Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

22 February 2019

Luke 10

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.”If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.”12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

18 He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

22 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’

The parable of the good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

27 He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’

28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

30 In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead.31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

At the home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

41 ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

Prayer: Father, we know that the “harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few”. Please raise up more people to take the gospel to all nations. Thank You for those people who I know that are away from their homes and families because they are taking the gospel to other nations and peoples. I think particularly of those who TCC support and pray that You might encourage and strengthen them in their labours. Make them aware of Your presence when they are feeling down. Most of all I pray that You might bring more people into the kingdom through their witness wherever You find them. I also pray that You might raise up more people from TCC to take the gospel to all nations. Amen.

21 February 2019

Luke 9

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill. He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?’ And he tried to see him.

Jesus feeds the five thousand

10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’

13 He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’

They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ 14 (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’

19 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’

20 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’

Jesus predicts his death

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’

23 Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27 ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’

The transfiguration

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy

37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.’

41 ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.’

42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Jesus predicts his death a second time

While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.’45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and made him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.’

49 ‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’

50 ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’

Samaritan opposition

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

The cost of following Jesus

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’

58 Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’

But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’

60 Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

61 Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’

62 Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’

Prayer: Father, help me to be able to speak of the Kingdom of God whenever I have an opportunity to do so. I know that I often squander opportunities, so please give me the courage to speak up when I ought to, and to testify to Your greatness. Help me to not be ashamed of You especially when it might cost me personally for being a follower of Christ. Amen.

 

20 February 2019

Genesis 27

When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for his elder son Esau and said to him, ‘My son.’

‘Here I am,’ he answered.

Isaac said, ‘I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment – your quiver and bow – and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.’

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, “Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.” Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so that I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.’

11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. 12 What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.’

13 His mother said to him, ‘My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.’

14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of her elder son Esau, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18 He went to his father and said, ‘My father.’

‘Yes, my son,’ he answered. ‘Who is it?’

19 Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’

20 Isaac asked his son, ‘How did you find it so quickly, my son?’

‘The Lord your God gave me success,’ he replied.

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.’

22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ 23 He did not recognise him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ he asked.

‘I am,’ he replied.

25 Then he said, ‘My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.’

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come here, my son, and kiss me.’

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

‘Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness –
an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.’

30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, ‘My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.’

32 His father Isaac asked him, ‘Who are you?’

‘I am your son,’ he answered, ‘your firstborn, Esau.’

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, ‘Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him – and indeed he will be blessed!’

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me – me too, my father!’

35 But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.’

36 Esau said, ‘Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: he took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!’ Then he asked, ‘Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?’

37 Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?’

38 Esau said to his father, ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!’ Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,

‘Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.’

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’

42 When Rebekah was told what her elder son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, ‘Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?’

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.

Prayer: Lord God, I am wicked and full of deception just like Jacob. I portray myself as much better than I really am. But You know the sinful thoughts of my mind, You know my secret sins and You know the wickedness that is in my heart. Please forgive me for portraying myself as better than I really am. Please forgive me for my wicked thoughts and for the sins that I commit in secret. Help me through the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome my secret and ongoing sins. Thank You that my sins are forgiven because of the completed work of Christ. Amen.

 

19 February 2019

Genesis 22

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’

‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied.

‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’

Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

12 ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Nahor’s sons

20 Some time later Abraham was told, ‘Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.’ 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.

I do not know what lies ahead,
The way I cannot see,
But one stands near to be my guide,
He’ll show the way to me.

I know who holds the future
And He’ll guide me with his hand
With God things don’t just happen,
Everything by him is planned.
So as I face tomorrow,
With its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles,
Give to Him my all.

I do not know how many days
Of life are mine to spend,
But one who knows and cares for me
Will keep me to the end.

I do not know the course ahead,
What joys and griefs are there.
But one stands near who fully knows,
I’ll trust His loving care.

© 1947, 1958 Singspiration Music/Brentwood Benson Music Publishing (admin. by Copy Care)

Prayer:  Father, may I trust in Your provision just as Abraham implicitly trusted You would provide for him and Isaac. In particular when the future is uncertain, help me to put my trust in You alone – the God who holds the future in His hands.  May the words of this hymn above echo in my mind throughout this week and all my days to come. Amen.

