Sunday 30 September, 2018

Matthew 24:36-44

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

As I read Jesus’ words to his disciples I am struck with a paradox: the final judgment of all humanity is shrouded in mystery and at the same time our behaviour in light of His return is made as clear as day.

It is mysterious because not even Jesus himself claims to know the exact time that God will bring an end to this age. He does not know when it is that every knee shall bow before him.

It is clear because I am told exactly how we should behave. I am to live like Jesus’ Kingdom is already in full operation, I am to follow Jesus’ teaching as the only teaching that is truly perfect. I am to bow before him today with my whole life – and then I will not be ashamed when he comes again.

Lord God, I am waiting and am ready for your return, teach me to live each day with you as king of my life, so that I will be ready when you take up your reign over the whole universe.

Written by Andrew Mellor

[comments closed]

Saturday 29 September, 2018

Matthew 24:22-35

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[a] 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[b] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[c] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

To me this passage is a very intense and impacting description of Jesus returning. To get a fuller understanding of what Jesus might have been trying to say through this passage, I’d want to do an in-depth study of the imagery and language used, as well as the context in which He was speaking.

But one thing that jumps right out at me straight away is verse 30 – “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth.” The Message version gives some added context, “Unready people all over the world, outsiders to the splendour and power, will raise a huge lament as they watch the Son of Man blazing out of heaven.”

I honestly read this at first with confusion – why would people be mourning the return of Jesus? However, a few more reads and the MSG version brought clarity – when Jesus returns, those who don’t know Him are going to be lamenting. When they see His glory, His power, His love, His grace – everything they’re missing out on – of course they will mourn.

And it’s very easy in this moment to skip straight to the conclusion prematurely – “therefore, we should all go out and witness to the ends of the earth. Amen.” Of course this is true, but I feel part of the power of this passage is in us stopping to contemplate our own existence without Christ, imagining our own reaction to seeing Him return if we had never met Him or known Him. How would you feel? I’d feel terrified, confused, ripped off, scared, hopeless, and more. This is the fate that awaits those who don’t yet know Jesus – and I want to do all I can to help turn this around for every one of them.

Lord, thank You that You have found me and saved me. Thank You for your grace and love. Help me not to glance over the fate of those who haven’t found You. Help me to share You with everyone I know, in love, that they may find the same eternal joy, peace and hope that I have found. Amen.

Written by Matt Samperi

[comments closed]

Friday 28 September, 2018

Matthew 24:15-21

15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

“The reader should understand this.”

It’s as though Matthew is saying to each of his readers “I know this bit is confusing and distressing, but you need to pay attention. This bit is for you.”

Assuming an early date for when Matthew wrote this (some scholars think it was quite late), some of his first readers would have been in Jerusalem when the revolt started in 66. They would have been comfortable there. The temple still featured heavily in their worship.

They would have been there as Titus’s Roman army approached Jerusalem in 70 to lay siege to it. They needed to know that they had to flee right away. (They did.)

They also needed to understand that the place of God’s presence was not a building. The Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of his people. Jesus died to make that most intimate of relationships possible. (Paul spells it out in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”) They had to leave behind the symbol of God’s presence and take the real place of God’s presence, his people, to safety.

That’s in the past for me, but Jesus’ other warnings that I need to always be ready for him to come back are about my future. I need to take his warning just as seriously as the first readers needed to take his warning about Jerusalem. I need to live every day in the expectation, and hope, that he might come back today.

Thank you, Jesus that your promises (and your warnings) are sure.

Written by David Cornell

[comments closed]

Thursday 27 September, 2018

Matthew 24:9-14

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

It looks like things are gonna get a whole lot worse before they get better. Jesus had just warned us in the previous passage about wars and earthquakes, and now he’s telling us that we’ll be arrested, persecuted and killed, all on account of Him. In the NLT version, Jesus says this will happen “because of your allegiance to Me”.

Will I experience this level of hardship in my lifetime? I do not know. Either way, this is not easy to digest. This is not comfortable Christian living nor sitting-on-the-fence kind of faith. I had better be sure who I give my allegiance to. It is all or nothing. I am either for Jesus or against Him. I don’t want to be luke-warm, or as He warns, have a heart that turns cold.

Keeping my allegiance (or heart set on Jesus) is something I need to keep a constant eye on. Yet it is something that is decided before things get tough. My allegiance is determined by my commitment not circumstance. When things around me get tougher, I can’t then be changing my mind as to whether or not I will follow Him. I need to set my mind and keep it set. I choose to not be deterred by the circumstance or the battle. I know that You hold me – I just need to keep looking to You Lord.

Lord Jesus, You are worthy of all praise. My heart belongs to You. By your Spirit may I continue to build spiritual muscle in a world that lives opposite to You. Thank you for your promise: “those who endure will be saved”. You are my reward!

Written by Gab Martin

[comments closed]

Wednesday 26 September, 2018

Matthew 24:1-8

24 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

As I read this passage it strikes me how differently Jesus and the disciples are seeing the world. The disciples are looking at the temple and its buildings, the (impressive!) work of human hands. Yet Jesus is looking ahead, predicting that not one stone will be left on another and the whole building will be destroyed. Jesus is acutely aware that a time will come when the world will end.

What am I focused on? Am I fixated on the ‘temple buildings’, the temporary structures that serve a purpose now, but won’t last forever? Or am I living with an awareness that only God, people and relationships, faith, hope and love will remain? Am I investing in the treasure of heaven – giving my life to loving God and loving people?

God, where I have become so distracted and consumed with often good but temporary things, please help me to choose you first. Help me to enjoy the budding tomato plants in my garden, the adventure of a good movie, the satisfaction of a completed to-do list…. but to above all be alert to your presence, committed to doing your will, and attentive to your children and the lost sheep around me. Help me live with a fierce sense of purpose. Amen.

