Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
When I was small, my parents told me “stay where you are if you’re lost”. Now, Paul is telling to stay where I was when I was found. Why?
I suspect one reason is that I should be really clear that I’m not saved by what I do; I’m saved by what Jesus did. Being a slave (or being an employee today) doesn’t diminish the freedom I have in Christ. Nor does being a master (or being the CEO today) diminish my need to submit myself to Christ.
Paul points to another reason in yesterday’s passage: the faithfulness of a believing husband or wife may be the key to their unbelieving spouse being saved too. There are people in my workplace who desperately need the good news about Jesus that set me free.
I love spending time with my church family. I’m free to be completely open with them about my relationship with God: to rejoice in what He does, and about the issues I need Him to intervene in. Perhaps I need to learn to be as relaxed at work in speaking about what God’s doing in my life as I am about what my kids are doing.
That’s not always easy. The reaction to my God is often not as good as the reaction to stories about my kids. Maybe I need to allow God and them to deal with that one; to just be natural about His part in my life.
Lord, please be part of the whole of my life, including the parts where I’m amongst people who don’t welcome you. Give my life a real honesty, wherever I am.
Written by David Cornell
1 Corinthians 7:8-16
8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
As I reflect on this passage, there are two things that Paul focuses on that can be helpful to all believers and not only to the marriage relationship as this passage appears to focus on.
Firstly, Paul takes a direct command from God regarding divorce and says that it still applies to us today. Then secondly, he then proceeds to explain how to apply this, not as a command directly from God, but by using the wisdom that God has given to him and makes that clear as well.
But instead of focusing on the letter of the Law, Paul chose to focus on the heart of the Law. And it is this that can be applied to any relationship, not just the marriage relationship. Paul asks us the question, “Don’t you realise that your husbands/wives might be saved because of you?” In any relationship, whether it is marriage or friends or business, between saved and not saved, Paul would remind us that “Don’t you realise that they might be saved because of you?”
Whatever relationships we have, we as believers are to be an influence on their faith journey, as long as it is us influencing them towards faith, and not us being influenced away from God. We all need to have these relationships where we are influencing non-believers towards God, and while that is true, remain in that relationship. BUT, if a relationship is leading us away from God, away from faith, then let them go. Pray for them, but let them go.
Father, I thank you for ALL the relationships that we have, and I pray for those who are not saved, that we can be a part of their journey towards you. Let me not lose sight of your heart for all people.
Written by Andrew Martin
1 Corinthians 7:1-7
7 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
I first met Christian Sexologist Dr Patricia Weerakoon when I was studying at a secular university, when she taught an elective on sex and disability, but I have since gotten to know her much better.
In her book “The best sex for life”, she unpacks the contrasts between God’s amazing design for healthy and fulfilling human sexuality, and the mixed and conflicting messages that the world around us teaches about sex
Dr Weerakoon comments that less than one in ten married couples have an equal desire for sex, and she also notes that desire levels change over time. This means that practically every couple must come to some understanding, privately with each other, on what to do when this desire imbalance happens.
Importantly, this passage emphasises the special place of the relationship between a husband and wife. It doesn’t say that one person is entitled to sex whenever they want it! The theology of sex in the Bible is all about both couples serving one another in love, sometimes through abstaining from sex, and sometimes through making love, even when it doesn’t seem perfect. Dr Weerakoon, has shown through her research, that the wisdom of the bible, written 2000 years earlier, still stands as incredibly wise advice today.
Thank You Lord that Your Holy Book, the Bible, gives help and instruction to every facet of life. May we rightly handle the Word of Truth as we seek to apply its precepts to our lives.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
6 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! 7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
There’s a few layers or “levels” in this amazing passage…
Level one…instructions about lawsuits and in-fighting within the church. And getting secular courts to judge. Yikes! Don’t do that – better to be wronged.
Level two… get your mind on what’s coming – in the next life – not this life. This life is short – eternity is a long time. Am I playing the “long game”? When will I realise that I’ll judge angels and the universe?! I need to prepare for that time right now.
