Devotionals brought to us by Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 20th Aug 2021
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
When I was thinking about this I was reminded of a young child who has done something wrong. Perhaps they have broken an ornament or spilled something on the carpet. If you are not there at the time, they may well try to hide to avoid the consequences. Perhaps they will go and jump into the wardrobe and pull the hanging clothes across in front of them or maybe go to some favourite hiding spot on the back yard?
They know that they are going to be in trouble but avoidance seems to them the best way to deal with it. In this passage both Adam and Eve have done the wrong thing. Like little children they are afraid of the consequences. The anticipation was almost as bad as the consequences, as it can be in real life.
Once God had expressed his disappointment there was also forgiveness and grace. God continued to care for them. Despite all our mistakes God continues to care for each of us today. Jesus reconciled us to God and the Holy Spirit still is with us each day, no matter how bad things might seem.
Forgiveness and grace are God gifts to us each and every day.
Loving God, we know that all too often we get it wrong. We act out of fear and insecurity at times like this. Help us appreciate your presence with us each day. Help us to mirror your love and grace with those around us so that we are honouring your gifts to us.
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 23th Aug 2021
Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
At time like this many people like to watch TV shows about unsolved mysteries and the hunt for lost fortunes. In the process we can often be taken to some wonderful and different places, which can be a bit of a dream when we are confined to our homes during lock down. At other times some of these places can be a bit frightening, especially when we don’t know what is going to happen. Crawling through the undergrowth with snakes and wild animals is not always a pleasant experience.
James clearly points out to us that there are times like this when we don’t necessarily know what will happen next. We cannot predict the future. Who would have thought at Easter that we would be in total lock down in August? We can plan for things and think about the future but there are no guarantees about what will happen next. This situation can be frightening.
However what is certain and never changes is that God is with each of us. James reminds us to pray that God’s will be done in our lives. Whatever the future may throw up we know that we are not alone. We can be certain that God’s Holy Spirit travels the whole journey with us giving comfort and support.
God does in fact hold us in His heart. We have no need to fear the future.
God of the past, the present and the future we ask that we may know your presence with us each day. In times of uncertainty let us rest in peace as one of your family.
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTION 24th August 2021
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. 4 Every Sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. 6 When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized. 9 One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.” 11 He stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. 13 They said, “This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law.” 14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; 15 but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.” 16 And he dismissed them from the tribunal. 17 Then all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of these things.
Whenever some preacher gets up in front of the congregation (or online now) they are always aware of all the things that have been going on in the world around them. They can be a bit anxious as to how well their message might be received.
In this passage from Acts we hear of Paul being told in a dream that he should not be afraid and that he should keep spreading the message about Christ.
In these times we seem to be preoccupied by things like daily ‘case numbers’ and ’vaccination rates.’ In the midst of a pandemic, it is all the more important that we are bearers of the good news of God’s love for each of us, even in isolation and lockdown.
Paul’s message was that we are never alone. No matter what is happening in the world around us we are part of the love of God. The Holy Spirit is what God and Jesus left with us to be part of our daily life. It is not an injection but a vital presence to sit with us through lonely hours and times when we miss the company of our friends and family.
Loving God we thank you that our connection with you is not dependent on health rules and societies regulations. We simply call on your loving Holy Spirit to comfort and support us in these uncertain times, like it did with Paul in Corinth, when the whole community seemed to be in turmoil, much as we are today.
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTION 25th Aug 2021
1 John 4:7-21
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
I think that it is interesting that we come across this passage at a time like this. Political leaders are trying to build physical barriers between families and communities based on the fear of Covid-19, setting up physical barriers across every part of our country and the world. People are being prevented from visiting dying relatives and people can no longer go to school or work. Some people are being confined to small apartments for weeks at a time. On the other side some people are not willing to give up some personal recreation time to prevent the spread of disease in a time of pandemic.
The last verse of today’s reading holds a particular challenge to us in a time of massive disruptions to what we thought was daily life. A few years ago you would have a massive police response if you walked into a bank with a mask over your nose and mouth. Now you are likely to be fined if you don’t. The simple act of dropping in to see a friend and have a cuppa carries financial penalties today. Going to a café for a cuppa or a meal with friends seems a distant dream.
Then we come across the last verse of the passage on love from 1 John in today’s reading: “The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
No matter what changes occur around us. No matter what things will look like when the immediate dangers are over there remains one thing that should be a guide every day. If we really do claim to love God, then we must love our brothers and sisters and neighbours.
Let people’s memories of us in this time be a memory of a person of grace, humility and love!
Loving God it is so easy to mouth the ‘right’ words in our public prayers. Let us, in a time of stress, show the full depth of your love and support in our dealings with those we come into contact with.
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTIONAL 26th Aug 2021
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Who remembers going on a roller coaster ride? Or was it the Ferris wheel at the local show? I have to admit that neither was of any interest to me as a child. When we had children we did go on a thrill ride at Dreamworld on the Gold Coasty one day. We seemed to be constantly doing different things like climbing steeply before dropping away sharply into some water. I think that our children had more fun than I did. One minute I was relaxed then I was suddenly being frightened hoping that we would survive. I didn’t go back for a second go.
As the women approached the empty tomb with the angel sitting on the stone on that day, they were obviously full of fear about what they saw. Then the next moment they probably would have felt exhilaration. They were simply expecting to come and anoint a dead body. Instead they found the angel bearing the good news that Jesus had risen. Their emotions went from fear to startled to joy, all in the space of a few moments.
Even today our life can be filled with a range of emotions like this. We can be in fear about our health, our family and our way of life. Yet at the same moment we can feel joy because we know that we have the Holy Spirit’s comfort when we look at our health, our family and our way of life. While we live in the comparative isolation of lock-down we also know that our lives are being held together and supported and uplifted by God’s constant presence and love. Even in the darkest of moments. Even if we are separated from one another God is always next to us.
Loving God in times of uncertainty we know that your spirit is always with us. The amazing experience of the two Marys at Jesus tomb that morning means that we are not alone. We know that your promise of everlasting love and grace and support still enfolds us today. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTION 27th Aug 2021
11 For the Lord spoke thus to me while his hand was strong upon me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear and let him be your dread. 14 He will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against; for both houses of Israel he will become a rock one stumbles over—a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.
16 Bind up the testimony, seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 See, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
I was reflecting on the news stories this morning. It struck me how many things that were being reported that contained conspiracy and fear themes. There is the boy who died of a heart condition who vaccination antagonists claim was killed by a COVID-19 vaccine when he had not even received one yet. There is the fear being generated by the terrorism and mayhem in Afghanistan. There is the uncertainty about when all the restrictions coming with the lock-down will be lifted. The list goes on!
