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Is the God of the Exodus still good?

Is the God of the Exodus still good?

This was a question that I was struggling with all of last week. We’re all pretty familiar with the Passover story and the way it points to Jesus. Hooray, we love that bit! But I think we are often tempted to overlook the brutality of it.  How can God still be good? This is how to goes for me:

I’m reading through Exodus and I’m like…I really want to see Israel set free from the oppressive regime of the Egyptians who even kill the Israelite children to maintain the population and stop them revolting. I hate the idea of slavery and I love the idea of God who sets the captives free, so I’m all excited.

Then I get to Exodus 11

And what I want to read is that Moses meets Pharaoh over an organic skinny latte; they both sign a memorandum of understanding, and Pharaoh, now a changed man, ruffles Moses’ hair on the way out and then they all live happily ever after. Or at least that Moses hires some top-notch lawyers and after a thrilling and tense battle in the courts, Moses sues Pharaoh into the ground and leaves with all his riches.

Not so.

Instead, we see God reveal His plan to Moses to kill all the Egyptian firstborn children. The thought of this is, let’s be honest, even if it does point forward to the beauty of the cross, is pretty unbearable.

So how do we square this up?

Let me be the first to say it isn’t easy at all; in fact, it’s devastating. Nobody finds this comfortable, and I don’t think we are supposed to. The Bible is gritty, real and there’s a lot of it that you wouldn’t put on a fridge magnet.

Having said that, God is always there in the midst of the mess, and that is so unbelievably true in this story.

So here are three ways I see him working in this story that make me believe He is good and one important question at the end I feel we must answer:

Firstly, justice hurts.

If we want to live in a world with total equality and justice, we’ve got to come to terms with the fact that it isn’t easy to achieve that. A lot of stuff would have to be dismantled, deconstructed and destroyed, including a great deal of what is inside each and every one of our hearts. Nobody is perfect, yet we want a perfect world; therefore, we can’t achieve justice without pain and great cost.

And that’s exactly what we see here. We cry out alongside Israel for justice in this story, but then when it comes, it shocks us. We never saw how deep the injustice went and the depth to which they would have to be extracted from. More on why that is in a minute.

The difference for us though is that the Passover is ancient history that points forwards. We now know that the pain that justice causes is not poured out on us but Christ on the cross. Justice hurts so the cross is painful; a firstborn son had to die and that didn’t exclude God. He knows and understands the pain of justice intimately.

Secondly, this is a battle of Ideology.

Each and every one of the plagues is an attack on an Egyptian god or idol. For example in the first plague, the Eygptian river god gets attacked as the Nile turns to blood. In turn, each Egyptian deity is humiliated and trumped by Yahweh.

Rightly so, we know that in oppressive societies, especially ones that are economically dependant upon slavery, a deep shift in ideology is needed for change to occur. In the UK, it was the Great Awakening that led William Wilberforce to lead the charge to emancipate slavery. When God topples corrupt idols, genuine change can happen.

This 10th plague is no different, it’s about destructive ideology being crushed.

Pharaoh was thought of as the firstborn son of the sun god (Ra). The ‘Son of Ra’ would have been part of his title, Ra being the first of all the Egyptian gods.

So this plague is very much an attack on an ideology at the centre of Egyptian power. If you dismantle the power of the firstborn, then you dismantle the power of Egypt, and that is exactly what happens.

Part of me wonders if this is what was going on when Pharaoh killed the firstborn Israelite babies at the start of Exodus. It would have been common knowledge that Israel was thought of as God’s firstborn (Exodus 4:22), in direct opposition to Pharaoh, also thought of as the firstborn of god.

So the fight is set up from the beginning: who is the real god and who is the real firstborn? This really matters.

The showdown commences and there is only going to be one winner. Egypt must understand who the true God is and who the true firstborn is, and the 10th plague makes it devastatingly clear.

But wouldn’t a good God have just teleported them all out of there anyway?

Yes, he could have, but here is the hard bit to stomach: God’s reputation really matters; it matters that He wins like this.

We’d like to think God isn’t bothered about what seems like a popularity contest amongst the gods, but He is and it matters that He is. He wants all the glory and all the worship because He alone is worthy, and because He alone is worthy, we will only find satisfaction in him alone. So it’s for our good and His glory that He is a jealous God.

