Monday 21 March 2022

Matthew 19:1-12

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Jesus had been busy teaching the people and then healing many when the pharisees came “to test him”. Their challenge to Jesus, after witnessing such amazing miracles, reveals their hardness of heart. They were not looking for a genuine answer to the question of divorce but were trying to catch him out.

Jesus shows that God’s good design was for a man and a woman to marry and remain committed for life. Divorce was only permitted by Moses “because of hard hearts”. It is an uncomfortable truth that hard-heartedness/sin of some sort is involved in every divorce. However, getting divorced is not an unforgiveable sin as some would have us believe. Sometimes (such as in domestic abuse) separation is the right answer.

In discussing hardness of heart, I suspect that Jesus sees right through the pharisees and is challenging them to recognize the state of their own hearts.

So, I am prompted to ask myself some questions:

  • Where is my heart hard?
  • How can I bless my husband in our marriage?
  • How can I best love and support those who have gone through the pain of divorce?

Father, please examine my heart and challenge me when I need to change. Please help me to have a soft heart. Help me to love and support others without judging.

Amen

Written by Megan Cornell

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Sunday 20 March 2022

Matthew 18:23-35

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

V35…forgive your brother from your heart.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of forgiveness. Wholehearted forgiveness. The “master” in this story Jesus is telling, forgives a massive debt “completely”. He responds with mercy and forgiveness for the entire, enormous, life-crippling debt. There is now no longer anything owing. He is free.

The absolutely mean spirited and greedy response of this free man to his servant, stands in stark contrast to the actions of his master.

I live in the Kingdom of God.  A Kingdom of extravagant forgiveness and freedom from debt.

It is my culture.

Lord God – you have mercifully and completely forgiven me.  Fill me afresh Holy Spirit – I need your help.  May Your kingdom come here on earth as in heaven – through me, as I forgive as you do.

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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Saturday 19 March 2022

Matthew 18:15-22

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Conflict is an expected part of living life with others; however, this doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to navigate. Verse 15 sharply caught my attention, in that when we see someone stumble, or find ourselves in disagreement with another Christian, we have a decision about how we act.

It’s quite easy to ‘discuss’ (or perhaps gossip in some situations) the person or error that has been made. This passage makes it clear to talk to the person involved, not just around them. When having a conversation, we might find ourselves trying to be the person who is right. However, is this really the motivation we should have? Instead, we should approach conversations in a way that wins them back to Christ. In the same way, if we are approached, we should be willing to listen. 

The ending verses 21-22 remind us that there will be times were people hurt us, but also in turn that we will hurt others and forgiveness is needed. We should be quick to put into practice the advice earlier in the passage; to approach one another and have conversations that lead back to Christ.

Lord, thank you that you forgive me when I do the wrong thing. When I have done the wrong thing, please help me to listen to Godly wisdom. When I see someone stumble, help me to reach out to them with words that lead them to you.

Written by Ps. Andrea Moltino

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Friday 18 March 2022

Matthew 18:1-14

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 11 12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

There is a lot of great wisdom in this passage, it’s almost hard to know where to begin. One of the many things I can observe here is the emphasis and importance Jesus is placing on humility. We all know about humility and we talk about it as something we desire. Humility does not tend to come naturally; I think for most of us it is a daily and active choice to choose to be humble.

As Jesus’ disciples begin to ask which is the greatest among them, Jesus is quick to answer, but perhaps not as they expected. He does not rank them, based on their skills or personality. Instead, He goes on to talk about how important the small, vulnerable and lost are to Him, using the illustration of children and sheep.

The great thing about this is that although most of us have probably dreamt of being lauded and applauded at some stage like the disciples in this passage, the reality is that all of us can relate to feeling small, vulnerable and lost in one way or another. While we may be humans sometimes full of pride and our own grandeur, we are also all like sheep who have gone astray, in need of a Good Shepherd who can seek after us and care for us, as Jesus does. I love that Jesus doesn’t try to suppress us or keep us small and insignificant, but rather conveys that we are so important to Him that He will continue to seek us – all of us – that we may know Him. It’s not about our greatness, it’s about His great desire to be in relationship with us.

