Welcome to Palmerston EMC!

Palmerston EMC is made up of people from various walks of life.  A somewhat traditional church, we reflect a small town personality with strong family ties.  Agriculture and agricultural related business employ a large portion of our congregation, while some of our people are self-employed or work in industry, service or government.  We are a practical, service oriented congregation with a heart to see God’s work in Palmerston move ahead. We have a strong desire to worship and serve God, to reach out to our community, to grow spiritually and to see new people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

You are welcome to join us!

Canadian Bible Engagement Study

read bibleIn 2013, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, in partnership with the Bible League of Canada, the Canadian Bible Society, The Gideons, Open Doors, Wycliffe and a few others, released the results of a survey that asked Canadians about their engagement with and belief in the Bible.

It is important for Canadian Christians to understand the results of this survey as it applies to our culture. But the results of this survey are also a wake-up call for Canadian Christians.

One line stood out above all of the others in the report of the survey. It is this line: “The Bible engagement of self-identified Christians as a whole is not very different from Bible engagement of Canadians generally.”

Brothers and sisters, this should not be so!

There are positives. People who read the Bible regularly are 6 times more likely to attend church regularly, and 10 times more likely to consider the Bible God’s Word.

13% of Canadians and 23% of Canadian Christians agree that the Bible is relevant to daily life.  That is encouraging! Those who believe that the Bible is relevant to daily life are over 10 times more likely to read the Bible frequently and are four times more likely to attend church weekly.

The Bible engages and changes lives! But we as Canadian Christians need to be setting the example and leading the conversation.

For more information about the survey, please go to: http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca/

Here are the survey result files:
CBES Executive Summary
CBES Full Report

Let me encourage you my friends: be engaged with the Living and Active Word of God!

Acts 13-14: Pay attention

Pay attention! Pay attention as you read the scriptures! There is always something new, always something to learn, always something to catch. Have you been paying attention as you have been reading the book of Acts? Have you noticed how the focus of the scriptures has shifted? Have you noticed who had taken more of a centre stage in this book. In a simplistic way, the Bible is a collection of writings that point us all toward God, and each part of the Bible points us to different degrees to the different roles that God takes on in his dealings with the world. The Old Testament is primarily about God the Father as Creator and mover of history. The gospels point us primarily to God incarnate in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Redeemer. The book of Acts begins a third section of the scriptures that deal more and more with the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Let me be clear in saying that all three persons of the Godhead, the Trinity, appear all through the Bible. Let me also be clear in saying that I realize that some of you have questions about the Trinity, many of them the same questions I have. I would love to give you a full theological treatise in the Trinity, but I don’t have the space or the doctorate to do that. No matter how much time, space or knowledge I have to share with you, I could never fully explain the Trinity to you. While the Bible makes the existence of the Trinity a truth, it does not explain to us the nature of that existence or how it works. Allow me to share with you an illustration that has helped me understand the Trinity a little bit.

Imagine what goes on in your body when you speak and the components that make speech possibly. You have your throat and your mouth that form the words, you have your breath passing through those parts that make the sound, and then you have the sound itself that goes out from your body in to the world around you. Imagine that each part of the Trinity makes up those parts. God the Father is the throat and mouth, the Holy Spirit is the breath that moves through those parts and Jesus Christ is the spoken Word that goes out into the world. One complete action that takes three separate parts to function. That imagery has helped me in thinking about the Trinity. Not to mention that it ties in rather nicely to scripture. The gospel of John calls Jesus the word. The Holy Spirit is often described as breath or wind, and God is seen as speaking forth creation in Genesis.

The reason I really want you to pay attention to the Holy Spirit as we read forward through the rest of the New Testament is because so many Christians find the Holy Spirit mysterious or even frightful. As we read forward, I want you to realized just how much is written about the Spirit and the things that is said about the Spirit. The Holy Spirit figures predominantly in the life of believers and the church. In fact, I would say that the Spirit is the critical element missing from the lives of many Christians and many churches. It is the Spirit’s job to equip and direct both individual Christians and the church as a whole.

Take what we read today from Acts 13. Paul’s call to ministry: Holy Spirit directed. Paul’s movements during ministry: Holy Spirit directed. Paul’s words spoken during ministry: Holy Spirit directed. Paul’s acts of ministry: Holy Spirit directed. It is absolutely incredible how much the Holy Spirit was involved in Paul and Barnabas’ ministry just in this one chapter! The reality is, the Spirit wants that kind of influence and presence in your life.