And we see the benefits of this power displayed in Egypt for centuries after.  It fuels legend and story, causing ripples of God’s goodness and freedom throughout the ancient world in all sorts of unlikely places (think of Rahab and Ruth).

In the end, Pharaoh becomes an archetype throughout scripture of oppressive man-made idols that must be usurped in order for humans to find freedom in true worship. As Augustine says, ‘Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you’. Nothing else will do except God alone for no one else is good like he is! So it matters that God obliterates the destructive Egyptian gods.

Which begs the question: if God hadn’t have worked in this way, would they have had the confidence and trust to enter the promised land and work out salvation history? Would the right things happen for Christ to come as he did? Would the church even have been born? Who knows the answers to those questions, but we do trust that there are reasons why the Passover had to happen like this.

Thirdly, Egypt had a way out.

When I first realised this, I felt like it made a huge difference to my understanding of what was happening.

In 12:38, we see a multitude of people, presumably mostly Egyptians, leaving Egypt with the Israelites. These are people who swapped sides, who saw and acknowledged who the true God was, and joined Israel to follow him. I think it is very fair to presume that also means these are people who also painted their door frames red with the blood of the lamb. How else would they swap sides? They made a decision to trust in Yahweh and to follow Him and they were saved.

The Passover is open to Egyptians and Israelites alike, all who call on the Lord will be saved. There is no reason not to imagine that there was a large number of Egyptians who saw the futility of Pharaoh’s battle after the first nine plagues (which now seem like a grace to awaken people) and decided to swap sides.  A good God always gives second chances, we see that here.

But all of that still leaves one final question. Could a good God harden Pharaoh’s heart and make all this happen anyway?

Yes and no.

Yes, God does harden Pharaoh’s heart and He probably does make the battle worse. But like we already said, perhaps this is a story that is needed to carry salvation history forward and end up saving billions of lives in the future.

It’s important to remember that when dealing with these difficult moral questions, that God can do all things, but only all things which are actually possible. For example, He can’t make a square into a circle as that’s a contradiction; He can’t destroy injustice without causing pain, as that’s also a contradiction. We have to trust here that he does what is the best thing possible in the long view of eternity.

Remembering we are working towards the beautiful vision of Revelation 7 here helps, when all the nations will bow at the throne of Jesus, joined together in perfect unity. And that glorious vision won’t happen until all other idols and gods, including Pharaoh, get dethroned and humiliated.

But although God does harden Pharaoh’s heart, it’s only after he hardens his own heart first.

On all the occasions that Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, twice he explicitly hardens it himself and three times the hardening is ambiguous. God only starts to harden his heart after the 5th time it is hardened, and then hardens it four times. So before we see God explicitly hardening Pharaoh’s heart, it is already pretty hard.

Furthermore, in the 7th plague, the narrator describes Pharaoh as hardening his own heart (Exodus 9:34) and then later describes the same hardening using an ambiguous term. This suggests the ambiguous terms for hardening that preceded it in the earlier plagues probably means he hardens his own heart there as well. This means that in the first 5 times and the 7th time that it’s Pharaoh that hardens his own heart. God then gives him over to his sin and just continues doing what he started (think Romans 1:24).

This is of particular significance for Exodus 7:13-14, the first time where Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. Here the Hebrew word used for hardening is an ambiguous verb, but for some reason, the ESV translates it as God doing the hardening. Given the context of the 7th plague and the fact that the pattern (otherwise) is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first, then God hardens it, this translation doesn’t seem to be very fair.

Tim Makie from the Bible Project does an excellent job of explaining this here.

All of this is just a humbling reminder that there are no easy answers to justice.

But we’ve got to remember, as we’ve already said, that God doesn’t sit distant from this pain. He is right there in the middle of it, taking it on instead of us, wrestling it into submission on the cross. Justice is important; justice won’t come without pain, but in the cross we find freedom like no other. God is still good.

You can tune in to the rest of our series on Exodus using the information here

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Love thy Teacher

Love thy Teacher

Mark 12v31

Our church is celebrating 40 days of Hope this lent, and this week we are thinking about how wonderful our school teachers are.

Have a little think about your teacher or a teacher at your school.
What do you like best about school?
What is the best thing about your teacher?

