Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
This is the first account of the celebration of the birth of Christ. And I love how God orchestrates it by first having the angel appear to some shepherds. When the sun went down that day, and they started to settle in for the evening watching their masters sheep, they had no idea what was about to unfold, and how their lives would be changed forever.
It was dark, a clear sky, probably a little cool and the grass, damp from the dew. And then enters the glory of God. No wonder they were frightened at first. I would have been too. Such a magnificent and blazing spectacle of the praise of angels then graces the sky. This I would have loved to witness.
What do I take from this personally? God is teaching me humility in how He brings his Son into the earth. We see this by the fact the Jesus was born in a smelly stable and laid in a cow’s food trough, and from this passage, that the angel announced to shepherds, not dignitaries or officials, or church leaders, but lowly shepherds, who were on the night shift, a low graded profession.
I wonder if this were to happen today, who would God send his angels to proclaim this message to?
If this is God’s way, which it is because there are so many similar accounts in the Word, then my attitude needs to be the same.
Father, forgive me when for when I am proud. Change me, create in me a clean heart, and may my view of others be one of humility and mercy, for this is the attitude that you desire of me. Amen
Written by Stephen Fell
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
It is commonly believed that the Magi visited the baby Jesus at the same time as the shepherds. When we lived in France, steeped in catholic tradition, we learnt that the “kings” or Magi arrived 12 days after Jesus’ birth, celebrated as the Epiphany in the traditional church.
Who were the Magi? It is a word that designates wise men. They were not Jews, and came from the east looking for the “king of the Jews.” It is clear to me that God had spoken to them and they responded by looking for this new king. Their purpose – to worship him. And when they find him they are …overjoyed!
This part of the Christmas account reminds me that Jesus came to save all who believe in his name. And that at his name every knee will one day bow. Jesus’ death on the cross was for all who believe, the only way to be saved. My response is to believe and give Jesus the honour he deserves. My honour is not expressed in expensive treasures like the Magi, but in making Jesus king in my life – by trusting him, by setting my priorities to a kingdom focus, by sharing the generosity of God’s love with my unsaved friends.
Heavenly father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for all who believe in him, Jew or not. Help me to reflect your generosity this Christmas.
Written by Claire Moore
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
The wonder of CHRISTmas mesmerises me.
God’s plan of love and redemption (deliverance, rescue, atonement and repurchase) for us to be set free. What a day in history.
He takes Mary (from Nazareth) and Joseph (from Bethlehem) and they go on a journey to Bethlehem because of a Government requirement, which fulfils a prophecy from 700BC – Micah 5 v 2 “From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
I am overwhelmed by the plan (planned to the exact detail), by the love (willingness and sacrifice), by the humility (born as a child), and the desire of God Himself to be in relationship with me. I am humbled by the willingness of Mary to be shamed and possibly killed (pregnant before marriage) and Joseph’s courage to assume his responsibility towards her.
I am so grateful for this ETERNAL GIFT – Jesus.
There is no other gift that has had such a profound impact on my life.
No gift under the tree this Christmas will compare with what Jesus has done in my life.
With such simplicity we can release our life to Him and He promises us ALL…His spirit, His love, His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His power and His courage……and the list goes on…..
Lord may my hands this Christmas be open. May I be willing to receive all that you have for me. May I give even more than I receive. Help me this Christmas and in 2018 to be even more like you.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
In this passage, Mary has just arrived at her relative Elizabeth’s and in response to her greeting Mary sings a song of praise and amazement to God for the position that she is in. She acknowledges God’s power and faithfulness – her insignificance in comparison yet she is grateful that He has chosen her to keep His promise to Israel.
I can’t in any way relate to Mary and what it must have been like for her, knowing Israel’s history and now her place in it, all the relationship issues with her parents and Joseph, all her personal changes in having a baby, all overwhelming in so many ways. But she does do something I can do. I too can sing praises to God, I’m grateful He’s my saviour, I’m overwhelmed that He notices me, I’m thankful that He’s involved in my life & yet He’s the creator of the Universe!
I’m forever grateful.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary has just been told she will become pregnant with the messiah. The Holy Spirit told her a whole lot of things but one thing was that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. It would have been a very strange situation that Mary found herself in, so as soon as she could she went to see Elizabeth. I imagine it was in part to check the one thing that she could confirm. She had to go and visit to find out, there were no phones or any other easy way to check. She committed to a journey and an extended visit. She may have also gone to hide away from those who knew her while the pregnancy started to show. Either way Elizabeth’s reaction must have helped her get comfortable with what she was told and what was going to happen to her.
