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Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Jesus in Matthew Meditations

PART TWO: Chapters 5 to 8

Meditation Title: Overview




Part 1: Chapters 1 to 4


Mt 1:1

Jesus in the flow of History


Mt 1:21

Jesus the deliverer


Mt 1:23

Jesus is God with us


Mt 2:1,2

Jesus, king of the Jews


Mt 2:6

Jesus the shepherding ruler


Mt 2:11

Jesus the object of our worship


Mt 2:22,23

Jesus the Nazarene


Mt 3:11

Jesus the baptiser in the Spirit


Mt 3:15

Jesus the fulfiller of righteousness


Mt 3:17

Jesus the approved Son


Mt 4:13-16

Jesus the great light


Mt 4:17

Jesus, bringer of the kingdom


Mt 4:18,19

Jesus, trainer of men


Mt 4:23-25

Jesus, bringer of Good News



Part 2: Chapters 5 to 8


Mt 5:1,2

Jesus, the Teacher


Mt 5:17,18

Jesus, fulfiller of the Law


Mt 5:21-24

Jesus, the Peacemaker


Mt 6:1

Jesus, bringer of Reality


Mt 6:9

Jesus, Adoption Counsellor


Mt 6:19-21

Jesus, Challenger of Priorities


Mt 6:25

Jesus, the Carefree


Mt 7:3

Jesus, the Wordsmith


Mt 7:24

Jesus, the Storyteller


Mt 8:2,3

Jesus, the Compassionate


Mt 8:8,9

Jesus, man of authority


Mt 8:14,15

Jesus, the Sensitive


Mt 8:16

Jesus, dispeller of darkness


Mt 8:20

Jesus, the homeless


Mt 8:24

Jesus, the confident


Mt 8:26

Jesus, the all-powerful



Part 3: Chapters 9 to 12


Mt 9:2

Jesus, forgiver of sins


Mt 9:4

Jesus, who knows all thoughts


Mt 9:9

Jesus, collector of sinners


Mt 9:15

Jesus, the Bridegroom


Mt 9:20

Jesus, source of power


Mt 9:25

Jesus, bringer of life


Mt 9:29,30

Jesus, bringer of sight


Mt 10:1

Jesus, imparter of authority


Mt 10:17

Jesus, bringer of persecution


Mt 10:21

Jesus, divider of families


Mt 10:37-39

Jesus, the prize above all else


Mt 11:19

Jesus, man of bad reputation


Mt 11:20,21

Jesus, bringer of bad news


Mt 11:27

Jesus, the Father's Son


Mt 11:28

Jesus, the burden bearer


Mt 12:8

Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath


Mt 12:18

Jesus, Bringer of Justice


Mt 12:23

Jesus, the Son of David


Mt 12:39

Jesus, the Sign of Jonah


Mt 12:48-50

Jesus, the family member





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Meditation No. 15

Meditation Title: Jesus, theTeacher


Mt 5:1,2 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them


There are a few of us who have memories of a teacher, back in our school days, whose enthusiasm for their subject somehow was caught us and stirred excitement for the subject in us. Sadly there are many more for whom the word, ‘teacher' and ‘school' evoke negative feelings; for us our school days were not the happiest days of our life. And then we're confronted by the Gospels and find that Jesus is a teacher and his followers are called ‘disciples' or pupils or learners who sit at the feet of the ‘Master' to learn. Perhaps learning, for us, is not an exciting prospect. But the fact is that Jesus comes as a teacher.


He spent much of his time teaching his disciples and teaching the crowds. For them this wasn't a hard school room when information, which sometimes seems to have little relevance to our lives, is poured into us. Oh no, Jesus was a teacher of a completely different kind. First of all he was a story teller, and the Gospels are full of ‘parables', stories with a meaning. We all like stories, but perhaps some of us didn't have parents who told us stories and so haven't actually learned to appreciate story telling, but story telling is fun! Some of Jesus' stories or pictures had a sense of humour showing through them. Others were very pointed and exposed the falseness of the ultra religious people of the day – which delighted the ordinary people. The stories Jesus told and the pictures he used were all familiar to the people, so they understood the gist of them, even if they sometimes struggled to get the point of what he was saying. They were pictures of everyday life so there was no question of it appearing dry and dusty and irrelevant.


Teaching is a vital part of the Christian faith because it was a vital part of Jesus' ministry. Why do we need teaching? Because sometimes it seems like we are groping around in the dark, not understanding the world or ourselves and we need someone to help us see it as it is. Along the way we've picked up wrong ideas about God and about ourselves and we need someone to straighten out our thinking. Along the way we've been told that God is hard and nasty and out to condemn us, and that we are worthless failures. Jesus came to bring the truth which was exactly opposite to all these things.


We've already considered Jesus bringing in the reign of God with his works of power, healing people and bringing good into their lives. He used these things to catch people's attention. The Gospel writer, John, calls Jesus' miracles ‘signs' because they point him out to us and point the way to heaven. But Jesus also did these things just to show that God's intent towards mankind was good. A God who goes about for three years blessing people in very obvious practical ways, is far from the God that the enemy seeks to get us to believe in who is harsh, unkind and uncaring. Oh no, we really need Jesus to teach us the truth, to correct our wrong thinking. But it's more than that. We get ourselves in such a mess sometimes and so we need some nice, caring, compassionate and understanding teacher to come along and show us how we can live our lives in a better way, in a way that focuses on good and on blessing and on joy and on contentment and on fulfilment, rather than all the opposite things we so often find in people's lives. No, we don't only need a Saviour, we need someone who will come and show us a better way to live. The kingdom of heaven isn't all about some future existence; it's all about how heaven's life can be lived now here on earth. Yes, we need Jesus to come as a teacher!