18 February 2019

Genesis 21

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’

Hagar and Ishmael sent away

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bow-shot away, for she thought, ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ And as she sat there, she began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.

The treaty at Beersheba

22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness that I have shown to you.’

24 Abraham said, ‘I swear it.’

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, ‘I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.’

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?’

30 He replied, ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’

31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

God does as He promises. God can do immeasurably more than you can imagine. Neither Sarah nor Abraham thought that God would deliver on His promise. Abraham took matters into his own hands and conceived a son through Hagar, and Sarah laughed when she first heard the promise. But these opening verses of Genesis 21 remind us that God always keeps His promises and that natural limitations (like age) are not hurdles for God.

Why this should matter to us is because we need to trust in two key promises that He makes to us. Firstly, He promises that once we are His children we remain part of His family forever. Despite our sinfulness, our lack of trust in Him, our weak faith, our lack of self-control – God will deliver on His promise to keep us part of His family for all eternity. Secondly, He has promised that Christ is coming back again and this world (with all its problems) will come to an end one day. An eternity with Him will be ushered in and is certain.

Prayer: Father, we thank You that You have delivered on every promise You have ever made. Thank You for Your faithfulness and trustworthiness. Thank You that You promised redemption through Jesus Christ and that You delivered on that promise. Thank You that You promise to never turn us away. Help us to trust in Your promises and not to take matters into our own hands but to rely on You to deliver as You have promised. Amen.

16 February 2019

Philippians 2:1-11, 19-30

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!

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

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

Prayer: Almighty Father, whose blessed Son was revealed so that He might destroy the works of the devil and make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that having this hope we may purify ourselves as He is pure; that when He shall appear again with power and glory, we may be made like Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom, where with You, Father, and with the Holy Spirit, He lives and reigns, one God, for evermore. Amen.

15 February 2019

Luke 8

After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.’

When he said this, he called out, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

‘“though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.”

11 ‘This is the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

A lamp on a stand

16 ‘No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.’

Jesus’ mother and brothers

19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’

21 He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’

Jesus calms the storm

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.’

Jesus restores a demon-possessed man

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!’ 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him.

Jesus raises a dead girl and heals a sick woman

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’

46 But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher anymore.’

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Prayer: Almighty God, when we consider the parable of the sower, we know who we want to be – the seed that produces multiples of fruit. We know that we need to spend more time in Your Word, more time in prayer and more time living in obedience to Your teaching. So we pray, as we seek to be more fruitful, that Your Holy Spirit will empower us with a deep desire to truly know You, Lord God, to truly spend quality time with You, and to wholeheartedly respond to the prompts that You place on our hearts and minds. Help us to balance our growth in knowledge with a growth in action and service of those around us. Give us such love, that we will be attuned to the needs of those around us and humbly respond to those needs. Help us to witness with boldness and compassion and to know what to say that would draw the lost to You. We know that You are the one who saves, and we pray that we will be faithful messengers of Your gospel, and not hold back on the opportunities that you give us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

14 February 2019

Luke 7

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was ill and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, ‘This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.’ So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go”, and he goes; and that one, “Come”, and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this”, and he does it.’

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Jesus raises a widow’s son

11 Soon afterwards, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Jesus and John the Baptist

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”’

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, illnesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.27 This is the one about whom it is written:

‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”

28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’

29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptised by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptised by John.)

31 Jesus went on to say, ‘To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?32 They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling out to each other:

‘“We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.”

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He has a demon.”34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.’

Jesus anointed by a sinful woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’

40 Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’

‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said.

41 ‘Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’

43 Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’

‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.

44 Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’

48 Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’

50 Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, when we consider the miracles that You performed, and the impact that this had on those who followed You, we can clearly see that You are the son of God. You knew what each person needed and who would show true faith. Lord, You healed the foreigner, forgave a wicked sinner, raised the son of a widow, yet Your greatest work was the purchase of our salvation, and taking away our sins. For us, the miracle is our new birth as a result of You changing our hearts to accept Your gift of eternal life by putting our trust in You. We pray that the amazing gospel message will never lose its significance in our daily walk. Help us to bring hope and peace to those struggling around us, and help us in our struggles to stand firm in our faith and as a result draw others to You. Amen.