It’s something we can learn from. Mary believed the Holy Spirit but she also built on her faith by confirming something she could check. We can find it difficult to believe what God says in the Word or in our prayers especially if it doesn’t match the way we feel or the circumstances we find ourselves in. Mary demonstrated that instead of walking away, we should walk into the situation. We should focus on the things we know to be true and things we can confirm to be true from what God tells us. To focus on what we can believe and see what might follow rather than worrying about the things as yet unseen. The more we build up our ability to believe God by practising and confirming, the more we can have faith for things that are hard to believe in.
Lord help us to focus on what we can see to be true. There are so many things You say and You promise in the Bible that we can find hard to believe, especially things about ourselves. Help us to exercise our faith with things we can confirm and see where they lead us so that we can get better at believing things we cannot see. Yet. Thank You.
Written by Therese Manning
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary is one of those characters in the Bible that carries a lot of weight in our world today. She is instantly recognisable in statues and images across the world, known as Mother Mary & Saint Mary in some places.
Reading this passage though, all I can think is that at this point in her life she perhaps got a lot more than she originally bargained for when it came to knowing and obeying God.
No wonder that she was greatly troubled at the word she received from Gabriel – that as a virgin she would become pregnant, and not only that, but the child she would bear would be the Son of God himself. I wonder what Mary was doing when she received this message. What was she envisioning for her life before Gabriel came to town? Probably not this.
Yet this passage says that she responded in obedience at the time of the conversation – there was no “let me think about it Gabe, I’ll get back to you”. She submits to and accepts what is asked of her. For me, the explanation behind her response is found in verse 38 – “I am the Lord’s servant”. Mary’s obedience is wrapped up in her understanding of her identity as a servant of The Lord. Her life is submitted to God, that His will would be done in her and through her.
God asks of each of us different things. Some small, some large and highly consequential, and some that require significant sacrifice. Yet what He is looking for is obedience like Mary’s. My prayer is that my obedience to God would be wrapped up in my understanding of my identity in Him; that I am His child, that He is my God, and ultimately – like in Mary’s case – that obeying His plans, even when there is a cost or I don’t fully understand, is ultimately always best.
God, let each of us be encouraged by the obedience Mary showed. May we too see ourselves as your servants and your children, that we would obey the calling and plans you have for our lives. Amen.
Written by Ps. Madelaine Tarasenko
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
In the first part of this passage it says that when Joseph discovered that his fiancée, Mary, was pregnant, ‘he had in mind to divorce her quietly’. Joseph did not immediately react to the situation, he did not take her into the streets and stone her to death, as the law allowed him to do. He ‘had in mind’ or thought about it and had a plan.
Amazingly, in developing a plan he considered what was best for Mary and not just himself. It says he was ‘faithful to the law’ but ‘did not want to expose her to public disgrace’. At this point Joseph must have believed that his fiancée had betrayed him and slept with another man, and yet, he is concerned about the impact of his actions on her. What a selfless and loving act.
It goes on in the next verse to say, ‘But after he had considered this,’ reinforcing this idea of him taking time and thinking through his actions. It was in this time of considering that God spoke to him and told him the child was the Son of God.
When unexpected or painful or even exciting things happen in my life, do I pause to consider the events, or launch into action? Do I allow God time to speak into the middle of my circumstances, or do I react on impulse?
God, please help me to consider the unfolding events in my life and the world around me. Help me to be open to your input, rather than rushing and taking action by myself. Amen.
Written by Bethany Waugh
1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, 15 Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. 17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
I’ve often wondered why God has placed me where he has. Why in Qantas? Why as an engineer? Why in Sydney and not Perth (where I grew up) or Holland even (where I was born)?
I wonder if Matthew ever felt that way. Tax collector for the Romans, a “lists and numbers” man for the enemy, he would have been used to researching and recording data. It’s little wonder that Matthew begins his gospel with a list and a record to prove the “Messiahship” of Jesus. He’s the perfect man for the job!
God has a calling on your life and my life. It’s unique. No one else can do it because no one else has your God-given skill set at this exact God-given time. You were appointed for “such a time as this” (see Esther 4:14). He loves you! He is with you! With Him you can’t loose! So let the adventure begin!
Thanks Lord that you have placed me here – at this time and in this place – for purposes I can’t even begin to imagine. Bring it on! Because this journey with you is the only place I want to be. Amen
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
1 The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 2 The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” 3 Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb. 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. 7 He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high.
