The emotional challenge of discipline …

Bible Reading: Zephaniah 1 & Luke 19:28-48

Yes, it’s time for a reality check before we start. Were you tempted to skip the Zephaniah reading for today (whoever Zephaniah might be and wherever the book might be located in the Bible) to go directly to all that is familiar with the passage in the gospel of Luke?

I have to admit that until I opened my bible, I couldn’t say for certain that I’d actually read any of Zephaniah. That is until I sneak peaked further into the book and discovered a passage that was very familiar, expressed in a beautiful song that I love based on Zephaniah 3:17.

But to be fair, skipping ahead takes away from how important it is to read through – no SLOG through the confronting words of judgement and discipline rather than naturally try and gravitate to seek out words of encouragement and comfort.

So whether we like it or not, today the opening words of Zephaniah are a reminder that God always has and always WILL continue to … irrespective of what we think … deal with the issue of sin!!

And we should not be surprised, based on what God put in place thousands of years ago as a COVENANT or promise with His people. If we flip back to Deuteronomy 28, it’s very clear that God’s heart of compassion and justice was always very clear.

Obedience to God resulted in blessing, If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you HIGH above ALL the nations on earth. All these blessings WILL come on you and accompany you IF you obey the Lord your God.’ Zephaniah 28:1

Disobedience would in contrast result in curses, or in other words, people would REAP the consequences of THEIR  behaviour; ‘However, if all these curses YOU do not obey the Lord your God and DO NOT carefully follow ALL his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses WILL come on you and overtake you. You WILL be CURSED in the city and CURSED in the COUNTRY.’  Zephaniah 28:15

Of course, UPPER CASE are my personal reflections; the words that jumped out at me with the passages.

The significant correlation for me to the passage in Zephaniah to that in Luke is Jesus’ very EMOTIONAL reaction to the city of Jerusalem on His approach where He WEPT. Had anything really changed for the chosen people of God – the cycle of rejection or ignorance of God’s promises?

‘As he (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’ Luke 19:17-18

There is nothing pleasant in what we read about ‘the day of the Lord’ in Zephaniah 1; the warnings to be aware of discipline and consequences.

‘Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter … a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, and day of darkness and gloom, a day of …because they have sinned against the Lord’ vs 14 – 17

The writer to the Hebrews also spoke very clearly about discipline, around 700 years after the writing of Zephaniah.

Our father’s disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

So honesty check #2. Are we really any different?  More than 2,000 years later, have we really changed?

The Lord’s day is all about God’s power to act simply because of justice; justice because God is a sovereign God who is faithful to His promises. At the same time for us in our knowledge of Christ, the cross and life eternal through faith, it’s also about loving grace.

Christ wept over a people and a nation who knew God’s promises, yet failed to recognise or understand the signs or the period of time they were living in.

So how different is this for you and I today? Are we so distracted by the culture we live in that we fail to see that each day is ‘the day of the Lord’?



How intense is your ‘fervor’?

Bible Reading: Romans 12

I assume that like me when you read the scriptures, at particular times in life or particular periods of time in the year, words seem to jump out of the pages at you. Today was one of those days for me and given that we are fresh in the start of a new year, it was not just ‘A’ word but 2 verses.

‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’ Romans 12:11-12

Yes, there is so much that could be reflected on in this very challenging and thought provoking chapter, and so much for conversation, but what a beautiful expression of our language the author uses to describe the way we are called to serve our Lord … with FERVOR!

Noun: fervor / intense and passionate feeling.

“he talked with all the fervour of a new convert”

synonyms: passion, ardour, intensity, zeal, vehemence, vehemency, emotion, warmth, sincerity, earnestness, avidness, avidity, eagerness, keenness, enthusiasm, excitement, animation, vigour, energy, fire, fieriness, heat, spirit, zest, appetite, hunger, urgency;

An intense and passionate feeling …. an emotional reaction that irrespective of our personal ‘analytical decision making process’, requires a reaction or a decision!

So my own personal challenge and my personal challenge to you as we start another year is, are we prepared to accept the challenge to live with our eyes fixed firmly on the future – not the here and now  … to live a life that is full of being BOTH emotionally and practically responsive, holding firm to the promises of God whatever life might hold?

The one thing I have learnt and continue to learn over the years is the importance of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to ‘stay the journey’.

As we begin yet another year, can I encourage you to continue to read and re-read, and again, re-read again and again the passages that bring you strength and encouragement to stay the journey … passages like Romans 12. Not only read them but MARK them in your bible (yes it’s OK … it’s also part of leaving a heritage so that the generations to come will understand your heart!!)

I also encourage you to make sure you invest in relationships that help you remain passionate, ardour, intense, zealous, emotional, sincere, eager, keen, excited, animated, excited, and above all else, FERVOR about the hope and secure future you have in life eternal with a gracious and loving God.

Oh and yes of course, so very, very undeserved!

New year blessing to you and your friends and family. May you remain faithful no matter what might unfold in the days and months to come … FERVOR!!!


