Monday 10 June, 2013

Galatians 2:1-10

2 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem. This time I went with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went because God showed me what he wanted me to do. I told the people there the good news that I preach among those who aren’t Jews. But I spoke in private to those who seemed to be leaders. I was afraid that I was running or had run my race for nothing. 3 Titus was with me. He was a Greek. But even he was not forced to be circumcised. 4 That matter came up because some who pretended to be believers had slipped in among us. They wanted to find out about the freedom we have because we belong to Christ Jesus. They wanted to make us slaves again. 5 We didn’t give in to them for a moment. We wanted the truth of the good news to remain with you. 6 Some people in Jerusalem seemed to be important. It makes no difference to me what they were. God does not judge by what he sees on the outside. Those people added nothing to my message. 7 In fact, it was just the opposite. They saw that I had been trusted with the task of preaching the good news just as Peter had been. My task was to preach to the non-Jews. Peter’s task was to preach to the Jews. 8 God was working through Peter as an apostle to the Jews. He was also working through me as an apostle to the non-Jews. 9 James, Peter and John are considered to be pillars in the church. They recognized the special grace that was given to me. So they shook my hand and the hand of Barnabas. They wanted to show they accepted us. They agreed that we should go to the non-Jews. They would go to the Jews. 10 They asked only one thing. They wanted us to continue to remember poor people. That was what I really wanted to do anyway.

This passage reminds me of the importance of recognised leadership in my life, and in the life of the church. And I am helped greatly by Paul’s view of things.

Paul clearly is not awestruck into seeing these leaders as some kind of superspecies, but he obeyed God’s revelation to him that told him to seek them out in order to confirm that all he was doing for the Gospel was not in vain. And those recognised as leaders in the church helped confirm and affirm what Paul was doing, such that he would have left in his missionary endeavours with new vigour, confidence, and backing from the larger church.

Sometimes, I find myself confused about what I’m doing. Sometimes, I find myself unsure if what I’m doing is “in vain.” God clearly directed Paul, the apostle, in one of his such moments, to recognised leaders in the church, who helped him along his way. I must take note to do the same. I don’t have to figure it all out on my own. Nor does everything have to come via direct revelation from God. Recognised leadership plays an important role in the guidance and affirmation of my efforts and calling.

God, help me not to isolate myself from great wisdom, encouragement, and support in the recognised leadership around me, especially if I am concerned that what I’m doing or where I’m going is “in vain.”

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Sunday 9 June, 2013

Galatians 1:13-24

13 You have heard of my earlier way of life as a Jew. With all my strength I attacked the church of God. I tried to destroy it. 14 I was moving ahead in my Jewish way of life. I went beyond many Jews who were my own age. I held firmly to the teachings passed down by my people. 15 But God set me apart from the time I was born. He showed me his grace by appointing me. He was pleased 16 to show his Son in my life. He wanted me to preach about Jesus among those who aren’t Jews. When God appointed me, I didn’t talk to anyone. 17 I didn’t go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went at once into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem. I went there to get to know Peter. I stayed with him for 15 days. 19 I didn’t see any of the other apostles. I only saw James, the Lord’s brother. 20 Here is what you can be sure of. And God gives witness to it. What I am writing you is not a lie. 21 Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 The members of Christ’s churches in Judea did not know me in a personal way. 23 They only heard others say, “The man who used to attack us has changed. He is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

v1 “you know what I was like…”

This is a great “before and after” Jesus story. Paul is a changed man. Before Christ he persecuted the church, after Christ he discovered Jesus had a plan to use him to preach “the very faith he tried to destroy”. The evidence of his faith is in his changed life.

My life is changed and being changed by Jesus. After being at the “Following Jesus, Fishing for people” course this week, I am reflecting on how following Jesus has changed my life. I need to be able to tell others what is different in my life because of Christ. I want to be able to share the good things that knowing, loving and trusting Jesus brings to my life. Hope when things seem hopeless, peace when the storm is raging, direction when I don’t know where to go, a community of faith to belong to and love and be loved by.

Thank you for changing my life in so many ways Jesus. As I reflect on what you have done and continue to do in me – show me the parts of “our” story that will help my friends see you.