Jesus, thank you that you are so interested in and want the best for us. You love to provide for us, not seeking to make us small, but longing for us to recognise our own need for you that cannot be filled any other way, no matter how great we are on our own. Help us to approach you with humble hearts, knowing you are always eager to hear from us. Amen.

Written by Madelaine Tarasenko

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Thursday 17 March 2022

Matthew 17:24-27

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” 26 “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

What an example Jesus gives here of choosing his battles. I read in Jesus’s words a dissatisfaction with paying a temple tax when it is a Jewish temple and he and his fellows are Jews. But rather than cause offence, unnecessary offence, Jesus – rather miraculously – arranges for provision for the tax. 

So much to take away. I am called to wisdom – do I take care not to cause unnecessary offence? And do I know what my purpose is – is it to be right, or is it to point people to salvation in Jesus? 

I am called to faith – it was nothing for Jesus to arrange, through the mouth of a fish, for the temple taxes required. God’s provision is no issue for the purposes He is bringing about in our world. 

Lord, help me to be wise, and in my wise choices, trust you for where there is shortfall. If I wisely align with your good purposes, your provisions will follow! 

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

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Wednesday 16 March 2022

Matthew 17:14-23

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

Have you ever had the role of being a Manager or Teacher? In these roles you would be required to instruct and educate employees and also you would be required to review their performance.

Even if you have not had one of these roles mentioned above, it is likely that you have been in a position where you have been taught by someone, like being a student at school. Can you remember being taught?  A particular school subject may come to mind or perhaps a teacher that was encouraging. Sometimes I wonder if I was a good student, did I listen to the details? Did I demonstrate what I was taught? Did my Teachers ever become frustrated with me?

Jesus, the ultimate Teacher, chose his disciples carefully. In this verse, it becomes very clear that Jesus is quite frustrated with the disciples, indicating in verse 17 “How long shall I put up with you?” and verse 20 “Because you have so little faith”. Jesus’ humanity is shown very clearly here, rebuking the disciples. Also the students’ (the disciples’) humanity is on show.

Everyone is behaving like human beings, making it feel more real. The disciples had clearly missed the lesson on understanding the authority that Jesus had bestowed on them in Matthew 10:1, “to drive out impure spirits and heal every sickness and disease”. But still the disciples were chosen on purpose by Jesus, there was no mistake. They were chosen because they were imperfect, because, yes, they would make mistakes along the way.

Dear God

Thank you for your disciples. Thank you for choosing men who were not perfect and needed plenty of guidance and instruction. Thank you that we in our contemporary society can relate to the imperfection and the struggle to apply your teachings at times. Thank you for your endless forgiveness and enduring love.

Amen

Written by Susannah Ware

2 replies
  1. Richard says:

    I have always found this an abrupt passage of Scripture. I mean here are the disciples, learners, who are still learning and Jesus says they have little faith, in fact saying that because of their little faith the deliverance of a person was not effected. Jesus clearly had an expectation that they had learned more than they had up until this point of their journey. All too often I live in a bubble in my faith, I see things through my eyes alone and into my situation alone. When was the last time I prayed for healing for a person that didn’t happen and then asked myself was the lack of healing because I had little faith. I like to reason it must be something about the situation, but rarely reflect on my part in a causal manner. God is not limited, faith as small as a mustard seed is all that is required. While not suggesting there are not other factors at work – it is important for me to ask what are uncomfortable questions of myself as well.

    Father give me the courage to ask questions that spur my faith on!

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Tuesday 15 March 2022

Matthew 17:1-13

1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” 10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Observation:  Peter, James and John followed Jesus up a mountain where they witnessed his transfiguration and saw Moses and Elijah.  They also heard the voice of God affirming who Jesus was.  The disciples were awestruck by this experience and Jesus asked them not to mention it until he had risen from the dead.

Application:  What an encounter with Jesus and God the Father, not to mention Moses and Elijah the disciples had!  Saying it was truly unique is an understatement.  This was truly an amazing experience but what led to it?  I note that the disciples were firstly with Jesus who was then able to lead them up the mountain where they encountered God like never before.  It got me thinking, “Am I close enough to Jesus so he can lead me?”  Peter, James and John were well positioned to encounter God in a new way.  The other thing that can’t be overlooked is the voice of God affirming Jesus, his son and telling the disciples to “Listen to him.”  There can never be enough reminders to heed the voice of Jesus!