Written by Bethany Waugh

[comments closed]

Tuesday 25 September, 2018

Matthew 23:29-39

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started! 33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation. 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

This passage gives an account of Jesus rebuking the religious scholars and Pharisees, highlighting their hypocrisy, misuse of the law and stubbornness. In verses 37-39, Jesus expresses His desire for the people of Israel to come to Him for safety, however they wouldn’t allow Jesus to ‘gather His children’ (vs 37) and follow Him.

I am reminded when reading this, of the importance of living authentic lives of faith that truly reflect God and Who He is. The scholars and Pharisees were hypocrites and gave false impressions of God, acting out of pride and their own opinions. We are called to display Christ for Who He is before others, and that comes from a place of knowing God, being in relationship with Him, and learning from Him.

Lord God, please help me today to reflect your love, kindness and truth to others. May people see You in the choices I make, so that You may be glorified. In Jesus’ Name.

Written by Laura Samperi

[comments closed]

Monday 24 September, 2018

Matthew 23:23-28

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Obedience and intent are of such importance to Christ, that in reading this passage of scripture, I can hear his disdain and frustration with these people. People that he wants to love and be in relationship with, but people that by their heartlessness, push Jesus away.

I think about the times where I justify my heartlessness towards others by using my sacrifice and obedience. I tell myself that because I spend hours serving the church in ministry, and because I give sacrificially, somehow the poor and needy neighbour, or the lonely person, or the sick associate, is someone else’s problem.

My clean, sanitized life, my ability to exert self-control over my heart and my ability to make wise decisions are fruits of my maturity as a Christian, but it is not just the maintaining of these things that will bring me closer to God from where I am now. I am called to serve the poor and save the lost with the church.

Father God, never let me lose sight of what I am really called to do. If I am to be a shepherd of your flock, may I always smell like your sheep. May I always have the outlook and care to go after the one that might go astray.

Written by Ps Justin Ware

1 (reply)
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    Great thought Justin, a good reminder to me also about who & why I do the things I do, for my personal ego or for the Kingdom?

[comments closed]

Sunday 23 September, 2018

Matthew 23:13-22

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

One translation says “What sorrow awaits…”

Jesus is speaking to the crowd about the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day.

And as I read what Jesus was saying about the Pharisees, I was struck by the thought that these teachers knew the Law thoroughly but didn’t know the God who wrote the Law for themselves.

They didn’t enter into and experience the kingdom of heaven for themselves and because of this they stopped others from experiencing the Kingdom of heaven as well.

I can’t think of anything worse than to know about God but to not know him personally. To know of his love and mercy but never experience it myself. God doesn’t want us to just know about him, he wants us to know him. God wants to be experienced, not observed.

Only when we have experienced God for ourselves, will we be truly able to tell others about him because he will then be real to us. God is not remote or distant. He invited us in to his presence, and to know him fully, personally. To only know about God, that to me is real sorrow.

Father, I am so thankful that you wanted a relationship with us, you wanted us to know you personally, that you did everything necessary to make that happen. Thank you for the joy of knowing you.

Written by Andrew Martin

[comments closed]

Saturday 22 September, 2018

Matthew 23:1-12

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. 8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Motives, motives, motives – it’s not just what we do, it’s why we do it… Jesus once again is burrowing into the hearts of His listeners to expose their motives.

How often do I try to give an impression to people that I am more spiritual, more committed to following God’s ways than I really am?

My old nature is corrupt and would still like people to be impressed by me and to think that I am more devoted than I really am. When I try to give that impression to people, I am acting like a hypocrite – doing good works to be seen by men, rather than out of devotion and love for God.

Jesus is not impressed by good works for the sake of making myself look good to others. And here we read that He actively discourages people from seeking after a spiritual hierarchy, titles and power.

What Jesus does appreciate is just this – humility. Honestly owning up to my faults and failings and true motives, and realising that we are all the same – sinners saved by grace.

Lord, I humble myself before You. Forgive me for seeking to impress people rather than seeking to live honestly and devotedly before You.

Written by Shelley Witt

[comments closed]

Friday 21 September, 2018

Matthew 22:41-46

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ 45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

I wonder if this is the perfect question.

Isn’t this the question that every person who has ever lived on this planet needs to ask, especially those of us who live post Jesus being on earth?

What do I think about Jesus?

It’s the question that is answered in every cell of creation, every ray of sunlight and every molecule we breathe because he made it all (John 1:3). The answer is in his power that holds the whole world together (Colossians 1:17). The answer is in the mercy he pours out on me and my rebellion against him (Ephesians 2:4-5). The answer is seen in his blood that was spilled in my place even when I hated him (Romans 5:8). The answer is in the massive love that stopped at nothing to buy me back for eternity with him (Ephesians 2:6). The answer is in the complete annihilation of every dark force that will ever threaten me, including death, when he arose from death (Colossians 2:12-15)

Which leaves only one question left to answer…

What do I think about Jesus?

Is he Lord – like David declared? Or is he a threat, an inconvenience, an annoyance to my agenda like the Pharisees?

This is the perfect question that everyone will need to answer. What will my answer be?!

Jesus, the only response I can think of is humility and contrition and thankfulness and surrender and awe. What do I think about You? – You are Lord! Amen

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

2 replies
  1. Andrew says:

    Love it. Very tight. Very confronting.

    How many irrelevant questions did it take until I realised that instead of asking the tricky questions of the Pharisees, I needed to get real and ask the real questions of my heart.

    Jesus you were there for the creation of the universe. When my life gets tough can you please guide me. Thanks Jesus my friend.

[comments closed]