There is also the fear of snakes and the fear that many people feel when having to go to the dentist for treatment. The list goes on!
Way back in the words of Isaiah we have that prophet putting fear into perspective. Rather than let yourself be fixated on what the current media and culture seems to be full of, we need to instead focus on God. The old-fashioned idea of fear expressed by Isaiah was less of the trepidation we read of in the word today and more about the strength and support offered to those who have faith in God’s comfort and mercy.
While the whole community around Isaiah is in a state of upheaval and turmoil and destruction, he is comfortable to keep his focus on God. We can do the same. There are many things in our world which can keep our attention, or we can worship and honour and pray to the God of love and grace in humility always.
Loving God, be with us in times of fear and conspiracy stories and terrorism so that we may have the peace and comfort of your constant presence and the support of your Holy Spirit, even in the most difficult of times.
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTION 30.8.2021
BIBLE READING Luke 12:1-12
12 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
“I will show you whom you should fear….” Luke 12: 5
Sometimes when I've looked back on my life, especially back to my younger years, I can recall when I was frightened especially when things were hard to understand. I would think that no-one understood or cared about me, especially if I thought I was going to get into trouble if I said anything! At times like that a child might wonder if God cared or not, too.
As Jesus talks to his disciples, he addresses some similar issues. He talks about sparrows - a common and inexpensive bird. Jesus assures his followers that if God cares about them - and, yes, he does! - then of course God cares much more about each one of us. So Jesus reminds his disciples, “ do not be afraid…..”
Instead of fearing anyone or anything on this earth that might hurt us, he says, the only one we should fear is God himself. After all, God holds every part of our lives in his hands. That might seem frightening, but in the end, when God’s control is paired with his care for us, we don’t need to be afraid that God will forget about us. God’s love for us is greater than we can imagine. Now matter what happens, God loves us and calls us to worship and adore him because of that love.
Loving God, you care for us more than we could know. No matter what we go through, let us worship and adore you through it all. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 31.8.2021
BIBLE READING JOB 1 : 1, 6 - 12
1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
6 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Job 1: 9
Last night a lovely Christian friend in an aged care home rang me. She’s had a stroke and now she's just about fed up with lock-down. Then she went on to tell me what had made her day a lot better: she’d looked through an old photograph album! It reminded her of good fun holidays she’d had, places that she’d visited, and most of all good times with old friends - including me. Of course we then began to reminisce! We had got to know each other at church years ago, and together we had experienced special times of joy as we had grown in our Christian faith.
When everything is going well, as it was for my friend when she was younger, it is relatively easy to honour and praise God and follow him wholeheartedly - to fear God in the biblical sense of being devoted to him.
In Job 1, Satan claimed it was easy for Job to fear God because his life was going so well. Job had 10 children, thousands of animals, and many servants. Job was a great man whose kids threw great parties. He would even offer sacrifices just in case someone in his household sinned against God. So of course Job feared God, Satan said. His life was great!
As the story of Job continued, however, all those blessings were taken from him. His family, his possessions, and even his health were taken away. Yet Job still feared God. Our devotion to God shouldn’t be dependent on how well life is going for us. If we fear God only because life is good, then we really don’t fear God at all.
When we think about our devotion to God, it is best to make sure we fear God because of who he is and not because he can give you great blessings.
Awesome God, even though life is so difficult for many of us at present, help us to adore and worship you because of who you are - God above all things. Amen.
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 1.9.2021
BIBLE READING MATTHEW 14 : 22-27
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27
Travel between the islands off the east coast of Papua New Guinea is usually in dinghies. On a long trip you can go through all sorts of weather on the one day. The sea can be calm when you start out early in the morning, but a few hours later the sea can be very rough and you need to be able to keep your head so as not to panic. Once for about four hours I truly thought we would capsize. When we eventually were able to pull ashore I felt like kneeling down in prayer and kissing the ground! I didn’t, but I certainly gave thanks to God and then I went quietly to a tree and kissed a leaf instead! I was so relieved.
Jesus’ disciples were out on the lake at night. The wind and waves had picked up considerably since the disciples had left the shore. No doubt a little bit of worry had settled over them. And then they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them. They didn’t recognise him at first, and they were terrified, thinking he was a ghost. But then he called out and assured them that it was him and not to worry. When Jesus shows up, our worries become less important.
There are so many things to be afraid of and to worry about in life. At present we have the pandemic to cope with and the restrictions that we need to live by. Are we able to recognise that when Jesus comes into our lives, all of those things that cause us anxiety can take a back seat? He can push them away and help us so that worry does not take over our lives. Look for Jesus in your life. Ask him to take away your fears.
Lord, fill our lives today, and take away all our worries and fears, we pray. Amen.
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 2.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Luke 24: 36-44
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”[a] 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.[b] 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
“Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures...” Luke 24: 44,45.
Trying to understand the whole Bible is a daunting task. When I was small I began at the beginning and tried to write down every name so that I could get an idea of what it was about. I guess what we really just need to realise is that it is ultimately about the story of God’s love for the world. That story is in the Old Testament and on into the New Testament. And the main point to realise is that that love comes into clearest focus in Jesus: through his life and work, through his death and resurrection.
On the first Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to his disciples. They were still reeling from his death two days earlier. But now here he was - standing in their midst! They had no idea how to puzzle it all out. So Jesus helped them to see how his story fulfills the Old Testament (the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms).
Sometimes we think this fulfillment is only about things in the story of Jesus that were predicted in the Old Testament, But there is more to it than that. Fulfillment is especially about words and events in the Old Testament finding a more profound meaning in the story of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, the Bible is wonderful because it teaches us so much about you. We ask that when we read it, your Holy Spirit, will help us discern and understand more deeply about you, so that our lives may be changed into your likeness. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 3.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 38 : 1-4, 9-12, 21-22
A Penitent Sufferer’s Plea for Healing
A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath.
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; they weigh like a burden too heavy for me
9 O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my neighbours stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin, and meditate treachery all day long.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me;
22 make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5 : 21
Do you sometimes find that Bible verses remind you of particular hymns? When I read that verse from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I began to sing, “Man of Sorrows! What a name for the Son of God, who came ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! what a Saviour!” I can hear in mind the church choir in Papua singing it in their language, and my tears begin to well up with the beauty and memory of it.
Sometimes when we read the Bible we prefer to stick with the “nice” bits. But there is a lot of suffering there too - both in the Old and in the New Testaments. In Psalm 38, a psalm of David, we hear him speak of being wounded and filled with pain. Friends and neighbours abandon him. Some want to kill him. He says that it is because of his sin. David the sinner is suffering, and from his suffering, he cries out to God. Maybe in some way, we all know what that’s like.
