Day 15 (4 Sept)
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
In this verse, James reminds the reader, that all gifts and blessings are from one unmistakable source – the goodness of God. Especially in times of trial and hardship, where we lose focus and may be tempted to believe that the gifts and abundances we receive are through other sources or from others around us.
This message is also a humbling reminder, that all skills and talents we possess and project are given to us by God – with a purpose of being shared with others. At times when we tend to be impressed by our own accomplishments and talents, it grounds us with the realisation, that God is blessing us with his grace. And in turn, we are meant to use these gifts for the goodness of others.
Dear Lord, we thank you for the abundant and varied gifts that you have bestowed upon us all. We marvel at the amazing talents and skills we possess as human beings. Help us always, to humbly remember, that you are the source of this generosity and goodness. Help us to steadfastly believe that these gifts are meant to be shared. Amen
Day 14 (3 Sept)
Proverbs 11: 24-31
24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
25 A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
26 People curse the one who hoards grain,
but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.
27 Whoever seeks good finds favour,
but evil comes to one who searches for it.
28 Those who trust in their riches will fall,
but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.
29 Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and the one who is wise saves lives.
31 If the righteous receive their due on earth,
how much more the ungodly and the sinner!
The vast majority of the Proverbs contrast a good life with a foolish one, and so it is with these verses. The Living Bible paraphrases verse 24 thus: “It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tight and lose everything.” (When Jesus was on Earth he said, “…what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own life?” Mark 8: 36)
The Message describes the good or “God-shaped” life as a flourishing and fruit-bearing tree (verses 28 and 30). On the other hand, to pursue material things rather than God is to become no more than a tree stump!
Dear Lord, forgive us when we have taken our focus off you to pursue material things. Teach us how to be truly generous with our wealth, our time, our talents and our whole lives, so that, having been blessed by you, we can be a blessing to others and a means of furthering your Kingdom on Earth. Amen
Day 13 (2 Sept)
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus had called his disciples to be the salt and light of the world. That is to say as a disciple/follower of Christ, I am also an ambassador for Christ to those around me. I must deliberately make the effort to show what my faith in Christ and its unconditional love is all about. This is done through my behaviour, my lifestyle and my good deeds. Through all these I will be the “light” to lead them to the knowledge of God’s salvation grace.
God has blessed me with gifts and talents, and I am to use them to bless others so that God will be glorified. Should I neglect to be the obedient ambassador I will be like the salt that has lost its saltiness and hence will be of no use to the kingdom of God.
Today, many people have been badly affected by the covid pandemic. Some have lost their loved ones; some have lost their livelihoods and others have affected mental issues. We, the church must join hands to bring the love of Christ to them through our concerns, our presence, and our good deeds.
Dear God, my heavenly father, I praise and thank you for your love and blessings to me. I pray, Lord that you will teach and guide to walk the straight and narrow path that you have set for me. With the power of the Holy Spirit, I can be an instrument for the furtherance of Your kingdom. Help me Lord, to be more Christ like day by day. In the matchless name of Christ, I pray. Amen.
Day 12 (1 Sept)
19 “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.
Matthew warns against making the World and Wealth our priority. Moreover as we all know wealth is this World can never be fully secure and can easily be taken away or lost. Therefore Matthew urges us to rather look to do the good works of Christ which will then be made relevant by Christ to contribute to saving the lost. Good works done in the interest of partnering in the spread of the gospel will never be lost. Sometimes it may take some time to see how God uses these works but He will when they are truly done in the interests of the gospel.
It is not that we can actually contribute to our salvation or indeed store actual rewards in Heaven, Christ has already done everything for our Salvation and for us to be with the Father eternally. Rather it is a calling to use the time, talents and treasure Christ has bestowed upon us wisely. We are blessed stewards of all that God has given us, so we must truly live lives with the Cross before us and the World behind us, for we are born again, hallelujah !
Dear Heavenly Father we praise You and thank You that we have been saved by Your extravagant love and that of Jesus. How amazing is this gospel truth and that we will see Jesus when He comes again, and He surely will! As we live in this now not yet time, where the war is won but not yet consummated, we pray that You might empower us by Your Holy Spirit to truly use the time, talents and treasures you have bestowed upon us to glorify You and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, following the lead of Jesus who lived so sacrificially to do the Fathers will. For we are not above Jesus, but instead bow down before Him and praise Him as our Lord and Saviour and for the example He has set for us to follow. By Your will and in Jesus name may we put You and Your will first in all our decisions which is right and proper. Help us to pray daily for this and to bring it to the front of our walks every day. May we strive to bring our whole lives, every aspect, as an offering in worship to You and may our hearts be those that cherish the gospel news of Jesus Christ above all things. Amen.
