August Devotionals

July 31, 2023

Luke 1:1-4 Introduction

Luke's gospel prepares its readers to meet the person of Jesus with an extended Introduction, spanning chapters 1 and 2. This Introduction includes the birth narratives of both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ.
Vanessa Hughes
10 mins
August 1, 2023

Luke 1:5-25

Luke's gospel prepares its readers to meet the person of Jesus with an extended Introduction, spanning chapters 1 and 2. This Introduction includes the birth narratives of both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ.
Vanessa Hughes
11 mins
August 2, 2023

Luke 1:26-45

Luke's gospel prepares its readers to meet the person of Jesus with an extended Introduction, spanning chapters 1 and 2. This Introduction includes the birth narratives of both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ.
Vanessa Hughes
11 mins

August Bible Reading Guide


The central question that has been driving the biblical story thus far is: “How will God redeem his creation?” As the story has progressed, a connected question has arisen: “How will God redeem his people so that they can be a blessing to the world?” The prophecies and patterns of the Old Testament have shaped our expectations for the arrival of a Messiah-Saviour-King, in the mould of David… but much greater.

As we arrive at the beginning of the New Testament, history has marched on from the Babylonian Exile and its aftermath. Although a remnant have returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt both walls and temple, God’s people still find themselves under the rule of foreign powers. The Temple is functioning again-- with sacrifices, prayer and worship-- but only under the watchful eye of the Roman governors.  It is onto this stage that Jesus of Nazareth steps to announce the good news that God’s Kingdom has drawn near. God is doing something new, through Jesus himself, and so his people need to turn back to God in repentance. And so the remarkable events of Jesus’ public ministry are recorded for us in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Each in their own way, these primary sources put Jesus forward as the climax of God‘s plans to restore creation and reunite people with himself. But as we continue to read, we get the sense that he isn’t just the human leader that Israel has been waiting for— he is Almighty God.

These facts make the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life all the more remarkable. Powerful writing tends to show more than it tells. The reader is asked to enter into the narrative and draw their own conclusions. As you read this month’s passages— which may be very familiar to you— try to see what the gospel writers are showing about Jesus, more than merely telling. Each gospel writer is prompting the same basic question, “Who is Jesus?”  See if you can enrich your understanding of Jesus, particularly given the Old Testament background you have been immersed in over the previous months.  

The Beginnings: Matthew

Matthew 1-3

The beginnings of the four gospels intentionally frame Jesus and his Mission in particular ways. Reading each of the four gospel ‘beginnings’ alongside the others reveal both overlap and individuality.  Matthew begins his gospel in a very Jewish manner: a genealogy. The identity of Jesus is established by tying him into the length and breadth of the Old Testament story. We are also given details of his birth—but notice that all the details are given from Joseph’s perspective.  

Details of Jesus’ childhood, youth and early adult life are scant. But then he steps onto the public stage by coming forward for baptism by John.
∙As you read Matthew 1-3, what are the key markers that identify Jesus as unique?
∙What expectations arise as the person of Jesus is introduced? ∙What details in the narrative surprise you?

The Beginnings: Mark

Mark 1

The Gospel of Mark begins with a phrase that would have been instantly recognisable to anyone living in the Roman empire. The Greek word “euangelion,” meaning “good news,” or gospel, was commonly used to proclaim a significant change in the empire— such as the induction of a new Caesar, or a great military victory, or even the proclamation of a public holiday.

As Mark introduces Jesus, it would seem that something big is changing in the world. In Mark’s opening chapter, it would seem that his ‘gospel’ is nothing less that the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark offers no information on the birth of Jesus. Instead, Jesus the man is announced through his baptism by John.

What do you think might be the significance of Mark’s quote from Isaiah 40?
From the evidence of this first chapter of Mark, what is the Kingdom of God?
What do you think are the implications of the arrival of the Kingdom of God?