Jesus didn’t sin, but he did suffer. He suffered because the sins of the world were laid on him. He carried that burden to the cross. In Psalm 38 we read something of what that must have been like: the silent anguish, the pounding heart, the failing strength, the cry of forsakenness.
But that was not the end. From his own suffering, Jesus cried out to God. And his cry was heard. On the third day, God raised him from the dead. Jesus had won the ultimate victory over sin. Yes, we still sin. And we still suffer. But sin no longer has the power to separate us from God. Jesus saw to that. “To’etoseyana Yesu* - what a Saviour!” (*Dobuan language of the Papuan Islands.)
Lord Jesus, you carried our sin to the cross. And by suffering under that burden, you set us free. What a Saviour! Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 6.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 23:1-6
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths or his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[d]I fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
Psalm 23 is credited to King David, who tended his father’s sheep when he was young. Traditionally a king would take up a sword and raise an army to defeat the enemies of his people. That’s what David did and it’s also what some people expected Jesus to do.
But Jesus didn’t call himself king, rather, he called himself “the good shepherd.” He didn’t defeat enemies with weapons of war as a king would have, instead he himself was killed. He let sin and death and all the powers of evil do their worst. And they did. But they had no power over Jesus, and death could not hold him. He rose from the dead.
Jesus is our good shepherd. If you are feeling anxious or fearful about your loved ones because of the pandemic, remember that it is Jesus who cares about us all, understands and invites us to lay our cares upon Him.
Jesus, good shepherd, we trust you to watch over us and help us with our daily concerns. Thank you for green pastures and quiet waters, and for your presence with us in the darkest valleys. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 7.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Mark 4: 35-38
Jesus Stills a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4 : 8
Do you find that sometimes you just can’t get to sleep? Maybe you are thinking about something that must be done. Maybe you have a family member who is not well, and they are on your mind. Maybe you are worried about the pandemic. Maybe you’ve had experiences like me where are stuck in a boat on a bad night. Whatever the reason, you can’t sleep. Your eyes are wide open, and you just stare into the dark. So what do you do?
Psalm 4 ends this way: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” That verse reminds us of the time Jesus was in a small boat in the midst of a storm. The boat is taking on water and could sink. The disciples are fearful - they are fishermen and they know how dangerous these storms can be.
But Jesus sleeps. He knew the scriptures so well, so I wonder if he had that prayer in mind, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety”?
When you have a hard time falling asleep, remember Psalm 4. Pray those words by saying them aloud softly. As you do, welcome Jesus’ presence with you, and may you then go to sleep.
Lord Jesus, when it’s time to sleep, help me to turn my anxieties, worries, and fears over to you, trusting you to look after everything. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 8.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 33: 6-9
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
he put the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
“In the beginning was the Word …… Through him all things were made.” John 1 : 1-3
The Bible doesn’t explain the mechanism of creation, how everything was formed. Rather, it points us to the voice of God. The psalmist writes: “He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (33: 9). The psalmist’s view is that all of creation results from God’s express purpose and intention.
Did you notice that the psalmist writes that everything was made by the “word of the Lord”(v.6)? You’ll recall the opening of John’s gospel where John picks up on that same theme: “In the beginning was the Word…..Through him all things were made.” Note that now there is a capital W. The Word that John is referring to is Jesus. Jesus is God’s great purpose and intention.
The story of creation, as the Bible tells it, is this: through the Word, God makes a home where the Word will come to live. John goes on to describe this by saying, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 14:1).
When we stand on the higher parts of Caves Beach we have that wonderful view of right up the coast. Or if you go down to the beach inside the cave it is beautiful looking out across the ocean. God’s creation around us here is truly superb, but then think also of the fact that the Son of God visits us within this creation and becomes one of us. How very wonderful is that, and how can we not glorify God because of His great love shown in this way?
Lord Jesus, you are God’s great purpose and intention. All things have been created in you, through you, and for you (Colossians 1: 16). Help us to be “for you” in every way. Amen.
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 9.9.2021
BIBLE READING: JOHN 1: 1 – 5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
"With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”.
Psalm 36 speaks about light and life in the same breath. Of course, that is not a surprise because most creatures need light to live - if not directly, then at least indirectly. So light and life go together.
All light and life have their source in God. In Genesis 1, the Bible’s first creation story, we read that there is only darkness until God says, “Let there be light.” Under that light, life emerges. In the Bible’s final new-creation story (Revelation 22:1-5), there is no darkness but only God’s light and an ever-fruitful tree of life.
And then there is Jesus, who crucified on a tree of death, is the light of the world. And that light is our life. Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
In some places across the world winter is cold and dark, not so really for us, but even so we are glad that now the light and life of spring has arrived. In a similar analogy, we can think of Jesus, who, by dying on the cross has defeated darkness and death, and then by his resurrection, shines the springtime light of God’s new creation.
Thank you, Jesus, for dealing with darkness and death. Thank you for being our light and our life. Shine before us to lead the way, especially when our days of lock-down become difficult. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 10.9.2021
BIBLE READING: PSALM 2:1-6
1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’
“I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Psalm 2:6
How we wish that all those in authority would honour God’s intentions! God’s intention is that they use authority for good purposes, not to make a name for themselves, or become a law unto themselves.
The New Testament records powerful people seeing Jesus as a threat. Following a pattern described by Psalm 2, they “gather together” (v.2) to get rid of Jesus. To them, God’s authority amounts to “chains" and “fetters” (v.3). So they crucify Jesus, who is the Lord’s “Anointed One” (v.2), and the “King” (v.6).
In Psalm 2:6, God says, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” In a perverse parody of this statement, those powerful people crucify Jesus on a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem. It is on this cross that Jesus shows what genuine authority looks like.
Powerful people may have nailed Jesus to a cross, but Jesus laid his life down by his own authority. In obedience to God the Father (John 10:18) Jesus lays down his life for the sake of the world - this is what real authority looks like.
Lord Jesus, you showed us that you had no interest in making a name for yourself. Instead you laid down your life to save the world, reconciling us to our Father God. And now you have the name that is above every name! We praise and thank you, Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 13.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 107:23-32
23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
[Jesus] rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39
Going to Synod in the Papuan Islands Region of the United Church in PNG can mean a long boat trip from one island to another in very rough seas. I recall one trip when I hung onto the front hatch of the boat as we tossed all night. You didn’t know if you were being soaked by water from the waves, or from the rain pelting down. Reading Psalm 107 brings back memories!
We blame ocean storms on the movement of weather systems. This psalm, on the other hand, blames those storms on God. It pictures God stirring up the wind and the waves with nothing more than a word. The point of that picture is that God is in control. Various forces may combine to create storms. But none of it happens outside of God’s command and control. That’s a basic biblical perspective on what it means for God to be God.