Submitting to authority isn’t something that seems to come naturally to me. I have a strong egalitarian bent that seems to want me to see all people as being completely equal, so when someone exerts some sort of authority, I sometimes feel a reflexive urge to try to undermine that authority.
Whether you ever feel the same way as me or not, King David (who wrote this psalm) seems to place himself under the authority of two persons. This must have been incredibly confusing to the people of Israel when David was King. They would have recognized David’s use of the first LORD (YHWH) יְהֹוָה (meaning the God of the Bible), but the second Lord (adown)אָדוֹן that David was paying honor and submission to in this Psalm, we now recognize is Jesus!
Lord, thank you for David’s example of Godly wisdom and insight, that even though he was a mighty king, he knew the importance of humility and paying respect to the coming and (at that time) future messiah.
Written by Ps Justin Ware
1 My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2 for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 3 With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. 4 In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. 5 They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship. 6 Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand. 7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. 8 May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. 9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. 10 May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven[a] from their ruined homes. 11 May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. 12 May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. 13 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation. 14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. 15 May their sins always remain before the Lord, that he may blot out their name from the earth. 16 For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted. 17 He loved to pronounce a curse— may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing— may it be far from him. 18 He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil. 19 May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him. 20 May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers, to those who speak evil of me. 21 But you, Sovereign Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. 22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. 23 I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. 25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads. 26 Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. 27 Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it. 28 While they curse, may you bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may your servant rejoice. 29 May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. 30 With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him. 31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.
As I read this Psalm, it’s easy to forget that David turns the words being spoken against him into a song. And it’s a pretty sad song. It’s a song about his total ruin, his death, the loss of all his possessions and the misery inflicted on his family.
But then the song takes a turn in verse 21. David calls out to God to deal well with him, not because of anything good that he has done, but because of God’s reputation.
God deals with us, he acts for us, not because of anything that we have done, but because of who he is.
If God only did things for me because of what I have done, then the danger is that I would start to believe that it is because of me. I would become proud, as if somehow I had earnt God’s goodness. The flip side to this is thinking that God is punishing me because of something I had done.
Both of these are totally wrong.
David is so right to ask God to act purely because of God’s reputation.
God loves me, not because I am worthy of it, but because God is love, and because he created me. He loves me because he chooses to love me.
He is good to me because he is a good God.
Father God, you are good, you are kind, loving, compassionate, generous, faithful to me because that is who you are. Thank you, you are amazing.
Written by Andrew Martin
1 My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. 2 Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. 3 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. 4 For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. 6 Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. 7 God has spoken from his sanctuary: “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth. 8 Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter. 9 Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.” 10 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? 11 Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? 12 Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. 13 With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.
I love how David has written this Psalm. Everything is going well. The sun is shinning. The birds are singing. The flowers are blooming. Everything is great and David is praising God. Happy as Larry!
Until I get to verse 11 – things are not going well. David is singing these praises to a God who has rejected him. A God who refuses to fight on his behalf.
And here lies a beautiful question –
do I praise God when it’s hard? I mean really praise Him – as if everything is rosie. Do I praise Him when I think He’s let me down? Do I call to mind His promises and praise Him in the middle of the storm as if the storm is over? Because He will get me through!
Lord, please teach me to have this sort of faith. A faith that praises you in the middle like I should at the end. Amen
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 3 those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. 4 Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. 5 They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. 6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 7 He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. 8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. 10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, 11 because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High. 12 So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. 15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 16 for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. 17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 18 They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. 22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. 23 Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. 24 They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. 31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. 32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders. 33 He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, 34 and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there. 35 He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; 36 there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. 37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; 38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. 39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow; 40 he who pours contempt on nobles made them wander in a trackless waste. 41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. 42 The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths. 43 Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.
“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those He redeemed from the hand of the foe”
At our recent Church Women’s End of Year Breakfast, we were encouraged to write down a list of 10 things that we are thankful for from 2018.
As I wrote my list, I realised how many good things the Lord had done for me and for those that I love this year. It was such a great exercise to consciously call to mind the goodness of God.
It’s so easy to focus on the things that we feel are not going well, and forget how much that God has done for us. Human nature seems to want to lean towards the negatives of life and let our gaze rest there. Psalm 107 is a really detailed account of thankfulness for what God has done – story of His faithfulness.
Help me – “the redeemed of the Lord” – remember to tell my story, the story of all the good things that you have done.
Written by Shelley Witt
3 John 1:9-14
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.