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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Saturday 8 June, 2013

Galatians 1: 11-12

11 Brothers and sisters, here is what I want you to know. The good news I preached is not something a human being made up. 12 No one gave it to me. No one taught it to me. Instead, I received it from Jesus Christ. He showed it to me.

Paul is defending himself, the origin of his message – perhaps even his salvation.

He’s making it very plain to the Galatians that the Gospel message he proclaims has not come by his culture or upbringing, training or traditions passed on to him by others but from a personal encounter directly with Jesus.  (see Acts 9)

This makes me think of my salvation – I may have been brought up in a ‘Christian’ culture, my family may have taken me to Sunday School & Church but none of those made me a Christian.  It was only my own personal encounter with Jesus that changed me completely and forever and has given me an authority to tell others about Him.

I know my encounter with Jesus is totally different to Pauls’ but I needed it as much as he did.

Jesus, I pray that I would never loose sight of that personal encounter I’ve had with you, how completely it has changed my life and how it now qualifies me to tell others about you.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Friday 7 June, 2013

Galatians 1:6-10

6 I am amazed. You are so quickly deserting the One who chose you because of the grace that Christ has provided. You are turning to a different “good news.” 7 What you are accepting is really not the good news at all. It seems that some people have gotten you all mixed up. They are trying to twist the good news about Christ. 8 But suppose even we should preach a different “good news.” Suppose even an angel from heaven should preach it. I’m talking about a different one than the good news we gave you. Let anyone who does that be judged by God forever. 9 I have already said it. Now I will say it again. Anyone who preaches a “good news” that is different from the one you accepted should be judged by God forever. 10 Am I now trying to get people to think well of me? Or do I want God to think well of me? Am I trying to please people? If I were, I would not be serving Christ.

Paul uses quite strong words here to express his amazement that the Galatians are turning away from their “freedom” in Christ and are instead turning to a different gospel – one which diminishes the grace of God.  But this passage does make me wonder – do I do that?  Do I forget about the truly amazing power there is present in the gospel because Christ has set us free from the power of sin and death and do I instead grasp at rules and regulations that I feel I should follow?  The grace of Christ is so counter-cultural and, at times, so “counter-me”!

Lord, help me to “live in the grace of Christ” as Paul calls it.  Lord help me to turn away from the “tick the box”, controlling, rules and regulations that my flesh so often desires and instead help me to continue to fix my eyes firmly on you and your grace.  Amen

Written by Ps. Jen Irving

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Thursday 6 June, 2013

Galatains 1:1-5

1 I, Paul, am writing this letter. I am an apostle. People have not sent me. No human authority has sent me. I have been sent by Jesus Christ and by God the Father. God raised Jesus from the dead. 2 All the brothers who are with me join me in writing. We are sending this letter to you, the members of the churches in Galatia. 3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 4 Jesus gave his life for our sins. He set us free from this evil world. That was what our God and Father wanted. 5 Give glory to God for ever and ever. Amen.

Wow what an introduction to a letter!  It leaves me with anticipation.

I love how Paul identifies himself with God, not simply as a man but one chosen by God.  How often do I look down on myself and my abilities rather than reminding myself that I am chosen by God, appointed by God and empowered by God!

I need to remind myself that I am not simply doing what I want, but what God wants!  That I live this life for God’s glory, free of sin because of the sacrifice Christ made on my behalf for my sin.

I love that I am God’s child!

Father, today I remind myself that I don’t live this life simply on my own authority or by my own will – I choose to honour You in all I do and I choose to do all I do reliant on You and in Your power and authority!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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Wednesday 5 June, 2013

Psalm 41

1 Blessed is the one who cares about weak people. When he is in trouble, the Lord saves him. 2 The Lord will guard him and keep him alive. He will bless him in the land. He won’t hand him over to the wishes of his enemies. 3 The Lord will take care of him when he is lying sick in bed. He will make him well again. 4 I said, “Lord, show me your favor. Heal me. I have sinned against you.” 5 My enemies are saying bad things about me. They say, “When will he die and be forgotten?” 6 When anyone comes to see me, he says things he doesn’t mean. At the same time, he thinks up lies to tell against me. Then he goes out and spreads those lies around. 7 All of my enemies whisper to each other about me. They want something terrible to happen to me. 8 They say, “He is sick and will die very soon. He will never get up from his bed again.” 9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted, has deserted me. I even shared my bread with him. 10 But Lord, show me your favor. Make me well, so I can pay them back. 11 Then I will know that you are pleased with me, because my enemies haven’t won the battle over me. 12 You will take good care of me because I’ve been honest. You will let me be with you forever. 13 Give praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, for ever and ever. Amen and Amen.