I sing for joy …

Today’s Readings: Psalm 92

Every morning I wake to the sound of the birds singing in the trees outside our home (unless it’s raining). At times I’d question the so called singing of the wattle birds, but as we move from spring into summer I find the sounds a beautiful start to the day.

Today’s reading challenged me to think about how I start my morning. Is it with a song of praise like the birds, or do I need coffee and a quiet space before I’m ready to ‘face the world’?

‘It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.’  Vs1-3

If the birds can start the day in song to the creator, why can’t or don’t I?

We read in Genesis chapter 1 that when God created, he spoke everything into being.

And God said, ….. ‘ vs 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 22, 24 etc

And when God created mankind, we read that he created men and women in His image. Genesis 1:27

Nature has its own way of displaying the glory of God, but the God of the spoken word gave us His unique gift of words and speech. There are also those who have been gifted with the ability to produce songs and music, and God wants and is deserving and worthy of our praise.

‘For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the work of your hands.’ Vs 4

I have good reason to sing for joy for both who God is and what He has done.

‘The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations.’  Psalm 98

But there are also times when I wake in the morning and the last thing I feel like doing is singing a song of praise. I’m still tired or I may simply be sad about what life has thrown at me. These are the days when maybe you and I simply need to be ministered to by recalling His promises and the truth of who He is.

And to open the words of the Psalmist and claim, together with the tune of the early morning songbirds, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock …’  v14


Be merciful …

Today’s Readings: Numbers 32 & Luke 6:37-42

Yesterday I received one of those unexpected and in God’s providence, timely and encouraging letters. Yes, in the age of email, messenger and sending a quick msg from your phone, this was a precious gift of a heart poured out in a hand written letter that filled a page, from someone I hadn’t seen in many years.

There is of course a story behind what probably prompted the letter, but for me in opening the envelope and reading the precious words, it was a moment that took me back in time to what I thought was an insignificant series of decisions my husband and I  made at the time, which in fact had a profound impact on a young sister in Christ. The content of the letter moved  me deeply to tears.

So how does this fit with today’s reading?

One of the characteristics of God which we have been challenged, confronted and often talked about over many years is the act of being merciful and generous.

The verse leading into today’s reading is about a very specific directive from Jesus to those who were (and are today) His followers, that their lives were to be an expression counter to that of the day, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’  Luke 6:36

Jesus then went on to list how this should be expressed in the outworking of engagement with other. Yes, this is all about how the disciples were called to relate to other people, not an expectation that society at large would respond and act in this way.

So what does it mean to be merciful? Synonyms express this as compassionate, kind, forgiving, generous … Luke, from vs 36 expresses this in the same way as;
Don’t judge or condemn …
Forgive …
Give, or in other words, be generous …

The timeliness of the letter I received was how much it spoke to me about the act of generosity; the decision we have the ability to make in the moment when asked to respond to another person’s need that can have a flow on affect we may never know the outcome of.

I share this because personally, being generous with what we have been blessed with can be one of the biggest challenges of life. It may have been only a letter, but the heartfelt expression and reminder from a younger sister in Christ, both moved me and confronted me with the impact of the ripple effect that results when we make even what we consider to be the most basic or simple decision.

‘So in everything, do to others a you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’ Matthew 7:12


A life full of flavour …

Today’s Readings: Ezra 5 & Matthew 16:1-12

I’m not one to do much baking. Cooking yes, but not baking so the function of yeast is not something  I’m really up on, apart from knowing it helps to make the bread rise. As Jesus speaks to His disciples about ‘being on their guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees’, I can certainly appreciate the confusion they might have felt. Matthew 16:6

My own conclusion about this conversation is that Jesus not leaving them in the dark about His comment and explaining His use of such language is very significant not just for the moment, but as an analogy for them to possibly reflect back on into the not too distant future.

A quick check of the purpose of yeast in bread provided what I found to be a helpful description.

‘When yeast ‘digests’ the flour, it breaks these compounds down into simpler molecules which have more flavour to the human tongue. The longer the yeast has to work at this, the better the flavour of the bread.’

What a great lesson to embrace, not just with scripture and the teachings we hold firm too, but also for being reminded about other information, experiences or conversations  – subtle as they may be – we should be on our ‘guard’ about putting into our life.

If the ‘yeast’  I allow to permeate my mind and body has a direct outcome on the ‘flavour’ others experience, and if my purpose is to bring glory to God in all things, then surely there is much to guard against?

‘When a person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.’  Proverbs 16:7

 ‘May the God of peace …. equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and ever and ever.’ Hebrews 13:22-21

Luke also records the words of Jesus as he describes the yeast to guard against.

‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.’ Luke 12.1b

There are many voices that compete for our attention. How easy it is to be distracted by options and opinions, particularly when they stroke our ego and support our own personal thoughts and feelings. Yes, each of us will have different passions and priorities, but it’s the core of our faith where there is unity.

Might the words of Paul, written to the Corinthians be words of encouragement and a prayer that’s all about making sure the ‘yeast’ we allow to impact our life, be ever pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

‘Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men and women of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.’ 1 Corinthians 16:13


A heart of integrity …

Today’s Readings: 1 Chronicles & 1 Matthew 18-25

It was about 24 years ago when I was sitting in our Sunday church service and listening to our Senior Minister preach a sermon on this final chapter of 1 Chronicles. You see, we as a church community were about to start a building program that would provide a bigger facility to enable ministry to expand.

