Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
I notice that this section of Matthew’s report on Jesus comes into the story like a summary. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into
practise…”. The ‘these words’ part is everything that has gone before, everything that Jesus has been saying, everything that Jesus has been teaching, everything that Jesus has been doing. Notice further that Jesus compares two groups of people:
1) people who put everything he has been saying into practice and
2) people who don’t put his words into practice.
The two groups are not strictly ‘those who follow Jesus’ and ‘those you reject Jesus’ but rather, those who hear-and-practice and those that hear-and-don’t-practice.
People who might be totally against Jesus from the very start aren’t really in this picture.
What we do have is a picture of strong Christians and fragile Christians. Christians that hear what Jesus says and put it into practice can endure opposition, hardships, storms. People that hear Jesus but don’t put his words into practice will eventually collapse under pressure – they’re fragile from lack of action. Christian strength in part comes from practicing what Jesus teaches, day in, day out, and then when tough times hit, that faith doesn’t fade.
Jesus my friend. I want to live out your version of my life everyday. Thank you for your Spirit’s help to develop strength and to face any opposition as one of your true followers. Thank you that you pick me up in any circumstance and set me in the right direction. Your love is always there. Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Wow, this is a very confronting scripture that leaves me wondering ‘could that be me’.
This scripture is clear, a list of ‘good works’ does not guarantee heaven. The phrase ‘I never knew you’ shows us that a ‘personal intimate relationship with God’ is what creates the saving faith and obedience that leads to eternal life.
As a broken person living in a broken world this is a problem for me. There are times, I have failed the obedience test and there are even times I have chosen to ignore God.
So where do I stand?
After spending some time in careful consideration, I don’t think the context of this scripture is eternal judgement. It is part of the closing argument in the ‘The Sermon on the Mount’. Jesus was sharing His insights into successful kingdom living and His closing argument was ‘Unless you have the right foundation you will not see the benefits of a blessed life’. The statement was made to illustrate that the foundations for the things we do and its likely outcome are linked, not to create a fear of eternal judgement.
True, the fear of eternal judgement can be motivating but it’s not the basis for a healthy relationship. Fear will never be the basis for an intimate relationship. However, it is also evident a ‘once saved always saved’ attitude does not lead to the qualities God is looking for in His people.
So take the opportunity today to consider the foundations of your own relationship with God.
Dear Lord, I thank you that in our brokenness you are glorified, and we find eternal life, not based on what we do but what Jesus has done for us. Amen!
Written by David Newton
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
A very well known saying is that “actions speak louder than words”. Whilst our words are powerful, this passage gives us clear teaching into the importance of our actions and bearing fruit. In verse 16, it says that the fruit we bear is determined by how we act. Verse 20 says that we can “identify people by their actions”. This scripture focuses our attention on our outward appearance, which as followers of Christ, must reflect our inward faith in Jesus.
As I think about this for myself today, I am reminded that people identify me, by my actions. Are my actions producing fruit that glorify, honour and point people toward God? What are people seeing in the way I choose to live my life?
Lord God, thank You that teach us how to live. Please help me today to be aware of my actions, and produce fruit that brings people closer to You. In Jesus’ name.
Written by Laura Samperi
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
God, how is it that I found this narrow gate? Why me? Why should I be so fortunate and blessed to have found Jesus when so many others don’t? Why have you expended so many resources to save me – my Christian family heritage, my church where I’ve been planted, my friends who have walked with me, the people who trained and studied and prayed to see me enter this rare salvation? And that’s not even mentioning the spiritual war that angels have waged against forces I can’t even imagine to protect me from the broad way.
And then there’s the blood.
Unfathomable and incalculable – the blood of the Creator poured out to secure me!
It can’t be contained. It can’t be just for me. Lord, what about my friends? Lord, what about my family members who don’t know You yet? What about my beautifully kind neighbours and workmates who are, as I write this, walking blindly on the broad way? What can I do Lord, to help them not choose the way so many will? What words can I speak that will help them see the narrow path?