David is sick, praying for healing but also expressing his grief that both enemies and friends are wishing the worst and gossiping. You can feel that David is broken over this, perhaps feeling offended, betrayed and isolated.

But, he turns to God.
Romans 8:31b (TNIV)
If God is for us, who can be against us?

God binds the broken hearted.
He raises us up.
He lifts our head.
He causes us to stand upright.
We can stand in his presence and enjoy Him forever.

Enjoying Him “forever” can be a mental concept put off for the future. Let’s make sure we enjoy Him today.

Thank you for your companionship, Lord. Heal my broken places so I can stand upright and enjoy your presence today. Amen.

Written by Lyndall Gourlay

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Tuesday 4 June, 2013

Psalm 40

1 I was patient while I waited for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. 2 I was sliding down into the pit of death, and he pulled me out. He brought me up out of the mud and dirt. He set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand on. 3 He gave me a new song to sing. It is a hymn of praise to our God. Many people will see what he has done and will worship him. They will put their trust in the Lord. 4 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. He doesn’t look to proud people for help. He doesn’t turn away to worship statues of gods. 5 Lord my God, no one can compare with you. You have done many miracles. And you plan to do many more for us. There are too many of them for me to talk about. 6 You didn’t want sacrifices and offerings. You weren’t pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. You gave me ears to hear you and obey you. 7 Then I said, “Here I am. It is written about me in the scroll. 8 My God, I have come to do what you want. Your law is in my heart.” 9 I have told the whole community of those who worship you that what you do is right. Lord, you know that I haven’t kept quiet. 10 I haven’t kept to myself that what you did for me was right. I have spoken about how faithful you were when you saved me. I haven’t hidden your love and truth from the whole community. 11 Lord, don’t hold back your mercy from me. May your love and truth always keep me safe. 12 There are more troubles all around me than I can count. My sins have caught up with me, and I can’t see any longer. My sins are more than the hairs of my head. I have lost all hope. 13 Lord, please save me. Lord, come quickly to help me. 14 Let all those who are trying to kill me be put to shame. Let them not be honored. Let all those who want to destroy me be turned back in shame. 15 Some people make fun of me. Let them be shocked when their plans fail. 16 But let all those who look to you be joyful and glad because of what you have done. Let those who love you because you save them always say, “May the Lord be honored!” 17 But I am poor and needy. May the Lord be concerned about me. You are the One who helps me and saves me. My God, please don’t wait any longer.

Waiting is not easy, because it always comes with patience and faith.

David was a person who had been saved by God many many times. He knew God lifted him out of the mud, out of enemies, set his feet on a rock, and put a new song in his mouth. God had done many wonders and they would be too many to declare. So, he knew he had to wait for God patiently, but, in the end of his psalm, he asked God “DO NOT DELAY”.

How many times have I lost the patience after praying to God to lift me out of the down-times, or approved my desire to see someone healed, or make my ministry or business have great success. Sometimes, I even thought maybe “sacrifice or offering can make my prayers happen quicker, and can push God hear my prayer.

Oh Lord, how great you are. You are never slow in keeping your word. You have heard each of my prayers. You always wait in mercy for me. Please refresh my spirit and my mind to remember that it is NOT I waiting for you, but YOU waiting for me. Amen.

