from Somerset who lived at the end of the 17th century AD. Make it your prayer today:

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

exalted for you, or brought low for you;

let me be full,

let me be empty,

let me have all things,

let me have nothing:

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours. So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.


Praying Something New

Set aside some time today to use “Centring Prayer”. Sit comfortably. Take deep and slow breaths, breathing out for twice as long as you breathe in. Say the name of Jesus quietly and allow your mind to focus entirely on him. As your mind wanders away, just gently say the name of Jesus again and bring your attention back. Notice his presence. Feel his heartbeat. Hear his words. Be present with him. After 10 or 15 minutes, take some time to journal what the experience was like for you, and use the practice regularly if you found it helpful.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 4

Bible Passage

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sin we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

Remember the instruction  you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer os this your servant and to the prayer of our servants who delight in revering your name.” – Nehemiah 1:5-11a

A Thought for the Day

Apologising can be very difficult. The heart of an apology is taking responsibility for our mistakes and the impact that they have had on others. We may want to lessen the humiliation by justifying our choice through explaining why we did what we did, or by avoiding actually owning our mistake by speaking in vague terms clouded by “if”s. Either of these choices, often done in self-preservation, reduce the likelihood of the apology leading to a restoration of relationships. A true and meaningful apology names the mistake and acknowledges its wrongness without mitigation. It also starts, rather than finishes, at “sorry”; seeking to correct the mistake that has been made, if at all possible, beginning with listening to the person that has been wronged and how they want to proceed.

Apologies are hard, even when we know we were in the wrong. Which is why Nehemiah’s apology to God is incredible. In all likelihood, Nehemiah hasn’t participated in the sinful choices he says sorry to God for. Yet he still chooses to identify with those that did and say sorry specifically and without mitigation. There is something deeply holy, deeply set-apart, about those actions and words.

The actions of Christians, or even just those that carry the name of Christianity, have a huge impact on the validity of its message to those that see themselves as outside of Christianity and its faith. As a Christian, what have your people done that has diminished the authority and power of their witness? Take a moment to listen to God’s heart and repent, on behalf of all Christians, as if you yourself have done these things. Ask God what you can do to make things right. Be a part of things changing.

Here is a list of things you may want to prayerfully consider apologising to God for on behalf of the church, including yourself and your family (feel free to make your own list):

  • Racism. Systemic and institutionalised, inherited and chosen, individual and cultural, and any other form that it takes.
  • Misogyny. As above in all its forms, including (but not limited to) toxic masculinity and patriarchy whitewashed as Biblical doctrines and values.
  • Abuse. By nations and ministers and Sunday school teachers and husbands claiming to be the will of God in their household; and anyone else who uses their power to hurt others. In all its forms; verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, neglect, gaslighting, coercion, manipulation, etc.
  • Exclusivity. The belief that all of us are in and all of them are out. That we are completely right and they are completely wrong. The diminishment of the character of God through the propagation of beliefs that anyone is ever excluded or separated from God and his presence, love, and mercy.
  • Selfishness. In how we spend our money, use our influence, model our churches, fill our diaries, etc.
  • Poor theology. For placing tradition above Scripture, carrying our beliefs with arrogance instead of humility, refusing to take the place of a student and the posture of listening to those around us.
  • Idolatry. Worshipping politicians and pastors and authors over Jesus. Worshipping traditions and beliefs over Jesus. Worshipping our need to be right over Jesus. Worshipping the opinion of others over Jesus.

You may well sense the Holy Spirit lay other things on your heart as you listen. If you do, feel free to go with those.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, I am so sorry for [say the things strongest on your heart]. In the name of Jesus Christ, please forgive me. Forgive us. Allow your forgiveness to transform me and our church so thoroughly that its witness would powerfully transform the perspective and reality of [say the names of your five]. As they join our church, may they each be people who help us to be a community that more accurately reflects you and who you are, a temple worthy of the name of Jesus Christ. Amen”

Praying Something Old

Since the destruction of the Temple, Jews have prayed the “Ashamnu” at Yom Kippur as a way of collectively confessing. You could make it your prayer of confession today, because of Jesus:

“We abuse,

we betray,

we are cruel,

we destroy,

we embitter,

we falsify,

we gossip,

we hate,

we insult,

we jeer,

we kill,

we lie,

we mock,

we neglect,

we oppress,

we pervert,

we quarrel,

we rebel,

we steal,

we transgress,

we are unkind,

we are violent,

we are wicked,

we are extremists,

we yearn to do evil,

we are zealous for bad causes.”