13 February 2019

Genesis 15

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

‘Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.’

But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’

Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, ‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’

But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I shall gain possession of it?’

So the Lord said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and ill-treated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.’

‘Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness’. This verse is used often by Paul in his letters. Romans 4, Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23 make reference to Abraham’s faith and his acting on that faith that made him righteous. We can’t earn our salvation; it is found in trusting in God’s work and the promises that God has made. Abram, despite the seeming impossibility that he would have a son of his own and descendants as numerous as the stars, trusted that God would fulfil this promise.

We are privileged today, knowing that God has fulfilled His promises. However we struggle to take God at His Word. We look at our circumstances and either leave God out of our thinking, try and fix things ourselves or think that God can’t help. Abraham’s situation was more unbelievable than most things that we face on a daily basis. Abraham didn’t have the Bible or the knowledge that Jesus, God’s own son lived and died for our salvation; however he put his full trust in God. Abraham had less to go on than we do, but still showed immense faith.

The daily challenge for us as Christians is to trust God in all circumstances, whether difficult or easy. We have the assurance that God has prepared a wonderful eternity with Him because He raised Christ from the dead. We need to rejoice in this glorious hope, and accept that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose.

Prayer: Dear Father God, we are like the father who asked Jesus for help in overcoming his unbelief. We ask You to help us with our unbelief. Sometimes the troubles of this world seem overwhelming and we think You can’t possibly be in control. We pray that You will help us to have a clearer vision of who You truly are, that our picture will be big enough to accept Your sovereignty and that there is nothing impossible for You. Help our faith to grow and help us to be an encouragement to others as we grow in knowledge and understanding of who You truly are. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

12 February 2019

Genesis 12

The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.’

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev.

Abram in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’

14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. ‘What have you done to me?’ he said. ‘Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, “She is my sister,” so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!’ 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Genesis 12 is in many respects the turning point in the Bible where God intervenes in a world that walks the road of self-destruction. God initiates His plan of salvation by making a covenant with Abram that all nations will be blessed through Him. At this point the covenant from a human perspective seems doomed to failure as Abram and Sarai are already past child bearing age.

God does fulfil His promises and I have always looked at these first few verses from a generational and global perspective. What struck me reading this now is that I am part of the fulfilment of the promise made to Abram. The fact that God had you and me in mind when He made this promise is a really encouraging thought. While God had already chosen us in eternity past; the knowledge that God’s promise to Abram included you and me reinforces His love for us.

Our response should one of immense gratitude; lead to the strengthening of our faith; and living lives of thankfulness and praise.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, it is with wonder and praise that we come before You in prayer. We are so grateful that You planned our redemption and elected us to be Your children before time began. We thank You that had a plan to get sinful mankind back to a restored relationship with You. Thank You that You used Abram a sinner like us to initiate your salvation plan. Help us Lord, to fulfil the plans You have for us to be a blessing to the nations and be part of the extension of Your kingdom. Help us to obediently proclaim the amazing gospel message to those near and far. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

11 February 2019

Genesis 11

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

From Shem to Abram

10 This is the account of Shem’s family line.

Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. 11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. 13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. 15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. 17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. 19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. 21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. 23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. 25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26 After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

Abram’s family

27 This is the account of Terah’s family line.

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. 30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.

31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.

32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.

Prayer: Dear Father God, when we look back at the history of the world, we see the significant impact that sin has had on mankind. Almost immediately after the cleansing of the world by the flood we see man repeating Adam and Eve’s sin of wanting to be God. However, we see early on in Scripture after each sinful event, the prospect of redemption. Our sinful nature leads us astray and we easily disobey what You command in Your word. We thank You that we have the privilege of knowing that our sins have been dealt with by Jesus’ death on the cross. Help us, by the leading of Your Holy Spirit, to live in obedience to Your will. We pray too, that as we follow You, that we would leave a legacy for generations to come that extends Your kingdom and brings glory to Your name. Amen.