Written by Allen Leu

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Monday 3 June, 2013

Psalm 39

1 I said, “I will be careful about how I live. I will not sin by what I say. I will keep my mouth closed when sinful people are near me.” 2 I was silent and kept quiet. I didn’t even say anything good. But the pain inside me grew worse. 3 My heart was deeply troubled. As I thought about what was happening to me, I became even more troubled. Then I spoke out. 4 I said, “Lord, show me when my life will end. Show me how many days I have left. Tell me how short my life will be. 5 You have given me only a few days to live. My whole life doesn’t seem like anything to you. No man’s life lasts any longer than a breath. Selah 6 People are only shadows as they go here and there. They rush around, but it doesn’t mean anything. They pile up wealth, but they don’t know who will get it. 7 “Lord, what can I look forward to now? You are the only hope I have. 8 Save me from all the wrong things I’ve done. Don’t let foolish people make fun of me. 9 I keep silent. I don’t open my mouth. You are the one who has caused all of this to happen. 10 Please stop beating me. I’m about to die from the blows of your hand. 11 You correct and punish people for their sin. Just as a moth eats cloth, you destroy their wealth. No one’s life lasts any longer than a breath. Selah 12 “Lord, hear my prayer. Listen to my cry for help. Pay attention to my sobbing. I’m like a guest in your home. I’m only a visitor, like all of my family who lived before me. 13 Leave me alone. Let me be full of joy again before I die.”

I think David is talking about here what happens when you try and live up to God’s standard or what we perceive is God’s standard all by ourselves without God’s help. He talks at the beginning of how hard it is to do the right thing in the midst of the world. He tried and tried and he just couldn’t do it, he just became more uncomfortable. It seems he was annoyed with himself for not speaking out against wickedness as well as with those around him being wicked.

Then he recognised that God is in charge. He also realised that each of us is but a puff of air when we consider God and His plan for man which triggered a change in his view.

His response to this realisation was to see that he could place his hope in God. That God sees the bigger picture and has a much better understanding of what is going on. That there is a good reason to struggle with our own behaviour and everyone else’s behaviour – because God asks us too and He is keen to help. God cares about us, wants to help and train us to see the bigger picture of His plan for man.

Dear Lord, help me to come to you, to ask for your help, to not just shut you out and try and “be good” all by myself. I want to play a part in your plan Lord so I need to see the bigger picture and I need to trust you even when I can’t see the bigger picture. Thanks that this is part of Your plan too.

Written by Therese Manning

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Sunday 2nd June, 2013

Psalm 38

1 Lord, don’t correct me when you are angry. Don’t punish me when you are burning with anger. 2 You have wounded me with your arrows. You have struck me with your hand. 3 Because of your anger, my whole body is sick. Because of my sin, I’m not healthy. 4 My guilt has become too much for me. It is a load too heavy to carry. 5 My wounds are ugly. They stink. I’ve been foolish. I have sinned. 6 I am bent over. I’ve been brought very low. All day long I go around sobbing. 7 My back is filled with burning pain. My whole body is sick. 8 I am weak. I feel as if I’ve been broken in pieces. I groan because of the great pain in my heart. 9 Lord, everything I really want is clearly known to you. You always hear me when I sigh. 10 My heart pounds. My strength is gone. My eyes can hardly see. 11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds. My neighbors stay far away from me. 12 Those who are trying to kill me set their traps. Those who want to harm me talk about destroying me. All day long they plan ways to trick me. 13 I’m like a deaf person. I can’t hear. I’m like someone who can’t speak, who can’t say a word. 14 I’m like a man who doesn’t hear. I’m like someone whose mouth can’t make any reply. 15 Lord, I wait for you to help me. Lord my God, I know you will answer. 16 I said, “Don’t let my enemies have the joy of seeing me fall. Don’t let them brag when my foot slips.” 17 I am about to fall. My pain never leaves me. 18 I admit that I have done wrong. I am troubled by my sin. 19 I have many powerful enemies. They are strong and healthy. They hate me without any reason. 20 They pay me back with evil, even though I was good to them. They tell lies about me because I try to do what is good. 21 Lord, don’t desert me. My God, don’t be far away from me. 22 Lord my Savior, come quickly to help me.

David is desperate for God.  He is pouring out his heart before God and holding nothing back. He does not want to be alone yet isolation is a constant theme throughout this Psalm.  David feels distant not only from his Lord but also family and friends.  Why does David feel so alone?  Sin separates us from God.

We also learn that David is deeply convicted of his sin and is truly sorry for his actions.  Much of the middle of the psalm lists the consequences of sin such as pain, grief, a sense of being overwhelmed, weak, anxious, even physical pain.

David has no time for what his enemies might say or do.  He wants God – he’s the only one who can help!

I am touched by the raw honesty of David before God.  I’m also more aware of the gravity of sin and the need for repentance.  Sin is serious, sometimes I can be a little blasé about it, not fully realising the consequences nor the separation from God that it causes.