Lord, please save them too! Amen
Written by Boudy VanNoppen
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.
This passage encourages believers to pray and specifically to ask for what they need from God. It also talks about the nature of God, how he is a good Father and gives good gifts to his children. The passage concludes with an exhortation to believers to do to others as they’d like done to them i.e. treating others how you’d like to be treated.
This is an amazingly positive passage in that God’s word says ask and it will be given, seek and you will find and knock and the door will be opened. God will answer our prayers – no maybes, sometimes or conditions. We can expect answers. Perhaps not always the answers we had in mind but nonetheless answers from our Father in heaven who is good and can be trusted. You can’t get away from the need to persevere with prayer either, to push through with words like ask, seek and knock. All doing words or verbs. Prayer is so much more than waiting for answers. God wants us involved, to see us step out in faith. As the passage suggests, first there is a request, then there is seeking or looking – what is God showing or telling us, and finally is there an opportunity? God is right in the middle of the request, the looking and stepping out. He is indeed a good Father!
Dear God, thank you that we can come to you in prayer. You encourage us to do so. Thank you that you are a God that hears and answers our prayers. Amen
Written by Ps. Ainslie Woods
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 think the Message version expresses this passage well, as it captures the negative connotation of judgement that I believe Jesus is getting at:
1“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment.
Our thoughts and words can so easily tend towards criticising those around us – how well they do or don’t think, speak, lead, behave, belong, act under pressure, etc. I know this critical thought is true of me, and I’m sure I’m not alone. And yet Jesus encourages us not to judge others, but to instead look inwards to fix the log in our own eye.
Pastor Linda has a great phrase that “all behaviour is communication”. In other words, people act certain ways for a reason. At the core of most people’s wrong behaviour is hurt and pain, which has intentionally or unintentionally been inflicted upon them. Our job isn’t to point out their wrongs – our job is to help them let God in so that He can heal their hurt and pain. And the first step in doing this, is letting Him into our own hurt and pain.
Lord, help me to look inwards before looking outwards. Help me to be open, honest and vulnerable with You, letting you fix the bad parts about me. Then, help me to see the pain, suffering and hurt that lies in others, and desire to help them through it, just as You have helped me. Amen.
Written by Matt Samperi
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 labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor 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.
I have always understood this passage to mean not to worry about material things but to focus on building God’s kingdom. This is true but I realised something else: all the things I need are found in Him. Everything.
So, why do I worry? Why do I worry about food and grocery money? Or if I will have enough money to buy clothing and pay the bills? Do I believe my pressing circumstances will last forever? Or that my supply has run out?
Jesus tells me to stop worrying by seeking His Kingdom first. That what I need is found in His Kingdom, in His domain, in His presence – basically – in Him. He is my source. Romans 14:7 tells us that the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking but peace, joy and righteousness. Sure, I can’t eat these things but they settle my soul and meet my greatest need. He knows that this is what I need first and that it is all found in Him. And then He will add the rest (food, clothing, shelter). His kingdom knows no bounds and His supply is without end and without measure.
Father God, I thank you that You know what I need and You provide it for me. Please forgive me when I search for what I need outside of You. Because of You I can say “I am rich.”
Written by Gab Martin
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.
So much of our lives (time, effort, focus) revolves around bringing in money so that we can pay our bills.
No longer living for today, we now save and plan for when we don’t work.
Jesus says that it is difficult for a rich man or woman to enter the Kingdom Of God.
Australia is an extremely wealthy country and it is good for us to continue to remind ourselves to check our motivation.
Why are we doing what we are doing?
Is it fear driven?
Are we serving others with our time and our talents? Are we giving sacrificially to church and to others?
“Where is our treasure?”
Let’s serve God not money.
Lord let me always be looking for ways to impart your presence and your spirit. As I go about each day help me and prompt me to what my motivation is. I want to serve you Lord.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
16 “When you fast, do not look somber 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
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.