The fishermen among Jesus’ disciples knew all about violent storms on the Sea of Galilee. During one of those storms, they were beside themselves with fear (see Mark 4:37-38). They would have been stunned when Jesus spoke and calmed the wind and settled the sea. If God speaks to stir up the sea, who else but God would speak to quiet the sea?
Can we hold fast to the fact that when Jesus speaks, it is the voice of God? And also can we remember that prayer is not just talking to God, but listening too? When life gets stormy for you, try to take time to be quiet so that you might hear his voice.
Lord Jesus, whenever the storms of life terrify us, calm us with your presence. And when the time is right, speak to us so that the storm may pass. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 14.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 70
1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me!
2 Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonour who desire to hurt me.
3 Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame.
4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!
[Jesus] offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7)
I think all of us at some time or other have wondered, “Does God really hear our prayers?” Or, perhaps we have wondered, “Does God answer our prayers?” Yes, but not always when we want and not always the way we hope for. But let’s be assured that, “ in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
The writer of Psalm 70 is in trouble - people are wanting to ruin him. He is essentially pleading, “ God, hurry up and help me! (verses 1 &5). And he is saying, "Give me a reason to rejoice and a reason to praise you!” (v.4)
Christians read this Psalm remembering Jesus when he was arrested the night before Good Friday. He pleaded with God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Three times he says that prayer. Minutes later he is arrested. The next day he is nailed to the cross.
Did God hear and answer Jesus’ prayer? Hebrews acknowledges that God did. In the death of Jesus, God was working for the good of those who love him. How then, can we not love him?
God, when we pray, help us to remember Jesus’ love for us, and help us trust that you love us too and answer prayer for our own good. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 15.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 53: 1-3
1 Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts; there is no one who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
3 They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
We have a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
The Greek philosopher, Diogenes, is known for holding a lantern up to the faces of the citizens of Athens, saying that he was looking for an honest person. In the Bible, we read that God conducts a search too, looking for a good person.
First there is Noah who is described as, “a righteous man, blameless in his generation" (Genesis 6:9), but before his death (end of chapter 9) he turns out like everyone else. And of course there is David who is described as, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13: 14), and yet he, ends up with a string of crimes on his record!
Maybe it is not surprising then that the writer of Psalm 53 concludes, “there is no one who does good, no, not one” (v.3). That is the fact that will not change until Jesus comes.
Jesus, God’s Son, is truly righteous, he shares God’s heart, and he lives a life that pleases God from beginning to end. Unlike us he did not sin.
Diogenes carried his lantern (maybe a candle?) in the fourth century BC. If only he could have waited 400 years! Because then he could have found who he was looking for - the righteous One whom God sent to save us from our sin.
Loving God, we thank you that we do not need to search. Jesus is the righteous one who is with us now always and enables us to be forgiven and loved unconditionally by you. We thank you in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 16.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 89: 1-4
1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to my servant David:
4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’ ”Selah”
No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
When life is difficult, we need someone to lead us through the chaos and confusion - someone reliable and who we can count on. The Bible assures us that God is reliable. With God, “Yes” means yes and “No” means no. God's promises are sure; He is someone we can count on.
God made promises to King David, one being that he would preserve his royal line (Psalm 89:3,4). Jesus was born into the royal line of King David, and yet we know that for Jesus, life was often difficult and there was plenty of trouble. It came to a head when he was crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross. We might ask, well, what about God’s promises then?
Well, the story didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead, and forty days later he took his seat at the right hand of God the Father. All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus. And he is King, now and forever.
That’s what happened with the promises. And that’s why we can count on God.
Lord Jesus, when life for us is difficult, thank you that your life’s story reminds us that we can count on God, who promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 17.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 80 : 8-9, 14-15, 18-19
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
14 Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15 the stock that your right hand planted;
18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” John 15:1
Being close to the Hunter vineyards, we know what a vineyard looks like. The vines are carefully tended and produce much fruit, unlike wild grapevines.
The Old Testament pictures the people of Israel as God’s vineyard. But Israel resists God’s management and produces poor fruit. So God lets the vineyard go wild (see Isaiah 5:1-7).
Yet the story doesn’t end there. Psalm 80 pictures Israel as a single vine that’s barely hanging on. The psalmist pleads with God to care for it (see verses 14 & 15). Just as God rescued Israel, his people, from Egypt long ago, the psalmist pleads to God to rescue them again.
This psalm reminds us of Jesus, who is the true vine. We have become branches of the true vine, who puts out his life like wine so that we can truly live. By the Holy Spirit and through faith, we are united with him, God’s Son.
Loving Lord Jesus, sometimes I feel a bit like a wild vine, dry and lifeless - even useless. But your life flowing through me makes the difference and then I realise so much more is possible. Thank you Lord for blessing me. Amen.
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 20.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 29:3-9
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. Psalm 29:9
During this lock-down time during COVID it is lovely to hear a familiar voice when we answer the phone, isn’t it! It is interesting to know that God’s voice is often written about in the Bible, right from the beginning to the end - for example we read “Let there be,,,,,,"(in Genesis 1) and “I am coming soon!” (in Revelation 22). Then there is the gentle voice of God when he consoles the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19) and a roaring voice of God that rips forests apart (Psalm 29).
You’ll remember that the voice of the Lord spoke to Jesus when he was baptised: “You are my Son, whom I love” (Mark1:11). He was assigned a destiny: he will be a king who rules as a servant. Jesus embraces that destiny in obedient, faithful trust.
If you read Psalm 29 verse 9 again, you will realise that it reminds us that Jesus too, was stripped bare and twisted: broken on a tree, a cross, and crowned with a crown of thorns. In this way he became God’s suffering servant, the Saviour of the world.
The voice of the Lord still speaks. When you pray, take time to listen quietly what God might be saying to you - you might hear him nudge you today to share his love in some unexpected way!
Lord Jesus, you heard the voice of God and you followed in his way for you. Help us to be aware of your voice guiding us in your way too. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we confidently trust you . Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 21.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 87:1-7
1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded; the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Selah
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; Philistia too, and Tyre, with Ethiopia “This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in it”;
for the Most High himself will establish it.
6 The Lord records, as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there. Selah
7 Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”
I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Revelation 7:9
The Bible can be a bit like a kaleidoscope - you turn it and see different and beautiful patterns with your eye. One picture of the Bible speaks about one God (the Lord), one man (Abraham), one nation (Israel), one Saviour (Jesus), one people (the church).