And it is a good thing that the Spirit is with us! Can you imagine Paul taking on the mission that God had for him on his own power? “Paul, go and be my emissary to the entire Gentile world, it’s leaders and any Jews you encounter on the way.” How could Paul possibly hope to accomplish that on his own? He can’t. That’s the point.

I love this quote from Henry Blackaby in his book Experiencing the Spirit:
“Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.”

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: James 1-5

Acts 11-12: Praying

I wonder how many of us pray for something without really expecting anything to change. Let me clarify and say that I don’t believe we should feel guilty if that has happened. In fact, that is exactly what I see happening to the “many” who were praying at Mary’s house in Acts 12. If you and I were in their place, we’d be gathering to pray as well. James had just be killed by Herod, Peter was in prison; the leaders of their church were in trouble and prayer seems like a perfectly reasonable response.

But notice what happens. Peter is rescued from prison by an angel, he knocks on the door sometime during the night and is left waiting outside while the excited Rhoda runs to tell the others that Peter has arrived. What is their response: “What is wrong with you girls? What you are saying is impossible. Peter is in Herod’s prison! You are out of your mind.” I wonder if Peter’s predicament had been part of their prayer list for that evenings prayer meeting. I bet it had been. It seems to me that they weren’t really expecting the solution that came about.

One small clarification here. When they finally let Peter into the house, he shares his story and then says “Report these things to James and the brothers…” In case you said: “Wait a minute, James was killed by Herod” let me point out that there are two James’. The first is James the Apostle, brother of John, and then there is James, the brother of Jesus. While Jesus’ brother James first rejected him as the Messiah (see Mark 6), he later became a leader in the church in Jerusalem.

Back to my main point. I have always thought that expectancy should be one of the basic characteristics of Christians everywhere. We should be like excited children who can’t wait to get to the Christmas presents. We should be sitting on the edge of our seats saying: “Oh man, I can’t wait to see what He does next.” Like I said at the beginning, I don’t think we should feel guilty when we pray without really expecting God to do anything, we’ve all done it, and this lovely story from Acts 12 assures us that even the first believers had trouble with this whole “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24) concept that Jesus taught.

I do believe, though, that we can foster and nurture a spirit of expectation, especially in terms of prayer. First there is the several promises in scripture that God hears and answers us, like the one I listed above. But there is also the experience of answered prayer. If you have a hard time expecting answers to prayer, then may I suggest you keep a journal of your prayer life, the things you ask for and the answers God gives you.

I’ll share a story to close that I heard from a pastor friend of min. The people in this story attend his church. There was a woman who came to be a Christian through a friend and started to go to church. Her husband was not a believer, in fact he didn’t put much stock at all in this God stuff. He decided it was his job to rescue his wife from her foolishness. He gave her a journal and asked her to keep track of those things that she asked for in prayer and the way God answered them. He thought that this would be a very practical way to show her the folly of her new faith. After about a year, he asked her to see her journal, hoping to find the pages that were supposed to hold God’s answers all blank. Instead, he found a miraculous catalog of God’s answers to his wife’s prayers over the previous year. Her husband became a believer because of that journal.

God delights in giving good gifts to his children.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Acts 13-14

Acts 9-10: The Next Stage

Have you ever done renovations to your home? I only ask because my house is in pretty much a constant state of renovation. We bought a home that had been pretty neglected over the past decades. While the bones of the house are incredibly solid, it’s physical appearance leaves a lot to be desired. So we are slowly making our way through the house doing repairs and making alterations as we go. Currently, we are working on a section of wall in our living room that was a spot for a fireplace or a wood stove, maybe even both at different times. Currently, it is a floor to ceiling section of rough plaster that sticks about 4 inches out from the wall and is far from square. When I’m done, it will be a rather nice mantled fire place faced in stacked slate.

I don’t tell you this to brag about my latest project. I tell you this to lead into the point I am drawing out of today’s reading. When doing a renovation, you have to start at the beginning and work your way in stages toward the end. I can’t mount the fireplace until the base is framed and built, and I can’t put the mantle in place until fireplace is framed and in place. You get my point I’m sure.

As we work through Acts 9 and 10 today, we get to see God’s plan moving from one stage to the next. We get to see God beginning to move the gospel out from Jerusalem and Judea into the surrounding countryside, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. Up to this point the church had been pretty much concentrated in the Jewish towns and Jerusalem itself. This was never God’s plan for the church, so he begins to push things beyond those boarders. First we have the calling of Saul, soon to be Paul in Acts 9 and then we have the visions of Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10.