Jesus makes clear that prayer is not a ritualistic act but a relational one. It is relationship between father and child. Therefore, it is important that I don’t try to make the Lord’s Prayer ritualistic, rather, it is like a reminder of who my Father is so that I am confident in my relational prayers with him:
As I read this list, it makes me want to pray!!
My Father, thank you for this wonderful revelation of who you are! I couldn’t be more blessed then to be called your son, look at all these blessings, help me introduce others to their Father as well.
Written by Andrew Mellor
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
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] 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.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 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.
Radical. Crazy. Delusional even. That’s how I first tend to think of this teaching of Jesus. What does Jesus mean for me to take away from what He’s saying here?
Jesus appears to be speaking to what we are to do with those who have it in for us – who want to take our shirts, eyes and livelihoods, for whatever sinister reasons. Jesus seems to say – the response I want you to take is this: give them your other cheek, your other eye, your coat as well! Is this possible to live out, I think to myself? And then I think of Martin Luther King Jnr, and the practice of nonviolent protest. In the face of serious violence against the African American people, Martin Luther King Jnr led a movement that refused to react violently to the violence done against them. It was costly indeed, but unjust laws were being changed as the movement got into full swing.
Left to my own devices, this is impossible teaching to live out. I need a change of heart to even begin to understand this, let alone live it. But this is the way with Jesus. Instead of my natural, default reactions, Jesus wants to empower response to violence and injustice in the world that is radically generous and crazy in kindness!
Lord, help me understand this teaching more, and live it out – especially in the places where it’s easiest to react defensively rather than give generously!
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill 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.
In the chaos of life, it can be hard to find focus. Our lives place demands on our self and our time. This passage reminds me that I need to keep it simple, not just in my day to day but in my relationship with God. While God understands what we face, this is a reminder that we don’t need to make things more complicated than they need to be.
My relationship with God is meant to be one of simplicity and integrity, perhaps a counterpoint to the chaos of daily life. It is easy to be distracted by the side issues, in this passage for example the number of things you could swear an oath on. God just asks us to keep it simple, yes or no. He asks us to negotiate life with integrity, we need to keep our word to God and to those around us.
This passage encourages me to concern myself with those things I have control over and leave the rest to God. The pace of my relationship with God needs to be reflected in my response to the rest of my life. It’s good to know the creator and controller of the universe is on our side.
Help me Lord to reflect your grace and glory in my life. Help me Lord to keep my thoughts focussed and clear. Help me to walk in integrity. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Written by Christine Knight
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
This passage is another part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wanted to get us all to understand how we can do or say one thing but think another and that both our doing and our thinking are important. God wants us to grow in character and to become more like Jesus. He wants us to line up what we think with what we do. To not be two minded. We can’t fool God. We can’t hide what we think by doing what other people think is the right thing or what we think God thinks is the right thing. God wants us to be whole people who have integrity and respect for others.
Lord God please help us to be thoughtful about our lives, values and beliefs. Help us to think about the consequences of our actions before we go there. Help us to come to You with the big and the small, to ask for Your help to do life well, to love those You have put in our lives like You do. Help us to be people who bring love, grace and peace to the world we inhabit.
Written by Therese Manning
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus continues his teaching and addresses the issue of murder. But how relevant is murder to his audience? How relevant is it to us? I can’t say that I have knowingly met a murderer, and I certainly haven’t murdered anyone. But Jesus did what he usually does and makes this relevant to us by saying that being angry at someone is just as bad as murder. That’s how serious disunity is to God.
But more than telling us not to get angry, Jesus asks what if there is any one angry toward us? What if someone has something against you?
Jesus says, if you know or remember that someone has an issue against you, then go immediately and be reconciled to them. Go and make things right between you.
Even if you have prepared to make an offering to God at the altar, stop, and go and be reconciled. Most of us would finish making the offering then go and be reconciled.
But if there is any division, any disunity, Jesus says that the offering can wait, unity is more important and is a requirement before making an offering to God.
