Thursday 21 December, 2017

Luke 2:1-7

2 In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. 2 It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own town to be listed. 4 So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. 5 He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. 6 While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.

What a terribly inconvenient time for the governing authorities to call a census. Right when Mary was heavily pregnant. So much so that she has to have the baby away from family and friends in Nazareth, and instead in a stable because no family or friends or even guest houses could accommodate them.

Here we are reading about the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s, and He is born away from ALL pomp and circumstance. His parents alone and under the stress of having to deliver him into the world solo. It seems like the ultimate juxtaposition.

And yet if you do some Bible research, the ancient prophets had said that Jesus (the Messiah) was to be born right here in this town of Bethlehem.

What this says to me – what appears to my human eye as terribly unhelpful natural circumstances can actually be right where God wills me to be.

What is instructive to me in this passage is the activity of Mary and Joseph to what was before them. They could have refused to leave Nazareth – for good reasons with Mary heavily pregnant and needing her family and friends around her. But they would have put themselves and Jesus in some jeopardy most definitely! Instead, they do the right thing, being submitted to the governing authorities at the time, even though it came at great cost to them and their ideal way of handling their pregnancy.

This is a lesson in integrity for me, and it goes to show that God chose good people when he chose the parents of Jesus. These were people with a humble integrity.

In the day to day of life, Lord, help me to choose what is right to do before you and mankind, irrespective of what it costs me because this is true righteousness. Amen.

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Wednesday 20 December, 2017

Luke 1:46-56

46 Mary said, “My soul gives glory to the Lord. 47 My spirit delights in God my Savior. 48 He has taken note of me even though I am not considered important. From now on all people will call me blessed. 49 The Mighty One has done great things for me. His name is holy. 50 He shows his mercy to those who have respect for him, from parent to child down through the years. 51 He has done mighty things with his powerful arm. He has scattered those who are proud in their deepest thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones. But he has lifted up people who are not considered important. 53 He has filled with good things those who are hungry. But he has sent away empty those who are rich. 54 He has helped the people of Israel, who serve him. He has always remembered to be kind 55 to Abraham and his children down through the years. He has done it just as he promised to our people of long ago.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she returned home.

In this passage, Mary has just arrived at her relative Elizabeth’s and in response to her greeting Mary sings a song of praise and amazement to God for the position that she is in. She acknowledges God’s power and faithfulness – her insignificance in comparison yet she is grateful that He has chosen her to keep His promise to Israel.

I can’t in any way relate to Mary and what it must have been like for her, knowing Israel’s history and now her place in it, all the relationship issues with her parents and Joseph, all her personal changes in having a baby, all overwhelming in so many ways. But she does do something I can do. I too can sing praises to God, I’m grateful He’s my saviour, I’m overwhelmed that He notices me, I’m thankful that He’s involved in my life & yet He’s the creator of the Universe!

I’m forever grateful.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Tuesday 19 December, 2017

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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  1. Andrew says:

    Therese
    Great message. Faith and science aligned. Confirm Gods word with the facts and our experience. It allows us to build our faith. Love this truth.

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Monday 18 December, 2017

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.

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

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  1. Kim Fleming says:

    Amen to that Maddy! I too pray that I will sacrifice my needs & desires to obey His perfect plan for my life & my family’s

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Sunday 17 December, 2017

Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary and Joseph had promised to get married. But before they started to live together, it became clear that she was going to have a baby. She became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph was faithful to the law. But he did not want to put her to shame in public. So he planned to divorce her quietly. 20 But as Joseph was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She is going to have a son. You must give him the name Jesus. That’s because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to bring about what the Lord had said would happen. He had said through the prophet, 23 “The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The name Immanuel means “God with us.” 24 Joseph woke up. He did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do. He took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not sleep with her until she gave birth to a son. And Joseph gave him the name Jesus.

This passage is about the fulfilment of a prophecy given hundreds of years earlier by those who had no way of knowing exactly how it would turn out. That is so exciting – evidence of God’s perfect plan.

However, another thing stands out to me in this passage. Joseph, a good man, determined to quietly break his engagement to Mary because of her pregnancy. But God spoke to him in a dream and he immediately changed his mind and did what God asked him to. The thing which excites me about that is that God’s voice was clear. We often wonder “Am I hearing God correctly?” “Is He really calling me to this?” When it really counts God’s voice is unmistakable. In John 10 Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice”. We can be certain that if we are his sheep, and we are open to hearing, God will make his voice clear.

Thank you Lord, that you are not aloof and hidden away, but are involved in our lives. Please do make your voice clear and help me to be open enough to hear you.

