Sunday 31 August, 2014

Matthew 21:28-32

28 “What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ the son answered. But later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son. He said the same thing. The son answered, ‘I will, sir.’ But he did not go. 31 “Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “What I’m about to tell you is true. Tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 John came to show you the right way to live. And you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. You saw this. But even then you did not turn away from your sins and believe him.

I have read this parable a number of times before and it has particularly dawned on me during this reading that the Kingdom of God is being compared to WORKING in a Vineyard, here as it is compared to working in other sections of scripture, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20 comes to mind. The notion of working for the kingdom is tied to obedience and faith here in the explanation that Jesus gives to the parable in Verse 32, but the intrinsic implication is that there will also be work involved!

Lord God, help us to understand the work that you have called us to do and to do it to the best of our ability

Written by Justin Ware

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Saturday 30 August, 2014

Matthew 21:18-27

18 Early in the morning, Jesus was on his way back to Jerusalem. He was hungry. 19 He saw a fig tree by the road. He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Right away the tree dried up. 20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?” they asked. 21 Jesus replied, “What I’m about to tell you is true. You must have faith and not doubt. Then you can do what was done to the fig tree. And you can say to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea.’ It will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive what you ask for when you pray.” 23 Jesus entered the temple courtyard. While he was teaching there, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “Who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 Where did John’s baptism come from? Was it from heaven? Or did it come from men?” They talked to each other about it. They said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But what if we say, ‘From men’? We are afraid of the people. Everyone believes that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I am doing these things either.

I am struck by the decisive words and conviction of Jesus in contrast to the indecisive and self-interested discussions of the chief priests and elders in these two accounts. I hear Jesus speaking to us who follow him: your faith in me and its expression in words and prayer has power to change things, so be intentional and decisive in what you say and believe for. And I see in the chief priests and elders dialogue amongst each other an indecisive response (“we don’t know”) to Jesus’ questioning that arose out of self-interest and political point scoring.

For me, Jesus is calling my words and my believing to be more decisive, faith-filled, and expectant. The disciples did not expect the withering to be so sudden – Jesus knew his words and his faith had power to literally change things, but He taught His disciples to expect the same for themselves. I need to heed Jesus’ word to me – your faith and its expression in words can make a literal difference around you. And I also hear Jesus saying – self-interest will kill the decisiveness of your words and the power of your faith to truly change things.

God, I thank you that you want us, your people, to make the same kind of difference in the world Jesus did when He was here. His words delivered people for sickness, death, hopelessness, and a God-less existence. This is not about being put under pressure, but about being disciples of Jesus. Our faith, and its expression in words, can really change things for the better. And Lord, keep our hearts from being overcome by self-interest which truly kills the power of faith. Amen

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Friday 29 August, 2014

Matthew 21:12-17

12 Jesus entered the temple area. He began chasing out all those who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of the people who were exchanging money. He also turned over the benches of those who were selling doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written that the Lord said, ‘My house will be called a house where people can pray.’ (Isaiah 56:7) But you are making it a ‘den for robbers.’” (Jeremiah 7:11) 14 Blind people and those who were disabled came to Jesus at the temple. There he healed them. 15 The chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did. They also saw the children in the temple area shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” But when they saw all of this, they became angry. 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus. “Haven’t you ever read about it in Scripture? It says, “‘You have made sure that children and infants praise you.’” (Psalm 8:2) 17 Then Jesus left the people and went out of the city to Bethany. He spent the night there.

The temple was a place for worshipping God, a place in the midst of a city, set apart for the purpose of drawing near to God and exalting Him. It had become a place of business, the intensity of focus on God was diluted by the presence of people buying and selling goods.

Where in my life have I become distracted from drawing near to God and exalting Him? What is diluting my intensity of focus on God? What needs to get overturned and thrown out so I can re-focus on God?

– What fears?
– What negative thinking?
– What things and tasks have I wrongly prioritised over God?
– What am I saying “this can’t wait” to, that can really wait?

Jesus, I invite you into my heart to overturn the tables of my priorities and throw out the distractions. I want the peace that comes from being focused on you. Help me worship you as number one in my life. Amen.

