Friday 18 February, 2022

Matthew 11:7-19

7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear. 16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17 “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

This passage records the dawning of the Kingdom age where Jesus is offering a new way of understanding God’s timetable.  He tells his hearers that Israel’s long history, from Abraham and Moses through the prophets to the present moment, was preparation.  Now the preparation was over, and a new age had begun.  John was indeed the greatest among the preparers, but even the most insignificant person who was accepting God’s kingdom and living by it—in other words, who was hearing Jesus and following him—was ‘greater’, simply because they were living in the time of fulfilment.

What a privilege it is for us to live in the Kingdom Age.  Do we understand the privilege – do we treat this as a privilege or does our familiarity with it leave us blasé?

Father may the excitement of living in the age of the Kingdom truly grip us and consume our focus!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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Thursday 17 February, 2022

Matthew 11:1-6

11 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. 2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

John the Baptist had been running the race and fighting the good fight. He had faithfully preached a message to Israel that it was time to get ready for God’s Messiah, it was time to turn away from their own path and start following God’s appointed King.

However, he preached this message at great personal cost, and now he is rotting in prison, with little time left before his death. He is worried, did he fight the wrong fight, was Jesus really the Saviour?

Jesus points to the works that he has been doing as they are a fulfilment of what the prophets of the Old Testament said the Messiah would do. This reminds me of a promise that had not yet been fulfilled at this stage of Jesus’ ministry – the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit brings me comfort when I am uncertain of God’s plans or when they seem long in arriving. The Holy Spirit reminds us of and confirms all the promises of God.

Lord thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit on people as they repent and believe in you. With him I have the great comforter in all situations.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Wednesday 16 February, 2022

Matthew 10:37-42

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

“Gentle Jesus meek and mild”? I don’t think so. He brings things into sharp focus, into high contrast. There‘s no beige with Jesus. If I’m not for him, I’m against him. If I’m not in the kingdom, I’m out.

Jesus has just been telling his disciples that every nation will hate them because of him. Brother will betray brothers, fathers children, children their parents.

Now he focusses on what I should do in response.

He gives an apparent contradiction: if I give up my life (to Jesus) I’ll gain eternal life, but if I cling to my life (love it more than Jesus) I will lose it.

If I love Jesus’ enemies more than I love Jesus, I am literally “out of balance” (anaxios) with him, which gets translated as “not worthy”. (All my real worth is given to me by God as he makes me his son.)

In the same way that my life is only safe if I give it to him, I’ve found that the relationships with people I love are only safe if I give them to him. I can love my wife best by loving Jesus first. It sounds crazy but it’s true. As we each love Jesus first, our love for each other becomes deeper and more profound than it ever could have been separate from him.

And the flip side of this holds too: as I love the people who love Jesus, my relationship with him grows deeper.

Jesus, I do love you. I love you first. I give you my life, and I give you the dearest relationships to me. There are people I love who oppose you, but I give them to you too, and I desperately want them to become yours.

Written by David Cornell

2 replies
  1. Richard says:

    David – this is brilliant! Thanks so much!

    Some thoughts from me.

    Jesus is talking about priorities, and making seemingly extreme claims. He is saying, loud and clear, that what matters is allegiance to him: that our allegiance to Jesus must come at the top of every priority list. This is difficult, remember that Peter denied him, Judas betrayed him, the rest all ran away and hid. But the challenge remains, embracing everything, demanding everything, offering everything, promising everything.

    Jesus came to establish the new way of being God’s people, and not surprisingly those who were quite happy with the old one, didn’t like having it disturbed. He didn’t want to bring division within households for the sake of it. But he knew that, if people followed His way, division was bound to follow.

    How prepared am I to follow Jesus? Is He truly my first priority. Where has comfort overtaken obedience?

    Father open my eyes to where I faithfully follow you and also where I am unfaithful that I may turn again to You as my first priority.

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Tuesday 15 February, 2022

Matthew 10:26-36

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Jesus didn’t hold back when He needed to. Far out! What’s hard for me to grasp is what he says in verses 28-31. He says, “be afraid of God because He’s in charge of your eternal destiny, but don’t be afraid of God, because He cares for you.” How does that make any sense!?!?