But there’s another picture or angle too, which is not just a “one nation (Israel)” story. We see, for example, in Psalm 87 where God celebrates his love for Zion, the heart of Israel, that he welcomes other nations and says of them, “This one was born there”. And then this picture widens in the New Testament. In Matthew 2, Magi come from far away nations to worship the child Jesus. In Matthew 28, Jesus sends out his followers with good news for all nations. And in Revelation 7 we see a vision of a vast multitude from “very nation, tribe, people and language” worshipping God in heaven.
This brings us to a wonderfully inclusive picture of God’s love. From this angle, the only exclusive is Jesus, who alone is the Lamb of God taking away the sin of not just one nation but the whole world!
Loving God, we praise you that no person, family, or nation is beyond the reach of your love. Your love is as wide and long and high and deep as all the world. We thank you, and we pray in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 22.9.2021
BIBLE READING: If you can, read from your own Bible Luke 7 : 36-48
(Below are just verses 44 to 48 printed out for you.)
44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The one whose walk is blameless will minister to me. Psalm 101 : 6
Sometimes scripture provides us with surprising contrasts. This morning we will compare Psalm 101 with an episode from Jesus’ life recorded in Luke. The writer of Psalm 101 seems to be proud of his personal holiness - he says, “I will be careful to lead a blameless life.” (verse 2) He tells of ways he will distance himself from people who don’t measure up. He intends to drive unworthy people away (v.8) and he will only exchange hospitality with people who are faithful (v6.).
The Pharisee in Luke 7 sounds just like the psalmist. He certainly limited his hospitality - it seems even Jesus didn’t measure up! The Pharisee provided no water for Jesus’ feet (v.44), no kiss to greet him (v.45), and no oil to anoint him (v.46).
Jesus provides such a contrast! He welcomed tears and kisses and perfume from a woman who was considered unworthy. And he offered the generous hospitality of forgiveness. Jesus not only ministered to the woman but also to his proud host. Jesus’ way is the more excellent way.
Lord Jesus, may your mercy always summon an outpouring of love from me - and not just for people who might seem worthy. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 23.9.2021
BIBLE READING: MATTHEW 17: 1-8
17 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment. Psalm 104:2
Probably when we were kids, most of us were afraid of the dark. We’d be scared of what might be around the corner! Even reading Bible, right on the first page, we find that the world is a dark, and maybe scary place. What might be hiding in the unseen depths? Then God says, “Let there be light,” and so puts darkness in its place (Genesis 1: 3-4).
Right from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 (the last chapter of the last book), the Bible connects light closely with God. In Rev. 22 we read that those in the New Jerusalem won’t need lamps or even the sun because “the Lord God will give them light” (v. 5).
This connection between God and light is made clear in the story of Jesus known as the Transfiguration. His face shines “like the sun,” and his clothes become “white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). In this way the gospel writers seek to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” His shining appearance is a way of signalling that Jesus is God, who “wraps himself in light as with a garment” (Psalm 104: 2).
Now as adults, we know that the world can still be a dark and scary place - and not just at night. But the good news is that wherever the light of Jesus shines, it puts darkness in its place. And that helps us not to be afraid.
God of Love, we thank you that the light of Jesus is shining over the world, even in the darkest of places, chasing shadows away. Shine in the hearts of those who are troubled, and set us all free from fear by the truth that you bring to us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 24.9.2021
BIBLE READING: PSALM 131: 1-3
1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvellous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.[a]
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
I have calmed and quieted myself. Psalm 131: 2
I wonder how we all are going keeping calm as we continue to live under the restrictions of lock-down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Are you finding that given your days are perhaps not in their usual routine, that you are feeling a bit fed up? Are you getting stressed when you see the TV news?
If so, this very short psalm of just three verses is for you. Read again the first two verses - they contrast each other. There is rejection of pride and arrogance in the first verse ("heart raised up" and "eye raised high" was how those attitudes were expressed in Israel’s traditional literature). And in the second verse we are given a picture of patience and composure.
Maybe the second verse reminds you of Jesus as a baby with his mother. We can imagine Mary picking up Jesus and wrapping him in her arms. We can imagine Jesus finding comfort from her warmth and her steady breathing. Such comfort would have been needed as Jesus grew into a toddler when, having escaped from Herod’s hit squad, the family lived as refugees in the strange land of Egypt,
The psalm invites us too, to snuggle into the warmth of God’s presence, to rest in God’s embrace, to trust God when we don’t feel the best, to trust God like Jesus trusted in his mother’s arms. “Hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore” is a beautiful ending to this Psalm and great words for us to take into this new day.
Loving God, it can be hard sometimes to keep calm. There are so many things at present which can make me anxious. Today I put my hope in you - help me to share a quiet rest with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 27.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 122 : 1-9
1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
2 Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together.
4 To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”
8 For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. Luke 2:41
I wonder if we weren’t in this COVID pandemic and we could travel anywhere, where would you like to go? Those I have been talking to on the phone, have been saying they would love just to be back at church! If you read Psalm 122 you’ll see that people, above all else, loved to go to Jerusalem. It was the “city of the Great King” (Psalm 48:2), where God was enthroned in the temple. At festival time, we read that all the tribes of Israel would go up to Jerusalem to glorify God.
From when he was a small boy, Jesus also joined the annual Passover Festival pilgrimage and likely would have sung this psalm. And as an adult he continued to attend. Each visit seemed to stir up opposition, and eventually the city became a dangerous place for Jesus to be.
On his last visit he celebrated the Passover. Jesus had other appointments there as well: one with the ruling council, one with the Roman governor, and one with a cross. So, for Jesus, Jerusalem was the place to be - for our benefit. “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ dies for us” (Romans 5: 8)
Loving Lord Jesus, we thank you that you went up to Jerusalem even though it was so difficult. Sometimes we have difficult places to go too, but your journey took you to the cross for us. Thank you that through your death we are forgiven, reconciled to God and made new. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
DAILY DEVOTION 28.9.2021
BIBLE READING: Psalm 77: 13-20
13Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.
15 With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. Psalm 77:19
If you read the whole of Psalm 77 you will see that it was written during a time of great anguish. But about halfway through, the psalmist begins to reflect on his past - on days that were brighter - and this causes his hope to be rekindled (see verses 13-20 above).
One of his memories is of the stories of Israel’s escape from Egypt hundreds of years earlier, and especially how God cleared a path for them through the waters of the Red Sea (vv.16-18). The psalmist acknowledges that God wasn’t seen directly. However, although God’s footprints were not seen, they did see Moses and Aaron leading the way like good shepherds (v.19,20).
Many years later God takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, - his feet, hands, and all becomes visible (footprints included!). When we look at Jesus then, we can see God - God going before us, leading the way.