 

Written by Beth Waugh

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Thursday 28 August, 2014

Matthew 21:1-11

21 As they all approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage. It was on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent out two disciples. 2 He said to them, “Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey tied up. Her colt will be with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them. The owner will send them right away.” 4 This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet would come true. It says, 5 “Say to the city of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you. He is gentle and riding on a donkey. He is riding on a donkey’s colt.’” (Zechariah 9:9) 6 The disciples went and did what Jesus told them to do. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt. They placed their coats on them. Then Jesus sat on the coats. 8 A very large crowd spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Some of the people went ahead of him, and some followed. They all shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:26) “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. The people asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus. He is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

It’s a parade! Parades are meant to promote a concept or a cause. But this ‘parade’ was both different and unique. Riding on a donkey Jesus portrayed himself as a king. The nature of this parade was meant to announce the significance of his kingship – so different to the world’s concept of authority with its display of military power. Jesus wanted to depict a reign of an entirely different order – the Kingdom of God!

Most Jews in Jesus’ day expected a different kind of Savior. They thought that Messiah would be a mighty political deliverer who would lead Israel to military victory over Rome. They were not looking for a lowly Savior, riding on a donkey. They could not conceive of a suffering Savior, who offered Himself as the sacrifice for sinners. And so, tragically, they missed the coming of their King!

Christianity is still the one authentic faith which believes in Jesus as our Saviour and King who established a new Kingdom based on his sacrifice and powerful resurrection. Now by faith we are not only spectators of Jesus’ procession of victory but we are actively participating with Him in that victory parade! [2 Cor 2:14]

Praise and honour to you Jesus that by your ultimate sacrifice on the Cross you established an indestructible kingdom. Thank you that there is no more need for confusion because you have made it absolutely clear that you are the King. Thank you that you have called me into your Kingdom of love and peace and given me a royal status.

Written by Joan Bennett

2 replies
  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you Joan for your wisdom & inspiration. This passage is a great reminder for me that Jesus is king and I need to treat him as king.

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Wednesday 27 August, 2014

Matthew 20:29-34

29 Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho. A large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the side of the road. They heard that Jesus was going by. So they shouted, “Lord! Son of David! Have mercy on us!” 31 The crowd commanded them to stop. They told them to be quiet. But the two men shouted even louder, “Lord! Son of David! Have mercy on us!” 32 Jesus stopped and called out to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want to be able to see.” 34 Jesus felt deep concern for them. He touched their eyes. Right away they could see. And they followed him.

It happened as Jesus was leaving Jericho. The large crowd passed noisily by two blind men who sensed a unique opportunity! So they shouted out to Jesus across the hustle and bustle of the crowd.

They were relentless and ignored the protests of the crowd. Their determination paid off! Instantly He knew they were calling out to Him so He asked them what they wanted. They grasped the opportunity, and asked to see again. Jesus touched their eyes and their sight returned instantly. What a day for these men, a life-changing day they would never forget.

Two actions stand out for me – opportunity and determination, both of which can be life-changing! These men had been sitting outside the city gates for years with never an opportunity for healing. But when Jesus came by they immediately took action. Sometimes in life when such opportunities arrive there is no time for hesitation – Go for it!

Jesus expected them to take the initiative and ask Him for want they wanted. Sometimes our hesitation to ask means that we miss out on His best. Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek and knock [Matthew 7:7].

Thank you Jesus for your compassionate response to those blind men. Praise you that you are the same for us. Help me to recognise such opportunities when you give them and be determined to grasp them no matter what obstacles may be present.

Written by Keith Bennett

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Tuesday 26 August, 2014

Matthew 20:20-28

20 The mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus. Her sons came with her. Getting on her knees, she asked a favor of him. 21 “What do you want?” Jesus asked. She said, “Promise me that one of my two sons may sit at your right hand in your kingdom. Promise that the other one may sit at your left hand.” 22 “You don’t know what you’re asking for,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup of suffering I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, “You will certainly drink from my cup. But it is not for me to say who will sit at my right or left hand. These places belong to those my Father has prepared them for.” 24 The other ten disciples heard about this. They became angry at the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together. He said, “You know about the rulers of the nations. They hold power over their people. Their high officials order them around. 26 Don’t be like that. Instead, anyone who wants to be important among you must be your servant. 27 And anyone who wants to be first must be your slave. 28 “Be like the Son of Man. He did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free.”