Why not make them cards and tell them all the things you like about school and all the ways they make you feel happy. Let them know you are thankful for all the help they give you. Maybe you could draw a picture to show how much you appreciate them. Or use really kind words to explain how much you enjoy being in their class.

How are you feeling about returning to school again? Are you excited? Relieved? Nervous?

Maybe a little bit of everything.

Your teachers do a really good job of helping you understand all these feelings and how you can use them all for good. If you’re feeling nervous, your teacher will help you feel relaxed again. And if you are feeling excited you’re teachers will help you pass on your good mood to other children who might be worried.

Aren’t teachers wonderful?

Not only that, they have been working really really hard to make sure you don’t miss out on any of your learning whilst your at home!

They deserve a great BIG THANK YOU!!!!

In the bible, it says we should love our neighbors as ourselves. That means we need to look after everybody the best we can, including our teachers. Jesus said this is the second greatest commandment after loving God.

Gratitude and thankfulness can go a long way – be sure to share your beautiful smiles on Monday morning!

Pray

Pray for your teachers and your school friends and the start of school again on Monday.

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A Time for Everything

A time for everything

 

Read Ecclesiastes 3 1-11

 

This week our first daffodil flowered in the garden. We’ve been watching the buds shooting out of the soil for the last few weeks knowing that spring has nearly arrived. You may have noticed the lambs being born on farms nearby? And the weather is getting a little brighter and we can hopefully say goodbye to the frosty cold mornings.

 

What signs of spring have you seen this week?

 

Ecclesiastes 3 explains there is a time for everything and there is a season for every activity under the heavens.

Every spring flower that is ready to burst open, has been perfectly timed by God.

Every lamb that is waiting to be born, will be perfectly timed by God.

And when the lighter evenings come, the sun will go down, perfectly timed by God.

 

There has been a lot of change recently but spring is a change we gladly welcome.

Sometimes there are changes that don’t feel as good and are a little more tricky.

 

Can you think of a time when things have been hard or a change you had to make?

 

We know that Gods love will always stay rooted in our hearts when the good and bad changes come. God will never change and he will never leave your side. God says he has made everything beautiful in its time. God can take the worst seasons of life and make them into something beautiful. Isn’t that amazing?

 

Pray

 

Thank you God that there is a time for everything. There is a time for seeds to be planted and plants to grow. There is a time for sadness and also for joy. There is time to speak and there is time to listen.

Thank you God for spring and the beautiful burst of new life.

Thank you for always being the same and never leaving us. Your love endures forever.

 

 

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Prayer – A Simple Guide

1. What is prayer?

My favourite verse in the Bible is right in the beginning, just after God had made everything and there was nothing else to do. To top it all off He had made man and considered him the best of all that he had done. (everything else was good but man was very good). I find it hard to look at the beauty of the hills and lakes of the Lake District in the UK and think that God considers me more beautiful, to look at the stars in the sky and think that God considers me more majestic. Anyway, after all this wonderful creation and God had put man and woman in this perfect garden with luscious fruit at every turn, God goes looking for man in the cool of the evening – just for a chat – just to see how man had got on during the day. God just wanted to hang out with God and God wanted to hang out with man – just to enjoy each others company. It sounds idyllic and indeed it was. That’s everything that prayer is – just spending time in Gods presence enjoying his presence.

Why not still your mind from all the things that you have to do and rest in his presence?

2. What prayer is not – even though you may want to call it that

Prayer is not just reading something someone else has written down, it is not rushing through a list of stuff because you need to be somewhere else. it is not a long list of things you want from him. It’s not jabbering on and not letting him get a word in edgeways Imagine meeting up with your friend because its something you ought to do but doesn’t want to do. Its something that gets in the way of your day. Even while you are talking you are constantly looking around to see if something more interesting is happening somewhere else. If I were your friend, I would just get up and leave. – insulted and think twice before we met up again and then only if you begged me. Fortunately, God is not as flakey as that. Despite the way we treat him he is always prepared to listen. But in the disjointed conversation, it is us who miss out. If you have not been getting much out of prayer perhaps its because you don’t value it enough, or even at all.

Instead of using many words why not just listen to what God has to say?