The path that Jesus follows leads to the darkness of death. But he doesn’t turn aside. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for us. We see his hands and feet nailed to a cross. There we see Jesus giving up his life for us - there it becomes evident that God’s outpouring of love knows no limits.
Dear Lord Jesus, in times of anguish and despair, and in times of joy, you lead the way. Help us to see your footprints and to follow you every day. Amen
Rev Lu Piper
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
[Elizabeth] exclaimed [to Mary]: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear!” — Luke 1:42
At times like this when we feel so much separation and division we can easily feel that we are forgotten. The passage we had today from Psalm 139 affirms to each of us that God is intimately interested in every part of our life. God fully understands us. God appreciates those things which can shatter our heart and those things which can make our heart skip a beat. Equally God is part of our selfish day dreams and darkest desires. This is not to make us scared but to allow us to be open to God’s guidance. Later is verse 24 we read: “See if there is anything offensive in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
God has been part of each of us from before we were born and God knows us completely. Equally God loves us completely. This is so liberating!
Looking back at the passage from Luke we see that even Jesus was loved by God before his birth. We are never completely alone or abandoned. We do sometimes try to separate ourselves from God, but God is always waiting for each of us.
At times like this where there is separation division and at times confusion let us be comforted always by God’s constant presence in our lives. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTION 30/9/21
READING Luke 23:44-46
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. — Psalm 73:25
How often do we feel at the end of the road with no-way out? Our friends and family have lost their jobs during COVID lockdowns. We are battling health issues. Someone close to us has dies from cancer and we couldn’t get to the funeral as there were limits on travel and numbers at the service. The list of deep frustrations can go on and on.
On the other side there are some people who only seem to fall on their feet. They have successful careers untouched by COVID. Their family is always well and successful in life. They seem to have a charmed life. Then on top of all this they just act like they deserve it without having to help those around them, it can seem so wrong. Yet even in the midst of this God is enough.
Jesus was abandoned by his closest followers. He was publicly stripped naked and nailed to a cruel cross without having committed any sin. It was all so wrong!
So wrong in fact that the sun stopped shining. Then Jesus called out in a painful voice: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34 Even then God was enough.
Psalm 73 talks about how much is wrong with the world. There seems no logic to the suffering until the Psalmist says: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” In other words, even when so much is wrong, God, you are enough.
At the end of his life, Jesus releases himself to God: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Because even when so much is wrong, God is enough.
Sometimes it doesn’t need words, just the knowledge of God’s love even for you and me!
Lord God, whom do I have in heaven but you? And besides you, there is nothing on earth I desire. Let that be my prayer, because you are enough. Amen.
Rev Mark Watt
READING Matthew 4:23-25
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
5:1-2 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying.......
We have here the lead into Jesus’ teachings in Matthew’s Gospel. In all of the Gospels Jesus travels and taught both the disciples and those who happen to be with him at the time. Throughout His ministry Jesus had healed many and drew large crowds. Even Jesus needed an occasional break and He tried to slip away with just His disciples for company. This did not always last long as word of His whereabouts spread among the local community.
The passages known as ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ is recorded for us in Matthew Chapters 5-7. Even today there can a large crowd gathering to hear Jesus teachings. People see Jesus as a teacher and a philosopher. Many are curious about how to connect with His teachings. Others just seem to ‘sit on the fence’ on the outer edge of the crowd. They seem unwilling to take on board the idea that Jesus was the Son of God.
As you join with the crowds listening to Jesus today, where do you sit? Are you one of those committed disciples? Are you simply curious and hanging around the edges of the crowd? Are you just exploring the ideas of having a faith?
Regardless of where you are the profound teaching that Jesus left with us is relevant to you. We are encouraged to be part of the blessings associated with following His teaching. This journey is not always a comfortable ride. Jesus simply shows us how we can live a more fulfilled life. May we enjoy all the potential of being open to the truth He left us with.
Open my heart to connect with the fullness of the teaching that Jesus left with us. May your Holy Spirit open my mind to understand what I need to learn so that I come closer to you every day. Amen
Rev Mark Watt
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I was reflecting over the weekend at how quickly things can change in life. A fairly popular politician resigns after minute scrutiny of her personal life. A friend with cancer suddenly faces the news that they only have a short time to live. Someone suddenly is faced with a battle with the dreaded COVID.
Life does not always flow easily. No matter how much power or money we have and how smoothly our lives might be flowing we are always only one step away from our life being up ended!
Even in our own personal life we have a struggles and trials. We can so easily be drawn into old destructive habits. It might be the sudden death of a friend or the loss of a close relative. Just looking at the news almost about every day we are bombarded with the plight of refugees.
At times like this it can be tempting to distract ourselves in things which might distract us. We might bury ourselves in work or a hobby or keep trying to touch base with everyone we know just about every day. All of this is to prevent us facing up to loss and grief. In this simple statement Jesus challenges us to confront grief head-on. We are called to see the destruction that our actions have caused. As we do this, we can come to realise that nothing can finally distract us from facing up to the suffering we need to acknowledge. Comfort is waiting for us in Christ.
We live in a broken world. There is pain and suffering. We can feel that pain and suffering. God is our only comfort and we can trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit to support us in our healing, something that we cannot do alone.
Loving God, help me to see the hard realities in life. With your support may I recognise the full depth of your grace and healing. After all you have promised to make all things new. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
It is interesting how we understand words differently. When the word ‘meek’ is mentioned we so often automatically think of the person being weak! There is the person in our lives who never seems to stand up for themselves, or a student who blushes and stutters whenever the teachers ask them a question. Meek is so often thought of as being like a door mat.
I want to suggest that meekness is about making a conscious choice to put others ahead of yourself. I have heard this approach being described as the strength of being restrained in our life or laying down you own rights for the rights of others
Just like Jesus we are called to be meek. With all the backing of God’s power Jesus chose to be vulnerable and fully human. He put up with power hungry disciples and people downplaying both His message and His power. When the soldiers came to arrest Him, Jesus chose not to retaliate. He suffered taunting, beatings and then the pain of death on a cross. In this meekness Jesus gives us the chance to be healed from our sin and suffering. We can be made right with God.
We too are called to live as meek followers. We are called on to lay aside our power and privilege so that we can point the way to His kingdom.
Loving Jesus may your Holy Spirit help me to live in the same way of meekness that you showed in your life and death. We pray that we may be beacons for your path to eternal life. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Can you remember a time when you were genuinely hungry? I am not talking about a diet hungry but the hunger here you felt that you desperately need something to keep you alive. Perhaps you got caught in traffic on a holiday trip home and there was nowhere to buy food for yourself and the family? Perhaps your weekly budget ran out and you had no reserves?
There is a big difference between wanting some food and absolutely needing it because you have no food left.