Level three – if I continue in unrepentant and wilful sin, even as a believer, I am in the same cohort as those who won’t inherit God’s Kingdom. Time to get real about sin.
Final level – I have been made holy! I can’t earn it. I can’t buy it. It’s gifted to me when I surrendered my life to following Jesus – my saviour and friend. I have a “perfect standing” before God. Given by Jesus. Because He loves me.
Lord, please help me filter every level of my life through this last level – I am loved and made holy through no other means but faith and surrender – no matter what I’ve done – because I’m loved by Jesus.
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Well, I’m sure that you will agree that this is a challenging passage to fully interpret Paul’s meaning here, as he writes to the church at Corinth on how to deal with certain people within their church.
However, one thing that Paul makes quite clear is that he is not referring to people outside the church when he exhorts the Corinthians to avoid associating with those who are practicing immorality.
It seems rather, that Paul is warning the church against hypocrisy within the church. People who claim to be Christians, but who are consistently, purposefully practicing all different types of immoral behaviours are to be avoided.
This idea is consistent with Jesus’ teaching and His practice of befriending sinners but calling out the religious hypocrites of his day and disassociating Himself from them.
As for me, I approach this area carefully, knowing that in the end only God can rightfully judge people’s hearts and lives. I do not want to sanction immorality within the church, but I also do not to want to be the one to cast stones.
May God give us the grace and wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent, when to reach out and when to step back.
Written by Shelley Witt
1 Corinthians 5:1-8
5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Honour and shame were very important in the ancient near east, especially the honour of groups one belonged to. It is likely that the man involved in sexual immorality was of high status and therefore the group ( church) was proud of him belonging to them. They were essentially honouring his sin and unwilling to challenge his behaviour.
Paul says no – how we live is important – not how important we are in the world. Paul wants this man put out of the church ( cast out to Satan ie. the world) – so that he realises his behaviour is wrong and repents. Paul’s aim is repentance for the man and restoration of true honour for the church. This doesn’t mean that every sinner should be put out of the church ( or there’d be no-one left)! Elsewhere Paul says to privately challenge those in persistent sin. It was the honouring which made this one different – like the church today upholding and honouring a paedophilic leader.
Lord, help me to watch my behaviour and repent when I need to, so that I represent Christ and his church well.
Written by Megan Cornell
1 Corinthians 4:14-21
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us imitate someone, or more accurately, we will imitate a series of different people over the course of our lives. Most of us start out imitating our parents and then later we will choose other role models that come along in life.
It’s important who you choose to imitate, and here we read the Apostle Paul urging the Corinthian church to imitate him. It’s a fairly bold statement to ask someone to imitate you! It made me ask myself the question, who am I imitating, and who is potentially imitating me?
Towards the end of this passage, Paul makes the statement “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power”. To me, this indicates that the people that I am imitating, should be people who do not merely “talk the talk” but also live a life of demonstrating the power of God’s Spirit at work through them.
Now there’s a challenge – may I too, be a person of power, not just talk!
Written by Shelley Witt
1 Corinthians 4:6-13
6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
In this passage, we find Paul in the middle of correcting the Corinthians. They had been arguing about whether Paul or Apollos was the greatest and who they were following after. It had become a game of comparison and one-upmanship. Sadly, their actions were motivated by pride and they were blind to it. Paul was tired of their nonsense and used sarcasm to highlight their immaturity. He warns them not to go beyond what was written in scripture, nor to boast about the gifts they had received from God.
While we might not be Corinthians, we too can become blind to our own shortcomings. Like the Corinthians, we too are on a pathway of discipleship, of becoming more and more like Christ. God does His transforming work within us as we obey His word and by taking heed to the “Paul’s” and “Apollo’s” in our lives too.
Father God, as I follow after You, may I not deceive myself with pride, thinking that I have achieved it or made it, as if by my own doing. Instead, lead me by Your Spirit and help me to obey Your word and listen to Godly leaders around me.
