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Bible Study Daily Life

Watch Your Mouth

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway.

Matt 21:18-32

Today’s scripture is all about the power of words.
The disciples are amazed when Jesus curses the fig tree, and it whithers before their eyes.

 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

What an amazing statement! That if we have faith, we can tell a mountain to move – and that whatever we ask for, we will receive. Notice that there is a distinction made between speaking to obstacles, things that need to be removed from our lives “say to this mountain” – and asking for things, things that we would like to be added – “ask in prayer, you will receive”.

There is a caution in here too that I think we miss a lot though. If you have faith – we tend to read this and think about having faith to move the mountain – but what about the poor old fig tree?

It wasn’t its fault it didn’t have any fruit yet.

As Christians, Jesus – by His Holy Spirit -lives in us. This is how we can do the things He did when He walked the earth – heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons (Matt 10:7-8)
With great power though, comes great responsibility – if we have faith, we can speak life – and death over things, situations and people’s lives. Including our own.

There are varying views on Jesus and the fig tree. Was he annoyed with the tree? Did He do it to make a point?

I believe He used this moment as a teaching moment for the disciples.
Yes, you can move mountains – you can also kill things with your words. You might not be intending to do that, but because you have faith, and you operate in the anointing of God – you can do it without realising.

There are many scriptures that speak to us about being careful with our speech.

Proverbs 13:3 says “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

The book of James includes a whole chapter filled with warnings about controlling our tongues!

In the second half of our reading, the Pharisees are once again trying to corner Jesus – this time with a question about His authority. Jesus side steps them neatly with a parable.

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered,

‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

The first son in our tale says “no” to his father – then changes his mind. The second son says “yes” – with no intention of following through.

His yes becomes no – outward lip service followed by disobedience.

Jesus says that the tax collectors and prostitutes – who heard the word through John the Baptist and believed – are entering the Kingdom ahead of the Pharisees – who are still holding out and refusing to believe that Jesus is God.

The pharisees looked good on the outside – they gave their outward “yes” to Him – but then refused to believe when Jesus was standing right in front of them.

God wants your heart. God wants your honest “yes” – even if it starts out as a “no”. You can decide today to give your “yes” to Jesus.

Lord help us to remember that our words have power.Help us to use them wisely, and to give our honest “yes” to you,

Amen.

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Bible Study Kingdom

Queue Jumping

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway

Yesterday’s gospel account was of the rich young man who felt unable to part with his worldly wealth in order to obtain eternal life.Today’s reading also involves money – but from a different perspective.

Jesus tells us that The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who hired people to work , and paid those who started later the same as those who were there from the beginning.

It is worth noting here that Jesus is talking about
Heaven – not God.

Elsewhere in the New Testament Jesus tells us that Heaven is all around us.
It’s at hand. (Matt 3:2)
It’s within us. (Luke 17:21)
(Its not just where you go when you die).
In this analogy, Jesus explains that heaven’s rewards are not based on length of service, or amount of work – it’s based on you turning up.If you believe in Jesus you are in.

You are in. That’s all that matters.

At the time Jesus spoke these words, the chief priests, religious rulers and the Jewish people would be regarded as the first, and only ones in line for God’s favour. They were God’s chosen people from the start – but Jesus says that those who were last – the disciples – and then the gentiles – and then us – will be first in line!

In our world, when someone jumps a queue, or receives a reward we feel they didn’t work for , we cry

“unfair! I worked harder than them, and longer than them, why should they get the same as me?”
When we live under heavens rule though – the rules are different. Everyone is welcome in heaven and everyone receives the same reward.
That includes you. Wherever you came from, no matter what your background or how late in life you came to faith in Jesus.

As if to underline this idea of the first being last, and last being first, Jesus’ next statement to the disciples is to tell them that he will be put to death and then rise again to life.

Jesus was, and is the first, and the last. He is both beginning and end – yet He humbled himself and allowed man to put Him to death. He died for our sins – in the ultimate sacrifice – and then His last act (dying) became His first – (He rose again) – so that through faith in Him we can “queue jump” and declare

“I’m IN!”

I’m in. How about you?

Rebecca

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Bible Study

Money, Money, Money

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway


Matt 19:16-30

Today’s gospel account is one most of us will be familiar with – the tale of the young man who walked away from Jesus because he couldn’t give up his worldly wealth. I have often squirmed in my seat when this tale is recounted – because honestly, I sometimes wonder if I would pass this test!

