Sunday 30 June, 2013

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

1 I, Paul, am writing this letter. Silas and Timothy join me in writing. We are sending this letter to you, the members of the church in Thessalonica. You belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be given to you. 2 We always thank God for all of you. We pray for you. 3 We never forget you when we pray to our God and Father. Your work is produced by your faith. Your service is the result of your love. Your strength to continue comes from your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God. We know that he has chosen you. 5 Our good news didn’t come to you only in words. It came with power. It came with the Holy Spirit’s help. He gave us complete faith in what we were preaching. You know how we lived among you for your good. 6 We and the Lord were your examples. You followed us. You suffered terribly. Even so, you welcomed our message with the joy the Holy Spirit gives. 7 So you became a model to all the believers in the lands of Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you. That was true not only in Macedonia and Achaia. Your faith in God has also become known everywhere. So we don’t have to say anything about it. 9 The believers themselves report the kind of welcome you gave us. They tell about how you turned away from statues of gods to serve the living and true God. 10 They tell about how you are waiting for his Son to come from heaven. God raised him from the dead. He is Jesus. He saves us from God’s anger, and his anger is sure to come.

Do you feel quite ordinary? Not gifted or knowledgeable and does anyone notice your faith? Why are the Thessalonians loved by God?

No-one becomes a chosen one of God against their will.  God chose them, and made the gospel come to them not just with words, but with power, the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. Their faith transformed lives, cultures and destinies.

What does it mean to be loved by God? The world’s perspective of being loved is to have a romantic relationship, being treated special, or having people adore you.  People strive to earn love by changing themselves.

However, I have been loved because the gospel came to me. I don’t have to earn love or be loveable.  God chose me even when I was a sinner.  God allowed the gospel to come to me even though I was not interested in Him.  No matter what the world says, I am loved by God.  I’ve experienced the power of God’s words speaking to me and convicting me of my sins.

I need to continue to battle my false views of what it means to be loved by affirming that God loves me, and that he did whatever it took to allow the gospel to come to me.

As a young girl I didn’t understand the passages I heard, they were just words. Every encounter I had was significant.

People planted, watered, weeded, and tended the seed(s) that led me to ‘receive the word’. As an adult, the gospel message came alive as I heard it preached, and I knew I must get right with God.

Lord, thank you for the power of Your Holy Spirit, that when I encounter obstacles and doubts, I receive Your word with conviction. Thank You for Your understanding and the transforming power of the gospel. Amen.

Written by Cath Croft

[comments closed]

Saturday 29 June, 2013

Galatians 6:11–18

11 Look at the big letters I’m using as I write to you with my own hand! 12 Some people want others to think well of them. They are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do it for only one reason. They don’t want to suffer by being connected with the cross of Christ. 13 Even those who are circumcised don’t obey the law. But they want you to be circumcised. Then they can brag about what has been done to your body. 14 I never want to brag about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through that cross the ways of the world have been crucified as far as I am concerned. And I have been crucified as far as the ways of the world are concerned. 15 Circumcision and uncircumcision don’t mean anything. What really counts is the creation of a new nature. 16 May peace and mercy be given to all who follow this rule. May peace and mercy be given to the Israel that belongs to God. 17 Finally, let no one cause trouble for me. My body has marks that show I belong to Jesus. 18 Brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

It seems that one reason the Judaisers were compelling the Galatians to be circumcised was to impress others, so that they (the Judaisers) wouldn’t be persecuted. In Australia today we rarely suffer physical persecution. Yet we are persecuted emotionally by being laughed at or criticised for similar petty reasons.

Just as the Galatians were admonished by Paul to not give in to circumcision, we should not give in to following the world just to avoid persecution. For example, giving into peer pressure and allowing our kids to watch the MA rated movie when they’re only 12, or downloading a movie, speeding or avoiding tax to stop others ridiculing us. This is avoiding standing up for what we believe in order to avoid persecution.

The other reason the Galatians were being compelled was so that the Judaisers could boast that they had made these men comply with the law. Paul points out that we should only boast in Christ – in what he has done, not what we have done.

What counts is not what others think of us. What counts is that we are a new creation. Let us stand tall in this fact and be righteous and honour God and be prepared to suffer if that is the result.

