Saturday 29 January, 2022

Matthew 7:7-12

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

What a powerful encouragement that I have found to be so true in life. What I find most intriguing is that these actions come from a desire within. It is important to keep our desires in line with what God desires! The opposite statements could be made to illustrate how important this passage is too. Those who do not ask will not receive. Those who do not seek will not find. Those who do not knock will not have the door opened to them. I find such encouragement in this passage to pray, read scripture and glorify God. 

Jesus then talks about how earthly fathers (and mothers) are willing to give and provide good gifts. Then He delivers a rhetorical question in the form of an exclamation! Of course our Father In heaven gives good gifts to those who ask him! God is overflowing, abundant love: he is the creator and sustainer of all things. So, then what should we do about it? Jesus beautifully states the golden rule, that in everything you do, do to others what you would have them do to you. Amen!

Lord, thank you that you are a God of action. Thank you for your abundant, ceaseless love that seeks us like a shepherd searches his sheep. Help us to remember that we have Your image on us, and to ask You, seek You and knock on the door that You will open. Help us to love our neighbours in all we do. In your precious name, Jesus.
Amen

Written by Sven Bessesen


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Friday 28 January, 2022

Matthew 7:1-6

7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

I’ve often wondered about these words from Jesus, and the connection between judging others and protecting what is sacred. It seems like two different streams of thought, unrelated to each other. But let’s follow Jesus’ flow of teaching for a moment…

Jesus wants for all people not to perish but to be saved for eternity (see John 3:16) and that means I need to find ways of sharing this good news with those around me. The first “pearl” that needs to addressed is our reason for needing saving in the first place – our alienation from God caused by sin, selfishness, and shame. I cannot expect repentance and a turning to God from my friend if I am not modelling the same repentance. I need to address the ‘log’ in my own eye first. 

But let’s assume that I have repented and I am actively turning my life toward living for Jesus. The next question I need to ask is, “is my friend ready to hear the gospel – the priceless sacrifice of Jesus for their sin, selfishness and shame?” Wisdom for the right timing is required here – and lots of prayer! They may not be ready, and if we force the gospel on them the results could be disastrous – for us and them (see v6).  But just because they are “pigs” today doesn’t mean they will be “pigs” tomorrow.  This is where prayer is vital. After addressing the sin in ourselves we need to not race ahead with sharing the gospel but rather pray for a green light from God that the way is clear and the hearts of our friends are open and ready to receive. 

Lord, please give me wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. Please open the hearts of the friends and family that I love – to receive the precious pearl of your good news. 

Amen

Written by Boudy Van Noppen


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Thursday 27 January, 2022

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Materialism is the overemphasis of the importance of physical, material things.

Madonna sung that we are living in a material world, but our culture is so immersed in materialism that it’s actually easy to miss how much we emphasise the importance of material things. Even though I don’t agree with materialism, and I try hard not to be overly consumeristic, it’s easy for me to slide into the natural flow of acting like there is no spiritual reality to the world I live in. 

In Australia, we are experiencing some of the greatest material wealth of any society in human history, yet poverty still exists in my neighbourhood. Even for those who don’t experience technical poverty, anxiety about money is common. While I don’t find myself worrying constantly about having enough, many of my decisions in life have been shaped by the importance of financial security and being able to provide for my family.

Here in today’s passage, Jesus gives the antidote to poverty and anxiety tied to material things. He says we should seek first the Kingdom of God.

Lord, help us to remain focused on what is meant to be first in our priorities, and rescue us from the temptation of materialism. 

Written by Ps. Justin Ware


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Wednesday 26 January, 2022

Matthew 6:19-24

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

God knew that life would have many challenges.  I look at the changes in the world in my lifetime and I am amazed.  Whoever would have thought we could “mail” messages with instant replies, rather than by post taking weeks each way.  Whoever would have thought we would be able to talk to family around the world and see them with Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, etc…  rather than use a telephone where just our voices were heard.

All these technologies are wonderful, however have opened up “doors” for evil to also pervade our homes.

This passage challenges two areas:  the love of money (greed) and what we watch or read.

As I reflect on this the words come to me: “Be on your guard”.  All of us need to live with a “heightened aerial” to the Holy Spirit and His guidance.  This aerial should “filter” what we focus on, spend our time on, spend our money on, what we watch, what we read, etc.  I remind myself continually that one day I will give an account of life – I will stand before Jesus. 

1 Peter 5 v 7-10 gives us the way to respond.

Lord Jesus, there are times that living in this world is hard.  There is suffering and challenges.  Help us Lord to live for you in every area of our lives.  Help us to hit the “refresh” button on our lives with the Fear of God being front and centre.  Thank you for your love and care because you know what is best for us.  In Jesus name, Amen

Written by Ps. Sue Botta


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Tuesday 25 January, 2022

Matthew 6:16-18

16 “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“When you fast” – I can’t get past this first phrase.  “When” – not “if”, not “perhaps if you fast”; not “on the occasions when things are really difficult and you need to get God’s attention” but “when”.  The presumption of Jesus is that fasting is a normal element of the Christian life.  In fact, if we look at the introduction to the previous passage on prayer we get the same construction – “When you pray” (vs. 5).  I guess the question is ‘do I pray?’  The answer for pretty much everyone is Yes – like you even need to ask?  Yet why is it that fasting seems, well, extreme.  Is this denial of food so difficult, is it for super-Christians?  Or is it that our flesh, our appetites are so domineering that we don’t give fasting a place in our lives?  Is it that while prayer is kind of a religious duty that really doesn’t cost us much fasting, because it means giving something up at its core is somehow a bit too – well extreme?