9 February 2019

Philippians 1:21-30

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Life worthy of the gospel

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep Your family and church continually in Your true religion; that we who rely only on the hope of Your heavenly grace may always be defended by Your mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

8 February 2019

Luke 6

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick some ears of corn, rub them in their hands and eat the grain. Some of the Pharisees asked, ‘Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’

Jesus answered them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shrivelled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Get up and stand in front of everyone.’ So he got up and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’

10 He looked round at them all, and then said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

The twelve apostles

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Blessings and woes

17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

23 ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Love for enemies

27 ‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Judging others

37 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

39 He also told them this parable: ‘Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.

41 ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?42 How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

A tree and its fruit

43 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.44 Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers.45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

The wise and foolish builders

46 ‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like.48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.’

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that rest, sabbath-rest, was part of Your good creation; given both for our good and for us to do good. Thank You that Jesus came as the Lord of the Sabbath and provides eternal rest for all those who believe in Him.

Help us to live effectively and wisely as citizens of your Kingdom today, enjoying the blessings You promise and heeding the warnings You give as we listen to what You have said and put Your words into practice in our lives. Help us especially, to listen to Your word in faithful obedience when what You ask is difficult or hard for us. Help us to love others, even our enemies, and to not judge others in hypocrisy.

As we obey Your word, we pray that the fruit we produce will be good fruit, true to the Good Saviour in whom we trust and in whose name we ask this. Amen.

7 February 2019

Luke 5

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding round him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Jesus heals a man with leprosy

12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’

13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.

14 Then Jesus ordered him, ‘Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’

15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their illnesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Jesus forgives and heals a paralysed man

17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal those who were ill. 18 Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?23 Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”?24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralysed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’

Jesus calls Levi and eats with sinners

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’

31 Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill.32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’

Jesus questioned about fasting

33 They said to him, ‘John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.’

34 Jesus answered, ‘Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.’

36 He told them this parable: ‘No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, “The old is better.”’

Simon is a fisherman … although he hasn’t had a successful night (verse 5). He can’t even stop at Steers on the way home to get some supper. All he can do is clean his nets (verse 2) in preparation for the next trip … hoping that will be better!

While he does so, Jesus commandeers his boat! Uses it as a pulpit so the crowd can hear Him. He has an important Word for them about His mission to bring good news for the poor, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed (4:18). The crowd want that, they need that (verse 1)!

Then, Jesus tells Simon to let down the nets. You can sense Simon is irritated – one thing for a preacher to use his boat as a pulpit, altogether different thing when a carpenter tells a fisherman how to fish! Especially when the carpenter doesn’t seem to understand fishing … every fisherman knows the middle of the day is the wrong time to catch fish. But Simon drops the nets anyway … and they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break! Jesus is not just a great preacher, He’s a better fisherman than Simon!

Of course, this whole incident is not because Jesus is interested in fish, but because He’s interested in Simon! Jesus deliberately climbed into Simon’s boat (verse 3) because He wants him. He knows if Simon is going to follow Him, Simon needs to learn an important truth … needs to understand that Jesus is not just Master (verse 5) but Lord (verse 8) – as do we! Jesus’ revelation of power over fish to a fisherman made a very powerful impression (verse 8).

Jesus, interestingly, doesn’t dismiss Simon but commissions him … ‘don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people’ (verse 10)! Jesus’ followers are now fishing for people too (verse 11)!

True disciples do what Jesus did; they fish for people!

And we do it for one simple reason: because Jesus says so! That’s a key lesson from Simon in the boat. Remember, he’s tired – worked hard all night … he’s disappointed – haven’t caught anything … and he knows this is the worst time to be fishing. Yet models true discipleship: because you say so, I will let down the nets (5:5). Discipleship is to do what Jesus tells us to do … we fish for people because Jesus says so!

We might be tempted to run away or have Jesus go away … we might even feel unworthy and incapable of doing any good! But Jesus won’t allow that. He takes humble and repentant sinners and gives them a mission! Disciples fish for people. As Phil Ryken reminds us: “we are called to cast a wide net by inviting our neighbours to Bible Study, bringing our friends to church, speaking to family about spiritual things, testifying at work to God’s goodness in our daily lives, sending out foreign missionaries, and sharing the gospel every way we can – this is our calling both as a church and as individual Christians” (Luke – Vol 1, P&R Publishing, 2009)

Disciples speak to people about God … hence our theme for 2019 encouraging us to proclaim the gospel to people in faith and obedience.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to be true disciples bringing good news to the poor. Help us to follow the example of our Lord Jesus and fish for people. Give us boldness and obedience to that end; and give us faith to trust You for the catch! Especially we pray that today, we might have opportunity to speak to someone about You. In Jesus name we pray this. Amen

6 February 2019

Genesis 10

This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

The Japhethites

The sons of Japheth:

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek and Tiras.