If we look a little closer though, we might discover that this encounter is not as straightforward as it might seem. The young man wants to know what he can do to earn eternal life – Jesus tells him to keep commandments and when asked which ones Jesus mentions all the “other people“ ones.

The young man asks Jesus “Which ones?” And He replies

“You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honour your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”(v 18-19)

The young man has kept these and so we can imagine his chest puffing up a little.“Done that!” – he declares – “What else?”

In just a couple of sentences Jesus shows him his folly:

“Go and give away everything you own – then come and follow me”

The point here is not so much what Jesus says – as what He leaves out. The commandments Jesus doesn’t list are:

  • You shall have no other gods before Me
  • You shall not make idols
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  • You shall not covet.

I suspect – and this is just my theory – that the young man had made money his god.
The Lord tells the young man to give away everything he owns and then he can follow Him – not because poverty is a spiritual virtue – but because He knows that in this young man’s life, money is occupying the place of God. He needs to be freed from his unhealthy relationship with money, in order to learn to put God first.
Jesus then goes on to explain to the disciples that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ ” (v23-24)

The disciples are dismayed – “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looks at them and says,

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus refers to “the deceitfulness of riches” and tells us that it can choke our faith – especially in the early stages (Matt 13:22). This is not because money itself is bad – even in large quantities – but because when life is going well and we have everything we want, the human tendency is to forget our need for God. We can become self-sufficient (or believe we are!) – and forget to include Jesus in our decisions and life.

Wealth can indeed, be deceitful:
– It can deceive us into thinking we achieved success on our own when in fact we are just a recipient of God’s blessing.
– It can deceive us into thinking we don’t need God.

When we love God and serve Him, money is just a tool with which to serve Him better. In itself, money is neither good nor evil – it’s what you do with it that counts! The disciples had given up much to serve Jesus – and Jesus assures them of their reward.

Lord, help us to keep money in its proper place in our lives, and to remember always to thank you for our blessings, give generously to those in need, and to use money wisely to further your kingdom on earth.

Categories
Bible Study Kingdom

Bring Me What You Have

Todays post is one of my contributions to a “New Testament in a year” daily reading challenge that I was asked to write for my home church.

Matt 14:1-21 20

In this passage Jesus has actually just withdrawn (or tried to) from the public eye for a while, after the brutal murder of His cousin and friend, John the Baptist.Yet even in the midst of His own grief, He still sees the people who had gathered and heals their sick. As a result, even more people gathered and by late afternoon a large crowd had formed.As the day draws to a close, the disciples are concerned that the people have no food. Jesus tells them to feed the people – but they have only five loaves and two fish to hand.The disciples focus is on what they dont have.

Jesus says “Bring me what you have”

Many of us are familiar with what happens next – but there is a point in this passage that we often miss:

  1. The loaves did not multiply in the hands of Jesus – they actually multiplied in the hands of the disciples!
  2. Jesus didn’t pray, and He didn’t ask God to multiply the bread – He simply said a blessing, and then the disciples gave the food out until everyone was fed – and there were still leftovers!

Having seen multiplication happen myself, I can tell you that actually, the one thing you never see is the actual multiplication itself. Instead, the food just keeps going, and it is only afterward that you realise that it should have stopped long ago!

The other thing I have learned, and this reading shows us, is that the Kingdom principle is to take what you have, and use it.Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have.
Jesus didn’t tell the disciples ahead of time what was going to happen – I would imagine that as they first began, they were thinking “Well, this isn’t going to be any use – we have over 5 thousand people here and He thinks we can feed them on 5 loaves of bread!”
Then as they got further and further into the crowd and the bread still had not run out, there must have been a moment where the disciples realised what was happening. How amazing to witness a miracle on such a scale!

I love how this account shows us that Jesus is interested in our needs, not just in a spiritual sense but in a very practical sense too.
How often have you thought that a situation was hopeless, only to realise when you looked back afterward, that God was with you all the time?
I know I have.

It’s still January – lets make a resolution that this year – in every situation – we will bring what we have to Jesus for His blessing, and then use it – in the sure knowledge that our Father in Heaven will always provide for our needs.

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Bible Study Posts

You of Little Faith

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway
Matt 14:22 – 15:9

In most Bibles, this passage seems to be headed “Jesus walks on the water”

That in itself is quite a show-stopper.

Images by Reuben Rodriguez – used with permission

If you think about it though, for Jesus to walk on water wasn’t such a stretch for the disciples to believe – they had already seen Him turn water into wine, perform countless healing miracles and cast out demons. Surely the headline news here is that Peter walks on the water! An ordinary man, who hears the command of God and acts on it. Then disaster strikes as Peter looks at the waves around him, and begins to sink.