I find myself reflecting on my need to fast – Jesus makes it plain – when – He expects it – so I should fast, I will fast!

Father, I ask that you would help me to put to death the appetites of my flesh which get in the way of an authentic Christian life – which includes devotion to You as shown in fasting!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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  1. Richard says:

    I have often read this passage and been arrested by its straightforwardness. This passage is about keeping the Lord as my highest priority. Yet I have always experienced a catch here. Because God is loving and gentle, and wants us to choose to love and serve Him rather than Him force us to, my acts of devotion and communication with Him can be, well haphazard. Often different things start to take over. I find myself reflecting that this passage is about loving and serving God for Himself, and commonly in secret, noting Jesus’ commentary on being seen to fast.

    Jesus makes clear that his followers are going to fast from time to time, as part of their prayer life and devotion to God. He also makes plain that some who fasted and prayed in His day seemed more about advertising their piety. Jesus makes plain that real fasting is between us and God, not something we do to show off. Clearly Jesus is speaking to the necessity of fasting and that we do so before the Lord not anyone else, hence a real sense of priority.

    So I pray that God work in me a heart of humility as I choose to love Him and continue a prayer and fasting life that is not about showing off but true devotion to Jesus.

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Monday 24 January, 2022

Matthew 6:5-15

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

One of the things I have always appreciated about the Bible is just how practical it can be. Prayer can be challenging at times for all believers, regardless of spiritual maturity, and often it becomes something we overthink or complicate. How helpful it is to have a guide such as this, detailing a clear way that we can approach God when we talk to Him. This must surely be up there as one of the most well known passages from the whole Bible, yet it’s familiarity should not diminish it’s importance or authority. Reading this passage several times over causes me to think about how often I have, or have not, prayed in such a way. 

I am also reminded to think about talking to God as my Father – the only way He is referred to in this passage, several different times! This is a clear indication of the way we can talk to God when we pray, like we would talk to a loving & kind father. 

Lord thank you for your words in this scripture! It is so helpful to have clear instructions about how we can talk to you. Help us to approach you as our kind Father, who is always willing and eager to hear from us. Amen.

Written by Madelaine Tarasenko

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Sunday 23 January, 2022

Matthew 6:1-4

6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Motives can be such troublesome squirmy things.

If I am generous because I want people to praise my generosity, it’s an expression of my self-focus (not my generosity). If I’m recognised as being generous, my goal has been satisfied. But it’s an empty, worthless goal. Jesus doesn’t say it’s bad – just that it’s shallow.

If I’m generous because I want God to reward me, it’s still an expression of my self-focus, my heart for myself rather than my heart for God. God wants prosperity for his people, but it becomes a trap if I seek prosperity before God.

And I can’t fool God: “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Generosity is a natural consequence of a heart that seeks God first. “Generous” is a word that is used over and over again to describe God. As my mind and heart become more closely aligned with His, my life inevitably becomes more generous. And as I take on more of His generosity, he gives me more to be generous with, whether it’s money or time or talents or words from Him: gifts for someone else that He allows me to deliver for Him.

“Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.” (Psalm 112:4)

Jesus, I want to be a light shining in the darkness today: not in the spotlight, but reflecting you – “the light of the world” (John 9:5)

Written by David Cornell

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Saturday 22 January, 2022

Matthew 5:43‭-‬48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I am a ‘good’ guy, with a strong sense of ‘justice’. 

When someone does ‘wrong’ to me I start to dream about making things ‘right’ and delivering some ‘good justice’.

To right wrongs done to me seems like such a natural thing to do.

But it is not the way of life Jesus calls me to. He asks for a radically different approach. 

The way of life is to proactively do good and love those who I believe have wronged me! What an impossible task!!

My Father in heaven, only your Spirit can turn my spirit upside down like this. Teach my spirit your ways. And let me see the challenges given to me by enemies as opportunities to become more like you. Amen

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Friday 21 January, 2022

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Jesus is continuing to correct misinterpretations of God’s law and character – how do we respond when we are hurt be it physical, emotional or financial?  Jesus is speaking to not just what has been taught to His audience but to our very natures.

I know I have wanted to hurt others physically when they have hurt me physically and hurt emotionally when I have been hurt emotionally – it’s like an automatic response .. there is something very elemental about wanting to get even & retaliate.

Jesus is saying that God’s Kingdom doesn’t operate in that way – it operates in giving and loving – not because we are giving in or becoming ‘door mats’ but from choice. It takes a completely different kind of person not to retaliate, but to give those who want the shirt from our backs. 

Father, I am undone – help me to live the Gospel = loving and giving more consistently in my life .. Holy Spirit I need your help to choose to respond in the opposite spirit – in the Spirit of the Kingdom of God.  Amen.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Thursday 20 January, 2022

Matthew 5:33-37

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

This passage challenges me to reflect on my heart. Matthew 5 is Jesus reinterpreting the Old Testament law to explain the spirit of the law. He helps us to understand the true intent of the law.

That true intent is to do with internal and external holiness. Why is holiness concerned with oaths and validating agreements? It is because we are to value and love truth. A heart and life of falsehood and exaggeration betrays feelings of deceit, insecurity and even desperately seeking acceptance.

If my heart and life is transformed by his grace, then I value honesty of speech. It all comes from the transformation by his grace – not by my own efforts. I can’t be perfect without Christ. My heart can’t be changed without him.

Dear Lord Jesus, the truth of who you are and your death for me is so wonderful. I need your grace and mercy to change my heart. Amen

Written by Claire Moore

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