It’s not a matter of fixing relationships when it’s convenient. Instead, when you remember it, that is when you deal with it, don’t put it off for anything or anyone, even God himself.
Father, help me not to simply go through the motions in worshipping you, but to remember how important unity between us is to you.
Written by Andrew Martin
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
It’s interesting that Jesus stresses he has not come to take away from any of what God had already done. Jesus is carrying on God’s great story, and is the living answer to the many prophecies from long ago.
It reminds me that God is not interested in starting something, sketching it out, then crumpling up the paper and throwing it on the rubbish pile. He sees things through to completion, including us.
What an encouraging reason to trust God.
Am I also committed to the process? Am I partnering with God in terms of what He is doing in me, in those around me and in the world at large? Am I exercising patience in the waiting, and trusting that fruit WILL grow, people WILL come to faith and I WILL change…
God, please help me to remember that you are the God who does not quit on your people or your promises. Help me to pray and live with that in mind. Amen.
Written by Bethany Waugh
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
We’ve all heard the expression “salt of the earth”. Someone may be described as the “salt of the earth’, which is taken from this passage in Matthew though most people wouldn’t know that. The expression conveys “he’s a kind, decent person who selflessly helps others; trustworthy, good at heart.” This has only a kernel of the deeper truth Jesus spoke of.
Jesus is concluding his amazing statements of The Beatitudes by turning the focus of his listeners outwards. The blessings flowing for those who seek God mean we are to influence those around us, both individuals and our community. Salt and light are the images of influence Jesus uses.
Salt, a seasoning, brings out flavour. Light, dispelling darkness or gloom, brings out colour and enhances detail. As The Message version so brilliantly translates, “salt seasoning brings out the God-flavours of this world…Light…brings out the God – colours in the world.”
Salt and light change things. They change things for the better.
What am I seasoning? What colours is my life enhancing? Some important God-flavours to me are compassion and generosity flowing from God’s loving heart, a love I have experienced. God “colours” that change the landscape of relationships and situations are servant-hood and encouragement.
I believe the key to guarding against being diluted or losing our effectiveness (v16) is staying connected to God, through prayer, regular bible reading and fellowship with each other, resulting in a growth of the heart described in verses 3-10.
Dear Jesus. Your words challenge me. I want to show your loving heart and point my friends to you. Use me Lord to season the situations you put me in with your love. It’s all for your glory Jesus. Amen
Written by Claire Moore
5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Blessing is a concept that I really like, but something that I think I don’t completely understand.
Here in this passage, Christ is describing a set of principles for how blessings work in the kingdom of God. As I read, I think how much this set of principles has items that are the opposite of how the system of blessing works in the world.
Thinking it through, I wonder if the reason I find blessing and misfortune hard to grasp is because there are at least 2 sources of blessing (God and then the world/flesh) then a source of opposition (the Enemy) and a source of discipline (God).
I wonder how many times I have assumed that things were going well because God was with me, but it was really the system of the world?
Lord, help me to seek after your blessing and help me to discern when you are at work.
Written by Ps Justin Ware
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Here we read about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Jesus ministry is characterized by Him going out all around the area teaching, proclaiming (preaching), healing every sickness presented to Him and casting out demons.
Not surprisingly, this extraordinary power that Jesus demonstrated here attracted a lot of attention, and large crowds began to follow Him.
Contrast this early fame and apparent popularity seen here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with how he ended His life – alone, unpopular, forsaken by crowds and even by His closest friends. Clearly the powerful miracles created interest, but when the going got tough, it had not produced lasting devotion or change in most of the crowd.
If you are like me, sometimes we wish for the quick fix, the miracle, the flashy show of power from God to get us out of a mess. But I’ve discovered over the years that, for the most part, this is not God’s chosen method.
I’ve found that my character and my devotion to Jesus grow as we walk together side-by-side though the trial. I still may wish for the quick fix, but more and more I’m prepared to accept and be grateful for the “slow fix” of His ways and His timing.