Written by Gab Martin
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
4 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
In this passage, Paul makes comments on evaluating the work people do.
He says that it doesn’t matter to him what others think about his work. His conscience is clear regarding what he has done, and that is not to say that he was right, but he isn’t going to worry about what others think. What matters to him is how God evaluates it. To have that attitude is very liberating. I couldn’t count the number of hours wasted worrying about what others think about the work I have done over the years.
But Paul goes further. He doesn’t even worry about how he judges his own work. He doesn’t even trust himself to evaluate his work properly. And again, how many hours have I spent looking back at the work I have done, and wondering if it was worth it, did I get it right, did I make a mistake, am I a success or failure? If Paul doesn’t trust himself to evaluate his work then I should have that same attitude and stop judging the results of my work.
I find it easy to discount what others say about the things I did, and be very critical of my own efforts. Instead, it is better to leave the evaluation of our work to God, who sees it all, understands the motives of our hearts, and trust him, that he is … working all things together for the GOOD of those who love God and are called according to HIS purposes.
God has a plan, and he chooses to use us, but he rarely shows us all of his plan. So, we don’t always know how our part fits in. All we can do is trust him, submit to him, offer to him our work as an act of worship, and let him provide the evaluation.
Father, thank you for choosing to use us in your work on earth, in the community you have placed us. All I want to do is do my best for you.
Written by Andrew Martin
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
When it comes to wisdom for life, I need guideposts and benchmarks. As a parent I need the wisdom of other parents in order to improve my parenting. At work I need the wisdom of others who have walked the paths I am walking so I can grow. I regularly benefit from wisdom shared by people who may not be Christians. I don’t think this passage is suggesting that I block my ears to the advice of anyone who is not a Christian. But when it comes to bedrock wisdom to build my life on… I need God’s wisdom. I need God’s wisdom to filter through into my parenting, working and relationships. This wisdom comes through habits of prayer, reading the Bible and spending time in church. These are the most common places God shares his wisdom.
God, you promise to share your wisdom with me if I seek it, I want to make seeking your wisdom a habit.
Written by Andrew Mellor
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
When I first read this, I thought “I’m not sure my contribution to building the church is particularly valuable. I’m sure that what others do is worth much more.” But Paul doesn’t say that what is built is judged by its value, but by whether it survives (literally “remains”). So, what things will remain?
I looked at what the New Testament says will “endure” or “remain”. It talks most commonly about God’s people “enduring”. I think it’s important that I invest all of myself in bringing and building people up into God’s family.
Righteousness endures (2 Corinthians 9:9), and so does faith, hope and love, but love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13:13). Jesus tells the church at Ephesus “I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. … But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:2,4). However, he commends the church at Thyatira “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance” (Revelation2:19). I should build with love for both Jesus and his people (not in the hope of a reward).
God is the one steadily building endurance in each of us (Romans 15:5-6, James 1:2-4). Jesus tells us that we will be fruitful as we remain in him, like branches on a grapevine (John15:1-10). It’s so important that whatever I do, I do it in partnership with Jesus, working with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, you’re the foundation. Thanks for all the different parts you give us in what you’re doing to build your church. Help us to build with you, with faith and hope and above all, love, just like you.
Written by David Cornell
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
The description of the Messiah is unambiguous – powerful and inspiring.
The names given suggest a number of things. Divine wisdom and power, ongoing and unceasing fatherly care, the bringing of peace with all of its blessings.
When I think of a Saviour these descriptions cover all my needs. I need a Saviour – one who doesn’t just deal with part of who I am but all that I am and hope to be.
Jesus – the child born is this Saviour.
But even more than this I take confidence from the fact that the kingdom God establishes through the Saviour, Jesus, is one of ever increasing peace and ever increasing dimension. Jesus rule and reign – His kingdom – is not geographical but in our hearts and God’s promise is that it will always increase.
That means His transforming work in me and through me is always at work by His Word and Spirit – wow what a life of joy, of peace, of fruitfulness!!
