Daily Devotions

By John Beverly, Reader, Springline Parish

A Week of Sheep and Goats

Monday – Are You A Sheep Or A Goat? 

My second favourite Christmas card shows a picture of a Yorkshire farmer dressed up as if in Biblical times. He carries a lamb. By the side of the lane is a sign that says, “Tek care, Lambs on’t road”.

Lambs on't road

Jesus’ parable about sheep and goats is also one of the most important for me.

When I come back and dazzle the planet with the light show and the angel chorus, I’ll be on the throne looking out over the total world population and I’ll start separating people out: “sheep” on my right side, “goats” on the left.

I’ll say to the “sheep”. “You’re in God’s good books: come forward and collect what’s been waiting for you since before I made the planets – when I was starving, you made me meals. When I was thirsty you poured me a drink. I was a loner in the corner; you opened up the circle and brought me in. When my clothes weren’t up to it. You took me shopping with your Visa card. When my health was bad, you nursed me back to strength. I was in my prison cell – you swallowed your pride and visited me.”

Those who’ve done the right thing scratch their heads and ask, “When? When did we make meals, or pour you a drink, or bring you new clothes, or nurse you, or visit you?”

I’ll tell them, “Truth is, every good thing you’ve done for the lowest of the low – they’re my brothers and sisters – so it’s like you did it for me!”

(Matthew 25 from ‘The Street Bible’ by Rob Lacey)

You know what some churches say? “If you confess you believe in Jesus you will be saved.” And they leave it at that. But here we are with Jesus saying you won’t be saved unless you do all this stuff.

The most prominent theme in the Bible is to honour and love God. The second most prominent theme is to care for the widows and orphans, the poor, the stranger.” There are about 3,000 verses in the Bible about social justice.

If we believe in God we have to show it by the way we behave – by the way that we follow Jesus’ teaching.

 

Father, help me to live this day to the full, being true to you in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost, proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.

Amen.

 

Tuesday – Sheep and Goats, Part Two: Butterflies

Butterflies

Many large churches have help already in place for vulnerable people during Lockdown. I heard of one very big Anglican church in a poor area spending thousand of pounds to provide (so far) 5,000 meals for people in their community. What a witness!

In Lincoln, Alive church started off the local Foodbank. They now have five churches involved in organising it and many more churches supporting it (we receive about ten bags of food every fortnight from the Owmby Group and Glentham Methodist churches). They have also built up a support network. Those who attend Foodbank 3 times are then assessed and offered further help – such as a Job Club to help find work, mentoring, personal support, help finding furniture, clothing.

My wife volunteers for “Butterflies”. I don’t know why it gets that name. But it’s a meeting place, once a week, for vulnerable women. They invite in visiting experts (such as somebody who can do make-up, or do a session on budget healthy cooking) as well as befriend the women. During Lockdown these vulnerable women are being phoned up weekly to be encouraged and receive support.

David Capps is a Street Pastor. He could tell you about Friday and Saturday nights in Lincoln City Centre. As well as people having fun there are tragic cases. There are people vulnerable. And there are those who are out to exploit others – especially to exploit attractive women.

All these are carrying out the Christian calling to be sheep – to care for those in need. Not belonging to a big church or being in Lockdown doesn’t stop us caring. We can phone people up. Somebody has just gone round our neighbours with bags of scones they have baked – on Good Friday she baked hot cross buns for the neighbours. Apparently it was the first time she had ever baked those – they were pretty good!

And even if you can’t go out you can pray for those you know need God’s help.

The aim this week is for us all to be sheep!

Father, help me to live this day to the full, being true to you in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost, proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.

Amen.

Wednesday – Sheep and Goats, Part Three: Having Your Cake

Remember Marie-Antoinette? When she heard that the common people had no bread she said, “Let them eat cake.” It was probably the case that she just had no idea about the plight of the poor. She genuinely thought that if there was no bread then there would be cake so they could eat that instead.