Looking closer, I hear Jesus calling me to have God the Father in right perspective. He’s the God who is in charge of my eternity, I must never let any human threat get in the way of that! But He’s also the God who loves me “more than many sparrows”, which he cares so intimately about such that he knows when each one “falls to the ground”!

With right awareness of who God is, I can speak freely “in the daylight”, acknowledging Jesus before anyone and everyone!

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Monday 14 February, 2022

Matthew 10:1-25

10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. 9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

When I first read this passage I focussed on all the wrong things.

I focussed on  “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons” and it sounded so hard; but I should have focused on “Give as freely as you have received!”. They just had to speak the authority they had just been given.

I focussed on “Don’t take any money …  Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes”, and that sounded harder, but I should have focused on “Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality”. He was telling them to expect and be open to receiving all they needed.

I focussed on “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message” which sounded like bad things were coming and I missed that “When you enter the home, give it your blessing” came first. He is telling them to look for good things in people, to expect welcome first.

I focussed on “you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues” and this sounded awful, but I should have focused on “But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me”. Attempts at evil will be confounded and turned into good.

I focussed on “When you are arrested” (that’s got to be bad!) but I should have focused on “don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time”. God was with them every step and doing the hard bits.

Jesus is realistic and honest about the opposition they (and we) may receive, but he is positive and optimistic. And I should be too.

 Father, give me your eyes to see all that I have, the opportunities, the good (even if through the distraction of opposition) and to give as freely as I have received.

Written by David Cornell

3 replies
  1. gydern says:

    yes, i can relate to that! how often have i focussed on the things that cause fear, overwhelm and bring dyscouragement, because i feel things are beyond me, rather than looking at the things which, with God’s help, i could do more simply – albeit with a stretch – in my day-to-day!

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Sunday 13 February, 2022

Matthew 9:35-38

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

It’s easy to look at people and see a crowd, but Jesus looked at a crowd and saw people. And the people he saw were like sheep without a shepherd – lost, scattered, defenceless and helpless. And it was this that moved his heart with compassion and moved him to action. Jesus said to the disciples, pray to God that he would send workers into the harvest, and the next thing he did was to send the 12 disciples out to the people.

Sometimes the size of the task or the opportunity can be overwhelming. Maybe we feel like we can do so little when the need is so great and end up doing nothing because we see a crowd.

But when we see people and not a crowd, our hearts will be moved like Jesus, moved with compassion, and moved into action, whatever that action may be.

What were 12 men going to achieve? It didn’t matter, Jesus sent them anyway.

Father, it’s so easy to see a crowd, to see faces without names and do nothing. I’m not going to ask you to send us to the crowd, because you have already sent us into the crowd. Instead, help us to see the people like you see them and be moved to compassion and into action.

Written by Andrew Martin

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Saturday 12 February, 2022

Matthew 9:27-34

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. 29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region. 32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

What was it like for these men who encountered Jesus? As blind men they were most probably unable to work, therefore unable to earn a living and dependent on others. In those times they would have been seen as unable to make good husbands and fathers if they could not support a family. They could not see the blue sky, or a sunset, or people’s faces… It is the kind of existence a person might feel trapped in. 

Or what about the mute man? Not able to speak: to converse with others, to express his thoughts or to ask a question. How isolating it must have been. 

How radical their encounter with Jesus was. The blind men could see and the mute man could talk. What a world of possibility opened up to them. What freedom, independence, connection, contribution and purpose was now open to them. No longer trapped, no longer isolated, they could take up their places in society with joy. 

Am I experiencing this kind of radical encounter with Jesus? Am I telling others about what Jesus can do? Am I expecting and asking God to set people free? 

God, please help me to live with the bold expectation of the blind men, and to believe that you want to heal, restore, deliver and liberate people today, just as you did then. Amen  

Written by Ps. Beth Waugh

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Friday 11 February, 2022

Matthew 9:18-26

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. 20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” 22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. 23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.