Dear Lord, help me to be truly honest before you like David.  Help me not to take sin lightly remembering to confess, repent and restore my relationship with you. Amen

Written by Ainslie Woods

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Saturday 1 June, 2013

Psalm 37

1 Don’t be upset because of sinful people. Don’t be jealous of those who do wrong. 2 Like grass, they will soon dry up. Like green plants, they will soon die. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live in the land and enjoy its food. 4 Find your delight in the Lord. Then he will give you everything your heart really wants. 5 Commit your life to the Lord. Here is what he will do if you trust in him. 6 He will make your godly ways shine like the dawn. He will make your honest life shine like the sun at noon. 7 Be still. Be patient. Wait for the Lord to act. Don’t be upset when other people succeed. Don’t be upset when they carry out their evil plans. 8 Keep from being angry. Turn away from anger. Don’t be upset. That only leads to evil. 9 Sinful people will be cut off from the land. But it will be given to those who put their hope in the Lord. 10 In a little while, there won’t be any more sinners. Even if you look for them, you won’t be able to find them. 11 But those who are free of pride will be given the land. They will enjoy great peace. 12 Sinful people make plans to harm those who do what is right. They grind their teeth at them. 13 But the Lord laughs at those who do evil. He knows the day is coming when he will judge them. 14 Sinners pull out their swords. They bend their bows. They want to kill poor and needy people. They plan to murder those who lead honest lives. 15 But they will be killed with their own swords. Their own bows will be broken. 16 Those who do what is right may have very little. But it’s better than the wealth of many sinners. 17 The power of those who are evil will be broken. But the Lord takes good care of those who do what is right. 18 Every day the Lord watches over those who are without blame. What he has given them will last forever. 19 When trouble comes to them, they will have what they need. When there is little food in the land, they will still have plenty. 20 But sinful people will die. The Lord’s enemies will be like flowers in the field. They will disappear like smoke. 21 Sinful people borrow and don’t pay back. But those who are godly give freely to others. 22 The Lord will give the land to those he blesses. But he will cut off those he puts a curse on. 23 If the Lord is pleased with the way a man lives, he makes his steps secure. 24 Even if the man trips, he won’t fall. The Lord’s hand takes good care of him. 25 I once was young, and now I’m old. But I’ve never seen godly people deserted. I’ve never seen their children begging for bread. 26 The godly are always giving and lending freely. Their children will be blessed. 27 Turn away from evil and do good. Then you will live in the land forever. 28 The Lord loves those who are honest. He will not desert those who are faithful to him. They will be kept safe forever. But the children of sinners will be cut off from the land. 29 Those who do what is right will be given the land. They will live in it forever. 30 The mouths of those who do what is right speak words of wisdom. They say what is honest. 31 God’s law is in their hearts. Their feet do not slip. 32 Those who are evil hide and wait for godly people. They are trying to kill them. 33 But the Lord will not leave the godly in their power. He will not let them be found guilty when they are brought into court. 34 Wait for the Lord to act. Live as he wants you to. He will honor you by giving you the land. When sinners are cut off from it, you will see it. 35 I saw a mean and sinful person. He was doing well, like a green tree in its own soil. 36 But he soon passed away and was gone. Even though I looked for him, I couldn’t find him. 37 Think about those who are without blame. Look at those who are honest. A man who loves peace will have a tomorrow. 38 But all sinners will be destroyed. Those who are evil won’t have a tomorrow. They will be cut off from the land. 39 The Lord saves those who do what is right. He is their place of safety when trouble comes. 40 The Lord helps them and saves them. He saves them from sinful people because they go to him for safety.

This psalm seems to regularly acknowledge that wicked and ungodly people do prosper, but emphasises that the people who have faith In God – the righteous – will prosper in the long run. For me, this psalm reminds me of the need to keep thinking about eternity rather than becoming short sighted in my daily struggles. The only ways that I know how to achieve this are to:

1) keep reading God’s word

2) pray regularly

and

3) be in regular contact with God’s people, through His Church.

Palms like this remind me of the importance of remaining faithful, as there is such an amazing reward in eternity.

God, hold me close and help me to always seek to draw nearer to you, especially when I see injustice.

Written by Justin Ware

 

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