Wednesday 21 December, 2016

Luke 2:1-7

2 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The wonder of CHRISTmas mesmerises me.

God’s plan of love and redemption (deliverance, rescue, atonement and repurchase) for us to be set free.  What a day in history.

He takes Mary (from Nazareth) and Joseph (from Bethlehem) and they go on a journey to Bethlehem because of a Government requirement, which fulfils a prophecy from 700BC – Micah 5 v 2 “From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

I am overwhelmed by the plan (planned to the exact detail), by the love (willingness and sacrifice), by the humility (born as a child), and the desire of God Himself to be in relationship with me.  I am humbled by the willingness of Mary to be shamed and possibly killed (pregnant before marriage) and Joseph’s courage to assume his responsibility towards her.

I am so grateful for this ETERNAL GIFT – Jesus.

There is no other gift that has had such a profound impact on my life.

No gift under the tree this Christmas will compare with what Jesus has done in my life.

With such simplicity we can release our life to Him and He promises us ALL…His spirit, His love, His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His power and His courage……and the list goes on…..

Lord may my hands this Christmas be open.  May I be willing to receive all that you have for me. May I give even more than I receive. Help me this Christmas and in 2017 to be even more like you.

Written by Ps. Sue Botta

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    What a beautiful expression of simple appreciation for the Christmas narrative and what it means. Thanks Sue!

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Tuesday 20 December, 2016

Luke 1:46-56

46 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

Mary’s song of praise is magnificent. Her faith, taking God at his word that she would indeed mother the Saviour of the world, released such a joy into her heart that praise overflowed. She grasped incomprehensible, invisible, eternal things through believing God. She released a psalm that positioned her future in the midst of generations of God’s faithfulness, ‘His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation’ v50.

I am so humbled by the fact that I too am part of those ‘generations’. His mercy extends to me for all circumstances and through all times. Where is my song of praise? Where is my declaration that ‘from now on all generations will call me blessed?’ Because that is indeed what I am, blessed.

I am overwhelmed Lord by your love and faithfulness, that you have shown yourself unchanging throughout all time, I praise you this day for you are a magnificent God who ‘has done great things for me’. Amen

Written by Rosie Walker

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Monday 19 December, 2016

Luke 1:39-45

39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

A few days after Mary had been told that she would give birth to the Messiah, Mary goes to visit Elizabeth.

At the sound of Mary’s greeting, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and declares that Mary’s child is her Lord.

Jesus said to Thomas “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen”. This is so true of Elizabeth. There is no physical evidence yet that Mary is pregnant, it’s too early. Jesus has not given any signs that say that he is the promised Messiah, it’s too early.

But it is not too early for Elizabeth to declare that Jesus is her Lord. This is faith. It is faith to believe that which is not yet seen. It is faith to believe the word spoken by God.

There have been times, even now, when I don’t see what God has promised coming to pass. Especially at these times, I need to declare over it that Jesus is Lord.

Christmas is a reminder that when God makes a promise, he keeps his word, its going to happen.

Father, thank you for Elizabeth’s incredible example of faith. Thank you for all the promises that you have already fulfilled. Thank you for all the promises that are yet to be fulfilled. Over all these things concerning me, Jesus, you are Lord.

Written by Andrew Martin

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Sunday 18 December, 2016

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings,[a] favored woman! The Lord is with you![b]” 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[c] forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.[d]” 38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Mary is one of those characters in the Bible that carries a lot of weight in our world today. She is instantly recognisable in statues and images  across the world, known as Mother Mary & Saint Mary in some places.

Reading this passage though, all I can think is that at this point in her life she perhaps got a lot more than she originally bargained for when it came to knowing and obeying God.

No wonder that she was greatly troubled at the word she received from Gabriel – that as a virgin she would become pregnant, and not only that, but the child she would bear would be the Son of God himself. I wonder what Mary was doing when she received this message. What was she envisioning for her life before Gabriel came to town? Probably not this.