This familiar but powerful passage presents 2 beautiful personal encounters with the Lord Jesus, which lets us see into his heart full of compassion.

Unlike the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples in verses 11 and 14, Jesus was not obsessed with rules (note verse 13). Rather, he is obsessed with people’s lives, and what is important to them. This reminds me that we have a personal God who longs for relationship with us.

Both miracles relied on people stepping out in faith, as they activated their faith in Jesus’ authority and power, their encounters impacted so many others. Not only their own lives were changed by just a touch from Jesus, but just imagine the reaction of the people watching on or in the crowd. Imagine the generations of Jairus’ family who followed, hearing the story that their mother or grandmother had been raised from the dead by a touch from Jesus. I like to think that this little girl was the beginning of a long line of believers because her father acted on his faith.

When I exercise my faith, I give God the opportunity to show his mercy and power in my life, not just for myself but for all those “watching on” around me.

When I think about activating my faith everyday, I reflect on the cost to each of the people who were healed or asked for healing for someone else. They acted against the social and religious rules of the day, approaching Jesus and asking for a miracle. I can do the same and expect him to respond because my God is a loving God.

Jesus, thank you for your endless mercy to me, and for your touch just when I need it the most. Make me active in my faith, not relying on myself. Don’t let me wait till I am desperate, rather prompt me by your Holy Spirit to seek miracles! Thank you merciful Jesus. Amen

Written by Claire Moore

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Thursday 10 February, 2022

Matthew 9:14-17

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. 16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

From reading this passage today and drawing on my knowledge and understanding of scripture, I think that this section of scripture reveals at least 2 things:

1) There is an expectation that modern Christians are meant to fast, even though Christ did not do it with his disciples 

2) The context, application and approach to fasting is meant to be different to what it was in the old testament. 

I am certainly not an expert on fasting. While I have done it a couple of times and found it very beneficial, I am certain that there are a bunch of things about fasting that I can still learn, and I am fairly certain that there have been times when I could have had benefit from fasting, but I have decided it would be too hard. 

Lately I have been diving in to learning about prayer and I have been developing my prayer life significantly and I am learning that there is a link between the power that can be released through prayer and the concept of fasting. 

Lord, help me to deepen my desire for you and out of that may I grow to love and understand fasting. 

Written by Ps Justin Ware

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Wednesday 9 February, 2022

Matthew 9:9-13

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In a culture where religious leaders sought to keep themselves separate and “pure”, Jesus is doing something shocking here. He is not only talking to known “sinners”, he even goes so far as to share a meal with them! 

In ancient culture, eating with someone was considered extremely significant. You would only eat with someone if you wanted to be identified with them, to make yourself one with them. That is why the religious leaders were shocked and asked the disciples why would Jesus want to be identified with these lowly people?

Perhaps Jesus’ disciples did not really know how to answer this question so we see Jesus stepping in to help them out with an answer. His reply is clear: You Pharisees don’t think you need Me, but these people obviously do. I am coming down to the level of the lowly sinners to identify with them so that they can identify with Me and be lifted up.

Don’t you love how Jesus doesn’t wait until we are good enough to qualify to be His people, but He comes down to our level saying “I’ll identify with you – now You identify with me. Follow Me and I’ll get you out of this mess”.

This is so amazing and wonderful on a personal level, but also an incredibly challenging example of how we should now live as followers of Jesus.

Lord help me follow Your lead to identify with those who are in need and to guard against religious pride. 

Written by Shelley Witt

1 (reply)
  1. Richard says:

    Thanks Shelley

    What a story. I can’t help but think though there is more to this story, that there were likely previous interactions between Jesus and Matthew and this was the climatic one. The likelihood someone just up and leaves their business for a stranger is unlikely so I think that Matthew has observed Jesus do some miracles, heard some of His teaching and was aware of Him. All of this to say that there has been a build up to this point.

    This encourages me to ensure I do not put everything into single encounters, that I build relationships with people and lead them to Jesus and at the correct time make a call to follow him.

    Father help me to build life giving relationships with people where they see you displayed in my life.

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