Today we have one of the Beatitudes from Matthew where he blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. This is more than just idle curiosity as it comes into the range of an all-consuming desire. We are desperate to see injustice removed, and the failings of our world corrected. On this journey we don’t step away from our own failings or ignore the problems plaguing the world around us.
We now give everything we have to help the world be more like God’s Kingdom. Here Jesus says that we will have our hunger satisfied. It might not be the world of our dreams but we will see justice and righteousness coming through the whole of creation. Our hunger is to partner with the Holy Spirit in this work.
Loving God help me to make justice and righteousness the main priority in my daily life. Empower me to be your willing servant in helping to renew creation one step at a time. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
DAILY DEVOTION 7/10/21
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” — Matthew 5:7
When we start to think about mercy we often get caught up in getting enough brownie points to keep on the right side of the ledger. It might be that we don’t lose our temper when a child cries or not laughing when someone is embarrassed. Maybe we don’t really attack another person when they get something wrong.
If that is our perspective then today’s passage is bad news for us.
Simply stated the Gospel tells us God has freely shown us mercy even when we don’t deserve any help. This mercy flows freely from God and is part of the experience of connecting with God.
When we show mercy we are simply reflecting our response to God’s mercy to each of us. Our forgiveness does not rest on our ability to forgive others as it is in fact acknowledging our comprehension of how deep and unconditional God’s love is for us.
Merciful God may your Holy Spirit help me to show mercy to everyone I come into contact with. May this be my sign of understanding your love of me. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
If we take the time to think about the stories of the Old Testament we repeatedly see God chastising the people of Israel for not fulfilling the true meaning of His teachings. All too often they went through the motions with no intention of fulfilling God’s directions. They kept finding ways around God’s laws and even worshipping idols.
In the New Testament Jesus expands on this issue. He acknowledges that even after we profess our faith we keep slipping back into our ‘old ways.’ We can even end up doing the ‘right’ things but for all the wrong reasons. We might expect a reward for treating others with grace.
We can take part in worship, pray, make our financial offering and still have our heart hardened to Jesus. It is not a matter of ticking a few boxes to achieve faith. It is a matter of sincerely and humbly seeking to make Jesus’ teachings part of our very being every day, not just on Sunday.
Jesus calls on us to constantly seek to come from a humble faith so that we may experience the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit in our life.
Holy Spirit please come to me and purify my faults and selfish desires. Help me to live humbly and seek to reflect your faith in me each day.
Rev Mark Watt
Matthew 5:13 ‘You are the salt of the earth…’
When you read the words ‘reduced salt’ on a packet of chips or your favourite biscuits do you get excited? Probably not! This is because salt adds to the taste of items that we like to eat. Remove the salt and it loses a lot of its taste. Salt adds to our enjoyment of food.
In the section of Matthew’s Gospel that this phrase comes from Jesus says that we are the ‘salt of the earth’ and then the ‘light of the world.’ It is not a maybe, or just a possibility, it is an existing fact. As we take up our new identity as followers of Christ we are called on to enhance the life of those we come into contact with. We are charged to build them up and letting them see God’s blessings. This comes out in our actions and our way of dealing with everyone we come into contact with in this often-confusing world. The COVID 19 pandemic has just accelerated this experience for most people.
Our actions and our attitudes can be a beacon of hope to others and an enhancement to their lives. This is not restricted to the people from the church. It equally applies to how we treat the person at the shops, the people at the café and the staff in each business we come into contact with. Each day we are given ‘salt’ and ‘light’ options.
Take hold of the support and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our attitudes and actions each day. Our needs and desires are not necessarily greater than the person that we are meeting. Let’s be like a good bit of salt seasoning enhancing the meal of life and a beacon of hope and light in this changing world.
Holy Spirit move through me each day to show those I am in contact with that you are the salt and the light of this world. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
Matthew 5:7-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. . . .”
Put yourself into the shoes of a person living in a village when this wandering Rabbi, Jesus, comes to town. Here He comes saying things like He was ‘one with the Father,’ and then He challenged the local religious hierarchy. How would you feel about this person?
Would you take much notice of Him? Would you be excited by the message that He is delivering? Would you be pleased to see people like the Pharisees put in their place? Perhaps you would be a bit wary about this unknown person who wants you to believe that He speaks to God?
When Jesus was speaking to the crowds delivering the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ He understood that He was speaking to a very mixed audience. Most would probably have been Jewish but there would also have been a smattering of other people from different races and cultures there. This passage therefore highlights that Jesus wanted everyone to understand that He was there as the promised Messiah.
From the stories of what we call the Old Testament we have snippets from just about every part of that Testament pointing to His arrival. From the opening of Genesis through the directives of the Ten Commandments and the stories of the kings and going into exile there were passages pointing to His arrival. The Messiah was destined to fulfill God’s promises to His people and the full disclosure of God’s world. Through Jesus we learned of how God wanted us to live.
Now we just have to understand that, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has brought God’s promises to our lives. Jesus is simply the one who has shown us that the promises of the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament all were preparing God’s people for the ultimate revelation of God.
With the support of the Holy Spirit may I live a life trusting in the promises that Jesus revealed to us. May I have the ability and the humility to live the way Jesus taught us to be. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the fire of Gehenna.
Jesus is picking up on the sixth commandment from Exodus 20:13 when he looks at the damage that anger can do. Jesus points out to them that words can in fact cause massive harm to others. In doing this they violate the spirit of that commandment.
There are two examples here of how angry speech can be unnecessarily judgemental or confidence destroying. The Aramaic word Raca translates as ‘idiot’ or ‘stupid.’ This is a harsh way of challenging someone who has offended you. Then there is the word which we translate as ‘fool’. This is a harsh judgement on another’s character. In some ways it might seem unreasonable to equate angry outbursts with physical murder however I believe that Jesus wants us to understand to power of simple words.
In our angry outbursts we are attacking another person made in God’s image. Without realising it we can help to make them hate themselves and lose all confidence in living the full life that God has waiting for them. As we probably already know this type of speech can also lead to cycles of retaliation and increasing aggression.
Simply stated we must learn to control angry outbursts and not to speak thoughtlessly. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit we need to remove hate and anger from our life so that we can become peacemakers like Jesus.
Loving God walk with me so that I don’t have angry outbursts when someone upsets me. Let me live in grace and compassion with those around me. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
Matthew 5:38- 39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
What do you do when your best mate forgets to pay you back?
What do you do when a close friend makes an insensitive comment?
How about when another driver cuts you off dangerously?
What is you first instinct in these situations?
Do you want to retaliate when you are disrespected?
Do you yell at them?
Or do you make harsh personal attacks against them?
If you are not the sort of person who lashes out, do you give them the silent treatment, refusing to answer their calls and messages?