Yet this passage says that she responded in obedience at the time of the conversation – there was no “let me think about it Gabe, I’ll get back to you”. She submits to and accepts what is asked of her. For me, the explanation behind her response is found in verse 38 – “I am the Lord’s servant”. Mary’s obedience is wrapped up in her understanding of her identity as a servant of The Lord. Her life is submitted to God, that His will would be done in her and through her.

God asks of each of us different things. Some small, some large and highly consequential, and some that require significant sacrifice. Yet what He is looking for is obedience like Mary’s. My prayer is that my obedience to God would be wrapped up in my understanding of my identity in Him; that I am His child, that He is my God, and ultimately – like in Mary’s case – that obeying His plans, even when there is a cost or I don’t fully understand, is ultimately always best.

God, let each of us be encouraged by the obedience Mary showed. May we too see ourselves as your servants and your children, that we would obey the calling and plans you have for our lives. Amen.

Written by Madelaine Tarasenko

1 (reply)
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    Love your reflection Mandy. Submitting to the Lords call without hestitation, I pray that I too can have Mary’s obedience to do what He calls me to do

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Saturday 17 December, 2016

Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Christmas is such an exciting time of year, however as it draws close there are so many things to do. From shopping and cooking, to all the extra calendar events, it’s a busy time of year for all of us.

However, this passage so clearly reminds us the true heart behind why we celebrate Christmas – it’s when we rejoice in the miracle of Jesus. I find it hard to imagine what it would have felt like for Mary and Joseph to receive such significant messages from God. But they trusted in His promises and followed His leading.

When reading vs 23, “…and they will call him Immanuel, God is with us”, I am reminded of the beauty of the gift of Jesus. It is by the birth of our Messiah and Saviour that we can find hope and salvation. What amazing truth it is, that God promises to be with us.

Lord, please help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and the gift of Jesus this Christmas. May all that I do in preparation for this season be for Your glory. Thank You that You are our Immanuel, God with us. In Jesus’ name.

Written by Laura Samperi

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Friday 16 December, 2016

Matthew 1:1-17

1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar). Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). 7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the father of Abijah. Abijah was the father of Asa. 8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram. Jehoram was the father of Uzziah. 9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh. Manasseh was the father of Amon. Amon was the father of Josiah. 11 Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon). 12 After the Babylonian exile: Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud. Abiud was the father of Eliakim. Eliakim was the father of Azor. 14 Azor was the father of Zadok. Zadok was the father of Akim. Akim was the father of Eliud. 15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar. Eleazar was the father of Matthan. Matthan was the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah. 17 All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.

5 women get a mention in this list of names that make up the ancestors of Jesus. Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary. I’m left wondering why? Why are these women mentioned over the other wives and mothers?

There’s some chequered back stories among them; prostitution, adultery. Ruth and Rahab were both foreigners. So why mention them here?

One thing that really impresses me about all 5 of these women is that the Bible records at least one event that must have taken incredible courage and strength of character.

Tamar – exposes Judah’s hypocrisy. Genesis 38
Rahab – assists the Israelite spies. Joshua 2
Ruth – stays with Naomi instead of going back home. Ruth 1:16
Bathsheba – stays with David despite what he’s done and raises Solomon – the wisest man who ever lived. 2 Samuel 12
Mary – accepts the Angel’s message and becomes Jesus’ Mum despite her age and marital status. Luke 1:38

As a Father of two girls I’m glad these 5 women are mentioned here. It shows that God was impressed with them – with their immense courage and faith. It shows my girls that faith leads to action, action requires great courage, and great courage can change the world.