The sons of Gomer:

Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.

The sons of Javan:

Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites.(From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.)

The Hamites

The sons of Ham:

Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.

The sons of Cush:

Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteka.

The sons of Raamah:

Sheba and Dedan.

Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ 10 The first centres of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar.11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah – which is the great city.

13 Egypt was the father of

the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 14 Pathrusites, Kasluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.

15 Canaan was the father of

Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.

Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon towards Gerar as far as Gaza, and then towards Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha.

20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

The Semites

21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose elder brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.

22 The sons of Shem:

Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram.

23 The sons of Aram:

Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshek.

24 Arphaxad was the father of Shelah,

and Shelah the father of Eber.

25 Two sons were born to Eber:

One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.

26 Joktan was the father of

Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan.

30 The region where they lived stretched from Mesha towards Sephar, in the eastern hill country.

31 These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

32 These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we read these lists of names and clans, of families and generations, help us to realise that You knew each one of them by name, as You know each one of us today. We draw comfort from the reminder that You are a personal God who knows us and loves us.

We acknowledge, in the words of Your servant, that You are “the God who made the world and everything in it” … that You give “to all mankind life and breath and everything” … that You “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” … and You did that so that we would seek You and find You (Acts 17:24-27) because You are relational. Use us, where we are, to that end, we pray.

Help us, to pursue You in relationship and to grow in our knowledge of You each day … even today. In Jesus name we pray this. Amen.

5 February 2019

Genesis 9

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

‘But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

‘Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.’

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’

12 And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’

17 So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’

The sons of Noah

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backwards and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

‘Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.’

26 He also said,

‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.’

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

I love rainbows. As a young boy, enduring the Cape winters when the rain seemed to move in and settle for days on end; it was the rainbow that signified we could go outside and play. As I grew older and came to faith, I came to understand that it was God who set the rainbow in the clouds (verse 13) and it is much more than a sign to go outside. It is a sign of God’s covenant (that is, His very special promise to all creation) following the judgement of the flood.

A sign to remind us that sin is serious, and judgement is real. In rejecting God and choosing to decide good and evil for ourselves (Genesis 3); in choosing to follow the wicked and evil path of our own inclinations (Genesis 6); we have done a foolish thing. For a God who is holy and just cannot turn a blind eye to our rebellion and the God who created us to serve Him cannot let us wander away without consequence. No, He will put an end to our wickedness and evil (Genesis 6:13) and send His just judgement upon the world. The rainbow follows the flood, and the flood reminds me that God will not tolerate sin and will not let it continue without judgement … we must remember that!

And a sign to point us to God’s grace and goodness. For in the midst of judgement, He graciously rescued a family and His creatures. He called them to Himself, gave them a safe haven and allowed them to endure the flood. Once over, He not only gave them a fresh start, but a new hope – a promise that never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood, never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth (verse 11). An unbreakable and unshakeable promise not just to provide life but to promote life (verse 1) and to show the preciousness of life (verses 5-6). A sign that reminds us that God values humanity and the creation He made; that He loves us and wants what is best for us.

I love rainbows … the sign of God’s life-protecting, hope-giving, enduring promise.

But … the problem with rainbows is they aren’t usually around very long. They pop up in the moment … but disappear just as quickly. Maybe that’s appropriate too … for the “new-ness” they usher is often short lived too … especially in those old Cape winters. Likewise, in Genesis we quickly learn that, despite the flood, sin is still present, and sin still prevails (verses 21-23). It still leaves humanity naked and ashamed; still leaves us deserving God’s righteous judgement; still needing God’s rescue. For sure, God promised never to send a flood to destroy the earth ever again … and for His part, He will keep His promise. But He is still the holy and just God who hates sin and will destroy it.