3. Who are we to come into his presence?

It was in terror that she walked into the throne room of the most powerful man in the world. He was the king of a massive civilisation, the absolute ruler over the vast majority of the then known world. He held the lives of tens of thousands in his hands. As she stood before him she not only risked her own life but that of her entire nation. This really was life or death. Spoiler alert. You can read what happened in
When you come into God’s presence do you come with the same awe, the same awareness that but for Jesus, you would not be able to enter His throne room? Because of Jesus we not only have a right to enter but are welcomed into his presence. That right and invitation does not change the absolute authority of God. It does change how he sees us.

How would you feel entering the throne room without Jesus?

How do you feel with Jesus by your side?

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True Love

True Love

For this week we have chosen a valentines poem to share with your child.

Love can always conquer
Whatever discord brings
and love can also cover
a multitude of things.

Don’t you underestimate
what love can ever do,
for love is God eternal
and His love can renew.

What is cold and lifeless,
now lost all hope and died,
for love can breathe new meaning
and give it back new life.

Please don’t give up on love
when it seems that all is lost,
for there is always hope
if we’re prepared to pay the cost.

For love is always worth it
no matter how much the price,
for love will be much stronger
when we trust in Jesus Christ.

So let God have full reign,
let Him live within your heart
then you will know true love,
for this He will impart.

 

By Unknown

 

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Bible Project | Trees | A Review

Bible Project | Trees | A Review

What’s trees got to do with it?

Have you ever wondered the significance of the Tree of Life in Genesis and in Revelation?
Do you want to fully understand its purpose and place within scripture and eternity? Maybe
you’re just interested in why there are so many trees mentioned in the Bible, especially at
key moments when God’s people meet with Him. Well then this is the Podcast Series for
you.

Tim Mackie and Jon Collins from the Bible Project take you from the Tree of Life in Genesis
right up to the Tree of Life in Revelation, looking at all the key moments in scripture where
trees are present, finishing off in the ninth podcast by looking at ‘Jesus on the Cursed Tree’.
This is then followed by a question and response section.

Tim Mackie is a very well-respected Bible teacher and has some excellent biblically-based
insights on scripture and its meaning. Jon Collins, Tim’s co-founder, is excellent at helping
people to understand the complex parts of scripture and help to make it understandable.
In the opening two episodes, starting with ‘Humans are…Trees?’, Tim and Jon look at how
there are humans and trees together at many of the hinge points of the biblical story. This
is then followed by a look at the representation of Trees throughout ancient cultures,
including during biblical times, which is where the meaning and context of the tree of life is
explored.

The following three episodes discuss the two trees in the Garden of Eden and tell us
something truly profound about the human condition and the choice we all face. We then
see how the lives of Noah and Abraham are explored as these two great men of faith face
important tests and big decisions before a tree on a high place. Tim and Jon also explore
the reason for and purpose of sacrifices at these moments of testing on high places.
After this, we see a journey through the lives of Moses and the nation of Israel with all the
tests that they face, also before trees on high places. This is moved onto the life of David
with a new Eden being set up in Jerusalem; however, many false Edens are being set up by
the people. There is a sense of a need for a response from God and this response that God
will give is prophesied by the prophet Isaiah who speaks of the seed who will usher in the
new Eden, pointing to God’s answer.

The series concludes by looking back to the Tree of Life and it’s place in the Kingdom of God
with Jesus Himself as the tree at the centre and the future promise of the new Eden to
come. The penultimate episode then focuses in on Jesus’ final test in a high garden before
His sacrifice on a tree on a high place for a broken humanity.

As I listened to this podcast series, I was just amazed and enlightened to the incredibly
central theme of trees in the biblical story. I was also struck by the significance of the Tree
of Life too in God’s plan and the Kingdom of God. As you listen to this podcast, I hope that
you too will realise the focus that God places on trees on high places in scripture and how
they are so important to the story from the Tree of Life in Genesis right up to the Tree of
Life in Revelation.