Written by Megan Cornell

[comments closed]

Friday 28 June, 2013

Galatians 6:6-10

6 Those who are taught the word must share all good things with their teacher. 7 Don’t be fooled. You can’t outsmart God. A man gathers a crop from what he plants. 8 Some people plant to please their sinful nature. From that nature they will harvest death. Others plant to please the Holy Spirit. From the Spirit they will harvest eternal life. 9 Let us not become tired of doing good. At the right time we will gather a crop if we don’t give up. 10 So when we can do good to everyone, let us do it. Let us make a special point of doing good to those who belong to the family of believers.

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

Jesus told a story about a farmer whose enemies sowed tares amongst his wheat (Matt 13:24-43). The seeds look the same. At the right time, the seeds germinate and grow. Then you can easily tell the difference. One will be a fruitful harvest to be gathered and the other will be burned.

In the same way, “good deeds” done to please our sinful nature, such as generosity in the hope of a reward (greed) or kindness in the hope of a good reputation (pride), superficially look like a life motivated by love for God and a desire to please Him. But God wants our hearts.

It can be easy to fall into the wrong motives. I need to actively focus my heart on Him every day.

When a farmer sows seed it looks like he has thrown his valuable seed away, until the right season comes and the seeds grow. It can be very discouraging when the things we have sown into the lives of others don’t seem to bless as we had hoped.

Paul encourages me to sow first to please the Spirit and to be patient as he brings good things from it at the right time. And he encourages me to bless those who bless me (such as teachers) with every good thing: perhaps with material things, but certainly with encouragement and with whatever spiritual gifts God gives me.

Father, how I love you and I long to please you. Please take my attempts at blessings for others and bring them to fruit. And please keep me from slipping into doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Written by David Cornell

[comments closed]

Thursday 27 June, 2013

Galatians 6:1-5

6 Brothers and sisters, what if someone is caught in a sin? Then you who are guided by the Spirit should correct that person. Do it in a gentle way. But be careful. You could be tempted too. 2 Carry each other’s heavy loads. If you do, you will give the law of Christ its full meaning. 3 If you think you are somebody when you are nobody, you are fooling yourselves. 4 Each of you should put your own actions to the test. Then you can take pride in yourself. You won’t be comparing yourself to somebody else. 5 Each of you should carry your own load.

At the end of chapter 5 Paul has just described in detail the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. At the beginning of chapter 6 Paul reminds me that I am to look at myself to see if that fruit indeed exists in my own life. Like a chemist, I am to study the material carefully to assess its composition. Although it is easier for me to compare myself to others I must look for the fruit described in chapter 5 – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Seeing these fruit in my life allows my heart to be confident that I indeed belong to Jesus.

My God, if I see fruit missing and sin in their place, restore me gently. May my family in Christ direct me again in the way of truth and show me your boundless grace. Your grace is the Rock on which I find refuge from the raging waters of sin. Your Grace is the platform from which I am restored. God allow me to restore others with that same grace and love. Amen

Written by Andrew Mellor

[comments closed]

Wednesday 26 June, 2013

Galatians 5:22-26

22 But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful 23 and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their sinful nature to his cross. They don’t want what their sinful nature loves and longs for. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us march in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become proud. Let us not make each other angry. Let us not want what belongs to others.

I have the image of myself as a fruit tree, and these variously named fruits as ripe and ready to be plucked from me. I am encouraged to have such a relationship with God, that I know the Spirit of God in me has a ready supply of all these fruits for everyday and every encounter with those around me.

I imagine every exchange today as a fruit exchange. I walk into the situation, ready with the fruits for any occasion. For God’s Spirit makes me ready. And then I follow His leading, discerning the situation and supplying the right fruit accordingly. I have a student who is very discouraged – I bring the fruits of love, faith, and kindness to him and his situation. I have a teacher who is a bit rough around the edges – I bring the fruits of gentleness, patience, and love to her situation.

This passage helps me see that the Spirit of God in me gives me fruit that readies me for every situation I face in the day. And I love that this fruit is the kind against which there is no law. There are no laws of man or God that legislate against bringing and good measure of love, faith, and kindness to a person or situation. There are no restrictions in my workplace that can stop the fruit of gentleness, patience and love being imparted into a life or situation.