The Beginnings: Luke

Luke 1-3

Luke makes clear that he is not an ‘eye-witness’ to the life and person of Jesus of Nazareth. Rather he is an historian/reporter. He has carefully gathered his sources and assembled them in an orderly manner. As we read the birth narratives of both Jesus and John the Baptist, it becomes clear that the story is told from Mary’s perspective (rather than Joseph’s). Mary is assumed to be one of Luke’s eye-witnesses.

∙As we read the first three chapters of Luke’s gospel, what clues are we given as to the identity of Jesus?
∙Does Luke’s account ‘fit’ with Matthew’s account of events? Can the apparent discrepancies be resolved?

The Beginnings: John

John 1

The Gospel of Mark begins with John the Baptist; Matthew and Luke with Jesus and his ancestors. But John’s Gospel begins even further back, at ‘the beginning.’ In Greek philosophy the term “Word” (logos) was used to describe the underlying ordering the principle of the universe; the thing that held everything together. In Jewish understanding, “Word” meant God’s powerful, wise, creative activity in the world. In John’s Gospel Jesus is described as the “Word made flesh,” with the author drawing together both cultural ideas.

After the ‘cosmic’ introduction to Jesus in the first 18 verses, the first chapter of John’s gospel is no less dramatic. Notice particularly the titles given to Jesus by various people.
∙At the beginning of his gospel, what are the key things John wants us to know about Jesus— particularly given the several titles used in relation to him?

Jesus describes the kingdom life

Matthew 5-7

All the Gospels make it clear that God‘s kingdom is finally arriving in and through Jesus himself. In Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines what life in that kingdom looks like. It’s a vision that continues to challenge and inspire today. ∙Would it be easier, do you think, to obey the Law of Moses or the Teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5-7?  
∙Do you think Jesus actually intends Christians to live up to the very high standards of his teaching in these 3 chapters? Why or why not?

Jesus' mission

Mark 8:27-38

Jesus is creating a stir. He is traveling the countryside, teaching with authority, healing and confronting the authorities. The question everyone is asking is: Who is he? Peter confirms that Jesus is the Christ, Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. But Jesus immediately confuses him by saying that his mission is to suffer and die. Peter doesn’t think this fits with what the Messiah is supposed to do [that is, defeat Israel’s enemies], so he’s quick to contradict Jesus. But Jesus strongly opposes his challenge: he is on a mission that is not what Peter expects. ∙What we learned in this passage about Jesus sense of mission?
∙What have we learned about being Jesus’ disciple?

Jesus weeps

John 11

Jesus is the Word — the person that holds the whole world together, and the creative power of God – made flesh. And yet, here he is among friends, weeping at the pain of the loss they have suffered-- because of the death of someone they love. However, the Father gives Jesus power over death.
∙How does this scene expand our vision of who Jesus is— both Word and Flesh?

Jesus rides into Jerusalem

Mark 11

Israel is waiting for a hero, and their Messiah. They want a leader to free them from Roman oppression, to make a way for God to return to live with them. Jesus has acted in ways that have suggested he might be the guy for the job. In this passage, Jesus finally answers some questions about his identity, as he’s welcomed by the crowds as the Messiah.
∙What is the significance of the various Old Testament allusions and quotations Mark carefully records in this passage?
∙Why do you think Jesus so carefully ‘stage managed’ his arrival in Jerusalem?
∙What are we being shown about Jesus? What are we being told about Jesus?

Bible in a year

August Prayer

PrayerMate helps me pray consistently for the people and causes I really care about. It’s an organisational tool, with suggestions and resources—but where I feel like I’m in control of my prayer priorities. Setting up the App does takes time but see this as an investment in your prayer life. Think carefully about who you are praying for on a regular basis, what you are praying about, and why. Even this set up process is beneficial because we become more intentional with our prayers. Once you’ve put in this organisational time, it’s hard to be lazy in prayer. Instead, there is a framework that can be tweaked and adapted over time.
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