Day 11 (31st Aug)
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Within this verse Paul writes about the spiritual gifts that God has given to humankind specifically given by the Holy Spirit. God is wholly involved with the giving, using and empowering of these gifts. The specifics of these gifts as well as the places of services and activities vary from person to person, but they all build up the Church that is the body of Christ. This passage shows that God creates this amazing and unique place in the collective body for every believer. Part of the exciting adventure of following in Christ entails us each discovering our own spiritual gifts so that we can not only implement them into our own lives but into our worship and following of Christ.
Each of us has been given a unique spiritual gift from God and each of us has opportunities to use these gifts for others and ourselves to assist in our spiritual growth. Just like this passage says, there are a variety of gifts out there and each gift of each person is and can be used with a strong and meaningful intention behind it.
I love how this passage says that these gifts are empowered by the one and same spirit showing us that our gifts can be used powerfully and enrich everything around us.
Loving God, we thank you for giving us unique spiritual gifts. Help us to discover our spiritual gifts and use them for others. Help us to use our spiritual gifts for your glory. Amen.
Day 10 (30th Aug)
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
“Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over…” – a favourite line in a song I remember from my childhood. These words come to mind from time to time – a reminder of God’s abundant blessings. I am grateful for life lessons and family legacy of faith and witness. I confess that I struggle to live and love as generously as God’s blessings have been to me. But how wonderful is our Father in Heaven who gives us so many second chances to repent and receive forgiveness, to return to His presence and to enjoy His goodness and mercy.
As a parent, I am humbled by how gracious and merciful God my Father is to me, His more-than-sometimes wayward and wilful daughter. And I look at how steadfast and loving my own mum and dad have been to me all my life. Then I look at the challenge before me of being the same blessing to my children, to my husband, to family and friends, to community and the world at large. Thank God for Christ’s example of love, generosity and ultimate sacrifice – I can’t say I don’t know how when Jesus has already shown the way. A generous heart isn’t hard to cultivate when we are tapped into the Holy Spirit. Kindness and compassion don’t require much effort, but yield so much more – “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over”.
Gracious and generous God, just as You gave blessed us with Your gift of love and life, help us in turn to share Your blessings with others. Open our hearts to love with Your love – unconditional and unfailing. Inspire us to cheerful generosity, joyfully trusting in Your abundant provision. Amen.
Day 9 (29th Aug)
1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life
Paul’s letter to Timothy reads like an instruction manual for running the Church. He gives instructions on prayer, the role of men and women in the Church, the qualifications that the leaders should have, how ministry should be done, the care of widows and how the Church should honour its leaders. Paul appears to conclude the letter with a Doxology in verse 16. Then, almost as an afterthought, he brings up an issue specific to Timothy’s Church at Ephesus. The Church seems to have a number of wealthy members, along with slaves, widows, and other socioeconomic groups. While we at Turramurra do not have slaves, we certainly have a mixture of members in different financial positions. Some are students or single parents struggling to make ends meet; some are at peak career with the income to match. Others are in their post-work life with fixed or limited income. We are not much different from the Ephesian Church.
With clear insight, Paul wants Timothy to recognise that there are those in the Church who are rich in this world. Timothy is to encourage them to remember to put their hope in God, not the riches they have received. At the same time, the rich are encouraged to behave with generosity, doing good deeds and sharing their prosperity with those around them. And so the call is for those of us at Turramurra who have been blessed with riches to not see that as making us better than others, but rather that we would be generous, not looking for the minimum we can give, but looking to share out of our abundance. In this way, we truly build up treasures in heaven!
Father, help us to see the riches you have blessed us with as the opportunity to share our riches with those around us, keeping our eye on the prize of eternal life with you. Amen.
Day 8 (28th Aug)
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul is emphasising the importance of Christ as the greatest teacher there is: the ultimate authority through which we receive salvation. In Chapter 3 (the chapter our short snippet comes from today), Paul gives the people some practical advice as to how to live as one made alive in Christ. There’s a big emphasis on love in this section (v. 12-14) which I think is great!
The key message in this passage can sometimes be hard to wrap our heads around. Essentially, everything that we do, we do for God. However, in all of our lives, there are other people or organisations that are involved (be they employers, families, schools, etc.). But God is there in all of that. This passage challenges us to remember that God is present in every interaction, in every moment and in every action. We are encouraged to always give our all and glorify God through all our deeds, no matter how big or small they may seem. Remembering that we are serving God in everything can perhaps help us to be more present, and to really care about and do what we can for the people around us.