Written by Megan Cornell

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Saturday 16 December, 2017

Matthew 1:1-17

1 This is the written story of the family line of Jesus the Messiah. He is the son of David. He is also the son 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. Tamar was their mother. 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. Rahab was Boaz’s mother. Boaz was the father of Obed. Ruth was Obed’s mother. Obed was the father of Jesse. 6 And Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon. Solomon’s mother had been Uriah’s wife. 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 And Josiah was the father of Jeconiah and his brothers. At that time, the Jewish people were forced to go away to Babylon. 12 After this, the family line continued. Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud. Abihud 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 Elihud. 15 Elihud was the father of Eleazar. Eleazar was the father of Matthan. Matthan was the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph. Joseph was the husband of Mary. And Mary was the mother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah. 17 So there were 14 generations from Abraham to David. There were 14 from David until the Jewish people were forced to go away to Babylon. And there were 14 from that time 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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Friday 15 December, 2017

Mark 14:43-52

43 Just as Jesus was speaking, Judas appeared. He was one of the 12 disciples. A crowd was with him. They were carrying swords and clubs. The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders had sent them. 44 Judas, who was going to hand Jesus over, had arranged a signal with them. “The one I kiss is the man,” he said. “Arrest him and have the guards lead him away.” 45 So Judas went to Jesus at once. Judas said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed Jesus. 46 The men grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing nearby pulled his sword out. He struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 “Am I leading a band of armed men against you?” asked Jesus. “Do you have to come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you. I taught in the temple courtyard, and you didn’t arrest me. But the Scriptures must come true.” 50 Then everyone left him and ran away. 51 A young man was following Jesus. The man was wearing nothing but a piece of linen cloth. When the crowd grabbed him, 52 he ran away naked. He left his clothing behind.

“Then everyone deserted him and fled” (verse 50)

This is where it began crashing down. Jesus has prayed through the night, wrestling with where he knows he has to go. Now the betrayer Judas appears with a mob. One of Jesus’ companions, in a last ditch effort to protect Jesus, lashes out and injures one of the capturers. Other versions of this story (Luke 22, Matthew 26, John 18) provide more details – Mark’s description is the shortest. Concise, fast paced – the lack of information feels frustrating. It seems to add to the injustice of the passage.

“Then everyone deserted him and fled”

The raw, barren, toxicity of the scene becomes vivid in my mind. We can sense the two sides of this drama: on the one side the mixture of fear, shame, evil and darkness swirls from Judas’ posse to overcome Jesus’ friends. The disciples are shocked into fright and flight. On the other side is Jesus standing grounded against his attackers. Injury is added to insult as a bloody scuffle breaks out. You can imagine Jesus almost saying to armed companion: ‘don’t make this any worse than already it is guys’. And then they bolt. Jesus is alone but for the hateful gaze of a thuggish mob lead by his former friend.

I’d like to think if I was a disciple there, I would’ve have stayed. I would’ve been brave and held ground. But, that’s clearly not true (if you need surther proof, consider the disciple Peter’s story before and after this passage). ‘I won’t abandon you Jesus!’ But we all do, and I feel the dull burn in my heart that reminds me I am a sinner. In my natural state I am a betrayer. In this moment, notice Jesus’ response: he doesn’t back down. Jesus doesn’t run away – he doesn’t even struggle! Jesus stands up to our sin, faces down the accuser and will not run. What a profound picture of Jesus’ covering of our evil and the making a way for us to be saved!

Jesus my friend. Thank you for not abandoning me. Thank you for facing down my sin. For going to that place on the cross where all my betrayal is washed away and forgotten. Thank you for making a way for us to return to you. I return to you. Amen.

Written by Sam Stewart

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Thursday 14 December, 2017

Mark 14:32-42

32 Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him. He began to be very upset and troubled. 34 “My soul is very sad. I feel close to death,” he said to them. “Stay here. Keep watch.” 35 He went a little farther. Then he fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, the hour might pass by him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. But let what you want be done, not what I want.” 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray. Then you won’t fall into sin when you are tempted. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 39 Once more Jesus went away and prayed the same thing. 40 Then he came back. Again he found them sleeping. They couldn’t keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Jesus returned the third time. He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look! The Son of Man is about to be handed over to sinners. 42 Get up! Let us go! Here comes the one who is handing me over to them!”

‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”’ [Mark 14:38]

I have always read this passage, and particularly verse 38, as a general challenge to the disciples to pray. Peter, James and John were not so much experiencing temptation but just natural tiredness. But I found myself wondering this time – what if Jesus words, particularly in verse 38, are an explanation, by inference, of what He was currently experiencing and practising. In other words, Jesus was praying so that He would not fall into temptation to disobey God at this crucial point. What if Jesus was in prayer to fight the temptations to give up, give in to fear, or take another way to fulfil God’s will. But in prayer, He not only found the strength to persevere, but the strength to resist temptation and surrender to the Father’s will.