‘It’s not about brick and mortar, but about lives changed for Christ’ was the vision we were to be reminded about time and time again. And when the task seemed huge, again, we were reminded that this was something only God could do.

‘The task is great, because this (palatial) structure is not for man, but for the Lord.’ 1 Chronicles 29:1b

The leadership of our church followed the same action David did, when he told the people of God how much he would be financially contributing, as the leader. Unheard of!! Why would one be so upfront and so vocal, especially when it comes to money??

Again, as I’ve read and re-read this passage, I’m transported back to that time in the history of our church, where many people did in fact rejoice in the leadership and embrace the opportunity that they could be part of God’s plan to reach the lost in a very tangible and long lasting way.

As I reflect back, there are a number of things I can recall that were important lessons for me:

  • There were many people who gave sacrificially and very generously, who would never see the completion of the building – and knew that would be the case at the time – but that didn’t stop them giving. In so many ways, we may never see the fruit of our labour, whether the work of our hands or the outcome our prayers or our financial giving.
  • There were faithful saints who prayed for an expanding influence of the gospel into our community and beyond who are now in glory.
  • There were some who left a financial legacy to the church (with no strings attached) before the vision for the facility was ever spoken about.
  • There will always be people who complain and grumble …

It’s so very easy to want to hold tight to what we have materially; a constant battle that starts as children, when we need to be taught from an early age what it means to share. A tug of war starts as one child holds tight and the other pulls, with the cry ‘she won’t share with me’ and the response, ‘but it’s MINE!

David put’s it very simply when he says, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” vs 14

This verse is one that I know I constantly need to remind myself of, especially when it comes to being generous. It’s not that I have given, but rather the reminder that it’s God who allows me to keep some …

“I know my God that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willing your people who are here have given to you.”  vs 17

Today, I am still part of the same church community and yes, we have an amazing facility. Time and time again I’m reminded as ministry unfolds across the week and events are held, what a blessing it is to have such a home base. But I pray I (we) never get complacent or believe we’ve arrived; it was never about the bricks and mortar, but about the lives that would be changed (and have been changed), by the grace of God!

What David started he never saw finished, but what he did see and experience throughout life was a God who was forever faithful. David understood that he was part of God’s greater plan for his people, and in David, God saw a man with an incredible heart.

My prayer … the we as God’s people today, would have the same hearts of integrity, that seek to bring glory to God in all we do … that hold very loosely onto the material things of this world.



Choosing consistency, resisting compromise  … 

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 16 & Revelation 6

The words come out sounding positive and encouraging, and you work hard to make sure facial expressions and body language match the conversation BUT …. the mind is having it’s own conversation that’s totally different or the exact opposite to any external expression.  Have you found yourself in this situation? If I’m honest, I know I have …

Or the times when we might compromise on the task at hand or what’s been asked of us, and of course, there’s always the excuse as to why …..

Of course there will naturally be times when we have to work hard at being gracious, doing things we may not necessarily feel like doing; yes, we all have down days when we need to work really hard at keeping the peace; and yes there are times and people where ‘extra grace’  is required …. and absolutely yes, none of us are exempt from being the person who others are having to work hard at being gracious too!

In 1 Samuel 15, we have just finished reading about the downfall of Saul, who’s actions with God and decisions revealed his stubborn and self-centred heart. God had responded to the call of His people for a King, and appointed Saul. It wasn’t long before Saul’s weakness in leadership is revealed, as he fails to rely fully on God, by rejecting God’s leading.

So what was God seeking? There’s no missing the point with the words spoken to Samuel as he follows God’s new direction to find another to fill the role of King.

‘The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7b

How easy it is to judge people by outward appearance; both physical and behavioural, but in so many situations, do we ever really know the person?  … unless of course you share a household with them. There’s a book by well-known writer Bill Hybles, Who Are You When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise.  If you are a reader, can I encourage you to source it out, as Bill provides great encouragement through personal experience and the importance of drawing on scripture and the promises of God in how we should live.

In the words of the Publisher’s Summary, ‘We are all at our best when it counts. But what are we like when no one’s looking? That’s where character comes in – being consistent even when it doesn’t seem to matter. Courage. Discipline. Vision. Endurance. Love. These character qualities are quickly becoming endangered. All too often we hear of marriages falling apart, governments lying, businesses cheating and scandals rocking the church. But with God’s guidance and strength, we can maintain character that lasts despite temptations and troubles.

We also know we worship a God that when we do fail – and we will – we can seek His forgiveness, as we forgive others and seek their forgiveness. My prayer … that I will continue to grow in my faith, and as I do,it will be evident to others. But more than this, when God looks as me; looks deep into my heart, my prayer is that He will see a women with a heart’s desire and commitment to be what He intended for me!  

I know I have often quoted the following passage, but it’s one of the significant verses I often turn to when I reflect on my life and what God desires of me.

‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8