We think of our desire for justice coming out of our ‘God-given’ right for justice. We know that people should be held accountable for the wrongs they have committed. But how often is our sense of justice and revenge tainted by our feelings of self-righteousness and anger.
Here Jesus simply shows us a better way forward in our life. We are invited to let go of anger and resentment and put our trust in God to make things right. God understands our suffering. God also knows how to show mercy. God calls us away from making things worse and escalating violence and revenge. In Jesus we see the power of grace.
May the Holy Spirit work in me to let God handle my hurts and remove the need to seek revenge. May I take on board the ability to respond to life showing wisdom, patience and compassion, just as I would like to experience when I am upset by others. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
It is just so easy to just love those with whom we relate. We know that they will do the same with us. However if we really want to reflect God’s love for us then we have to share the sunshine of our love with everyone. It does not matter if they are different to us. It does not matter if they are from a different culture or faith. We have to learn to be generous with everyone.
How do you treat people who appear to be lazy, rude ignorant, selfish or unkind? It is all too easy to get along with our friends but the way we treat those who appear to be a bit strange to us should always reflect our relationship with God.
One of the signs of our faith is the way that we treat everyone. This starts with a clear understanding of who we are. We all can be imperfect and we also can be selfish and inconsiderate of others.
Matthew 5 keeps showing us how we can improve ourselves and our treatment of others. God chooses not to lash out at our failings so we should also choose not to attack others for their shortcomings. Just as God shows us mercy and compassion we need to share that with everyone. Even people who have been our enemies.
Loving God through the support of your Holy Spirit please let me see others as people made in your image. May I treat them as you have treated me. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I am sure that most of us like to be publicly recognised for doing the right thing. Even when we do something nice for our partner we often expect something nice in return. When we give money for a worthwhile charity or movement, or simply thank someone for their good work, we often tell lots of people what we have done. At other times we put an extra effort into what we do when there are special people watching, as we want to be recognised by them.
It appears this was problem among the people that Jesus was speaking to. People like the local religious hierarchy and the Pharisees would make a great production about giving a little bit of money to the poor and vulnerable. They pointed out that they were ‘obeying’ the laws of the Torah.
While such actions might bring good responses from their audience Jesus saw it for what it was. They were not doing it for God’s purposes but just for their own gratification. They were not really that interested in those who were in need.
Perhaps we all need to think again about how we do things to help those in need, especially when we get praise from others in response. Jesus points out that it is all too easy to do things simply for the kudos in front of other people. We are challenged to keep a low profile and to do our genuine acts of kindness away from publicity and not look for thanks every time.
May God’s loving Holy Spirit help me to care for others in ways that do not attract the attention of those around us. We know that we should never expect publicity and attention in return. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Prayer can be such a tricky thing for many people. They are worried that they might use the wrong words or the wrong formula and therefore offend God. Most of us can recite the Lord’s Prayer by heart. Today we read the words that the disciples learned at Jesus feet.
There is no special formula or words needed to come into contact with God. God is not some massive remote being who needs some secret formula in order to listen to us. Actually God just wants us to stop and spend time connecting. We are welcome at all times, not just during a church service. God is always loving and attentive, wanting us to share the celebrations and concerns deep within our hearts.
It is safe to come before God just as we are. We can pray with confidence even if we are not an ‘expert’ Christian. Why not take some extra time today to talk to God. Remember talking also includes listening to the answers.
Thank you God for receiving my prayers just as I am. I appreciate that I can come before you at any time, even if it has been years since I last prayed. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
READING: Matthew 6:9-13
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Looking a bit more at the Lord’s Prayer I want us to reflect on part of verse 10. We all know that God loves us and wants the best for each of us. As part of this the Lord’s Prayer calls on us to do God’s will. This is not a restrictive thing, rather a liberating exercise. God wants only the best for us and to achieve this we need to listen to His guidance.’
I am not going to suggest that this process is simple and without some struggles as we all have faults that we have to address. Here we are called on to allow God to be our guide to the freedom we desire. Simply just doing only as we might wish at any given time we can leave ourselves open to many problems in our life and our faith experience. We can pursue worldly treasures rather than the richness of faith. At the same time we can leave ourselves open to pain and suffering.
When I am praying for God’s kingdom to come I have to allow my life to be kept open to God’s fullness. I am inviting the Holy Spirit to come into my very being and guide me on the right pathways. This is not always the simplest or the easiest way forward but it is the most rewarding for my personal growth.
As we pray those words weekly, can we genuinely accept God’s will in our life?
Can we make those changes which will bring us closer to God?
Are we willing to ‘risk the way’ of following Jesus?
Loving God, I willingly invite the guidance of your Holy Spirit to support me each day. May I accept the wisdom of Jesus words for my life. May I be a true light to the world around me. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
TODAY’S REFLECTION 21/10/21
“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Once again our attention is being drawn to people who make a performance out of good things aimed at an audience rather than God. This time it is about people fasting for religious reasons wanting to draw attention to themselves.
Like prayer, fasting was used to draw people closer to God. It is thought that it becomes an embodiment of prayer.
Like the other passages Jesus is critical of people who abuse the spiritual disciplines as a means of showing off rather than being focused on their relationship with God. Jesus points out that people who openly attract attention doing good things are getting all their attention from others and God is not interested.
All of our spiritual practices should be directed towards God alone. This means that we should be careful in talking with others and even what we put on social media. There may be a genuine need to involve others in our spiritual life but we need to be humble in our efforts and avoid doing it simply to attract another person’s attention.
When I seek to build on my spiritual life may I only be focused on God. May I avoid doing things which are designed to try and show my devotion to others, rather than me just doing it out of my love of God. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt
FINAL DEVOTION 22/10/21
Please note that this will be the last of the daily devotions. I go for further surgery this coming week and I hope that the congregation will be meeting together before I get back to work.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
It is interesting to reflect sometimes about what we really care about. What is your reaction if someone scratches your car, or even puts a dent in one of the panels? How about your reaction if a dog gets hold of your favourite shoe and destroys is? Then again what is your reaction when the stock market plummets?
Most of us would be upset at these things, even if we tried to remain calm on the outside. There is nothing wrong in putting money aside for our retirement but we have to make sure that it doesn’t become our idol to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. It is more important for our investments to be made with regard to God’s ideals not just the bottom dollar.
In this passage Jesus reminds us that what we treasure most is where our hearts are focussed. Is our attention only on the goods that we own and the bottom line of our investments or is it seeking a closer relationship with God?
May the Holy Spirit guide me into a loving relationship with God through the teachings of Jesus. Money and possessions are only temporary things, God’s love lasts forever. AMEN
Rev Mark Watt