Father, this Christmas I come to you afresh, committing my life to your Lordship. May I follow you more dearly and nearly day-by-day!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
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
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
I don’t know much about these shepherds aside from the fact that they were up at night looking after their sheep. To a great extent for me, this helps me relate to them. Even though I am not that familiar with looking after animals, I can imagine myself in their position – up late with some work mates, sharing stories, probably with a campfire burning.
I imagine that these shepherds are Israelite’s with some background understanding of God, but their shock and awe when the angel appears gives me the impression that they would not have expected God to show up in this way, at least not for them.
What I love about this story and I am really challenged by, is the way that they respond – the scale of their visit by the angels leads them to drop everything they were doing to travel into the “nearby” town of Bethlehem (probably still a long way by foot), to see the baby.
Once they saw Jesus, the shepherds continue their response: they tell everyone about what they had seen and heard and they praise God.
Thanks Lord that you show up in unexpected places. Help me to be better at expecting your unexpected intervention.
Thank you that I have met Jesus as the shepherds did. May I have a lasting response that mirrors theirs – telling others and worshipping you. Amen.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware
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 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.
Seven verses, simple everyday details – a girl, a boy and a baby. And yet these seven verses describe the beginnings of events that have changed the world. To an onlooker, the events in these verses would have seemed unremarkable, but it makes me wonder how many times over the course of history has God taken ordinary events and turned them into the extraordinary. Mary and Joseph were just living their best life, and I want to do the same. Mary and Joseph did not work hard so they would be used by God. They just humbly lived their lives, loving God. He came after them and used them mightily.
So I am thinking if I want to be part of great things for God, then maybe I just need to live my best life, humbly and in obedience. Maybe I need to be open to God and allow him to use my ordinary everyday as part of his plans and let Him make my life significant for His Kingdom.
Jesus, I give my life to you. Use me Lord to bring glory to your kingdom. Help me to be faithful to your call on my life. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
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.
This song by Mary is commonly known as ‘The Magnificat’. It is commonly sung in traditional carols services at Christmas, I recall singing it many times growing up in the church choir I was part of. It is a soaring song of praise of God. We do well to read it slowly and let its powerful themes lead us to God. Themes like – God notices all not based on prestige or human accolade; God’s mercy is shown to those who revere Him; God does mighty things; God opposes the proud.
As you take the time now to praise God using this song of praise let your heart thrill at your Father in heaven.
Father, hear our praises to You and as we lift our hearts to you based on Mary’s song!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
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 is keen to seek out what God is doing. So she goes to see for herself how her cousin Elizabeth is faring in the midst of a miracle pregnancy. I’ve no doubt this would have built her faith, and why not. And how cool that the Holy Spirit encourages her so strongly as Mary takes these steps to build her faith in God.
What steps of opportunity do I take to build my faith in God and His work in my life. Mary is such a model and example to me in this regard. God is for her in this venture, giving very specific and profound encouragement to her by the Holy Spirit.
Lord, I thank you for this reminder that it is good to take regular opportunities to build my faith through others and what you’re doing in their life. Help me not neglect this great opportunity that is often far more normal and accessible (eg. Mary’s cousin) than I recognise. Amen
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
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 of 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.
This passage is about the fulfilment of a prophecy given hundreds of years earlier by those who had no way of knowing exactly how it would turn out. That is so exciting – evidence of God’s perfect plan.
However, another thing stands out to me in this passage. Joseph, a good man, determined to quietly break his engagement to Mary because of her pregnancy. But God spoke to him in a dream and he immediately changed his mind and did what God asked him to. The thing which excites me about that is that God’s voice was clear. We often wonder “Am I hearing God correctly?” “Is He really calling me to this?” When it really counts God’s voice is unmistakable. In John 10 Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice”. We can be certain that if we are his sheep, and we are open to hearing, God will make his voice clear.
Thank you Lord, that you are not aloof and hidden away, but are involved in our lives. Please do make your voice clear and help me to be open enough to hear you.
Written by Megan Cornell
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[a] 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.