God, I am very encouraged that your Gospel is not bound, precisely because the fruit of your Spirit is what this world needs and would not in its right mind ever legislate against. And I am also encouraged to see myself as “armed and dangerous” – multiple fruits at the ready for any given situation this day.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

[comments closed]

Tuesday 25 June, 2013

Galatians 5:16-21

16 So I say, live by the Holy Spirit’s power. Then you will not do what your sinful nature wants you to do. 17 The sinful nature does not want what the Spirit delights in. And the Spirit does not want what the sinful nature delights in. The two are at war with each other. That’s what makes you do what you don’t want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the authority of the law. 19 What the sinful nature does is clear. It enjoys sexual sins, impure acts and wild living. 20 It worships statues of gods. It also worships evil powers. It is full of hatred and fighting. It is full of jealousy and fits of anger. It is interested only in getting ahead. It stirs up trouble. It separates people into their own little groups. 21 It wants what others have. It gets drunk and takes part in wild parties. It does many things of that kind. I warn you now as I did before. People who live like that will not receive God’s kingdom.

v17  “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

Tension – I live in the tension between my former sinful nature and my new spirit-directed nature. My old sinful nature is the opposite of my new spirit-led nature. My sinful nature seems to be my default nature – the easy option – the one that looks after me first. But the tension builds when I am directed by the Holy Spirit to live out of my new Spirit-led nature.

I am NOT trapped – I have a choice. While there is clearly tension between my old nature and my new nature – I am free to be led by you – Holy Spirit. Your grace – Your enabling power – works with me when I choose to follow your directions. When I sense the tension in me – I need to stop and listen. You will direct me to live free from my sinful nature.

Forgive me for the multitude of times that I don’t stop and listen. You are so patient in your guidance, ever ready to lead me. Thank you. Help me be more sensitive today to what you are saying to me and ready to obey you.

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

1 (reply)
[comments closed]

Monday 24 June, 2013

Galatians 5:13-15

13 My brothers and sisters, you were chosen to be free. But don’t use your freedom as an excuse to live in sin. Instead, serve one another in love. 14 The whole law can be found in a single command. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) 15 You must not keep on biting each other. You must not keep eating each other up. Watch out! You might destroy each other.

Paul reminds us that being in Christ is about being in freedom!  All too often religion gets in the way and rules start to break down our freedoms – people ask how far we can go – and so rules to protect are developed, but over time are not understood so no longer protect, they constrain our freedom in Christ.

Yet Paul also warns that our freedom should not lead to licence!  We cannot do anything – honouring God leads to lifestyle choices that, while free, are not unconstrained by His purity and power.

He reminds us to serve one another humbly in love.  This motive serves as a way forward to fulfil what is now written on our hearts and as such lived in our lives, rather than required from outside by others – our behaviour is now as a result of our beliefs not just to please someone else.

Paul finally warns us that behaviour outside of following Christ will destroy you!

I love that I am free in Christ – and that freedom releases me to fully value others as God has created them not based on colour, creed, sexuality or anything other than they are one of God’s precious creations.  That means I honour and value them – and fulfil the law of Christ.

Father help me to always honour others and serve them as You would have me do.

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

[comments closed]

Sunday 23 June, 2013

Galatians 5:7-12

7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 The One who chooses you does not keep you from obeying the truth. 9 You should know that “just a little yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough.” 10 The Lord makes me certain that you will not think in any other way. The one who has gotten you all mixed up will pay the price. It doesn’t matter who that may be. 11 Brothers and sisters, I am not still preaching that people must be circumcised. If I were, why am I still being opposed? If that were what I preach, then the cross wouldn’t upset anyone. 12 So then, what about troublemakers who try to get others to be circumcised? I wish they would go the whole way! I wish they would cut off everything that marks them as men!

Paul doesn’t know who it is that has come into the church and is teaching circumcision + Jesus but he knows that their teaching is effecting the whole church, “A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough” .. Paul uses a perfect word picture that all in the Galatian church will understand – as every home would make bread every day.

Paul is annoyed with the Galatian Christians because they are listening and acting on the false teaching but being annoyed doesn’t even begin to describe what Paul thought these ‘circumcisers’ needed to do with their knives!! But he is also confident that the Galatians will come to their senses and realise that circumcision is a thing of the past.