I have never found so much enjoyment and had so much interest in trees before. There was
just so much that I hadn’t really grasped about their role in God’s wonderful plan and the
story before humanity and after Jesus comes again into eternity. I’m sure if you listened to
this yourself too that you would find amazement in the beautiful use of trees in the Bible.
Here is the link to the series for you to listen to it yourself online:

https://bibleproject.com/podcast/series/tree-life-podcast/

You can also listen on Spotify

And on Apple Podcasts

 

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Winning the Race

Winning the Race

Philippians 3

Have you ever won a prize before?
Have you ever come first place at something?
Are you really good at something and often get lots of praise for it?

So was Paul!

Paul was brilliant at many things in his life. He was very popular, lived in a great area, had plenty of money and life was good. But… he didn’t believe in Jesus. In fact, he was really nasty about Jesus and said and did horrible things to people who did believe in him.

Thankfully, one day God spoke to Paul and blinded him for 3 DAYS!! But after 3 days, Paul saw the light. The light of day and the light of Jesus.

From then on, Paul decided to spend as much time as he possibly could with God. He wanted to understand Him. So he fasted, prayed, and listened – sometimes all night long!!

Once Paul knew God he wanted to tell everyone!!!

His friends, his family, people on the street, and even people he’d never met before. He would travel around as many places as he could and write as many letters as he could. He also made sure he told people who didn’t want to hear about it- brave move!

People got annoyed at Paul for talking about Jesus ALL the time—so they threw him in jail! Instead of moaning and grumbling or feeling sad, Paul saw it as a brilliant opportunity to tell more people about Jesus and rejoiced in this blessing!

They even threw rocks at him! But he was so focussed on Gods calling in his life he forgave them and carried on.

It’s nice to be good at something and get lots of praise, isn’t it? We all like it when someone says well done or notices when we do something well. It’s really important to encourage one another.

God gave us our talents and dreams, he wants us to thrive and always try our best. But he also wants us to remember that He is our prize. Our greatest aim and ambition is to please and love our God. Our biggest need is a fully restored relationship with God. Paul really understood this which is why he found joy when he was thrown in prison.

Chat

Think of all the things you are good at.
Think of things your friends and family are good at.

God blesses us with our gifts and talents and we must celebrate them.
Sometimes we can get carried away and become too focused on the things we are good at and forget about God. Sometimes we can boast about ourselves and how good we are instead of boasting about God.

What do you think humble means?
This is something Paul was very good at. As we know, Paul was good at many many things but he never boasted about it. Humble means not boasting and showing off about the things we are good at.

Pray

Help us to celebrate our gifts our talents but also to stay humble and only boast about you God.
Thank you for sending Paul to teach us that the prize only worth winning is you.
Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you and to keep focused on Gods calling in our lives.

Play

Why not play prisons and guards this week? you might like to build a big prison with pillows and blankets in your living room. Take it in turns to be Paul and the prison guard.
If you are Paul then talk about Jesus NONE STOP…without taking a breath! And remember Paul was probably overly joyful.

If you’re the prison guard then you could say ‘Sshhh’, roll your eyes, or make grumbling noises! You might also be confused why there’s such a happy man in prison?
Use your imagination and have fun!

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Shine Like Stars

Shine like Stars

In Philippians 2 Paul is telling us what it means to live like Christ. He writes a letter to the Philippians and tells them about Jesus’ humility.

What do you think humility means? Some of you will know and understand this word but others might find it a little tricky. That’s okay- have a go anyway.

Humility means putting others before yourself and giving things up for other people.

Jesus was humble and obeyed God completely. In fact, he made himself nothing and took on the nature of a servant! That means always putting others before yourself. And when we put our trust and hope in Jesus we also have to love others first.

How can we look after others and put others first?

Staying home from school is putting others first!
If you’re still in school, then washing your hands and keeping your distance is putting others first!
Not seeing your friends and family in lockdown is also putting others first!

But hang on…
What about when Covid disappears and things go back to normal again?

What can we do to value others more than ourselves then?

Maybe you could show humility by sharing your toys? Opening the door for someone and letting them go first? Saving the last biscuit for your brother or sister?

In v 14 it says we need to do all this Without grumbling or arguing!!!
Now, this is a tricky one! Not just for children but for adults too!

Mainly because our hearts are telling us we want to do something else. We want things to go OUR way and we think everything is about us. When actually, it’s about Jesus. We need to pray to Jesus and ask for his help. And through him, we can shine like stars in the sky. V15

Isn’t that lovely? Through Jesus, we can shine like stars in the sky!