So the rainbow also reminds me to look for a new sign, a new covenant – one that provides rescue in the midst of judgement; but with the power to transform sinful hearts and break our slavery to sin. One that will provide new life for today and eternal life for tomorrow. A covenant that will come from the God, who because of His faithfulness, still loves us and still works so that we might find true life through Him in His Son.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness to humanity and to life; that You provide it and value it. Forgive us when we undermine the value of life or fail to live as we ought. Help us to remember the seriousness of our sin and the reality of judgement, especially Your final judgement. Help us to take refuge in the new covenant in Jesus and the security that the cross offers. May this become for us the sign of love, of promise, of Your faithfulness and of life; and may we live today in the shadow of it. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

4 February 2019

Genesis 8

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

15 Then God said to Noah, 16 ‘Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.’

18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds – everything that moves on land – came out of the ark, one kind after another.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though[a] every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

22 ‘As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.’

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, sovereign God of the world, thank You that You remember Your people and do not forget them – ever. Thank You for the assurance that whatever we are facing, You have neither forgotten us, nor forsaken us. Help us never to forget that but to trust You always.

Thank You that You send the rain and stop the rain as You see fit, in accordance with Your sovereign will and purposes. Help us to recognise Your hand in all things and to trust that You know best in all circumstances.

Thank You for Your grace in the midst of judgement, providing life in the face of death, and especially for providing eternal life through Jesus in the face of eternal judgement. Help us to receive your provision of grace and to trust Jesus today.

Help us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to You in response to Your grace, and may all that we say and do be a fragrant aroma to You.

In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.

 

2 February 2019

Philippians 1:12-20

Prayer: Lord God, You know us to be set in the midst of so many great dangers that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

18 January 2019

Matthew 28

Without this short 20 verse end to it, the Gospel would peter out. What happens here is earth-shaking.

Like Luke and Mark, Matthew highlights the crucial role played by the women, first to know the good news and then to tell the men. Mary Magdalene and ‘the other Mary’ that he names were there when Joseph laid Jesus’ body to rest (27:61), and there again on Easter morning. So no mistake about which sepulchre. These facts with eyewitnesses count. Faith without supporting evidence opens a door of credulity to fake news.

The Trump-associated concept of ‘fake news’ is exactly what Matt 28 exposes: ‘this [fake news] story has been spread among the Jews to this day’ (verse 15). ‘Follow the money’ is a guideline for the state capture inquiry and for Matt 27–28. Money! First, the thirty pieces of silver for Judas, and now the hush money: ‘when they (the chief priests) had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers (i.e. the temple police)… so they took the money and did as they were directed.’  (verse 12ff)

Earthquake, angels and an empty tomb were enough to shake up the heavy-hearted women who ‘ran away quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy’. (verse 8)

But that’s just the prelude:

Then Jesus met them and greeted them.

And they ran to Him, grasped His feet, and worshiped Him.

Are male theologians who write the learned volumes—read by fellow intellectuals—the pillars of the church? These verses upset that perspective and challenge our relationship with Jesus.

Here we see that awe, joy, love and adoration are the qualities of encounter with the risen Lord.

We need these responses to respond actively to ‘Go and make disciples of all the nations…’. To be sure there is a role for teaching too (verse 20)—and Matthew has done that especially well in giving us his Gospel. This ‘Matthew, the tax collector’ (9:9; 10:3)—on the payroll of Herod Antipas, and whose life had revolved around money—has also met Jesus face-to-face, and been transformed.

This Matthew, back in Galilee, heard and believed it when Jesus said: ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go…’ (verse 18f).

And our response?

 

17 January 2019

Matthew 27

Thirty three years back, the rising star of Jesus, ‘king of the Jews’ attracted the astrologers to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2), but had Herod running scared. Now darkness descends over ‘Jesus, the Galilean’ from Nazareth (26:69, 71) who the soldiers, in mockery, have crowned with thorns.

Crowned? What sort of king is this?

The morning light of day starts off badly for Jesus. He is taken, bound, to Pilate. Much worse is to follow. Darkness enshrouds it, until around 3pm Jesus cries out: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  (verse 46). The chapter ends with Jesus’ body entombed. What sort of Anointed One (Messiah) was this?