God has given us love, grace and generosity; may we reflect and share these values as we serve Jesus in all that we do.
Dear Lord, thank you for your generous gifts of love and compassion. Please give us strength to be your hands and feet in this world, and help us to reflect You in all that we do. Amen.
Day 7 (27th Aug)
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
This passage is full of promises for those who follow Jesus – you will not be judged, you will not be condemned, you will be forgiven, it will be given to you. It also talks about the ways that disciples should seek to reflect the economy of the Kingdom of God in their lives – do not judge, do not condemn, forgive and give.
What should the community of Jesus’ followers be known for? Generosity. We must be known as givers, rather than as judges.
Dear God, As You have been gracious and generous to us, help us overflow with grace and generosity to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Day 6 (26th Aug)
1 Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
2 The Lord protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
3 The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.
It might be true that maybe I am not very strong in faith, and I may not be the best Christian because I don’t believe that what the psalmist writes is completely true. I have known many in my life, including my father who died of cancer, who have not been physically restored from their illness. However, I do believe that having concern or regard for the weak, or poor, or lowly (in spirit) is important. I do believe God helps and sustains us in our weakness or poverty. I even believe that weakness can be a gift, though not always a gift that God inflicts on us, but one which God makes the use of. I don’t believe that God makes us sick or poor so that it might be a blessing in some way, but God can use such circumstances to bring blessing.
Not only do we have gifts from God through the Spirit, and there is no gift without a corresponding service or ministry, but we also have the gift of God’s grace and love, in Christ, to share with each other. So, when others are in need God can bring them help through us. We can be the love of God for others, which is both a gift for us and for those whom we show love to. Also, although we might not think of it as such, our weakness or illness or poverty of spirit, can be a gift to others who can use their gifts to serve us. Those who live in love live in God and God lives in them, whether it is those of us who are doing the loving or those of us who are being loved. God is with us and at work for good in us, our lives, the lives of others and the world.
Help us cry to you in our weakness,
Knowing that you are there
And you support and comfort us.
Help us pray to you in our strength,
That you might lead us to use our gifts,
To love and serve those who have need of them.
In this way we are your Church,
For this is your way,
Your way of love.
And, so we pray.
Day 5 (25th Aug)
1 Peter 4:10-11
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen
As we seek to live as Christians, we must recognise that God has given us various gifts to be exercised as creatures made in His image. John Calvin reminds us that these gifts are “entrusted to us on condition that they are distributed (used) for our neighbours’ benefit.” The Apostle Paul provides various lists of gifts such as prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, showing mercy and cheerfulness. Elsewhere he adds wisdom, knowledge, healing, performing miracles, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, and administrating (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). Peter and Paul complete their listings with an exhortation to do all in love.
In our reading today, Peter groups the gifts into speaking and serving. If speaking, it should be with the reverence due to the words of God; if serving, it should be with the full strength that only comes from God, i.e. by the Holy Spirit.
So, do we need to have all the gifts all the time? The Apostles make it very clear that we are like parts of a body that makes up the whole Church. The gifts are given individually and collectively so that some may have a single or several gifts depending on the needs of the Church. In the same way, the gifts we use may vary over our lifetime, again as the needs of the Church also change over time.
As we consider these reflections on the gifts of God, we need to spend time in prayer and contemplation to discern what gifts God has empowered us and how those gifts add to the greater good of the Church.
Father, help me to see how you would use me in this Church. Help me to be confident in the gifts you have given me, that I might speak with reverence and serve all with love. Amen
Day 4 (24th Aug)
35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
Leviticus chapter 25 deals with the poverty of God’s people, the Israelites, and with the responsibility of fellow-Israelites to come to the aid of the distressed. While this is an Old Testament text, the principles which we will find here are relevant to the today’s Christian. They are principles which we can see being taught and practiced in the New Testament.
The Hebrew word behind “poverty” in v. 35 means “his hand shakes,” which implies that such an individual is unable to support himself. This describes many in our own society. The type of poverty, addressed in verses 35-38, is a temporary one. Today we would call this a “cash flow problem.” In farming terms, it would be the result of a bad year, or at least of a bad crop. What is needed, then, is enough food and provisions to get by until the next crop or the next season, and perhaps the capital to plant the next season’s crop. God’s solution is a “no-interest loan.” This solves the present shortfall, provides for future income, and does so in a way that does not penalize the individual.
We who have been blessed, must not forget the poor. We must not leave them struggling, unable to do anything about it. We could understand that this economic concern is born from the recognition that God is at work in human hearts and lives and in human society. We are called to show God’s kindness and generosity to others in our society.