I’ve listened to a number of online services over Lockdown. One thing I’ve noticed is how the prayer and talk is all about our own situation and we know very little about the plight of other nations. If we do hear of others it tend to be about people from the rich western world – people like us.

I do a magic trick. You may have seen it because I do it as part of a sermon or a school assembly. I make a cake.

I dump a bit of flour, sugar, butter, and a piece of (Fairtrade) chocolate into a baking tin.

Then I take an egg. To break it I pull out a member of the audience and we go through this whole thing of placing the egg on their head and having somebody come with a hammer to break it (on their head!).

Here is Alex about to break the egg over the head of his mother at a school assembly!
Here is Alex about to break the egg over the head of his mother at a school assembly!

I have the whole audience count “1 – 2 – 3” and then the hammer comes down.

Here’s the thing. The egg is empty. I’ve blown all the stuff inside out of the egg (and we probably had scrambled egg for lunch!). I tell them it must be Christian egg because it’s empty – like the tomb!

But I throw the broken eggshell into the baking tin. Then I put the lid on the tin and take a hairdryer to blow hot for about twenty seconds to cook it.

The magic is that when I remove the lid there is a fully formed, iced chocolate cake.

Taking the cake out I give a small slice to the hammer holder, two more small slices to a couple of others and the rest of the cake (meant to represent 80% of it to the leader of the school or church.

“Is that fair?” I ask. “No!” comes back the reply.

But that’s how it is. Between us, in the rich west (North America, Europe and a couple of other places) we have about 20% of the population and about 80% of the resources. When things are tough for us they’re tough but we can usually cope. When things are tough in the rest of the world it is desperate. It is life or death.

If we are to be sheep, what should we do for those poor?

Father, help me to live this day to the full, being true to you in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost, proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.

Amen.

Thursday – Sheep and Goats, Part Four: Washing Up

Washing hands is vital to stop the spread of illnesses and diseases such as diarrhoea and the coronavirus. But what happens when you’re not able to do this at home?

In many of the countries where Tearfund is working, the nearest source of water can be miles away. The routes are often dangerous – especially for women and children. The water unclean.

Many households will not have safe places to store the water they collect, which not only causes further contamination but means multiple trips are needed. And because of the lack of accessible water, hand washing practices can be almost non-existent.

But this is beginning to change. Communities are becoming empowered to turn their skills to creating new taps for their homes. And it’s making all the difference.

Enter the Tippy TapEnter the Tippy Tap
The Tippy Tap is cheap, easy to construct and can be made with locally sourced materials. All that’s needed to create one is several sticks, string, soap and a container for the water. The device is then simply operated with a foot lever, which significantly reduces the chance for diseases to be spread as the user only touches a bar of soap, supported by a string.

Tippy Taps don’t just improve people’s access to clean water, they empower people to build, maintain and use the taps. People have a sense of ownership over them which means that they won’t fall into disrepair.

These clever taps are being effectively used around the world in developing countries – outside homes, schools and toilets – to promote good hygiene practices.

‘Tippy Taps are very helpful for the rural communities in Haiti due to the fact that water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructures are very poor, almost non-existent in these areas,’ says Marc Romyr Antoine, who leads Tearfund’s work in Haiti. ‘Tippy Taps serve as a physical reminder to constantly wash hands which can be overlooked, especially in homes.”

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world with 84 per cent of people living in poverty. Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are rife.

Safer for everyone
The second biggest cause of death worldwide for children under five is diarrhoea. It is both preventable and treatable. Safe drinking-water, good sanitation and hand washing with soap significantly reduce the risk of catching this.

There are new threats too. The coronavirus is beginning to hit some of the poorest countries. But the work that Tearfund and Christian Aid does – providing communities with access to safe water and promoting good hygiene – means that we are well established to help communities limit the spread of this deadly virus.

It is an injustice that millions of people around the world do not have access to clean water. If we are sheep we should be determined to change that. Are yo a sheep or a goat?