Jesus, I’m grateful for the long, slow walk in the direction of becoming more like You. Thank you for your incredible patience with me, and unfailing love.
Written by Shelley Witt
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
I am fascinated by Jesus’ calling of His first disciples as written in this passage and in other accounts in the gospels. There are a few aspects of this account that arouse my consideration.
With these points in mind, they still had the option to accept or reject the invitation.
And so what is my response to this passage? What do I believe God is saying to me through this? I too work in a family business, and also with my brother, as the fishermen did.
Do I hear Jesus calling me to leave the business for a different role? At this time, no I do not, but I am challenged that I need to make it more a prayer of mine to be obedient to His call if He so did ask me to step into a new and different chapter. And if He did, that I would respond with the same immediacy that these fishermen showed.
Father, you have blessed me in a role that brings income and responsibility. I pray that today, and each day into the future, that I will be prepared to step with courage into whatever, and whenever, you call me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Written by Steve Fell
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
When Jesus heard that his cousin and friend John the Baptist had been put in prison – He withdrew (from Nazareth) to Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee. I imagine He went for time out, for prayer, for removing Himself from his hometown.
However it’s here that his life crosses paths with Andrew and then his brother Simon Peter.
So often when ‘bad’ things happen in our lives or to our families or to those we love – God has a far bigger plan. He uses all things, the good and the bad to strengthen, encourage and redirect our paths.
In this season Jesus begins to preach. His ministry begins…..
I wonder where we are at. If something is not working for us – do we complain and try to fix it or do we ask the Lord to show us if this is a change of direction?
Lord, help us to be in tune with your Spirit, your leading and your guiding. Show us the doors we need to open in our lives for your work to begin and flow through us.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
It strikes me that not once in this passage does Jesus try to resist temptation by his own strength. How many New Years resolutions have been broken by a lack of self control? How many lives are ruled by addictions that cannot be tamed? I know at times I feel powerless to resist temptation. But that’s probably because I am. Jesus knows the only power capable of overcoming temptation is the power of God. Jesus doesn’t say ‘I am better’ or ‘stronger ‘ he uses scripture- the living word of God to face his temptation. Jesus doesn’t overcome – God does. When faced with temptation I need to be like Jesus – ready with scripture and the power of God to face down the opposition.
This passage gives us a glimpse of what was coming in terms God’s victory over sin and death. I want to live a life of victory and freedom, not a life of defeat.
Jesus help me to be just like you. Thank you that you have shown us how to live. Help me to know the mind of God and to have wisdom in every situation. Holy Spirit fill me with your power. In your mighty name. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
If ever I need motivation to do something – pray, witness, fast, read the Bible – I can’t really get a better reason than “because Jesus did it”. In this passage Jesus goes to John in the Jordan and gets baptised. Right here we have a case for our need to be baptised: Jesus did it, so we do it. Baptism is to publicly commit our lives to God.
Baptism is to be symbolically washed and cleansed. Now that we have the hindsight understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can see Baptism as a metaphorical copy of going down into the grave like Jesus (going underwater) and then being raised back (coming out of the water) with new life. Our Jesus did this, we also do it because we are his followers.
Jesus, your baptism with John set you up on the trajectory that lead into your destiny. Lord I want to find my destiny in you, baptise me for your purposes, Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart
Matthew 3: 7-12
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
This passage has always intrigued me. It starts with a rebuke of those who should know better but who had reduced faith to religion and the politics of power. John has no time for them and I think we are given insight into why in the passage. He explains what he is doing – providing a way forward through the gateway of repentance and the baptism that is associated with this and then points to Jesus. In pointing to Jesus John speaks of Baptism in the Spirit, yet perhaps not in a manner we are all that familiar with. He speaks of the Baptism in Spirit that is associated with fire and it is clear that the fire is not the fire of enthusiasm but the fire of cleansing.