Dear God, help us to learn these principles. Help us to be generous and gracious like you to share our resources with them. We pray that by our practical help and support they may see and recognize that you are at work in their lives. Amen.
Day 3 (23rd Aug)
6 So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; 7 if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; 8 if it is to encourage others, we should do so. Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully.
Have you ever had the experience of an amazing material blessing coming into your life – maybe you earned it, maybe it was a reward for something you did or maybe it was purely a gift. How did you respond to having something very special or valuable in your possession? When I first started working as a 21 year old at the university, I discovered that I was allowed to borrow any of the tech gear over the weekend. I could replace my 34cm TV at home (remember this is 1991) with a full-on sound and projector system … as long as I returned it first thing Monday. So, did I? No, if I had access to this blessing, I didn’t want to keep it for myself but share it with others and let me tell you that the next youth camp I ran was absolutely amazing. It is great to receive a blessing, but it is even greater to be able to share that blessing to help or bless others.
Paul in our reading says the same thing – whatever you have been blessed with – a material possession, or a gift or talent or ability from God – we are given that to help and serve and bless others. If you have been blessed materially, then share it generously. If you have been blessed with the ability to teach, then teach. If you have been blessed with time or compassion, then use it to serve others. And don’t just do it do it begrudgingly, but generously and cheerfully. After all, it is great to receive a blessing, but it is even greater to be able to share that blessing to help or bless others.
Generous God, we give because you first gave to us. We thank you for your example of generosity and giving. Help us share our blessings – our time, our skills and our resources – generously and cheerfully with others, for your glory. Amen.
Day 2 (22nd Aug)
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
One of the challenges for Christians down thru the ages has been how much I should give to the church. John Wesley lived on a fixed amount of his income, but as his income increased, he maintained the same standard of living, and the extra went to the church. In our reading today, Jesus observes the widow who gave her whole income, even though it was just a couple of copper coins; it was all she had, including what she needed to live on. Jesus compares her to the wealthy, that were proud of their level of giving as it met all the requirements of the law but in no way was causing them to lower their standard of living.
The widow’s mite falls into the category of “hard teachings” of Jesus, such as “if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, as it is better to lose one part of your body than have your whole body thrown into hell” (Mat 5:29). Both our Luke reading and this one form part of an ongoing dialogue Jesus is having with the religious leaders of the day. The Pharisees were so focused on their need to meet not just the requirements of the law of Moses but to exceed them that they have lost sight of what God indeed requires, a humble and loving servant. Giving anything less than one hundred per cent of what we have is not sufficient to earn our salvation. The good news is that we don’t have to earn our salvation; that has already been done for us when Jesus took on the sin of the world as he hung dying on the cross. As to how much we should give to the church, that is a question for each of us to prayerfully consider.
Father, we pray that you would keep before us the image of the widow, giving out of her poverty that we might consider our giving out of our abundance. Amen.
Day 1 (21st Aug)
1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
The inventive mechanical genius of Robert Gilmour Letourneau’s (1888–1969) led to the development of almost three hundred patents in the field of earthmoving. Though he dropped out of school with only a seventh-grade education, his inventions would dominate the large construction equipment used by the Allied forces during World War II. His sister challenged him at an early age to get serious about serving God, which he thought meant becoming a preacher or a missionary. But after he prayed with his pastor about his calling, the pastor told him, “God needs businessmen too.” Letourneau’s decision to become “God’s business partner” motivated him to eventually give away 90 percent of his vast earnings to charitable projects all over the world. He said, “I shovel money out and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel.”
Paul encourages us to examine ourselves to see whether we’re in the faith (Cor. 13:5). In contrast to the person who hates or murders (1 John 3:15), the ultimate sign of love is to lay down one’s life for others. Jesus gave the supreme example of this kind of love by giving His own life on behalf of the sins of the world (John 3:16; Hebrews 12:2). Our generosity should model our Saviour’s selflessness. He gave his life for us, so we are called to be willing to do the same. It isn’t enough to talk about our love; it needs to be expressed in concrete examples of generous sacrifice. We, Christians are expected to do more than feel love – we are commanded to act on it, in selfless sacrifice. Generosity is more than giving financially. It is an attitude of love that flows from our hearts in our actions: It flows from our mouths to grant grace, tenderness, and kind words.
Dear God, we thank you that Jesus became the supreme example of love by giving his own life for us. Help us to reflect his sacrificial love for us by our actions and deeds. May our generosity bring hope and light to those who need your love and care. Amen.