How often do I use prayer to resist temptation? More like me, I just apply willpower, and on-the-go prayers, and scriptures memorized. But these are more the everyday tools for dealing with more “everyday” temptations. What if I’m facing the temptation to avoid God’s will, because I feel scared, overwhelmed, or that I just can’t do it? Jesus’ example here is clear – when I know God’s will, but for whatever reason am severely tempted not to do it, the way I overcome is through prayer! Persistent prayer that finds God’s strength to overcome and grace to persevere and obey!

Lord, thank you for your example to me. Let this be a lesson learned, ready to be applied when I need it next!

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Wednesday 13 December, 2017

Mark 14:27-31

27 “You will all turn away,” Jesus told the disciples. “It is written, “ ‘I will strike the shepherd down. Then the sheep will be scattered.’ (Zechariah 13:7) 28 But after I rise from the dead, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 29 Peter said, “All the others may turn away. But I will not.” 30 “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus answered. “It will happen today, in fact tonight. Before the rooster crows twice, you yourself will say three times that you don’t know me.” 31 But Peter would not give in. He said, “I may have to die with you. But I will never say I don’t know you.” And all the others said the same thing.

Every time I read this passage, my heart just goes out to Peter. He is so sure of himself, so certain that he will stand by Jesus even when all others fall away. Of course, as we find out when we read further, Peter did indeed deny & disown Jesus – three times in fact. It’s easy to read this passage and think of how naive Peter was, or to perhaps see him as weak & cowardly – denying that he ever knew Jesus in order to save his own skin. But I (sadly & certainly without any pride) can see elements of Peter in my own life. Situations or circumstances when I have held back from talking about what I believe or withholding an opinion in order not to be judged by others who may not like my Christian perspective.

I’m thankful for the relatable character of Peter in the Bible, and even more grateful for the grace that Jesus showed him, even after Peter turned his back on him, in not only forgiving Peter, but bestowing responsibility on him to build & lead the early church. To me this is a great reminder that Jesus really is a redeemer – he takes our mistakes and our mess & turns them around when we confess them to him.

God, thank you for your unrelenting grace, and your consistent love for us – even in our most unlovable moments. Thank you that you choose to forgive us even when we let you down & turn away from you. Help us to have hearts that are focused on who you are and what you call us to, and give us the courage we need to make choices that honour you. Amen.

Written by Ps. Madelaine Tarasenko

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Tuesday 12 December, 2017

Mark 14:22-31

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread. He gave thanks and broke it. He handed it to his disciples and said, “Take it. This is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup. He gave thanks and handed it to them. All of them drank from it. 24 “This is my blood of the covenant,” he said to them. “It is poured out for many. 25 What I’m about to tell you is true. I won’t drink wine with you again until the day I drink it in God’s kingdom.” 26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus Says That the Disciples Will Turn Away 27 “You will all turn away,” Jesus told the disciples. “It is written, “ ‘I will strike the shepherd down. Then the sheep will be scattered.’ (Zechariah 13:7) 28 But after I rise from the dead, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 29 Peter said, “All the others may turn away. But I will not.” 30 “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus answered. “It will happen today, in fact tonight. Before the rooster crows twice, you yourself will say three times that you don’t know me.” 31 But Peter would not give in. He said, “I may have to die with you. But I will never say I don’t know you.” And all the others said the same thing.

I grew up going to church, so this narrative is very familiar to me – traditionally called  “The Last Supper” that Jesus shared with His disciples before His death.

Here we read of Jesus foretelling His death to the disciples, and also prophesying that they would all fall away from following Him in the face of the threat to their own personal safety.

“But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same”. Yet we know that they went against their word and disowned Jesus, running away in fear just a short time later.

As I read this familiar story, I ask myself – how would I have responded in this situation? It is easy to feel critical of the disciples’ responses, thinking that I wouldn’t have done the same.

Clearly, the disciples did not know their own hearts and what they were capable of, thinking they were stronger than they really were.

And then I think of all the times when I also have deceived myself about my own actions and motives, not wanting to believe that I was capable of such selfishness, only to find that the heart can be quite deceitful.

Bottom line – all of this points us to the need of a Saviour.

Thank you, Jesus, that in spite of our selfishness and faithlessness, You came and gave Your life for us. Thank You that even when we fail, Your forgiveness and love never does.

Written by Shelley Witt

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