Lord, please help me be a father that raises girls of great faith, action and courage. Amen

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

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Thursday 15 December, 2016

Psalm 5

1 Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. 2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. 4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. 5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; 6 you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest. 7 But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. 8 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me. 9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. 10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. 11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

What a soaring song – yes a lament of sorts, yet also a song of such power, praise and thanksgiving.  David pleads for the Lord to hear him, which He clearly does.  I love that David gives God his requests then waits, expectantly, for an answer.  David knows the key of faith, to expectant waiting for God to fulfil HIs promises.  Yes God cannot abide evil, He cannot stand for hatred or wickedness, but we who love Him come into His house because of His love!  But we can come into HIs house, into HIs very presence!

Do I make my requests of God with true expectancy or am I simply placing a ‘shopping list’ before my Father in heaven?  Am I in the place of faith in prayer?

Father help me to come into Your presence with praise and thanksgiving on my lips and an expectant heart and attitude toward You with respect to Your promises and willingness to answer my prayers!

Written by Richard Botta

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Wednesday 14 December, 2016

Psalm 4

1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. 2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods[b]?[c] 3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. 4 Tremble and[d] do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. 5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord. 6 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. 7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. 8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Today’s passage shows us that we can rejoice in God’s protection and peace.

The writer of this psalm is David. Regardless of when David wrote this, he put his trust in God because the Lord has mercy on him and hears his prayer.

Many people love delusions and seek false gods and ask “who can show us any good?” They don’t know that:

  1. The Lord has set apart the godly for himself.
  2. They are not to sin when angry.
  3. They are to search their hearts and be silent on their beds.
  4. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.
  5. The light of His face can shine upon them.

But, David knew the Lord and:

  1. His heart was filled with greater joy than when the grain and new wine abound.
  2. He was able to lie down and sleep in peace and dwelt in safety.

Dear Lord, help me to place my confidence in You, no matter in what situations or what other people are saying? Because the Bible says “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Matthew 20:26 Amen.

Written by Allen Leu

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Tuesday 13 December, 2016

Psalm 3

1 O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. 2 So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude 3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. 4 I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude 5 I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. 6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. 7 Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! 8 Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people. Interlude

David is calling out to God in prayer/song for his help and protection. I love the way he reminds himself of who God is and of the truth as he does so. It’s not so much a desperate plea as a victorious hymn.

I love the chorus of Selah that intersects throughout the whole prayer. The definition of Selah is unclear but it is thought to be a musical direction that may mean either sing loudly or pause. Both of these meanings do a similar thing, they give more emphasis to the phrases that have gone before.

Most of us don’t face earthly armies and we are not surrounded by enemies but we do face:

Worry – He is our shield.

We can feel worthless or like failures – He is our glory

Selah -say it loudly or pause to reflect on the truth of it in your life

 

We can feel anxious – He is the lifter of our heads

Lonely – He hears us

Selah – say it loudly or pause to reflect on the truth of it in your life

 

We can feel trapped in our circumstances – He is the bringer of our salvation

We can feel forgotten  – He is our blessing

Selah -say it loudly or pause to reflect on the truth of it in your life

Thank you God that you hear us, that you save us, and that you bless us. Thank you that you protect us and that you lift our heads to see you. Thank you for making us glorious in you.

Written by Zoe Stewart

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Monday 12 December, 2016

Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” 4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” 7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron[b]; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” 10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. 12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Since the year 2000 world politics has been very unsettling.  Politicians in many countries have been elected with almost no majority vote and the balance of power sometimes lands in expected places. There is probably more dissatisfaction with leaders around the world now than any other time in history.

The good news is Psalm 2 gives us a peek into eternity to hear God’s comment on the matter.

This Psalm helps us to understand anytime we look to God and say why are our leaders and governments around the world failing us. God chuckles a little and quietly whispers to us, ‘But I have already given you a leader of leaders who will serve you well, his name is Jesus’.

The last part of verse 12 is important for us to remember. ‘Blessed are all who take refuge in him’.

Lord I ask for today that we would be reminded to take refuge in you and that in submission to you and under your guidance we can be at peace from the troubles of this world.

 

Written by David Newton

 

 

 

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