I know that I don’t observe any of the OT Law, but is there anything that I do that I add to the death of Jesus on the cross, so that I feel ‘right’ or accepted or clean or … whatever … before God??  Have I ever listened to teaching that says that I have to do or be a certain way to be a ‘real’ Christian?  Observing one little thing means that Jesus is not enough.

Father, please help me to recognise if I ever add anything, other than my faith in Jesus, for my salvation and forgiveness to be acceptable before you. Amen

Written by Suzie Hodgson

[comments closed]

Saturday 22 June, 2013

Galatians 5:2-6

2 Here is what I, Paul, say to you. Don’t let yourselves be circumcised. If you do, Christ won’t be of any value to you. 3 I say it again. Every man who lets himself be circumcised must obey the whole law. 4 Some of you are trying to be made right with God by obeying the law. You have been separated from Christ. You have fallen away from God’s grace. 5 But we expect to be made completely holy because of our faith in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit we wait in hope. 6 Circumcision and uncircumcision aren’t worth anything to those who believe in Christ Jesus. The only thing that really counts is faith that shows itself through love.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Paul was called as the Apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). He got revelation to know the truth of Righteousness-By-Faith. It is one of the most important truths of Jesus Christ and difference from other religious

But, some people in the Galatian Church have been confused and moved their faith from Jesus Christ back to circumcision (back to the Law) and tried to do Righteousness-By-Works. Paul knew it’s not the truth of gospel, but the seeds from enemy. It leads Christians to position themselves by WORKS, not by love and grace of Christ. So, on the one hand Paul said “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value”, “circumcision is circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:29), the other hand he said: The only thing that counts is FAITH.

I am challenged by Paul’s message. How many times have I thought to get righteousness by WORKS (helping the poor and under privileged children … Doing fund raising … Running a ministry .. Donating to charities … Even sharing the gospel to others) not by FAITH. Don’t get me wrong, those activities are all good WORKS and we should keep doing that to reflect Jesus’ love and grace. But, the key point is what is my intention in doing those things is? Was it because of the faith/love in Jesus or trying to approve I can do some good stuff to please God and get righteousness?

Dear Lord, thank you for saving me and loving me unconditionally. It’s not because I am a “good guy” or have done “good things”, but because you are the LOVE (1 John 4:16) and have set me free. I don’t have to position myself in Christ by works. I am FREE, Amen.

Written by Allen Leu

[comments closed]

Friday 21 June, 2013

Galatians 4:21 – 5:1

21 You who want to be under the authority of the law, tell me something. Don’t you know what the law says? 22 It is written that Abraham had two sons. The slave woman gave birth to one of them. The free woman gave birth to the other one. 23 Abraham’s son by the slave woman was born in the usual way. But his son by the free woman was born because of God’s promise. 24 Those things can be taken as examples. The two women stand for two covenants. One covenant comes from Mount Sinai. It gives birth to children who are going to be slaves. It is Hagar. 25 Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia. She stands for the present city of Jerusalem. That’s because she and her children are slaves. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free. She is our mother. 27 It is written, “Be glad, woman, you who have no children. Start shouting, you who have no labor pains. The woman who is all alone has more children than the woman who has a husband.” (Isaiah 54:1) 28 Brothers and sisters, you are children because of God’s promise just as Isaac was. 29 At that time, the son born in the usual way tried to hurt the son born by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman. Get rid of her son. The slave woman’s son will never have a share of the family’s property with the free woman’s son.” (Genesis 21:10) 31 Brothers and sisters, we are not the slave woman’s children. We are the free woman’s children. 5 Christ has set us free. He wants us to enjoy freedom. So stand firm. Don’t let the chains of slavery hold you again.

Since there are those in the Galatian church going back to observing parts of the Law, Paul paints the perfect picture of their choice.

Hagar                                  Sarah

slave                                        free

flesh                                        promise

present Jerusalem               Jerusalem above

old covenant                          new covenant

no inheritance                       inheritance

slavery                                     freedom

Nothing’s changed.  Without Jesus in my life, these are also my choices.  Circumcision may not be my “slavery” to the law but I can be in slavery to plenty of other things without Jesus in my life to set me free.

Lord I want to “stand firm” in my choice of Christ in my life – that is, grace and freedom. Please show me any area of my life where I’ve allowed anything to pull me back into bondage and slavery.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

[comments closed]