28th December 2023 TASTING SPEAKING Speaking in Love

Read Matthew 2:3-8, 12-13 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) Herod was hearing about a promised King, and he felt threatened. So, the best way to get information and discover what he needed to know was to pretend to be interested in worshipping the baby Jesus. He took the wise men aside and proceeded to deceive and lie to find out the truth. I remember being hurt countless times throughout my schooling by girls who pretended to be my friend to get something for themselves, only to find they were lying, and I got hurt. I am sure that most people can relate to this scenario at least once throughout their childhood and even in adulthood. It is a feeling of betrayal, of falseness and deception. Not a nice feeling at all. Jesus asks us to speak the truth in love at all times. We are not to lie, deceive or knowingly hurt others. Sometimes the truth can hurt, which is why many decide to not exactly tell the truth, maybe spin a little lie. But, when the truth is eventually found out, and it naturally does happen, more hurt and even broken friendships ensue. I remember during my travels, taking my eyes off the speedometer and going faster than I should. And a ticket ultimately came. I thought of hiding it, but instead confessed to my husband and all was forgiven, though the bank account was emptied a bit. What could have been hidden, I kept in the light to strengthen our relationship by always speaking truth to each other. In the Bible God always tells us the truth. Sometimes it is eye-opening and harsh truths, but ultimately the truths that we hear are to bring us closer to Him and His love. Herod did not speak the truth to the wise men and God knew it and He warned the wise men of Herod’s deception so that they left secretly, not telling Herod what He wanted. The Bible tells us God’s truth and with this wisdom, we grow in love towards each other. Practice speaking only truth in love and reading God’s truth! Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for your Word to give me your truth. Guide me in my speech and actions so that all I do and say may be pleasing to you. Amen

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27th December 2023 TASTING SPEAKING Sweetness of Honey

TASTING/SPEAKING Sweetness of Honey

Read Deuteronomy 6:3-6 (NIV)

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103 (NIV) Honeybees are the only insects that produce food that is consumed by humans – honey. A colony of bees includes a queen, drones and workers. There is only one queen per hive. She is the largest bee in the colony and may live up to five years. She will lay up to 2,500 eggs per day and has the ability to control whether she lays male or female eggs. A colony can have 50,000 – 60,000 workers who collect nectar to make honey. An average worker bee (only female) produces about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. A hive of bees will fly about 145,000km and visit an average of four million flowers to collect 1kg of honey. A bee visits between 50 and 100 flowers during one collection from the hive. Honey is mentioned 56 times in the Bible. Honey was often mentioned as a sign of God’s favour and often represented ‘His Word’. King Solomon in the book of Proverbs encourages the eating of honey: “Eat honey, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you”. (Proverbs 24:13-14a NIV) So why are we talking about bees and honey around Christmas? Honey cannot be recreated synthetically – some have tried, but it is easy to taste the difference. So it is with God’s Word. There may be others who try to tell us differently from the Bible, but only God’s Word brings sweet life to our hearts and souls. Above, King Solomon likens God’s Word to the sweetness of honey. It brings life and wisdom to the soul. God has promised in the Old Testament that He will bring His children to a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’. In the New Testament we can liken this to God’s Heavenly Kingdom prepared for us. The story of Jesus’ birth was the beginning of God’s plan for the salvation of the world, His life and death secured our future. Sweeten your life with God’s Word! Prayer: Your Word brings life to my heart and soul. Help me to savour your story of Jesus’ birth and to share the sweetness of the story with others. Amen

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26th December TASTING SPEAKING Storytelling

Read Deuteronomy 11:18-21 “Let those who have been set free by the Lord tell their story. He set them free from the power of the enemy.” Psalm 107:2 (NIRV) Storytelling is an art. It is a way to share the past, thoughts and wisdom by engaging the listener to become involved in what is being shared. As a classroom teacher, I used to love to tell the children the stories in the Bible. Putting the story in my own words brought these stories to life engaging the imagination and mind-pictures. I also like to share my life stories, the times when I know that God has guided and blessed me on my journeys and through all adventures. There have also been times when I have felt directed by God in a different way to that which I wanted to go. God asks us to share our stories of His love and faithfulness with our children and others. Yesterday we heard again the story of the birth of Jesus. How many times have you heard this story? At least every Christmas, because the Christmas carols we sing tell of the birth of Jesus. This story sure is a good one with drama, intrigue and miracles from God. All the events of this story declare God’s goodness and love to the world. From the humble birth in a manger, to angels sharing the Good News, to wise men following a star from hundreds of kilometres away. The extraordinary birth of the Son of God is nothing short of a miracle, telling the world that God loves each person so much that He sent His one and only Son to be born in a sinful and corrupt world. He did this to have His Son share and tell stories about what heaven and the kingdom of God is like and that He has prepared a place for us. Jesus’ ministry on earth was about telling the stories of God’s love in ways that people could understand. Read them for yourself in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Then tell your story. Impact someone for God’s glory and share your story! Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sharing with me the stories of Jesus and your love for me. Help me to be brave to also share my God story with others. Amen.