Diotrephes “loves being a leader” (vs 9) – the position of influence is something he enjoys. The Contemporary English Version describes Diotrephes as liking being the “number one leader”.
But – the following comment about him is that he REFUSES to have anything to do with John and his companions and he also refuses to welcome any travelling teachers (including John and his companions) and tells others in the church not to as well – putting anyone who disobeys him out of the church! His leadership is all about power and control – not about care for the sheep entrusted to him.
Reading this passage is very sobering as I write this as a leader also.
Whenever I lead – it must be motivated by love and demonstrated in humble submission to the Lord Jesus and the Godly men and women He has brought alongside me to encourage, support and correct me.
Oh God – don’t let me be impressed with myself but rather help me remember daily the great love you have for me and out of humility help me serve you faithfully as I serve your people.
Written by Ps. Linda Quinn
3 John 5-8
5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.
What a wonderful encouragement Gaius receives from John – and a public testimony to his servant-hood and hospitality to travelling believers/ministries. John encourages Gaius to keep it up as by offering these folks hospitality he becomes a co-worker with them. Gods’ Kingdom operates so differently, we are to be interconnected, family, no one is to be a lone worker.
I understand John’s encouragement to Gaius to keep up this ministry having been in missions. I know first hand how wonderful it can be to receive hospitality from believers I don’t know but how the blessing goes both ways. They hear what God is busy doing in other places & in the ministry they are enabling and we, by being included in the family meal, the security of their home & hearing how God is at work in their lives and church. We may have arrived as ‘strangers’ but we never leave that way.
Lord thank you for the timely reminder of the hospitality that I’ve received in the past and that as Christians we are all interconnected – we can make an impact for your Kingdom, right in our own homes.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
3 John 1-4
1 The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
What a great prayer to pray for a friend, a brother or sister in Christ! Good health, life to the full! How wonderful it is to hear good news about those we minister to and with, especially the impact they are making from those on whom the impact for Jesus is made.
I find myself thinking about the nature of my prayers for others – what is their content – am I praying ‘motherhood’ prayers or prayers of faith, blessing and real meaning. This is certainly my desire.
Father help me to pray with faith and in blessing for all those you call me to pray for!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
2 John 7-13
7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we[a] have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work. 12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings.
In a world fraught with dangers and sin, worldly power brokers, crumbling empires and countless temptations, John could call on his immense wisdom to warn his followers of any number of risks and dangers in this life. The culmination of this short letter is to warn the reader about the dangers of false teachers, detractors of the truth about Jesus. He goes so far as to call these people antichrists!
For me, the reason for this stern warning is clear: while other risks and dangers may provoke great anxiety or perhaps even physical pain or torture, what we actually believe from what we are taught is of utmost importance. We need to believe the right things about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit because the consequences of wrong belief have eternal consequences.
In 1 Timothy 4:16 Paul urges Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely. He also warns the Roman church of deceivers in Romans 16:17. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus warns his disciples about those who will try to deceive them (7:15, 24:4-5).
Lord, this is a big deal not only because of the eternal consequences of my beliefs, but first and foremost because what I believe about you will effect my relationship with you. Help me to have right thinking and correct belief and to deal appropriately with those who teach anything that is contrary to Your truth.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
2 John 1-6
1 The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love. 4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
Reading these verses reminded me of what Jesus said in the Gospel of John. In John 13:34, Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus loved his disciples. His love for them (and us) was demonstrated by the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. He spared not his life so that we (sinners) can live.
Knowing the truth of God, his son Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace leads to this love. True love will ultimately drive us to be obedient. Obedience will no longer be a chore but a joy. The more we love Jesus, the easier it is to follow and obey Him.
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you have shown us what true love is. Help us to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ as you have loved us. In doing so, may we be the reflection of a true Church family. Amen
Written by Shin Liu
1 John 5:13-21
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
Apostle John makes his conclusion to his letter to the church by confirming that those who believe in Jesus —“You have eternal life”.
What a great confirmation and affirmation! That eternal life was given by God who sent His only son Jesus to us. So, whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. This is not “maybe” or “hope” or “wish” – we can have eternal life, by the promise of true God.
The challenge of this passage to me is:
Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to earth to die in our place for my sins. You are the God-man, fully God and full human at the same time. Help me to behave like a person with eternal life all the time. Amen.
Written by Allen Leu
1 John 5:6-12
6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Late in the first century a pseudo-Christian religion called Gnosticism was teaching that it was impossible for Jesus to be divine and a real person at the same time. 1 John was written to help early Christians refute Gnosticism using checks, balances, and tests of doctrine. However, this makes some of what is said difficult for us to understand today.