Here is God’s marvelous plan of redemption becoming reality! Fulfilling prophesy and bringing the long promised reconciliation with God, the birth of His Son is announced.
The God of relationship once again is working through people to bring about his plan. I realised how incredible it was that God worked his plan through a young woman in Nazareth. Mary’s response especially in verses 46-56 shows she felt it was an incredible promise too. God has always been acting through people to bring about his purposes and he still is today, working through those who love him. This is God’s character, to have relationship with us, for us to know him. What a privilege!
Mary’s humble response to learning her world was about to completely change is always inspiring! Mary’s heart was full of obedience and humility at the call of God on her life. What is my response when God calls me?
Dear Lord Jesus, you are in control of my future. Your call on my life may take me somewhere unexpected, but as you are in control, help me to respond like Mary, in gratitude, and humility.
Written by Claire Moore
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 Corinthians 3:5-9
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
I am not much of a gardener, but we are very fortunate that the previous owner of our house, Betty, had the passion and skill to create a very beautiful garden which we now enjoy. Betty planted and watered, God made it grow, and we get to enjoy the benefits!
Paul uses a gardening analogy in the scriptures here to remind the Corinthian church that every one of us is just a part of the process in building His kingdom. We each have a role to play in the ways that we serve, but the Lord is at the centre of life, bringing His plans and purposes together like a master gardener.
This is both humbling and exciting yet also liberating at the same time. Humbling, because it reminds us that God is in control of the growing process and we are not; exciting because God is gracious enough to allow us to partner with Him in His work here on earth; and liberating to realise and remember that it’s ultimately God’s job to bring His plans to fruition.
I am grateful to be a part of God’s “gardening” work, partnering with Him and others to create something beautiful and eternal for His kingdom here on earth.
Written by Shelley Witt
1 Corinthians 3:1-4
3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
Gosh Paul is unhappy with his friends in Corinth in this passage. I am always amazed how much choice God gives us about how connected with Him we want to be. It’s up to us. We can stay as children of the faith or we can put some effort in to grow up and mature. Growing from a child to an adult takes time, effort and learning – the same is true for growing up in the faith. What sort of things are you doing to learn more about God and your faith?
Some of our maturity comes from what we believe. As we grow up in faith, we get a better and stronger idea of what God wants us to focus on. God thinks unity is important, He thinks individuals are important, He thinks living a life of peace and grace is important. All these ideas mean that arguments about theology or splits in the faith family because some believe one person while others believe another person are probably not what God would like us to be doing. No wonder Paul was frustrated.
Lord help us to want to grow up in the faith – that it is a priority in our lives. Please help us to see where we need to learn more. Lead us to the ways for us to learn more that work for us – books, courses, podcasts, spending time with someone further down the track, group bible studies, quiet time etc. Thank you that you want to lead us along this process and that you have a way that will work for each and every one of us.
Written by Therese Manning
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
In a postmodern world where science replaces faith, true religion is ‘Me’, and morality is blurred, it is more important than ever to know the mind of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit. As a follower of a Jesus, I find my lifestyle and values can be very counterculture. I want to know that my thinking and behaviour is in alignment with God’s expectations. It is all too easy to go with worldly thinking. It will be comfortable and familiar unless I have the Holy Spirit inside me to prompt and challenge me when required. This passage reminds me that when I choose to be countercultural because of my faith, I cannot expect the world to understand. But if I can live for Jesus without judging or condemning others, just maybe those around me who live without Faith might be drawn to God.
Lord fill me with your Spirit. Help me to hear your voice and to live faithfully to your commands. Show me Lord how live counterculture for you. Lord may I reflect your love so that others are drawn to you. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Written by Christine Knight
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
“I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Let that sit with you for a minute. It struck me as I read this passage this morning.
If it’s not stirring anything in you, perhaps reflect that the writer, Paul, who is understood to be one of the greatest minds of Christian Theology in the history of the world. His writings have stood the test of time over 2000 years and have served as one of the foundations of our understanding of our faith.