I find something rather interesting about these two accounts that I had not really considered before: both Paul and Peter were unwilling participants in this expansion of God’s plan at first. Paul of course was not even a Christian when God called him to be “My chosen instrument to carry My name before Gentiles, kings and sons of Israel.” In fact, Saul was probably the worst opponents of the early church until the events of Acts 9.

Peter is not much better actually. Peter, always a bit stubborn, finds it completely shocking that God would call him to minister to the Gentiles. Some of this is carry-over from his days as a devout Jew (this shows up in his insistence that Jews do not associate with Gentiles; Acts 10:28), and some of it is just Peter’s personality.

We must remember that God has a plan and that he is moving creation to the completion of that plan, one stage at a time. There are moments when God calls us to move forward into a new stage of the plan that we may not be very fond of or even willing to participate in. But God’s plan will be accomplished. Sometimes, like with Saul and Peter, God kind of moves us along regardless of our feelings about it. But there are other times when our own stubbornness or unwillingness to participate in God’s next stage can cause us to be left behind. That, my friends, if a far scarier proposition than the discomfort of moving into a new and unknown stage of God’s plan.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Acts 11-12

Acts 7-8: Dilemma

This is the post for October 18 that WordPress decided to delete instead of posting yesterday. Don’t know why, but by the time I realized what had happened I was unable to save it. So here it is.

How many of you have seen the new McCafe commercial for their cappuccino? I tried to find it online to post a link for those of you who may not have seen it yet, but I was unable to. So let me describe it for you. In it, a man gets a cappuccino, realizes how good it is, and begins to tell everyone he knows just how good it is. The commercial shows several scenes where he is touting the greatness of his beverage to several different people. Not just the beverage, but how the beverage was made, that it was “real” cappuccino made with fresh ground espresso beans not some cheap powder (sorry Tim’s). What caught my eye about this commercial was just how descriptive this guy was. He used a lot of descriptive words, sound effects, even a couple of body/hand motions in his descriptions. It is really quite good.

I realize that this guy is a paid actor who is following a script, so his exuberance is a bit suspect; but on the other hand, the same thing happens when you ask a sport’s fan about their favourite team or player. Or if you listen to a parent talk about their children; or if you ask a foodie about their favourite recipe or restaurant. There is an exuberance that people display for things that really “turn their crank”.

This leads me to Acts chapter 7, and perhaps one of the saddest pieces of scripture in the New Testament, but also one of the most emboldening. It is the story of Stephen, the first person on record to die because he believed in Jesus. It is a sad story because this young man “full of grace and power”, whose very “face was like the face of an angel”, is cut down because of the religious elite who refused to listen. Stephen died simply because he believed and refused to bow the pressures of the religious institution of his time.

There are two lessons in this for us as Christians. The first is that we should be as bold as Stephen when it comes to sharing our faith, we should be as exuberant as the cappuccino guy in the commercial. The power of Jesus Christ in our lives should ooze out of us. I don’t know about you, but the possibility of negative social side-effects sometimes creates a dilemma in my heart. To share and face the consequences, or to not share and be disobedient to my Lord. We know from this story which side of that dilemma Stephen landed on.

But we must also take a warning as Christians from the teachers of the law in this story. We must not be like them! We must be careful that we are not being like them in the face of passionate pursuit of faith in Jesus.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Acts 9-10

Luke 23; John 18-19: Death

The Apostles Creed reads: “I believe in God,the Father almighty,Creator of heaven and earth,and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,born of the Virgin Mary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,was crucified, died and was buried;”

One thing we must keep in mind as we read through these accounts of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion is what he went through. He suffered under Pontius Pilate. He suffered. It is something that we must be aware of.

Three stages in his trial before the Jewish leadership at the Sanhedrin, three stages in his trial before Pilate, and in each stage of those trials he suffered abuses, both verbal and physical. Through it all, Pilate proclaims at three different times that he found no wrong with Jesus. The indignity of it, that an innocent man was held not only for trials, but for torture and execution.

Let me ask you a question you may not have considered before: who was really on trial? Was it Jesus? Or was it first the Sanhedrin and then Pilate? Jesus was not under earthly authority, he makes that clear in his words to both the Sanhedrin and Pilate; in fact Jesus makes it clear that his authority was given from a higher place then that of either Pilate or the Jewish leader.

They key to all of this is that both Herod and Pilate “found no guilt in him.” They found no grounds to condemn him under Roman rule, because he had committed no crimes that threatened the Empire. Pilate recognized that the reason the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead because they were envious and afraid of him.