Upon first reading of this passage it seems like this is a ridiculous, audacious request from the mother of James and John to ask for such a place of honour from Jesus. And yet, if I’m honest, I can see that same spirit in me at times – desiring honour and position.

Jesus’ response is to ask them to count the cost. If you want honour (in God’s kingdom) it’s going to come at a cost. We can look at Christians that we admire – perhaps someone like Billy Graham or Mother Theresa and think how wonderful it would be to have such an influential life. But are we willing to pay the price of sacrifice in service of others?

I find this quite challenging to continue to die to my own selfish desires and my own comfort and to serve as Jesus calls me to. Yet it is the only path to greatness in God’s kingdom.

Written by Shelley Witt

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    I am in complete agreement!
    It has always amazed me how often I need to recommit myself to the task of dying to self.
    Thanks Shelley

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Monday 25 August, 2014

Matthew 20: 17-19

17 Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the 12 disciples to one side to talk to them. 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said. “The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will sentence him to death. 19 Then they will turn him over to people who are not Jews. The people will make fun of him and whip him. They will nail him to a cross. On the third day, he will rise from the dead!”

This is a very short passage, yet is profound in what it says. It touches me in three ways.

The first is the intentionality of Jesus. He chose to go to Jerusalem, knowing that the chief priests and leaders there were looking for an opportunity to get him, and knowing exactly what would happen there. Sometimes I feel stressed about something I am facing. For me the stress of knowing it is coming is as bad or worse than the event itself. Jesus would have suffered enormous stress, but he did not waver in his choice to go.

The second way this touches me is Jesus’ care and concern for his disciples. Despite what he was facing himself he took time to warn them and care for them, because he knew the distress and depression they would suffer when he died. Jesus love was so sacrificial for his disciples and I know he has the same love for me.

Thirdly, I am always excited by prophecy in the Bible. I love the way the Bible fits together, with prophecies from hundreds of years earlier spoken again by Jesus and then fulfilled. I think this also shows God’s care for those of us who live many years after these events, because it explains the fact that Jesus chose to die for us and because it shows God’s hand at work through the ages.

Lord Jesus, I can’t thank you enough for the choice that you made to continue up that road to Jerusalem, and everything that would happen to you there. Thank you for loving us so much!

Written by Megan Cornell

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Sunday 24 August, 2014

Matthew 20:1-16

20 “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who owned land. He went out early in the morning to hire people to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to give them the usual pay for a day’s work. Then he sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About nine o’clock in the morning he went out again. He saw others standing in the market place doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard. I’ll pay you what is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about noon and at three o’clock and did the same thing. 6 About five o’clock he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard spoke to the person who was in charge of the workers. He said, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay. Begin with the last ones I hired. Then go on to the first ones.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five o’clock came. Each received the usual day’s pay. 10 So when those who were hired first came, they expected to receive more. But each of them also received the usual day’s pay. 11 “When they received it, they began to complain about the owner. 12 ‘These people who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said. ‘You have paid them the same as us. We have done most of the work and have been in the hot sun all day.’ 13 “The owner answered one of them. ‘Friend,’ he said, ‘I’m being fair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for the usual day’s pay? 14 Take your money and go. I want to give the ones I hired last the same pay I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Do you feel cheated because I gave so freely to the others?’ 16 “So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”

What does Jesus mean? “God, what is this about?” I have to admit to being confused by Jesus story and conclusion – so the last will be first and the first will be last.

Is God just out to spite human endeavour? Is he deliberately frustrating our attempts to ‘get ahead?’

The sense I get is that Jesus wants me to know that my worth in his Kingdom has nothing to do with my contribution. The King of Kings has set my worth. I am worth the price of His blood, His life. My wages for working in my Father’s field are new life, resurrection life, Holy Spirit infused life. I receive these wages no matter how long I have been labouring for. I receive them because my Father has determined that is my wage, that is everyone’s reward for following Jesus.

“Jesus, you set my worth – infinite. You set my wage – over abundance. Keep me from ever grumbling.”