The work of the Spirit in cleansing is not that often spoken of yet the Apostle John reminds us in John 16:8 that the Spirit convicts with respect to sin, righteousness and judgment. It is clear that God judges us and expects us to repent when His judgment comes. However, it is not uncommon that people rather than expressing repentance lash out blaming others for the guilt they feel for their sin – a totally appropriate emotion. This was evidenced in the reactions of the Pharisees and Sadducees of the day in their religious behaviours!
So what of us when the Spirit comes in conviction – do we blame shift or humble ourselves before Him and ask for His cleaning fire to burn the impurity from us – perhaps it is best to ask when was your last confession session at the feet of Jesus. If it was days ago – or ‘I don’t remember when’ – take the time now to get on your knees and repent of your pride and independence and of your hard heart before the King and ask Him to burn His fire within you and soften your heart.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
This passage opens many years later & we find John preaching & baptising people who have repented from their sin. We’re told that John had been prophesied about some 7 centuries earlier by Isaiah as the ‘One preparing the way for the Lord’, preparing people’s hearts for the coming Messiah – Jesus.
This has got me thinking about the people who ‘prepared the way for the Lord’ in my life. People & events come to mind, conversations, invitations, all playing their part which prepared my heart to accept Jesus as Lord of my life. These various ones were faithful to play their part as John was, I’m certain I wouldn’t know Jesus without them. I’m reminded again at how relational the Gospel is and how God can use each one of us to impact the heart of another.
Lord Jesus thank you for the faithfulness of those you used to prepare my heart for you. You know their names, even though I’ve forgotten some, bless them today. I pray that I can be so faithful in my relationships in speaking about you, use me in similar ways, to prepare hearts for you.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Have you ever had that situation where you have been notified from on high that you must act now to avoid disaster.
We don’t know much about Joseph, but we do know he had several angelic visitations in dreams. These experiences were so striking he followed the guidance to pack up his family and move to another country.
When we read these stories, we do so with the benefit of hindsight, almost from God’s perspective. Come on Joseph everything will work out, have some faith. However, we live our lives the same as Joseph did, without the benefit of knowing what will happen next. True, may not receive angelic visitation, but it is not uncommon for committed Christians to receive divine guidance.
As a Christian it takes practice to hear the voice of God amidst all the noise of modern life. For me the hearing has never been a problem, it is the responding in the right timing I often mess up.
Joseph heard, and he responded, he heard again, and he responded. No doubt there was fear and doubt, but he still responded. He wasn’t told the eventual outcome of his actions he was given just enough information to avoid disaster.
Not all guidance is about avoiding disaster, sometimes it is about small matters, but it still requires hearing and responding.
So, take the opportunity today and ask yourself ‘am I listening for that small still guiding voice’ amongst the clutter of electronic noise. Am I ready to respond when I hear?
Lord, we thank you that you guide us in the big and small things in life. Please help us to hear and respond to your guiding voice today! Amen
Written by David Newton
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
So, Herod was furious because the Magi didn’t report back to him with the location of this new king of the Jews. So furious, that he orders the death of all boys in Bethlehem under two years of age. Although Herod was deceived, he had tried to deceive the Magi himself.
It is a tragic story, and possibly we could ask why didn’t God do anything about it? Why did all those boys have to die? Couldn’t the Magi just tell him where Jesus was, but God have Jesus flee in time?
The fact that the weeping was prophesied reminds us that God knew in advance what Herod would do and all that would happen. Nowhere does it say that God’s plans mean there will not be any suffering.
The danger here would be to just focus on the suffering and forget that God’s master plan for the salvation of the world was no longer a prophecy but is now a reality. Emmanuel God with us. This is not an “end justifies the means”, but God has a plan and he will see it through. Our suffering is only for a short time when compared to the Joy in eternity to come.
When we suffer, its tempting and even normal to question God whatever his plans for us are. But we should not lose sight of the fact that God has bigger plans, good plans for each of us and he will see it through for us.
Thank you, Father, for the plans you have for me. Help me to continue to walk each day by faith and not by sight.
Written by Andrew Martin
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