If that still doesn’t stir anything, consider that the city of Corinth was one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the region. People from all across that region of the world would gather there for sporting events, trading, finance, culture, and philosophy.
As I reflect on all of this today, I am reminded afresh that God calls me to use incredible wisdom in choosing how I share my faith. At times, he wants me to use all the intellect and culture I can glean to win others over, as Paul does in Acts 17, but at other times, he needs me to act simply and humbly, proclaiming nothing other than the message of Christ’s sacrifice in our place for our sins.
Lord give me wisdom and discernment on how to be most effective in sharing my faith with others, that I might see many come to Christ through the message of the Gospel, however it is presented.
Written by Ps Justin Ware
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I don’t know about you, but I read this and I am so thankful that Jesus found me. THANKFUL, that He revealed Himself to me. THANKFUL, that I had friends and pastors around me encouraging me to keep walking, keep going, keep on the track – eventually you will find the road.
I have come realise that God doesn’t require amazing gifts and talents, but actually just wants a heart surrendered to HIM, to do amazing things.
So many wonderful servants of Jesus have just done what was in front of them to do. As a result, they have seen peoples’ lives changed, communities transformed, cities revived and nations changed.
A person fully surrendered to Jesus Christ and His purpose is the most powerful person on earth.
Lord help me to keep my eyes on YOU. Continue to fill me with your spirit so that I can see beyond what I see. Give me the strength and courage to keep going even when at times I don’t know where I am heading. Help me stay the course that you have destined for me.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
In this passage God is turning wisdom and foolishness upside down.
A bit of history helps us understand what Paul is saying. This passage was written to people in Corinth – in Greece – in the heyday of Greek philosophy and oratory, when there were highly trained speakers on street corners trying to persuade people with their wise words. The Jewish world also focussed on wisdom – the teachers of the law were deemed to be incredibly wise and were highly esteemed. So, both Gentile and Jewish people were wrapped up in human wisdom. But God decided (in his wisdom) that human wisdom was not the way to salvation.
God’s way to salvation was to send his Son to die a shameful, degrading death. Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for the lowest of the low. It was so shameful that ‘nice’ people didn’t even mention the word ‘cross’. It is easy to see why the message of the gospel seemed like madness. Not much has changed! In our society today many people consider ‘reason’ as the ultimate wisdom and they too see the cross as ridiculous. But for us who believe the cross represents power, salvation and the love of God.
Why did God do it this way? So that salvation did not depend on us. We are saved through humility and complete dependence on God – not through the wisdom of people, but by the Holy Spirit. Nothing compares to the wisdom and power of God.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are so wise. Thank you that you gave us a way to be saved. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. Thank you that what seemed foolish to people brought freedom, blessing and eternal life. Please help me to always keep the right perspective – to always depend on you. Amen
Written by Megan Cornell
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Leadership in the church is important. Without leaders, the church can become aimless or misdirected. Even if individuals have the right heart and motives, leaders are needed to bring organisation and cohesion to the plans of the church.
However, I am reminded here, that leaders are to do exactly that, serve the church. They use their gift of leadership in service. Leaders in the church are not seeking more followers. Leaders in the church are seeking more Christ followers. Therefore, as a follower I must be clear in my own heart and mind that I belong to Christ, my leaders are gifts from Christ to help guide me to work well within the body of the Church. A leader is just a fellow servant of Christ.
Lord, you have made us all your servants. In your church, there are many gifts. We thank you for those you have gifted as leaders. Please refresh them and strengthen them in their roles, particularly Richard and Sue, Rob and Beth and all our Pastoral team. Ultimately may we all be following you with passion and commitment. Amen!
Written by Andrew Mellor
Phone: +61 2 9875 0300
PO Box 2744,
Carlingford NSW 2118
7:00pm – Fridays in school term, for years 6-12
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118
9.30AM Service: ONSITE & ONLINE
5.30PM Service ONSITE at:
Carlingford High School Hall,
547 North Rocks Rd, Carlingford
NSW, Australia 2118