Isaiah 1:17 NIV
Throughout the Bible, we see God’s heart for justice. We see His heart for the vulnerable and defenceless. We see His comfort for the forgotten and hurting. And we see His love for rescuing those who can’t save themselves. The greatest example of this is in Jesus’ death. His sacrifice was to rescue us from our sin, to connect us with Him, and to give ultimate victory over the enemy. But God is also very clear that we need to be showing justice, mercy, and love to those who are forgotten and oppressed in society. In Isaiah we are told to ‘learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.’ In Micah it says: ‘What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ (6:8 NIV). And in James 1, it says: ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (v.27 NIV). We need to be showing God’s heart to others through our care for those that people would rather exclude, to those who are forgotten, and to those who are being oppressed. It means we need to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. We need to choose to show God’s love to those who others avoid and forget. We need to pursue justice, and make a stand when we see injustice occurring. Sometimes we let fear get in the way of standing up for others, but we know that by working for justice we are bringing God’s kingdom here to earth. And that’s worth stepping out of our comfort zones for.
2 Cor 1-4; Matt 25:1-13; Ps 78:56-64; Prov 20:25
Psalm 40:2 NIV
All of us, at some point in our lives, will be praying for breakthrough. We will need cycles to be broken, unhelpful behaviours and thoughts uprooted and changed, and help moving on from things that have been said and done to us. Sometimes that breakthrough can come through talking to others and seeking professional help. Other times, it’s only God who can bring about that breakthrough we need. In Psalm 40, David begins by telling us how God brought breakthrough in his life. He speaks of God turning to him, hearing his cry, and lifting him up out of the circumstances he was in. But right at the beginning, he says: ‘I waited patiently for the LORD’ (v.1 NIV). Sometimes our breakthrough doesn’t come when we want it to. Maybe we have been praying for breakthrough for a long time, and we are tempted to give up. These words from David remind us that sometimes we have to wait patiently for God to bring about change, it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t hear us or doesn’t care. He just has His own timing and His own ways (take a look at Isaiah 55:8-9), and we won’t always understand them. When God lifted David, He placed him on a rock, which David said gave him ‘a firm place to stand’. When God brings breakthrough in our lives, He puts us back on a firm foundation – Him. We have to stand on the truth we find in the Bible. Finally, David says: ‘Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him’ (v.3 NIV). Our breakthrough brings glory to God. It shows others what He can do, and how we can be transformed. When we share our story, it can bring hope to others who are waiting for their own breakthrough.
Ezek 27:25-30:26; Matt 23:1-12; Ps 112; Prov 20:1-4
Mark 10:51 NIV
When someone tells you all their problems, and you can see that they’re hurting, it’s often our instinct to want to do something to fix things. We want to give them advice and take charge of the situation. Sometimes people need us to do that, but sometimes it can actually be damaging, both for them and for us. If we take on all their problems and make ourselves responsible for fixing them, we can become stressed and burned out. Often it’s only God who can fix the situation. Also, if we take control, we’re preventing the person from learning to lean on God through what they’re going through. In Mark 10 we read about a blind man called Bartimaeus. He cried out to Jesus and Jesus asked ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ This might sound strange because Jesus knew the man was blind, and knew that he would want to be healed. By asking, Jesus allowed Bartimaeus to declare out loud exactly what he wanted. How often do we simply assume we know what other people need, rather than asking them what we can do for them? If we take the time to ask, we might find that they simply want someone to sit with them while they cry, to not say anything but just be there. The Bible says: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15 NIV). This means we need to try to recognise the emotions of another person. Sometimes people just need to feel understood and be told that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling, rather than being given advice. Let’s be people who ask how we can help before stepping in.
Heb 5-8; Mark 6:30-44; Ps 18:30-50; Prov 11:22
Colossians 3:11 MSG
If we limit ourselves only to people who think exactly like us, we’ll never grow or accomplish what God has in mind for us. Instead, we need to be surrounding ourselves with a whole range of people. We need people of different ages, different personalities, and different skill sets. We need people who will challenge our opinions sometimes. We need people who can teach us new things, and help us grow. We need people who are strong in our weak areas. Think of the people Jesus picked to be His followers. Luke was a doctor, and Peter and John were fishermen. Jesus needed them all to accomplish His mission. Everyone is unique, and everyone can offer something different. We all have our own role to play. So we should be complementing each other, not competing with each other. The body of Christ analogy (which you can read about in 1 Corinthians 12) sums it up perfectly. Each part of our human body is needed, but they are all different. The Bible says: ‘If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?’ (1 Corinthians 12:17 NIV). We all have different skills and personalities, but they all work together and are needed. Who are we to judge other people, or decide that they have nothing to offer us? The Message version of the Bible says: ‘Everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.’ Let’s be inclusive, welcoming and encouraging. Let’s grow and learn from each other, rather than comparing. Let’s celebrate our diversity.
Num 34-36; Mark 5:21-30; Ps 57; Prov 11:14
Luke 12:15 NCV
Today’s culture is one of ‘getting’. We buy one thing, but then something new and better is released, and we think we need that. We want to get the promotion and the raise. We think that new things, and more money, will make us happy. But Jesus said: ‘Life is not measured by how much one owns.’ What we think will be a blessing can end up being a burden. What we strive for today can cause us stress tomorrow. When money or materialism become our main focus, we lose sight of God and the blessings He has for us. In Matthew 6 we’re told, ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’ (v.24 NIV). God knows our needs, and promises to provide for them. Jesus said, ‘Your heavenly Father…knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else…and he will give you everything you need’ (Matthew 6:32-33 NLT). Where is our treasure? That’s a really important question to ask ourselves, because the Bible tells us that where our treasure is, our heart is there too. ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:20-21 NIV). So if we think our treasure is our possessions and our money, our heart will be in the world. But if we know our real treasure is in heaven, then our heart will be focused on God and the blessings He promises us.
Num 25-26; Mark 4:13-25; Ps 37:32-40; Prov 11:7-8