But Pilate was too weak to push the issue, too afraid of the crows and the Jewish leaders, and not nearly afraid enough of this man who claimed to be the Son of God.

Then again, even a weak willed man like Pilate can be used by God. “And having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 28, Mark 16

Matthew 27; Mark 15: Culmination

If ever there was a climax in a story to end all climaxes, this is it. The fulfillment of the Biblical narrative, the revelation of God’s redemptive, restorative plan for humanity and all of creation.

The betrayal, trial and death of Jesus of Nazareth.

How can I possibly add to this narrative? It is the truest form of love, that God would hand over his only Son to be tortured and killed for my sin, my trespass, my guilty verdict…and yours.

I was asked an interesting question recently when considering the cross of Jesus: “Who would you be without Jesus in your life?”

It is an interesting thing to ponder as we read about Jesus’ death for us today. What kind of person would you be? What would your values and morals look like? What would you be addicted to? What kind of life would you be living?

I know my answer to that question kind of scared me and made me realize just how different I am because of Jesus and his death for me.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 23; John 18-19

John 14-17: Prayer

When was the last time you asked someone to pray for you? Or when was the last time someone offered to pray for you?

It struck me a number of years ago as I was reading though John 17:20-26 how amazing it is that Jesus prayed for me; and as you read this chapter today, I want you to consider that he prayed these words for you.

On the cusp of his own execution, Jesus takes time to pray for strength for himself to complete the task that was ahead of him, but then he prays for his disciples and for all those who will believe in him. Just consider how incredible that truth is! Jesus bowed his knee to pray for you!

That you would know and understand the truths that Jesus revealed. That you would be protected by God. That your joy would be complete because of Jesus’ presence in your life. That you would be sanctified (that means made holy by the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life). That you would be sent into the world with the message of Jesus’ love; and for unity among believers over all the ages.

That’s quite a list of things that Jesus prays for us. I remember being quite humbled when I read those words from Jesus, directed at me.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 27; Mark 15

Matthew 24: Signs

How many of you would like to know the future? The truth is, many of us would like to have an understanding of what is coming. As Boice points out in his commentary on Matthew, we are driven to know the future out of fear, a desire to be prepared or simple curiosity.

In fact, there is a fairly large interest in the future in our society. The use of horoscopes, palm-readers, fortune tellers and tarot cards have all experienced a resurgence in popularity over the past decade. The Bible teaches us pretty plainly that these things are not for Christ-followers, but we would be foolish to assume that the same hunger to know the future does not drive even some Christians to explore these avenues.

There are many disagreeing views about what Jesus talks about here in Matthew 24 (the parallel chapters Mark 13 and Luke 21). I have no desire to try to unpack all of those disagreements in this short blog post.

I do want to make mention of something that J.M. Boice writes about that really grabbed my attention. He mentions that Jesus’ disciples essentially ask two questions of Jesus: “when will this happen?”(referring to the destruction of the temple from the first two verses of the chapter) and “what will be the sign of your coming?” They make the assumption that the two things are linked.

When Jesus answers them, though, he answers the two questions separately. He shows them that the destruction of the temple, along with all of the other grim things he outlines (false messiahs, wars and rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, apostasy and false prophets) are things to be expected to characterize history. Boice writes: “We will always have these things. They are painful, and Jesus likens them to the ‘beginning of birth pains’, but they are not signs that the end of the world is near…But the followers of Christ are not to be deceived by false teaching on this subject: ‘the end is still to come (vs.6)’”

I have heard, on many occasions throughout my church experience, people using these verses as a compass of sorts, pointing us toward Jesus’ second coming. But what Boice points out in these verses makes me wonder about that. Is Jesus really giving a list of things that point to his 2nd coming OR is he simply outlining to his disciples (and us) what history will be like between his ascension to heaven after his resurrection and his 2nd appearance?

I’m not completely sure about the answer to that question. It is definitely something to ponder. But there are a few of things for us to learn from this chapter either way:

1) Jesus return and the end of the world are always imminent, meaning that they can occur at any moment.
2) Because of this imminence, we are not to be deceived by false teachers or false messiahs
3) We are not to be distressed or fearful in the face of the events Jesus lists in this chapter.
4) We must stand firm to the end
5) The gospel must be proclaimed to the entirety of the world before the end will come.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 25

Mark 13: Dark days

I am never sure how to approach conversations about the “end of days”. A lot of that is because I don’t know where people stand in their beliefs about these things. In my opinion, there are more important things to be talking about than when/how or in what order Jesus’ return will happen. I know this: Jesus is coming again and when he does this world won’t know what hit it. Because his second coming will not be like his first coming, it will not be quiet and meek and gentle and mild. No one will write a song called Silent Night to talk about Jesus’ second appearance on the global stage. He will appear with fanfare and shouting, with power and proclamation and the earth with tremble before him.