Praying Something New In English, the word “confess” is translated from the Greek word “homologeo”. This word literally means for a group of people to declare something together. In other words, confession is about gathering with others and agreeing about the things that are destroying us. Today, gather a few friends on Zoom or in a park and confess. Share together what is destroying you in this moment, what is destroying the church, what is destroying our communities. Share, and trust that God will be faithful and just to forgive, to release us from its grasp.

TKC Prayer Devotional – Day 3

Bible Passage

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:13

A Thought for the Day

Take a moment to get comfortable. Close your eyes and allow your mind to pass over each of the five people that you are praying for during these eleven days. Imagine having a conversation with them next week about their encounter with Jesus. Imagine joining them in raising your hands in worship to God. Imagine the Holy Spirit speaking a word of encouragement to you through them. Imagine reading the Bible together, hearing them share their new faith with another friend, feeling the joy of being in God’s family just resonate out of them.

It would be pretty fantastic, right? Let the gratitude to God for these approaching moments just pour from your heart. Give him thanks as if it has already happened.

We know that this will only happen because of who God is and what he has done for your friends through Jesus. However, we also know that you, and especially your prayers, are a part of these friends’ journeys towards Jesus. So too is the sharing of God’s good news with them.

If we want to be able to celebrate their newly found relationship with Jesus, they will need to hear about what God has done for them through Jesus. Paul tells us that this good news is the power of God that brings salvation (Romans 1:16), that hearing it is what births faith in us (Romans 10:17), and that the feet of those who bring this good news are beautiful because of these things (Romans 10:15).

Dr. Willie James Jennings, in his commentary on Acts chapter 4, wisely says this, “Indeed there is no such thing as individual boldness for the followers of Jesus. Of course each disciple can and must be bold, but their boldness is always a together boldness, a joined boldness, a boldness born of intimacy. The modern lie of individualism is most powerful when we imagine that boldness comes from within. It does not. It comes from without, from the Spirit of God.” (“Acts” by Willie James Jennings, pg 49)

This too, is good news! You don’t need to muster up courage or find some inner strength to be able to share God’s good news with your five. That boldness already lives in you in the form of the Spirit of God. If you are a part of the people of God, then you are a part of the temple he dwells in. If you have faith in what Jesus did for you, then his presence is in you as a down payment of the oneness with God that is coming. And he has everything that you will need.

Take a moment to give thanks for that. Thank God today for your connection to his Spirit, and then go and live within the reality of that truth. Use his boldness, his passion to reveal Jesus, his love for those you are praying for.

Praying for your Five:

“Heavenly Father, thank you so much that when I heard the word of God, you enabled me to accept it as the word of God. Thank you for the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life, and his leading and empowering. Thank you that when the opportunity arrives, the Holy Spirit will gladly reveal Jesus through me to [say the names of your five here]. When they hear the word of God, by your Spirit enable them to accept it as the word of God too. Thank you so much that they will one day be able to join me in this union with you and all your people. Amen.”

Praying Something Old

When the earliest Christians had their boldness to share the good news of Jesus tested, they prayed this prayer (found in Acts 4:24-30). Pray this prayer over yourself today believing that we worship the same God that they did:

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant David:

‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’

Indeed Herod and Pontus Pilot met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and to perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Praying Something New

Seek to partner with the Holy Spirit in revealing Jesus to your five in a new way (for you) today. Maybe it is through praying in tongues and then seeking the interpretation. Maybe it is through a prophetic word or picture. Maybe it is through an act of generosity or leadership. Spend time praying for this new experience of partnership so your five can come to know Jesus and his love for them.