Sunday 31 January, 2016

Luke 1:39-45

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in Judea’s hill country. 40 There she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby inside her jumped. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she called out, “God has blessed you more than other women. And blessed is the child you will have! 43 But why is God so kind to me? Why has the mother of my Lord come to me? 44 As soon as I heard the sound of your voice, the baby inside me jumped for joy. 45 You are a woman God has blessed. You have believed that the Lord would keep his promises to you!”

Mary has just been told she will become pregnant with the messiah. The Holy Spirit told her a whole lot of things but one thing was that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. It would have been a very strange situation that Mary found herself in, so as soon as she could she went to see Elizabeth. I imagine it was in part to check the one thing that she could confirm. She had to go and visit to find out, there were no phones or any other easy way to check. She committed to a journey and an extended visit. She may have also gone to hide away from those who knew her while the pregnancy started to show. Either way Elizabeth’s reaction must have helped her get comfortable with what she was told and what was going to happen to her.

It’s something we can learn from. Mary believed the Holy Spirit but she also built on her faith by confirming something she could check. We can find it difficult to believe what God says in the Word or in our prayers especially if it doesn’t match the way we feel or the circumstances we find ourselves in. Mary demonstrated that instead of walking away, we should walk into the situation. We should focus on the things we know to be true and things we can confirm to be true from what God tells us. To focus on what we can believe and see what might follow rather than worrying about the things as yet unseen. The more we build up our ability to believe God by practising and confirming, the more we can have faith for things that are hard to believe in.

Lord help us to focus on what we can see to be true. There are so many things You say and You promise in the Bible that we can find hard to believe, especially things about ourselves. Help us to exercise our faith with things we can confirm and see where they lead us so that we can get better at believing things we cannot see. Yet. Thank You.

Written by Therese Manning

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Saturday 30 January, 2016

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month after Elizabeth had become pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee. 27 He was sent to a virgin. The girl was engaged to a man named Joseph. He came from the family line of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel greeted her and said, “The Lord has blessed you in a special way. He is with you.” 29 Mary was very upset because of his words. She wondered what kind of greeting this could be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary. God is very pleased with you. 31 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king like his father David of long ago. 33 The Son of the Most High God will rule forever over his people. They are from the family line of Jacob. That kingdom will never end.” 34 “How can this happen?” Mary asked the angel. “I am a virgin.” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come to you. The power of the Most High God will cover you. So the holy one that is born will be called the Son of God. 36 Your relative Elizabeth will have a child even though she is old. People thought she could not have children. But she has been pregnant for six months now. 37 That’s because what God says will always come true.” 38 “I serve the Lord,” Mary answered. “May it happen to me just as you said it would.” Then the angel left her.
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Friday 29 January, 2016

Luke 1:5-25

5 Herod was king of Judea. During the time he was ruling, there was a priest named Zechariah. He belonged to a group of priests named after Abijah. His wife Elizabeth also came from the family line of Aaron. 6 Both of them did what was right in the sight of God. They obeyed all the Lord’s commands and rules faithfully. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was not able to have any. And they were both very old. 8 One day Zechariah’s group was on duty. He was serving as a priest in God’s temple. 9 He happened to be chosen, in the usual way, to go into the temple of the Lord. There he was supposed to burn incense. 10 The time came for this to be done. All who had gathered to worship were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah. The angel was standing at the right side of the incense altar. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was amazed and terrified. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will have a child. It will be a boy, and you must call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you. His birth will make many people very glad. 15 He will be important in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or other such drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will prepare the way for the Lord. He will have the same spirit and power that Elijah had. He will bring peace between parents and their children. He will teach people who don’t obey to be wise and do what is right. In this way, he will prepare a people who are ready for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is old too.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I serve God. I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will have to be silent. You will not be able to speak until after John is born. That’s because you did not believe my words. They will come true at the time God has chosen.” 21 During that time, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the temple. They wondered why he stayed there so long. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple. They knew this because he kept gesturing to them. He still could not speak. 23 When his time of service was over, he returned home. 24 After that, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She stayed at home for five months. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days, he has been kind to me. He has taken away my shame among the people.”
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Thursday 28 January, 2016

Luke 1:1-4

1 Many people have attempted to write about the things that have taken place among us. 2 Reports of these things were handed down to us. There were people who saw these things for themselves from the beginning. They saw them and then passed the word on. 3 With this in mind, I myself have carefully looked into everything from the beginning. So I also decided to write down an orderly report of exactly what happened. I am doing this for you, most excellent Theophilus. 4 I want you to know that the things you have been taught are true.