To be honest, I am not sure what some of this passage means, but I was struck by one idea.
‘Whoever has the Son has life’. – So, what does this mean, ‘has the Son’?
I am sure there is a higher meaning, but for me, the simple outworking of this verse is ‘if you have someone then that person plays an influential role in your life’.
To ‘have a doctor’ is to seek medical advice from a capable practitioner who has agreed to help you, to listen to them and act on their advice.
So, I have asked myself what role the Son plays in my life. Is He an advocate, a counsellor, a teacher, a provider and for each of these roles, how much time am I spending seeking out, listening to, and acting on His advice?
What role does He play in your life?
Lord, I thank you that you have given us eternal life but please help us to allow you to play a greater role in our daily lives! Amen
Written by David Newton
1 John 5:1-5
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
I am struck by the final statement in this short set of verses: “who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” I notice the connection here between overcoming the world, and “only the one who believes.” That belief in Jesus is the key to overcoming the resistance that we face to following Jesus in the world, however it comes at us. I also notice in this passage how belief in Jesus is fundamentally connected to obeying God’s commands, and is a key evidence of us being born of God. So in short, our belief in Jesus is evidenced by obedience to God’s commandments which is evidence of us being born of God – all of which is the means by which we overcome the resistance in the world.
This calls me to ask the question. How am I going obeying God’s commandments? How am I going being obedient to God? What of what I am doing in my life, planning in my life, and prioritizing in my life, is clearly understood by me as obedience to God? If I truly do believe in Jesus, then obedience is the natural evidence. So obedience should be informing my doing, planning, and prioritizing in this life.
Lord, help me make sure that my daily activities, my plans, and my priorities in life are not without clear connection to obedience to you. For this is how faith in you is in evidence in my life, and it’s how I overcome all the resistances to you and your purposes that come against me. Amen.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
1 John 4:13-21
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
His love is made complete in us. His love is perfected in us.
John has repeated these statements (depending on the translation) 3 times, in v 12, v 17 and v 18b.
I notice that each time this is accompanied by a transformation in the Christian.
In verse 12 we are transformed to loving one another
In v 17 we are made bold for the day of judgment
In v 18b we have no fear of death
God’s love changes us, our attitudes to others, to the future, and gives us a new perspective. Only God’s love can bring this about because he always loves us and he has shown himself by sending Jesus (v14). This was how he “first loved us”, having Jesus die in our place. God’s love was incredibly costly.
When we take on love and live in love, we live the way he designed us (v16). I can tell this is true because of the way my spirit is lifted, tuned into Him, when I show love to someone else. That’s not to say it is always easy or without cost, maybe my love is not appreciated or even noticed. God loved me first, even though I was his enemy, when I was ignoring him. That was when he gave Jesus to save me. I love and believe in that salvation and I am changed. His love is complete in me.
Dear Lord. You are the essence of love, a love that is selfless, eternal, without conditions. I know my future is secure in you. Remain in me by your Holy Spirit, as I show your love this week. It could never cost as much as the price you paid.
Written by Claire Moore
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
“God is love” must be one of the most quoted bits of the Bible (22.3 million results from searching for it on Google), mostly without the rest of the verse.
It’s often used to suggest that God will have to accept me no matter what garbage and sin I fill my life with. It’s often used as a rebuke to God for not fixing the world in the ways I would like. But the emphasis here is not on what God should or shouldn’t do, but on what I should be doing. (He’s already done more than enough to show his love, and Jesus’ sacrifice is the clearest statement of all.)
It’s true that love is a fundamental defining characteristic of God, and realization of this is a key to understanding so much of what he says and does. But John’s saying here that it’s also a key to understanding myself.
If love doesn’t become a defining characteristic of my life too, then I don’t know him. If I don’t take hold of love and make it who I am, I’m not letting go of the sin that Jesus sacrifice was to take away and it remains who I am. If I refuse to love, I refuse to let God live in me.
Jesus, I choose your love for me. I choose to make it part of me. I choose to have you live your life and your love in me.
Written by David Cornell
1 John 4:1-6
4 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
This passage is a call to counterculture. It shouldn’t, but always surprises me when the world does not understand Jesus and what he came to do. We are called to be true to the Holy Spirit and wise to the difference between belonging to God and belonging to the world.