PLEASE PRAY

  • From drinking to washing, take a moment where you are to reflect with God on the different ways you use clean water throughout your day. How it makes your life simpler. And safer. Give thanks to God for this resource.
  • Lift up to God people around the world who do not have access to clean water. Pray they will be kept safe from illness and disease, and for swift solutions to be found so that they can overcome poverty.
  • Thank God for how Tippy Taps are being used to promote good hygiene around the world. Pray that Tearfund and Christian Aid will be able to reach people in need to share with them how to build and use these to protect their families from diseases.
Friday – Sheep and Goats, Part Five: Health Warning – This Could Challenge You!

Ten African countries have no ventilators at all. In Uganda, there are only 55 intensive care beds for 43 million citizens. And no poor country could afford the economic safety net that is currently sustaining citizens and companies here in the UK. In fact, Covid-19 is the biggest disaster for developing nations in our lifetime. If ever there was a time for concerned citizens and political leaders in both developing and richer countries to come together, it’s now.

If ever there was a time for concerned citizens and political leaders in both developing and richer countries to come together, it’s now.

  • Many cash-strapped governments can’t adequately provide for their citizens in normal times, let alone during a global emergency.
  • We’ve already seen that Covid-19 is no “great leveller”. Poorer people are at greater risk of catching the virus and are more likely to suffer the worst effects of an economic shock.
  • People living in poorer countries receive no unemployment, sickness or other benefits. And more than a third of all jobs and incomes in Africa could be lost as a result of Covid-19.
  • The World Health Organization has recommended physical distancing to control the spread of the virus, but in places where families share single-room homes and lack running water to wash their hands, these measures are difficult, if not impossible, to adopt.
  • Many of the world’s poor have no access to life-saving medical facilities; in the entire African continent, there are just 20,000 critical care beds, equivalent to 1.7 for every 100,000 people. Malawi has just 25 ICU beds for its 17 million citizens, while in Bangladesh there are just 1,100 ICU beds for a population of more than 160 million. And while the UK health budget is $4,000 per citizen per year, in African countries it averages $12, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  • There’s loads more but, honestly, you would just find it overwhelming.

Again – now you know about this ARE YOU A SHEEP OR A GOAT?

Father, help me to live this day to the full, being true to you in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost, proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.

Amen.

Saturday  – Sheep and Goats, Part Six: The Most Efficient Sheep

This is personal. For me the most important part of my giving is to the poorest 80% of the world.  Every five seconds a child dies there of a disease that was treatable. That is criminal. The earth produces enough food to feed everybody with stuff to spare. And yet we allow 1 in 8 people to go to bed hungry.

I know a bloke who used to collect Christian Aid envelopes during Christian Aid Week envelopes years ago. His collection amounted to about £110 a year. When he was no longer able to collect he decided to give £10 a month. Immediately that was better because he gave £120 in a year. And then it was Gift Aided so that CA were able to claim back the tax he had paid. Over the years, as his income improved and to account for inflation he increased the amount he gave. Because it was done automatically (by Direct Debit) he said he never noticed missing the money

Now he reckons that over the years he has given about £25,000 to Christian Aid!

Do you reckon he’s a sheep or a goat?

Christian Aid Week 10-16 MayThis week is Christian Aid Week. They rely on the collections made with envelopes but collectors have not been able to go out this year. They will be desperate. The poor people they support will be even more desperate.

  • The two main Christian Development Charities – TEARFUND and Christian Aid are the most efficient of them all. Efficient Sheep!
  • Our government listens to them because they have a reputation for being reliable and informed.
  • Our government also uses them to dispense aid because they are better at it than others.
  • When there is a disaster these charities are often first on the scene because they have workers already in place there.

I write this on the Friday before it goes out, I believe the Disaster Emergency Committee is about to announce a worldwide disaster appeal because of the needs of the poorest 80% during the coronavirus pandemic.

Please give:

Christian Aid: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/
TEARFUND: https://www.tearfund.org/

Father, help me to live this day to the full, being true to you in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost, proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.

Amen.

 

More next week…