The first four verses of the book of Luke are a simple introduction that Luke writes to Theophilus. Luke succinctly outlines his intentions in writing his book, and then continues on to depict the events at hand.
Luke is the only gospel writer who includes an introduction, and it provides us with a small glimpse of personal understanding of who he was. From these four verses alone we can see that Luke was a man who was interested in carefully investigating the stories of Jesus that had been passed down, from the beginning, & that he wanted to write the full truth about what was being taught.
I am encouraged by Luke’s eagerness to know and share the truth and to speak from a place of assured accuracy. By carefully investigating what was being spoken & taught about the life of Jesus and the events at the time, Luke was able to present a thorough & truthful account that has been proven invaluable to many, many people since it’s intended audience at the time, including myself.
Lord, let us be encouraged by this to be people who know the truth of the Word of God and seek to share it with those around us.

Written by Madelaine Tarasenko

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Wednesday 27 January, 2016

Genesis 50:22-26

22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived 110 years. 23 He lived long enough to see Ephraim’s children and grandchildren. When the children of Makir were born, they were placed on Joseph’s knees and counted as his own children. Makir was the son of Manasseh. 24 Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m about to die. But God will surely come to help you. He’ll take you up out of this land. He’ll bring you to the land he promised to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 Joseph made the Israelites promise him. He said, “God will surely come to help you. Then you must carry my bones up from this place.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of 110. They prepared his body to be buried. Then he was placed in a casket in Egypt.
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Tuesday 26 January, 2016

Genesis‬ ‭50:15-21‬ ‬

22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived 110 years. 23 He lived long enough to see Ephraim’s children and grandchildren. When the children of Makir were born, they were placed on Joseph’s knees and counted as his own children. Makir was the son of Manasseh. 24 Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m about to die. But God will surely come to help you. He’ll take you up out of this land. He’ll bring you to the land he promised to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 Joseph made the Israelites promise him. He said, “God will surely come to help you. Then you must carry my bones up from this place.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of 110. They prepared his body to be buried. Then he was placed in a casket in Egypt.

This is amongst my favourite passages of the Bible! If you have been reading along in Genesis with us, you would know that Joseph’s life had been marked with pain, shame and disaster; and all of it can be traced back to the evil actions of his brothers who sold him as a young man into slavery.

But that is not the full story, if you have been following along you would also know that Joseph’s life has been marked by immense favour from God. He has been raised up to numerous prominent positions and now stands only second the Pharaoh of Egypt!

Four things strike me:

  1. Divine favour does not exclude suffering. I am currently reading Revelation and the whole book is kind of written to say the same thing but the other way around – “yes you may be suffering now, but that doesn’t mean you have lost the divine favour over your life!”
  1. God never creates evil, people create evil.
  1. God intends good, and those good plans are not stopped by humanity’s evil. In fact, some how they become part of the glorious good God is doing!
  1. This is one of the reasons I can forgive people for evil done to me.

Lord God, the day of evil’s defeat is coming, the day is coming where death itself is destroyed. Until that day, while I still share this earth with evil, I know that evil will not stop you from doing wonderful good in me and through me to all those around me! Lead me into forgiving those who hurt me and trusting you who leads me. Amen.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Monday 25 January, 2016

Genesis 50:1-14

50 Joseph threw himself on his father’s body. He wept over him and kissed him. 2 Then Joseph talked to the doctors who served him. He told them to prepare the body of his father Israel to be buried. So the doctors prepared it. 3 They took 40 days to do it. They needed that much time to prepare a body in the right way. The Egyptians mourned for Jacob 70 days. 4 After the days of sadness had passed, Joseph went to Pharaoh’s officials. He said to them, “If you are pleased with me, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, 5 ‘My father made me give my word to him. He said, “I’m about to die. Bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” So let me go there and bury my father. Then I’ll come back.’ ” 6 Pharaoh said, “Go there and bury your father. Do what he made you promise to do.” 7 So Joseph went to Canaan to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials went with him. They were the important people of his court and all the leaders of Egypt. 8 Joseph’s family also went. His brothers and all the rest of his father’s family went. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. 9 Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large group. 10 They came to Atad, a place where grain was processed. It was near the Jordan River. There they sobbed loudly and bitterly. Joseph set apart seven days of sadness to honor his father’s memory. 11 The Canaanites living in that area saw how sad all of them were. They said, “The Egyptians are having a very special service for the dead.” That’s why that place near the Jordan River is called Abel of the Egyptians. 12 So Jacob’s sons did exactly as he had commanded them. 13 They carried his body to the land of Canaan. They buried it in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre. Abraham had bought the cave as a place where he could bury his wife’s body. He had bought the cave and the field from Ephron, the Hittite. 14 After Joseph buried his father, he went back to Egypt. His brothers and all the others who had gone to help him bury his father went back with him.