For me, thinking about Jesus’ second coming is more about the command Jesus gives his disciples in verse 9 “Be on your guard”; and again in verse 23 “And you must watch!”; and again in verse 33 “Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming.”

Be alert. Watch. Be on guard. Jesus tell the parable of the 10 Bridesmaids and their lamps in Matthew 25 (I know, we’re not there yet), but I can’t help but be fearful of that parable. 10 virgins go out to wait for the arrival of the groom. 5 of them are wise and bring extra oil for their lamps, 5 are foolish and do not bring extra oil. When the call comes for them to prepare themselves to receive the groom, the 5 foolish virgins find their lamps without fuel and beg the 5 wise virgins to share. But the 5 wise virgins know that if they share their oil, no one will have enough. So the 5 foolish virgins have to go and get more oil, and while they are away the groom arrives and the wedding party starts…and the 5 foolish virgins are left out in the dark.

Jesus gives us enough understanding of what is going to come at the end of days so that we can approach that time with eyes open, so as to not be caught off guard. That’s the point of what he is telling his disciples here. Don’t get lulled to sleep. If the disciples, who were standing there with Jesus needed that encouragement, then how much more do we 2,000 years after his death and ascension?

My friends, don’t spend your time trying to figure out the meaning of these cryptic signs that Jesus gives to us. Instead recognize that we are one day closer to Jesus’ return than we were yesterday, which means that we have one less day to tell our neighbours, our families, our friends, our co-workers or our hair-dressers about Jesus. It means that we have one less day to read the Bible, one less day to seek God’s face in prayer, one less day to fulfill the mission that he has entrusted us with.

Be alert! Be watchful! Be on guard!

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 24

Matthew 23; Luke 20-21: Offensive

It is possible that Matthew 23 could be taken as offensive. In fact, I’m sure what Jesus had to say in these verses was fairly offensive to his audience, the Pharisees. The names he uses for them if nothing else (white-washed tombs, blind guides, hypocrites, blind guides, brood of vipers) were all very offensive terms back in Jesus’ day.

Jesus is trying to correct the Pharisees in these verses for the way that they are abusing and misusing their religious ideas and ideals; and if anyone has a right to correct, it is Jesus. The Pharisees were all about the rules, a legalistic, works based religious system. The only way to be ok in God’s eyes was to act in the right ways. If you acted in the wrong way, then you fell out of God’s favour. The main thing to understand about the Pharisees is that they had taken the Law God gave to Moses and added to it, making a massive list of rules to follow. One of their favourite things to do was to stand on a street corner, or right in the temple complex, and boast about how good they were at keeping their rules. That is why Paul, who was trained as a top level Pharisee, talks about boasting several times in his writings (Ephesians 2; Romans 3, 4 & 5; 1 Corinthians 1; and so on).

In essence, this chapter from Matthew is Jesus finally having enough with the Pharisees and confronting them head on about their hypocrisy and empty religious practices. They key here is understanding the difference between works born out of a life transforming faith in Jesus, and a religious system where works are the thing that gains you favour in God’s eyes. In the first, good works flow naturally out of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, making us slowly more and more like Jesus. In the second, works are born out of an adherence to a set of rules and are accomplished solely on one’s own initiative and power with the hope of gaining God’s favour.

Jesus is using these rather strong teachings to try to get them to see the futility of their religious rules and the hypocrisy of their boasting.

I don’t know when the last time was that someone corrected you strongly; but it is tempting to become offended when being corrected. We must be careful to not allow an indignant response to correction blind us to the need for the correction. I don’t know how many times I have tried to talk to someone about something that is not very God honouring in their lives, only to have them react indignantly or with anger at me. How dare you try to correct me! Or they pull out the scripture from Matthew 7 about dealing with the plank in your own eye before you deal with the splinter in your neighbour’s eye. Sometimes correction is offensive because it hits the right (or the wrong) spot and we react to it.

Pay attention to these verses as you read them. If Jesus were saying them to you today, which would be offensive to you? It may be a good idea to ask yourself why.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Mark 13

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