Being countercultural requires us to be wise and discerning, not blindly accepting things based on popularity or trends. It is essential because the way we think will dictate our actions, and reveal our heart. It all starts and ends with Jesus. If what I believe about who he is and why he came aren’t correct then it will be easy to get drawn into false teaching. We need to acknowledge that as believers we will think differently about things to the rest of the world. I want to make sure I live lovingly but fearlessly, unafraid to believe differently to the world.
Father help me to be true to the call you have placed on my life. Give me discernment to test the way I think and beliefs of others. Thank you Jesus for all you have done for me. In Jesus name. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
1 John 3:19-24
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Initially this short passage seems quite convoluted and hard to understand. Maybe it is difficult to translate into English, maybe John was just so pumped up about the goodness of God that he was writing in an ecstatic fashion!
I took the following truths out of what John is saying here:
We can be at peace in God’s presence by:
We can be confident in prayer if:
We can be confident of his presence if:
We please and obey God when we:
So basically the message to me is simple:
God you gave your Son to make me your child. You love me, you are with me, you call me to love others. You will answer my prayers as I believe these things. Amen
Written by Andrew Mellor
1 John 3:11-18
11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This passage is about the love of God and how His nature should be evident in us.
The past few weeks, I have been listening to “How He Loves” by Jesus Culture on repeat. One line that has prompted a lot of consideration says “when I think about how He loves me”. So I have been trying to do that – to pause and consciously think about how the Father loves me personally. I have found it challenging because again I am coming face to face with what I actually believe about the Father’s love towards me.
I find that when I doubt His love, I die on the inside – I get anxious and uncertain. When I doubt, I become like Cain – I try to earn my Heavenly Father’s love. But Father, You know this about me already. You know that I have moments of doubt and yet You continue loving me. When I think about this I realise that You love me with understanding …. and in this, I find my heart at peace and settled.
Father, I thank you for Your unfailing love for me and that it never runs out. I am so glad that You love me personally as who I am. As Your love fills my heart, may it overflow to those around me and bless them.
Written by Gab Martin
1 John 3:4-10
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
I can see that so much of who I am has been shaped by my parents. From my love of books and stories, to my interest in history, to my fierce sense of standing up for what I believe in, to my sense of humour and my faith… When people meet me they have in part met my parents
In the same way, if we are God’s children and allow Him to shape and parent us, people will be able to see Him in us. God is love, and as His love is formed in us, people will experience it through us.
God, thank you for your love for me and for all humanity. Please shape me and parent me, teach me how to receive your love and share it with those around me. Help me to stay focused on love and not to get distracted by other things. Help me to hug as you would hug, greet as you would greet, make eye contact as you would make eye contact, encourage as you would encourage and see the best in people as you see the best in people. Amen.
Written by Bethany Waugh
1 John 3:1-3
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
This passage is about identifying true believers.
But it’s also instructional for us as followers of Christ to ensure that we don’t end up in a bad way.
But tracing back to what John writes is the real key to making sure my behaviour stays pure, it is quite an intriguing statement.
Verses 2 and 3 basically say that if I really, truly have the expectation that I will, one day, get to see Christ fully revealed for who he really is, then I will just be able to keep myself pure!
While there is much more going on here, I love the way that John distills this down.
Lord, may I anticipate a full revelation of who you are so that I can be kept pure!
Written by Ps Justin Ware
1 John 2:26-29
26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. 28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
It’s a simple message that John wants us to hear. If you don’t want to be led astray, then remain in fellowship with Christ.
As John points out to us, we know this message is true, not just because John says it is true, but because we also have the Holy Spirit within us teaching us the same thing – remain in fellowship with Christ.
Is there anything trying to led you astray? Yes. Whenever there is anything – a person or a message, a fear, worry, concern, doubt, trial, temptation, whatever – it’s a long list, all are trying to lead us astray, wanting to distract us, confuse us, dominate our thoughts and time and energy. These things want to be the centre of our world, leading us astray from Christ. We are led astray when Christ is not the centre of our lives.
How do we not let these things lead us astray? Remain in fellowship with Christ.
Simple. It’s easy to forget, and I often need reminding, but I know it’s true.
Remain in fellowship with Christ. Stay in his Word. Stay in community with his people.
Father, help me to remain focused on you, focused on Christ, to remain in fellowship with Christ. All the things that would lead me astray, I submit them to you, for you are Lord over all.
Written by Andrew Martin
Phone: +61 2 9875 0300
PO Box 2744,
Carlingford NSW 2118
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Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118
During December & January Service times 9:30am & 5:30pm
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118