God had brought Jacob and his sons to a place of safety and prosperity, but they were not in the place of God’s promises. In death, Jacob is free to return to the promised land, but Joseph is not. Although he has risen to be the second most powerful man in Egypt, Joseph is still Pharaoh’s slave. He has to ask permission to return and bury his father and must promise to return. Their children remain behind. He’s accompanied by a whole army, perhaps for his protection, perhaps to ensure he returns. God’s people would not be free to return to the place of His promises for another 400 years.

Have God’s promises gone wrong?

There are certainly times during their slavery when it would have seemed like it. And we know how they grumbled during their rescue and journey out of slavery. But we know that this experience was also a picture of our slavery to sin, our rescue through Jesus (our Passover lamb) and our journey into God’s promises.

We know it was God’s perfect timing, but it can be hard to see when you are in the middle of it.

I need to remember this when it’s someone I love stuck in slavery to sin and death, when God’s promises are not happening when I expect them.

Thank you, Jesus, that you have already acted decisively to rescue us and to make things right. Your promises will be fulfilled at just the right time.

Written by David Cornell

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Sunday 24 January, 2016

Genesis 49:29-33

29 Then Jacob gave directions to his sons. He said, “I’m about to join the members of my family who have already died. Bury me with them in the cave in the field of Ephron, the Hittite. 30 The cave is in the field of Machpelah near Mamre in Canaan. Abraham had bought it as a place where he could bury his wife’s body. He had bought the cave and the field from Ephron, the Hittite. 31 The bodies of Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried there. So were the bodies of Isaac and his wife Rebekah. I also buried Leah’s body there. 32 Abraham bought the field and the cave from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob had finished telling his sons what to do, he pulled his feet up into his bed. Then he took his last breath and died. He joined the members of his family who had already died.

Jacob is dying and repeats his request that his sons bury him in the Land of Promise with his fathers.  He wanted to be buried in “Machpelah”, the burial place purchased by Abraham in Genesis 23.  He is clear that he wants to be buried in the land with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah.  Why?  I am not certain, but there was a profound connection between the Israelites and the land, the Promised land.  Jacob’s ancestors were to live in peace in the land promised to Abraham and Isaac, and he wanted to be there.  Jacob is expressing faith that God’s promises remained firm to the end.

What would be your dying request – would it be an expression of faith like Jacob.  I am so challenged by this – here this man of God is stilling confessing his faith right up until the very end – still looking to see what God will do – positioning himself for the future.

Father help me to keep calling on your Name, to keep expressing faith all the way through to my last breath!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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Saturday 23 January, 2016

Genesis 49:1-28

49 Then Jacob sent for his sons. He said, “Gather around me so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. 2 “Sons of Jacob, come together and listen. Listen to your father Israel. 3 “Reuben, you are my oldest son. You were my first child. You were the first sign of my strength. You were first in honor. You were first in power. 4 But you are as unsteady as water. So you won’t be first anymore. You had sex with my concubine on my bed. You lay on my couch and made it ‘unclean.’ 5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers. Their swords have killed a lot of people. 6 I won’t share in their plans. I won’t have anything to do with them. They became angry and killed people. They cut the legs of oxen just for the fun of it. 7 May the Lord put a curse on them because of their terrible anger. I will scatter them in Jacob’s land. I will spread them around in Israel. 8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your enemies will be brought under your control. Your father’s sons will bow down to you. 9 Judah, you are like a lion’s cub. You return from hunting, my son. Like a lion, you lie down and sleep. You are like a mother lion. Who dares to wake you up? 10 The right to rule will not leave Judah. The ruler’s scepter will not be taken from between his feet. It will be his until the king it belongs to will come. The nations will obey that king. 11 He will tie his donkey to a vine. He will tie his colt to the very best branch. He will wash his clothes in wine. He will wash his robes in the red juice of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine. His teeth will be whiter than milk. 13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore. He will become a safe harbor for ships. His border will go out toward Sidon. 14 “Issachar is like a wild donkey lying down among the sheep pens. 15 He sees how good his resting place is. He sees that his land is pleasant. So he will carry a heavy load on his back. He will obey when he’s forced to work. 16 “Dan will do what is fair for his people. He will do it as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan will be a snake by the side of the road. He will be a poisonous snake along the path. It bites the horse’s heels so that the rider falls off backward. 18 “Lord, I look to you to save me. 19 “Gad will be attacked by a group of robbers. But he will attack them as they run away. 20 “Asher’s food will be rich and sweet. He will provide food that even a king would enjoy. 21 “Naphtali is a female deer set free and gives birth to beautiful fawns. 22 “Joseph is a vine that grows a lot of fruit. It grows close by a spring. Its branches climb over a wall. 23 Mean people shot arrows at him. They shot at him because they were angry. 24 But his bow remained steady. His strong arms moved freely. The hand of the Mighty God of Jacob was with him. The Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, stood by him. 25 Joseph, your father’s God helps you. The Mighty God blesses you. He gives you blessings from the sky above. He gives you blessings from the deep springs below. He blesses you with children and with a mother’s milk. 26 Your father’s blessings are great. They are greater than the blessings from the age-old mountains. They are greater than the gifts from the ancient hills. Let all those blessings rest on the head of Joseph. Let them rest on the head of the one who is prince among his brothers. 27 “Benjamin is a hungry wolf. In the morning he eats what he has killed. In the evening he shares what he has stolen.” 28 All these are the 12 tribes of Israel. That’s what their father said to them when he blessed them. He gave each one the blessing that was just right for him.