Take some time now to be quiet.
Get comfy
You might like to Close your eyes to help you relax.

Think about the whole universe,
The Planets dotted around the darkness.

Think about the stars, so bright and beautiful- full of light.

Imagine God at the center of it all. Controlling everything.
God, the creator of all heaven and earth.

Sometimes we try and put ourselves at the center. Sorry God.

Our tiny little planet seems so small when we think about how big the universe is.

But Jesus loves our tiny planet and everyone on it. He wants us to shine like the stars in the sky.

Remember last week? We remembered how much Jesus loves us from the birds singing in the trees. Now it’s time to love others as Jesus loves us.

How can you love like Jesus? What can you do to put others before yourself?

 

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Party in the Trees

Party in the Trees

Trust

Click here to read Matthew 6:25

Sometimes when we are in our garden or walking to the park we can hear some very noisy birds singing above us. Flora always says ‘the birds are having a party in the trees!’ It certainly sounds like they’re having a party! They are singing and making beautiful chirping noises and if you look up it looks like they are dancing! Weaving in and out of the branches and bobbing up and down.

The more I think about birds, the more I realise they never seem to be sad or worried at all! They always seem so happy, full of spirit, wild, free, and full of joy!

This reminds me of when Jesus tells us to be like the birds in the sky.

In Matthew 6:25 it says ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?’

Sometimes it’s hard to trust that Jesus is in control. But the birds trust him completely! They can sing and dance in the trees knowing they can trust their Heavenly Father! Because he loves them, and if he loves them, how much MORE do you think he loves YOU!?

Chat:

If you were a bird where would you fly to? (Why not pretend to be a bird and fly around your house!- carefully!) what can you see? How do you feel?

Do you find it hard to trust Jesus?

What do you think you can do to trust him better?

Pray:

Help us to trust in Jesus better.
Thank him that he loves us SO much more than the birds in the sky.
Thank him that he provides our every need.

Reflect in the week:

Why not go for a walk together this week and listen out for the birds having a party in the trees!
Remember to trust Jesus. He is in control.

 

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Peace – No Worries

Peace.- No Worries, Phillipians 4:1-7

Click here to read the passage

In this passage, we learn about two friends, Euodia and Syntyche. In verse 2 It sounds like they’ve had a bit of a falling out. Their worries have become too big and instead of turning to God and asking for his help they are arguing and saying things they don’t really mean.

Thankfully, Paul reminds them If they have peace with God they will have peace with each other and their hearts don’t need to be angry.

They can come to God and he will help them find peace in their worries and situations and help them to be kind and rejoice with one another.

When we find things stressful, we are more likely to be unreasonable, lack peace and understanding.

When we are feeling anxious, we are more likely to fall out with people.

When we worry, we can be very grumpy with one another.

But… when you give everything to God in prayer… then the peace of all understanding will guard your hearts.

Chat:

Maybe you are finding it hard to have peace with the world at the moment?

Are you feeling grumpy about all the school work you have to do at home/ school?

Do you miss seeing your friends and family?

Are you letting your worries become too big?

What makes you feel grumpy?

Maybe you’re just really fed up with all this coronavirus stuff and just want things to go back to normal. (I think we are all feeling a bit like this!)

Maybe you are feeling calm and happy at the moment…this is great. Rejoice and praise God for he is good.

Pray:

Pray for one another.

Parents, pray for your children and their worries and rejoice and be thankful for their blessings.

Pray the scripture over. Pray for any worries to be lifted and our week ahead is full of peace and happiness.

Try:

Let your reasonableness be known to everybody. The lord has at hand. V5

Despite feeling fed up, let’s try really hard to be radiant in His joy.
Reflect in the week:

Sometimes we can have ‘opsy’ moments and forget to trust Jesus. That’s okay, come back to Jesus, read the passage again, take a deep breath and try again. Jesus doesn’t mind how many times we try again. Keep praying and asking for Jesus’ help.

Why not print or write out the passage and stick it on your fridge and read it over yourselves and your family every day.

Listen to whatever God wants to say to you.

Rejoice and have fun with one another!

Have a good week everyone x

 

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Psalm 119:114

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Hope Church is a part of the Free Methodist Church UK

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