Often we read this passage and we focus on the fact that Peter sank. We miss the fact that Peter tried. We miss the fact that before he started to sink, Peter had in fact walked on water. He wasn’t the only disciple in that boat – but He was the only one that actually had the faith to try – and he did it! He walked on the water.

Jesus says to Peter,

“You of little faith, why did you doubt ?”

We read that as a rebuke – but actually Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains and achieve great things:

“Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you”. (Matt 17:20)

So perhaps Jesus was saying that Peter had all the faith he needed, (“you of little faith”) – and asking him why he doubted that it could happen at all – rather than asking why he sank? If Jesus says that we can do something – either in the scriptures, through our prayer time, or even a prophetic word from another believer – then why would we doubt Him?

The second part of our reading today is Matthew 15:1-9

It’s those pesky Pharisees again! They have tried and failed to get Jesus on a point of law. Now they are going after the disciples on a point of tradition. (Note that they can’t even get them with a direct breach of religious rules – so they move the goal posts to tradition instead!)

Jesus turns their argument on its head and throws it straight back at them:

“Why do you allow the traditions of men to overrule the command of God?”

As I read these two accounts together, there is a common thread that jumps out at me. Peter could have listened to traditional, established wisdom: “You are only a man. You can’t walk on water you will drown”. Instead, he chose to obey the command of His God, who said simply,

“Come”

As Christians, we will often be in situations where traditions and culture will conflict with what God says. It is easy to be swayed by “sensible advice” or “common sense”. In the end though, we have a choice. We can honour our own culture and take the easy path, as the Pharisees did – or we can follow the call of God, who says “Come” – and see His power at work to help us walk on our own, personal water.

I don’t know about you, but I want to always have the courage to “walk on the water”, whenever and wherever Jesus calls me.

Lord, help us to listen for your voice, and be ready to step out with our mustard-seed-sized faith when we hear you call us.

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Bible Study Daily Life Posts Questions

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway.


Matt 12: 22-45

I think we all have people in our lives – and people we meet – who are sceptical of our faith. Especially in the early stages when we first become a Christian, and especially if they have known us a long time. They are waiting for us to trip up. Watching to see if this new found enthusiasm and “the new you” will really last, or if it’s just another phase we are going through.

As we mature, if we are in any way vocal about our faith we will still meet people who are a little suspicious or even cynical about the Christian faith. Generally speaking, those people fall into two categories:

  1. The genuinely curious
  2. Those who just want to tear you down.

This second group of people isn’t a new problem, and Jesus has already modelled how to deal with these situations.

In our previous reading, we saw the Pharisees – the religious elite of the day, trying to trip Jesus up and accuse Him. They tried to get Him on points of the law – specifically that He broke the Sabbath. Of course, Jesus was able to answer their accusations in such a way that He exposed their legalistic and unloving motives. No wonder they didn’t like Him!

Today’s reading continues on the same theme. Jesus heals a man who is possessed by demons, blind and mute. When the man is healed, we are told that all the people are amazed. The Pharisees, however, are simply angry. Instead of allowing themselves to see the truth of what is happening in front of their eyes, they simply move the argument onto new ground.

“Well, he can only do that because he’s tapping in to the devils power”

Image by Lisa Wilding – used with permission

Jesus points out that this, too, is a ridiculous suggestion. If Satan is casting out Satan, then his kingdom is falling apart and he is defeated. If however, Jesus is casting out demons by the Spirit of God – then Satan’s kingdom has fallen because the Kingdom of God has arrived. Either way, the devil is defeated.

He continues in verse 33:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit”

In other words – you can’t have it both ways. Either what is in front of you is good, or it’s bad. I think everyone witnessing this exchange would have agreed that a blind and mute man being set free is a really good thing!

So next up, they decide they want a sign (verse 38). Jesus knows, though, that some people will not believe no matter what you show them. They are only interested in tearing things down. So instead of saying “See that cripple on the mat over there? Watch this!” Jesus tells them that the only sign they will get is His death, burial and resurrection. In other words, He decides to let the fruit of His life and ministry speak for itself.

In this passage Jesus has given us a template for how to deal with those people who try to trip us up, or tangle us up in arguments. Just as with the Pharisees and Jesus, there are some people in our lives who don’t really want to be convinced – and the best thing to do for them is just let the changes in your life – your own personal resurrection – do the talking.