Wow, Jacob is not holding back here! On his death bed he speaks over each of his sons and really tells it like he sees it, speaking about their pasts and prophesying about their futures. There is no glossing over the faults of some, and no holding back his strong praise for others – Joseph in particular. They were all sons of Jacob, but not all treated equally.

This reminds me of what will take place one day as we all stand before our Father in heaven and He’ll judge how we each have lived our lives. I would love to have my Father God speak about me the way Jacob spoke about Joseph.

Allow me to paraphrase Jacob’s words spoken over Joseph, and imagine God speaking them over my life as I stand before his throne in heaven one day (you might like to substitute your name)…

”Shelley lived a fruitful life. Her life was like a vine planted near a spring and this fruitful vine was able to climb over walls – opposition did not stop her! When trials came her way she remained steady because she placed her life in the hand of the almighty God, her Shepherd and her Rock. Therefore I, her Father, have blessed her all the days of her life and will continue to bless her right throughout all eternity.”

Wouldn’t that be good to hear God say that about your life? I am determined not to just accept, embrace or make allowances for my weaknesses and fall short of the discipline and plan of God for me. Let me press on to the goal of a life well lived, pleasing to my Father in every way.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Friday 22 January, 2016

Genesis 48:17-22

17 Joseph saw his father putting his right hand on Ephraim’s head. And Joseph didn’t like it. So he took hold of his father’s hand to move it over to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father. Here’s my older son. Put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father wouldn’t do it. He said, “I know, my son. I know. He too will become a nation. He too will become great. But his younger brother will be greater than he is. His children after him will become a group of nations.” 20 On that day, Jacob gave them his blessing. He said, “The people of Israel will bless others in your name. They will say, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ ” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I’m about to die. But God will be with all of you. He’ll take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 But to you, Joseph, I am giving more land than your brothers. I’m giving you the land I took from the Amorites. I took it with my sword and bow.”

At the time when this story was told the first born son was always the chosen son, the one to inherit the position, fortune, favour and blessing. He was the one who would carry the responsibility of the family. He would maintain the family line. Then his first born son would follow in this same pattern.

This is a radical story. God is turning things upside down. Again. This theme of choosing one who is not first born has happened a number of times before this in the book of Genesis, and it continues through out the scriptures. God picks the unlikely candidates. So many of the big characters or Heros of the Old Testament; Joseph, Moses, David… They are not the first born, they are not the strongest or the wealthiest or the handsomest. They are not even the most willing – Moses wasn’t willing to be Gods spokes person at first, God had to convince him.

Funnily enough Joseph, who was not a first born son, in this story tries to help his aging father get it right by 1st putting the boys on the correct side for blessing, Jacob/Israel crosses his arms to bless the boys (giving the eldest sons blessing to the youngest). Joseph tries to correct him but he states that the blessing is to the youngest of these 2 sons. Joseph is displeased at the crossing of Jacobs arms vs 17. Isn’t it funny how we revert to the worlds ways, even when God has done incredible things in our lives that are opposed to or outside of these ways.

Why does God choose the unlikely candidates? Because He is not concerned with power, He is able to make kingdoms rise and fall. He is not concerned with wealth, He is the provider of all good things. He is not concerned with outward appearance, He looks upon the heart. He does not look at the eloquent, He is the one who makes the way. It is about the humble obedient heart. It is about people learning to trust and obey Him. It is about Him, the gracious, kind teacher, way maker, provider, who is faithful, able, good….

Father, thank you for choosing me to be your child and for giving me the opportunity to witness you to people. Help me to trust and obey you, humbling knowing my weakness And believing in your ability and goodness.

Written by Zoe Stewart

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  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Thanks Zoe, I love what you have written about us reverting back to the world’s ways even after God has done the incredible and different in our lives!!

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