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help me to be close to Jesus so that he can lead me into the things you have purposed and help me hear his voice clearly. Amen

Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods

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Monday 14 March 2022

Matthew 16:21-28

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. 28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Earlier in this chapter Jesus tells Peter that he will be the rock on which the church will be built – that Jesus has big plans for him. Now in this passage, Peter is trying to get Jesus to stop speaking about what needs to occur next because he cannot believe that is what will happen to the Messiah – for Him to be killed.

Often we get confused about Jesus and why He answers our prayers the way He does or why the world is full of bad situations where good people get hurt. Just like Peter, we think we know how God should organise things, how Jesus should save us from what we don’t like etc. But God knows way more about what is going on than we do and He has better ideas and plans. We may not like those ideas or those plans but He promises that we can trust they will work for good in all of us.

In the second half of this passage, Jesus asks us to trust Him, to believe that He knows best, that He loves us beyond our imagining, that He wants us to join Him in bringing His ideas to life even when they don’t make sense to us and, as a result, we will become who we were created to be.

Lord, thank you for the examples in the bible of people getting confused, misunderstanding your intentions or just plain missing the signs about what will happen. Thank you because that is what we do too. Help us to be reminded that you are God and that we are not, that you have ideas and plans that we may never be able to understand and that we can trust you 100%. Thank you for your love and that your desire is for each of our souls to be saved. Amen.

Written by Therese Manning

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Sunday 13 March 2022

Matthew 16:13-20

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Who do you say Jesus is? This is the most important question we will ever answer. Reading this passage Jesus is saying He is the Son of the Living God. What a claim! As CS Lewis puts it, this only leaves us with three possible answers – (a) Jesus is lying (b) Jesus is crazy (c) Jesus is the Son of God. And just as Jesus asks His disciples for an answer, so He asks us for an answer today. This is not a question to put off until tomorrow. 

Secondly, if we believe Jesus is truly the Son of God, then we must necessarily believe what He has to say about us. Jesus tells Peter who he is. He tells Peter the amazing things He will do through him.  I wonder if Peter doubted Jesus’ words about himself when he later made mistakes, when he denied Jesus and when he watched Jesus die. When I sin or when things don’t go to plan, it’s easy to doubt that I am loved, that God has good purposes for me, and that I have access to the power of heaven through Jesus. But if I believe what Jesus says about Himself, I must also believe what He says about me. 

Lord help me to put on the belt of truth each day- help me surround myself with your true thoughts of me, rather than listening to the lies that sometimes rattle around in my head. Thank you that I can trust you.

Written by Rhi Mellor

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Saturday 12 March 2022

Matthew 16:5-12

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” 8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus was tempted to give up on parables and metaphors! However, I think the reason the disciples and the crowds were hard of hearing is because they simply were not attuned to the spiritual frequency Jesus was communicating on.

The disciples seem to be worried here about immediate and physical concerns, like food in their belly. Jesus was concerned with the state of their heart and soul.

I can be just the same as the disciples, my mind occupied with things of the ‘flesh’, ignorant to more pressing spiritual concerns.

Jesus’ warning to the disciples is for me as well. I need to be careful of the teaching that I am ‘ingesting’. Teaching spreads and becomes pervasive. The Pharisees and Sadducees actually had completely different theologies, yet both groups had lost any sense of true humility and intimacy before God in Worship. Their teaching was devoid of the Spirit of God.

“Lord, help me right now to become aware of any teaching that is becoming pervasive in my life, but not of your Spirit – wherever it might be coming from: friends, TV, the internet, etc. 

[Pause to allow God to speak].

“Lord, may I be pervaded by your voice, and may the Scriptures be the source of life teaching for me and my family. Amen”

Written by Andrew Mellor

2 replies
  1. robWise says:

    Lord, help me to become aware…
    Lord, may i be pervaded by Your Voice; Your Word..!
    So true!!
    So many voices shouting out for our ears;
    or subtle pseudo-spiritual whisperings in our philosophy-saturated airwaves…
    Lord, help me to become aware of Your Voice in all this buzz. Help me to filter out the constant noise and hear your voice in the gentle breeze…

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