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Christmas Day

TASTING/SPEAKING ‘Taste and See’ Christmas Day

Read Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7 “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the person who goes to him for safety.” Psalm 34:8 (NIRV) For Christmas lunch I like to cook traditional fare with our family. We have turkey, roast potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, gravy, creamed corn casserole (Hansen family recipe) and I bring out the good cutlery and china plates. It is a special family time to chat, enjoy a glass and then celebrate with an amazing dessert cooked by my son. There are so many smells and the taste buds tingle with the scintillating flavours. During the cooking, I have many hovering taste-testers, just to make sure that everything is as good as it could be! They get just a little foretaste of the feast that is to come. In the two Bible readings from Isaiah, chapters 7 and 9, Isaiah is giving the people of Israel a taste of what is to come to bring them hope. He specifically mentions in 7:14 that the Lord himself will give a sign to all the people through a virgin becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit and this child will be called ‘Immanuel’ – God with us! In 9:6-7, Isaiah expands on his first taste of what is to come by sharing more about this child and the future that will be coming for all God’s people. Today is Christmas Day and all that Isaiah spoke about came true over 2,000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem. A virgin, named Mary did become pregnant and then she did have a child who brought with him the forgiveness of sins and life eternal in heaven forever with our Heavenly Father. The taste which the people of Israel got in Isaiah’s time has now been fulfilled and we are enjoying the grace and mercy of our loving Saviour – our Immanuel. With the peace and joy of this baby Jesus that we celebrate being born today, we also get a brief taste of what God has in store for us in heaven one day: the peace, the joy and the living presence of a loving God. Prayer: Loving Saviour, thank you for the taste you give me of life with a loving Saviour. Thank you for sending your Son at Christmas to be the promise for my future with you. Amen

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Christmas Eve

TASTING/SPEAKING Silenced

Read Luke 1:11-22 “The angel answered, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.’” Luke 1:19-20 (NIV) The gift of speech is something many of us take for granted. But losing your voice or being unable to talk can really help us to appreciate this wondrous gift. Once when teaching year 5, I lost my voice for a couple of days. Not being ill I continued teaching, but with a difference – all the children had to read my directions for the day and had to keep their eye on me for visual signs. With a whisper I could share some things, but I couldn’t talk above them, they had to listen. I found with the sense of speech gone, the other senses were heightened in the children. We had a very quiet and well-behaved class and were extremely productive as the children responded with compassion. Zechariah was struck mute by an angel when he expressed his doubt about the angel’s message. He had a right to question this due to the age of him and his wife Elizabeth. “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” (Luke 1:7 NIV) This is a fair question from Zechariah to put a stranger who promises to fulfill the deepest desires of his heart. So why is Zechariah punished with no speech for nine months? Maybe this silence is not a punishment but rather a gift. Just as my class responded so amazingly to my silence, so Zechariah now had nine months to reflect on this visit from the angel and God’s message to him through the angel. This led to his incredible song of adoration and praise to a loving Heavenly Father (Luke 1:67-79). As the child grew in Elizabeth’s womb, Zechariah’s understanding could grow. He was saved from bragging, from crowding out the Spirit with his chatter and from broadcasting his scepticism. As we enter Christmas Day, maybe try to find some time through the busyness to be silent, to reflect on the gift of God as a baby who is born to be King of the World. Find some time to just listen and use your other senses to experience Christmas. Prayer: Help me Lord to listen to you speaking to me. Help me see the amazing gift and love of you in a tiny baby and then share this with others. Amen

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3rd Saturday of Advent

TOUCHING Uphold Me!

Read Luke 1:66-79 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV) When learning to swim, it is interesting that some seem to find it easier to float than others. As a child, floating was something I could do. Swimming distances and when out of my depth led to some panic, but as long as I remembered that I could float and knew that the water would hold me up, my panic level seeped away. As long as the water that my body displaces weighs more than I do, I will float, and this is known as Archimedes’ Law. A person who is submerged in water weighs less than the water due to the lungs being full of air, which lifts the body to the surface naturally. To be a confident swimmer means to be sure that the water will uphold you. Zechariah in the above reading had no doubts about the essence of his salvation and that his son was born to prepare the way for the Saviour of the world. Through the Holy Spirit he was able to prophesy that God was coming into the world to redeem and save His people – he had total confidence that the Saviour coming from God was going to save and uphold His people. I looked up the word ‘uphold’, and it means to ‘maintain, defend, advocate, support, sustain, endorse, encourage and espouse.’ Jesus was coming to do all of this. Before the ‘song of Zechariah’, there is a little sentence: “For the Lord’s hand was with him.” (Verse 66c) With the Lord’s hand with us and upholding us in all situations we need never feel that we are going to ‘sink’ or get out of our depth as we deal with everyday situations. All that we need to remember (and not to panic) is that God is there upholding us, not allowing us to sink, guiding, caring and loving us through each day of our lives. Archimedes’ Law applies to God in our lives – His love is greater than anything so we will always float! Prayer: Dear God, you uphold me with your righteous hand through each day of my life, thank you. May I remember this love when things get hard to bear and know you will hold me up. Amen