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Saturday 23 August, 2014

Matthew 19:13-30

13 Some people brought little children to Jesus. They wanted him to place his hands on the children and pray for them. But the disciples told the people to stop. 14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like them.” 15 Jesus placed his hands on them. Then he went on from there. 16 A man came up to Jesus. He asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter the kingdom, obey the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man asked. Jesus said, “‘Do not commit murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness. 19 Honor your father and mother.’ (Exodus 20:12–16; Deuteronomy 5:16–20) And ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” (Leviticus 19:18) 20 “I have obeyed all those commandments,” the young man said. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad. He was very rich. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “What I’m about to tell you is true. It is hard for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is hard for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. But it is even harder for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were really amazed. They asked, “Then who can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, that is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.” 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What reward will be given to us?” 28 “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus said to them. “When all things are made new, the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne. Then you who have followed me will also sit on 12 thrones. You will judge the 12 tribes of Israel. 29 Everyone who has left houses or families or fields because of me will receive 100 times as much. They will also receive eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first.

Jesus turns everything upside down. He rearranges the social order according to God’s values.

The disciples put the children at the bottom, deeming them unworthy of Jesus’ time and attention. But God lets them into His Kingdom.

The rich young man put himself at the top and expected Jesus to reassure him that heaven would be his because of his righteous living. But when Jesus asked him to give up his possessions to the poor and follow Him, the man could not do it.

Jesus says that our heavenly rewards will be greater than our earthly losses if we follow Him.

The disciples are perplexed, if the rich and the righteous don’t get to heaven then who can? Jesus says that salvation doesn’t depend on who we are or what we do (our human attributes), but on God’s grace. It is easier for a child to come to God because they are unencumbered, simple and trusting. The rich and the self important people have too many worldly rewards to lose to follow Jesus.

I like my wealth and comforts and I can convince myself that this is ok as long as I see them as Gods blessings and I am thankful. But despite this I know that sometimes God calls me to give up some things to be available to do something for Him, but I hold back and say no.

Dear God please help me to see what is really valuable in your eyes, not mine. To rely on your security and grace, not possessions or status or good deeds. Help me to use what you have placed in my hands for your kingdom. Amen

Written by Dimity Milne

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Friday 22 August, 2014

Matthew 19:1-12

19 When Jesus finished saying these things, he left Galilee. He went into the area of Judea on the other side of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed him. He healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to put him to the test. They asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read that in the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’? (Genesis 1:27) 5 He said, ‘That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. The two will become one.’ (Genesis 2:24) 6 They are no longer two, but one. So a man must not separate what God has joined together.” 7 They asked, “Then why did Moses command that a man can give his wife a letter of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses let you divorce your wives because you were stubborn. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 Here is what I tell you. Anyone who divorces his wife and gets married to another woman commits adultery. A man may divorce his wife only if she has not been faithful to him.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If that’s the way it is between a husband and wife, it is better not to get married.” 11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept the idea of staying single. Only those who have been helped to live without getting married can accept it. 12 Some men are not able to have children because they were born that way. Some have been made that way by other people. Others have made themselves that way in order to serve the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept living that way should do it.”

These Pharisees come asking questions, but it’s not because they want to learn anything. I’m guessing they are asking about divorce because they already know what Jesus was teaching in chapter 5:31-32. They are intent on using God’s law to trip Jesus up: to trick him into saying something that will damage him.

These are people with logs in their eyes, determined to find a speck in Jesus’ eye, whether it’s there or not. These are people who are hoping for Jesus to sin, though he warned of the punishment for those who tempt in chapter 18:7.

I’m sure they knew that Moses added restrictions when a man gives a letter of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-2), rather than instituting it, as they said. They would also have known that God hates divorce and the pain it brings (Malachi 2:16). They are distorting God’s word to turn it into a tool for malice.

Unfortunately there are still people like that today.

Jesus handles it so much better than me. Rather than being defensive, responding to their challenge (as I would), he takes the initiative, stating what God’s word does say, what His heart is. Rather than beating around the bush with words designed not to offend (like me), he speaks plainly, accurately identifying the sinful place their argument is coming from. I have a lot to learn from him.

Father, give me the wisdom to know what you think, the words to express it with confidence to those who attack you, and the courage to speak plainly for you with directness and integrity.

Written by David Cornell

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