From cradle to grave, Matthew highlights the issue of Jesus’ kingship. Chapter 27 brings this to a climax—a climax of Jewish rejection and Roman execution. ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ asks Pilate. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ mock the soldiers. ‘This is Jesus, the king of the Jews’ reads the placard above His head. ‘He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him’  the leading priests, the scribes and the elders shout out for all to hear.

Jesus dies a brutal death, His claims and mission an evident public failure.

Watching this final scene at a distance were those who loved him and didn’t run away. The women from Galilee. Matthew mentions three of them—Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of James and John. These extraordinary Galilean women are key eyewitnesses, as we discover from reading all four Gospels. We rely on their testimony for the sequence of Jesus’ death, entombment and resurrection. But more than that, they model what it means to follow Jesus when the men go missing and deep sorrow has settled over them all.

However, there is one good man willing to take a risk—‘a respected member of the council’, ‘Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus’, just executed for sedition along with two others.

We can never experience the emotional impact on those women, including His mother Mary, of seeing Jesus dragged away, mocked and done to death.

But from far away in time and distance, in reading this scene, we are gazing on the battered human face of God, our Saviour.

 

16 January 2019

Matthew 26
Psalm 150

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Matthew 26:63b

For us, there can be no ifs or buts or maybes—because there wasn’t for Jesus. He was put on the spot, on trial before the high priest, Caiaphas. Jesus’ reply was a shocker. He claimed that a seat alongside this ‘living God’ was His by right.

As the drama of Jesus’ last hours plays out in this chapter, there is shock after shock. First, Jesus tells His inner circle that He’ll be crucified the day after tomorrow. A woman outrages the males at their sacred Passover meal with her exorbitant act. Jesus discloses that there is an informer in their midst and that they will all desert him in the hours to follow, including their leader Peter, the rock.

But familiarity dulls us to the most shocking element of all.

‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ 

(verse 27f.)

This is just as shocking, in its own way, as His crucifixion.

How could Jesus’ circle of devout Jewish disciples, on that Passover night, have imagined participating in this—Jesus telling them to symbolically drink ‘blood’ and to eat his flesh! What a shock to their systems, to their Jewish identity, to their national traditions, to their understanding of forgiveness of sins, to their hopes for a messiah. Surely only God is authorised to replace Israel’s covenant at Sinai? Jesus hijacks the customary Passover meal in Jerusalem, turning it into something that is all about Him. This is a radically new way into a relationship with God.  There is now nothing exclusively Jewish about it.

Miles away, just off Tokai Main Rd, and 1 986 years later at the bottom of Africa, we commemorate Jesus life-giving death this way.

What does Jesus also draw attention to that night?

To the woman who pours exotic perfume on His head in her extravagant display of love for Him, Jesus says this provides an anointing for His burial. ‘For she has done a beautiful thing to me…to prepare me for burial’ (verse 10f.) And, sure enough, this morning in the blog, we are still thinking about this woman’s bold act, as Jesus foretold.

How do we express our love for the Lord?

 

15 January 2019

Matthew 25
Psalm 149

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

Matthew 25:34-35

If you’re a goat, this is not good news. If you’re a sheep, it’s a disconcerting challenge!

Jesus, the master story teller, has us picturing five foolish maidens knocking on a closed door. When they needed to be oil right, they got it oil wrong, and so missed their opportunity to join in the celebration. It’s a frightening story about being ready.

“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.” We sang that cheerfully back in the ’60s. Jesus is serious. The issue is serious!

Then there’s the cash-in-hand story. Even more frightening. The one-talent, bright spark has a plan. He buries his cash and digs it up to hand it back. ‘You wicked and slothful servant!’ Hearing that performance evaluation wasn’t part of his business plan. And there’s worse for him to follow.

‘You’ve been faithful over a little. Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ That’s what we need to hear.

Now we in the TCC community of faith are not in positions of great power and authority. We’re known at work, to our families, and to a few friends. Given 200 years, who will remember us? We won’t make it into the history books. So ‘the kingdom prepared’ is a far better investment for the here and now, and for the ever after.