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3rd Friday of Advent

TOUCHING Blessing Hands

Read Mark 10:13-16 “And Jesus took the children in his arms, put his hands on them blessed them.” Mark 10:16 (NIV) Jesus set us quite the example to follow in pretty much every area of life. There is a lot of responsibility in being a follower and disciple of Jesus. He asks us to welcome and bless those who need it most: the low in society and those overlooked. In Mark, Matthew and Luke it is recorded that Jesus welcomed and blessed all the little children – at the time they were overlooked, but not by Jesus. We as adults and parents are asked to bless our children. A parental blessing is a simple but profound reminder to the child that they are loved, and that their true identity comes from God. It is like a shield. The act of blessing one’s child also reminds the parents of their awesome responsibility and allows them to pause for a moment and ask for God’s grace. In the © Faith Inkubator program, as families we are to do the Faith 5: Share, Read, Talk, Pray and Bless. If, as families, we do this every night and in every home, can you imagine what impact that it will have on the world. If every child was blessed with a blessing telling them that they are loved unconditionally by God, what a revolution could occur. My husband and I did this with our family every night – I think the biggest impact on me is when my child not only gets blessed but blesses me! Our hands bring the heart of Jesus to our homes. If this is something you would like to do with your family, it is never too late to start. Bring the love of Jesus to your family and let them know the love of God in sending His only Son to be a part of the world to bring blessing to all He met in His time on earth. Family time at Christmas can bring the love of God and show His grace and mercy. Bless your family today with your time to share, read, talk, pray and bless. Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for your example for me to follow. Help me to spend time with my family and children and teach them and bless them with your love every day. Amen

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3rd Thursday of Advent

TOUCHING Weary & Tired?

Read Isaiah 40:28-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29 (NIV) I really enjoy gardening and when I get into the garden I struggle to stop. I keep seeing just one more weed to pull out, one more branch to trim, one more pot to refill with soil. I find it therapeutic to be able to be amongst the plants and do my best to keep them all growing and thriving. Usually, the time I spend in the garden is more than an hour or two – I can spend hours on my hands and knees, but then by the end of the day I come inside feeling satisfied with what I have done, but also weary. Joseph and Mary had to be tired. They had been walking all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem only to find no place for them to stay for the night. Joseph would have been very worried with his tired wife also very close to the time for giving birth. But his weariness would have been forgotten when hearing the cries of his new son Jesus. You can imagine the joy! Have you noticed that sometimes when you feel you can do no more God gives you the strength to continue? (see Isaiah 40:29 above) When walking the 26km for the Walk my Way, at 24km I felt I could go no further, and then with the climb to Luther Heights at Coolum… impossible! But God did give me strength through the help of a woman from our congregation who walked down to me only to walk and talk me up the hill. God helps the weary and tired and brings them rest and the strength they need through others. This Christmas with all the hustle and bustle of getting presents, cleaning the house, washing windows, gardening, cooking and baking, may God grant you the strength you need to see the tiny baby held in the weary arms of his parents. Rest in knowing the love of God for you to send this baby into the world. Find time to rest in His loving arms. Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you that you hold me when I am tired and can do no more. Give me the strength to help and see the needs of others. Amen

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3rd Wednesday of Advent

TOUCHING Giving Hands

Read Psalm 19:7-10 “We have different gifts… if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then encourage; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6a, 7-8 (NIV) An old woman came limping into the church and sat herself down at the very back not wanting to be seen by others. This was a wealthy congregation, and all the other members were dressed well and looked well-fed. A small girl saw the old woman walk in, and after the service when everyone was walking out, she slid into the pew next to the woman and placed her $2 coin into the woman’s hand. As the little girl walked away, she said, “Today I think Jesus can do without this $2, you need it more.” On many occasions Jesus when talking to the crowds, told them to give generously to the poor and to help those who are in need. I have heard a saying: ‘Jesus doesn’t need your gifts of service - your neighbour does.’ Jesus encourages us to be generous with our time and our wealth and to help those who are in need. Unfortunately, today some so many people take advantage of other’s generosity scamming people into believing they are giving to someone in need when it is someone robbing them through false means. It is so hard to be generous when you have these thoughts in the back of your mind. However, Christmas is seen as a time of giving not just financially but through other means: helping the elderly, giving a meal, bringing groceries for the Salvation Army to distribute, donating to a child or family through ALWS, putting together a Samaritan’s box for a child, putting a gift under the tree at Target. Jesus teaches us to have gift-giving hands and to do it with a cheerful heart. “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.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) Prayer: Lord God, thank you for your gift of baby Jesus to me at Christmas. You gave so much. Help me to give and to help others cheerfully and out of gratitude for what you have done for me. Amen.

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