Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely —be content with your pay.”
John uses some strong language speaking to the crowd; it’s never complimentary when you’re referred to as a poisonous snake! John shocks the people out of their comfort zone; he confronts them in regards to their reliance on ritual, and their identity as sons of Abraham. The main issue here is the state of these people’s hearts. John challenges them that if they are sincere in repenting from sin and turning to God there should be clear evidence in their lives. Selfless generosity, integrity and compassion, these should be the fruit in our lives.
John’s voice challenges me, how deep does my repentance go? Is there evidence in my life day by day that I have turned from a life of sin and am pursuing Christ? I desire that the fruit of my life draw people closer to God.
Written by Beth Waugh
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
John is in the wilderness at about 26-29AD at a time of political chaos & religious barrenness. In the midst of this chaos, “the word of God came to John”. It did not come to the politically powerful, or to the religious leaders, but to John, alone in the wilderness.
The wilderness is a place of uncharted territory, and there are no maps or guides. It is a place of barrenness and beauty; it can be in drought or have flash floods, unpredictable and irregular rain. However, in this wild and uncharted place, God spoke to John. Some think the way of the world is a way of life that will satisfy, and remember, the world will not hesitate to impose its belief on us. Some believe to only following God’s law will make us right with God. However, our hearts will always be restless until we find rest in God. We need to make a choice to prepare the way of the Lord in our heart. When in the wilderness, we must live by faith and be aware of our total dependence on God. We cannot be self sufficient; we must rely on God alone. We must shift from self-reliance to total reliance on God. Do not despise the wilderness, it is a call to surrender everything and in the surrender is the joy of knowing we can hear His word and be assured we can depend upon God.
Written by Cathy Croft
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Jesus had parents – imagine being Jesus’ mum or dad. Initially it might seem easy – the perfect kid. But Mary and Joseph didn’t “get” Jesus – they knew He was different but they didn’t “get” how. Imagine looking for Jesus for 3 days!!! Then finding Him calmly talking and listening in the temple. Didn’t He know He was lost? Why did you do this to us Jesus? Why are you doing this to me Jesus? I hear my anxiety echoed in their words. I thought You were coming this way with me – but I turn around and You’re not here!
Jesus answer to them is the same answer to me – Didn’t you know I would be here?
Do I know where to find Jesus when “He”, I mean “I” get lost? How incredible to know that He is with me – always and everywhere. I can be with Him – I just need to keep Him in view, not get too far ahead, watch where He is leading me. Challenging but comforting. Lord help me keep close today.
Written by Linda Quinn
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[a] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
This passage is about the prophetess, Anna. After 7yrs of marriage, she lost her husband. A widow of 84 years, living in the temple, praying and fasting to God. I can only imagine she had been in the temple about 60yrs!
After Simeon, had prophesied over Jesus, Anna came up to him too. It is not clear if Anna heard what Simeon said, but regardless, she too gave thanks to God. And Anna spoke “about this child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem”. The holy city of God’s chosen people. Thereby confirming Simeon’s prophecy. This, I believe, took a lot of boldness!
The bible calls Anna a prophetess. She must have had may prophesies for many faithful Jews. Inspired by the Holy Spirit.
What this passage speaks to me, is how God uses women, like men to speak prophetically and serve the Lord. Certainly Anna may not have had anyone to provide for her, but her faithfulness in the Temple, loving and seeking God, was foremost to her.
Father God, please fill me with your Holy Spirit that I too, will seek you passionately, and know you have a purpose with my life, as you did with Anna.
Written by Linda Stengl
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simenon was one of the witnesses in Jerusalem who saw Jesus as the comfort of Israel.
His story is not very long, but the bible said “he was righteous and devout, and waiting for the comfort of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” What a great man!!
Not only that, the action of the Holy Spirit upon his life is mentioned 3 times in 10 verses.
Before Jesus went to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to His believers, there are not many cases for people to have Holy Spirit upon them.
Also, there was one special element of Simeon life: “waiting for the comfort of Israel” before he died.
Today, I have Holy Spirit with me at all times. But, what I am waiting/longing for? new car, new house, new Job, new……?
I am not saying a new car, house, job…are not good. They all come with the blessings of Jesus.
But, what is the heart-beat of my life?
What would I like to be described as from Jesus’ eye?
Written by Allen Leu
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[b]
How cool Mary and Joseph were obedient and used the name God had provided to them for Jesus. I am not a parent but I can imagine being able to choose the child’s name is something very special for parents. But names are important – they knew that too – so they did what God asked them.
And then the concept of saying thank you to God – He knew we weren’t great at remembering to say thank you so He made it a requirement for the Jewish nation to say an official thank you at the temple for a new child. Being grateful for your child is probably more obvious than some other things God does in our lives but we still needed to be reminded.
Saying thank you – how important it is. Do we remember? I know I don’t often enough. A great reminder from a fairly simple passage.
Written by Therese Manning
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.” 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.
The angels visit the shepherds, the shepherds visit Jesus, the shepherds tell all, the mother treasures all the events in her heart, it’s a fascinating stream of events.
I find it invigorating that the shepherds response to the ‘terrifying’ announcement, was to seek out the cause of the story and then the shepherds after meeting Jesus tell everyone they can. What a great response to meeting Jesus. Vs. 17 has it.
It wasn’t just that they told everyone about what they had seen and heard but they told it in such an engaging way that all who heard it from them were amazed.