But… ‘believe and receive’ is not the whole story. Not the way that Jesus tells it. If we want to be wearing a thick woolly fleece and not be reckoned to be a threadbare goat on judgment day, then we need open hearts in our treatment of others—the hungry, the thirsty, those lacking clothes, strangers, imprisoned believers (verse 35ff.). The sheep are shocked. ‘When did we do this?’ they ask. ‘As you did this for one of the least of my family, you did it for me,’ Jesus explains (verse 40).

This makes us uncomfortable. In the villages, Jesus had mixed with the poor, the marginalised, the diseased, the not-wanteds, the Samaritans, and many of these had become His disciples. He started a new family of belonging to Him. He invites all and makes welcome.

Listen up, well pastured TCC sheep!

We need to follow Jesus.

14 January 2019

Matthew 24
Psalm 148

Jesus left the temple and was walking away…

Matthew 24:1a

The use of two verbs for emphasis gives this an intentionally ominous ring.

The disciples who are village boys from the north are hugely impressed by the magnificent Temple and its surrounds. Jesus saw it differently (verse 2). The massive stone blocks of the platform dwarf the tourists and those praying at the ‘Wailing Wall’. The Temple itself is long gone, never rebuilt.

Jesus walks on to become the exalted Son of man whose return will be heralded by the sounding of the last trumpet (verse 31). Jesus faces His final confrontation with the Temple authorities in the assurance of His glorious return to the world ‘with power and great glory’ (verse 30, with Mark 14:60ff).

The disciples asked Jesus for answers to two questions: (a) When will the Temple be destroyed? and (b) What sign will there be of the close of the age and His coming in glory? Jesus answers both questions, but seems more concerned with the interim threats posed by false messiahs, the terrible sufferings of the siege of Jerusalem, and the need for His followers to always be ready to meet Him.

Roman occupation over the next 37 years will explode in Jewish armed rebellion, the siege of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple to the ground—evidence for Jesus as political analyst and authentic prophet. His coming at the end of the age will be with the shock of a lightning strike (verse 27). It will authenticate no futurist think tank for political analysis and no cranky calculation by the lunatic fringe. It will authenticate Jesus as Messiah and Lord worldwide.

Yes, the Temple central to Judaism has gone. The Roman Empire and its gods, likewise. But Jesus is more than a prophet. He is Lord who opens the eyes of the blind, calls Lazarus back to life, leaves His own grave clothes behind in the empty tomb, eats fish with His friends afterwards, and invites Thomas to check out the wounds from His crucifixion. Faith in Jesus is not blind faith or based solely in His prediction about the Temple.

It is a faith in what we can’t see now and an outcome without a date attached. An expectant faith.

‘Who then is the faithful and wise servant…?’ (verse 45).  

That is Jesus’ question to His disciples in turn.

‘Faithful and wise’. ‘Servant’.   

Who, me?

 

11 January 2019

Matthew 23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Matthew 23:23-24

Jesus is scathing in His judgment of false religion. He has no time for it because it has nothing to do with faith in Him. Man-made religion does nor save and neglects what God prizes, namely … justice and mercy and faithfulness.’

Do you want to be pleasing to God? Then Matthew 23 is good medicine for you. A follower of Jesus cannot tolerate sin or falsehood. Compromise with sin gives place in your life to Satan (Ephesians 4:27) and makes the Lord Jesus very angry (verse 15)

Jesus pronounces seven woes on false religion – dire warnings of judgement meant to make me uncomfortable. I prefer to hear about God’s grace than the hard truth about sinful hypocrisy that God detests and the judgement befalling it. Frankly, it’s uncomfortable … mainly because too often it’s applicable!

Why then is Jesus strong warning good medicine for us?

Because God’s word purifies us from sin (John 15:3 and Ephesians 5:26).

Jesus’ words expose our wrong attitudes and He shines his light into any darkness in our hearts. Just like a visit to the dentist is painful but good for you – Jesus’ words expose and fix our rotten cavities. God’s standard is absolute holiness (1 Peter 1:16). This is what Jesus gives us through His cross; then we need to obey our Lord, because faith without works is useless. (James 2:20)

Jesus said ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?’ (Matthew 23:33)

Jesus speaks very strong words of warning … but does so in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that You are not afraid to tell us the hard truth because of Your love. You don’t want us to be deceived and condemned. Thank You for discipline and willingness to forgive us through Christ.