Telling about our meeting with Jesus should leave others with an appetite to meet Him as well – that’s clear to me!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
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.
These first seven verses of Luke 2 tell us about the birth of Jesus – they also properly introduce us to the man who would be his earthly Father, Jospeh. As I’ve read these few verses, I keep hearing the words “humble & wise”. Joseph could have walked away from Mary, but instead he chose to remain with her and raise her unborn child as his own. He chose to put aside what others would have been thinking and saying to him about Mary and the baby. He chose to take Mary as his family, and register her as his family as part of the census. To literally stand up and be counted for what he believed in…
Would I do the same if put into a situation similar to this? To truly put my life on the line for my faith. To partner God, even if I couldn’t see what the outcome would be?
Written by Mandy Miller
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[b]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
God answers their question “What then is this child going to be?” (v66), and this time Zechariah doesn’t doubt. He speaks those words out in a beautiful testimony about John and the authority with which he would testify about Jesus.
The first third is about what God is doing through Jesus. He says God has come, has redeemed, has raised up salvation (all past tense), although Jesus has not been born yet and it is still many years until Jesus will complete the redemption on the cross. God has set his plan in motion so the outcome is certain.
The second part is about God’s demonstrated faithfulness in rescuing his people so that they could serve Him in holiness and righteousness.
The last part is about John’s part in all this: speaking for God, preparing the way, and making His salvation known. And this because Jesus “the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us”.
The challenge for me is to make my purpose and significance, my blessing, like John’s: mostly about Jesus and about God’s faithfulness and a bit about the part I will play in what God is doing.
After this fabulous blessing, John had more than a quarter of a century of growing and becoming strong in the spirit before the time was right for him to appear publicly. God’s timing was all important for John’s role to testify about Jesus. God’s timing is vital for me too.
Written by David Cornell
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
As I read this passage I am arrested by the fact that as soon as Zechariah could speak again, he was praising God. I wonder how I would have behaved in a similar situation? If I had been struck dumb a year previously, what would have been the first words out of my mouth? Would I have wanted to take the first opportunity to explain to everyone around me what had happened to me? Would I have wanted to complain about the fact that I hadn’t been able to speak for a year or so? Would I have wanted to tell everyone the destiny of my son that had been foretold by an angelic visitation? I wonder what my first words would have been?
Zechariah’s first words are praises towards God. I imagine some of that is relief at being able to speak again. However, I do believe that Zechariah has had some time to think about Gabriel’s visit and about how everything that had been foretold so far had come true. I think Zechariah would have been experiencing a profound sense of awe and excitement over seeing the rest of the prophecy fulfilled in the life of his son.
“Lord, regardless of my situation, whether good or bad or indifferent, may my first words be ones of praise towards you.”
Written by Jen Irving
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.
Mary has seen the evidence of the angel’s words to Elizabeth and has moved into a fuller belief of the truth of what God is doing in her life. She is not dismayed by the many possible negative implications – rejection by others for being pregnant out of wedlock – but is overcome by praise for God. She starts with praise for what He’s done in her own life, and moves into praise for His hand over the nations and His promises.
Do I look for the positive in life’s challenges? I am encouraged by this passage to remember God’s promises and recognise his hand in my life more, and to ‘let my hair down’ in praise for Him.
Written by Megan Cornell
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 goes to Elizabeth her cousin’s house.
Both women are pregnant, Elizabeth with John the Baptist, Mary with
Elizabeth, with seemingly no prior knowledge speaks to Mary telling her
of the blessing her child will be.
Her final statement “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord
would do what He said” is a statement of transforming power. Think of
it, blessing comes as a result of obedience. Straight forward, powerful,
principled and essential for us.
Father, help me to live a life of obedience to your Word, for then I am
in the place of blessing.
Written by Richard Botta
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.
“For no word from God will ever fail.” Lk 1:37
I remember that I am favoured too because God has shown me grace – His unmerited favour.
Where am I resisting God’s call and holding onto the ideas and plans I have for my life, instead of surrendering to what He wants for me?
What words has he spoken over me? They will not fail. They will prosper.
I am Your servant. May it be to me according to Your word. Lk 1:38
Written by Lyndall Gourlay
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
The story of faithful Zechariah and Elizabeth is a beautiful account of what happened in the lead up to the birth of Jesus. The account of John the Baptist’s parents gives amazing insight into the way that God can relate to children: Verse 15 says that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit” even before he is born! What a revelation of God’s presence in the life of a child. It is my prayer that more children would know God the Holy Spirit from even before their birth.
The challenge to me in verse 20, is that Zechariah did not believe the words of the angel Gabriel, even though it is recorded that he is righteous man, and one who has lived in service as a priest. If a man of this calibre doubts such an encouraging promise, will I have the faith to believe God when he calls me?
Written by Justin Ware
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke begins the account of his gospel, not discounting the work of others but rather wanting to add to it. A decision he made to investigate, find eyewitnesses & verify everything so that Theophilus – (whether a friend, employer or Roman official is unsure) – would know the truth about Jesus. Who Jesus was, what He did & why He did it. What an amazing undertaking … the time & lengths Luke went to get this done we’ll never know but Jesus & the Gospel were so important to him that he wanted to make sure he left an accurate record for Theophilus and ultimately for us.
What a challenge to me … Would I be prepared to do the same for those in my life who know only in part or do not know at all about Jesus?
Written by Suzie Hodgson
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