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Meditation No. 16

Meditation Title: Jesus, fulfiller of the Law


Mt 5:17,18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.


Language is sometimes a bit strange and we're sometimes casual about it, which means that sometimes we miss the significance of what is being said. Take, for example, what Jesus says here about the Law or the Prophets. Now we may talk about ‘keeping' the law or ‘breaking' the law, but ‘ fulfilling' the Law? And ‘ fulfilling' the Prophets?


So what was “the Law”? Well the Jews referred to the first five books of the Bible as “the Law”. There is a lot of early history in those books but a lot more than that. In those books were the directions of God for His people in two particular respects: first how to live according to God's design for society, i.e. the Law of daily life in Israel . But there was also another dimension of Law – how to relate to God, both in times of blessing and in times of failure, i.e. the ceremonial or sacrificial law. So there were really two levels of Law: how to live righteously , and how to re-establish righteousness when you failed to keep the first part. The first part was summed up as love God with all your being and your neighbour as yourself. God was aware that because of our sinfulness, we would have this tendency to failure or to lawlessness, and there needed to be a means of bringing people back into a right place when they failed.


So how did Jesus ‘fulfil' these two aspects of the Law? Well, first he came and lived a perfect life, showing that it was possible to live out the Law's standards and be in harmony with God, and to teach us that we conform to the Law when we are united with Christ and are led by his Holy Spirit, in relationship with God. Second, he came as the one-off perfect sacrifice to open the way for us to enter into a relationship with God the Father by dealing with our Sin, and to deal with our sins if we should fail (see 1 Jn 2:1,2).


Thus Jesus came to show that the practice of the Law was possible and that the sacrificial law was also now satisfied. In both ways he fulfilled the requirement of the Law. But what about the Prophets?


‘The Prophets' refers to the books of the Old Testament written by those who were clearly acknowledged as prophets (in our Bibles, from Isaiah on). Now, again, there were two aspects of the Prophets as they looked to the future that we need to note. First, there were the constant references to the Messiah , One who would come from God to bring deliverance for His people, and second, there were frequent references to the salvation that God would eventually bring . Jesus was both the promised Messiah and the means to bring that salvation. In both these things he fulfilled all those promises that had come through the Hebrew prophets down through the centuries.


The blind Scribes, Pharisees and priests of Jerusalem in Jesus' day, thought he was a radical who had come to overthrow the teachings of the Old Testament, but in fact, he was quite the opposite. He was the means for the requirements of the Law and the promises of the Prophets to be perfectly worked out. The more we study the Old Testament, the more we will see that Jesus perfectly fulfilled both the demands and the promises that we find there. We can never look at the Old Testament and say, “That's too much, too hard!” because now, in Christ, it HAS been fulfilled. Live in Him.







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Meditation No. 17

Meditation Title: Jesus, the Peacemaker


Mt 5:21-24 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.


We've included a long passage instead of a single version for our meditation today, because the verses together show us Jesus teaching peace. Jesus starts out from the ultimate form of the opposite to peace – murder. OK, he says, you know that a murderer is subject to judgment but what about the person who is angry with another. That too is bringing division between people and it therefore subject to God's judgment. And while you're at it, if you say ‘Raca' (an Aramaic term of abuse) to another, that's just as bad and so that also is subject to God's judgment. Why? Because one thing leads on to another. Which is why Jesus went on to censure even calling someone a fool. Look at the progression. You fool! Then comes outright abuse, then anger (and hatred), violence and then murder. Every single stage puts division between you and another person. Yes murder is the ultimate division, but all the others are just different shades of division.


If you have a large family with lots of children, you can be sure that one of the biggest things that upset the parents is division between the children. The parents see the whole family and love the whole family. Any division is an attack on the whole family. Is this how it is with God and the human race?


The Law of Moses sought to maintain peace within society, or to re-establish it when it was broken. Jesus, similarly, taught peace between people and any disharmony grieves him. For Christians there is no room for disharmony. The commands to love (Mk 12:30,21, Jn 13:34, 14:24, 15:12-17) excludes any disharmony. But Jesus went even further than this, giving us absolutely no room for excuses when he said, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (5:44), and of course he also taught, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (5:9).


But Jesus went much further than just words for, of course, the greatest division is that of man separated from God by sin. Paul wrote: since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ(Rom 5:1). Again, speaking of Jesus, he wrote, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col 1:19,20). God's anger against our sin was removed as the Son paid the penalty for that sin and justice was achieved.


The Hebrew for ‘peace' is Shalom , now often used as a greeting, and has the deeper sense of completeness, unity, oneness, wholeness. All of these things describe God's aims for Himself and mankind and for man with man. Whenever we find an absence of peace, we find sin at the root of it. Look at the paper and the TV daily, and understand this truth. See the extent of sin revealed in our world. Ask, is there peace here in this situation, and look why it is absent, and see man's sin. WE are called to peace.







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Meditation No. 18

Meditation Title: Jesus, bringer of Reality


Mt 6:1 "Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.


There's often a lot of talk in the world about being real yet, I suspect, it is something we don't often achieve. Imagine going into a room where you work and being confronted by someone who accuses you, quite unjustly for being someone you're not, and for doing something you didn't do. Now being real, say some people, is to acknowledge the anger building up in you for such wrong accusations against you. Being real is speaking out strongly, they say, to assert your position. Now for the Christian there are really two levels of reality. There is ‘the old you' which different versions call either ‘the flesh' or ‘the old nature'. That ‘you' is self-centred and relies upon its own efforts, its own wisdom and so, on to survive. But that ‘you' the New Testament tells us, has died when we came to Christ, yet Satan seeks to come and resurrect it in you. The other level of ‘you' is the one that is now a child of God and the Bible declares quite clearly that that is what you are if you are a Christian. This person has all the resources of heaven, the Holy Spirit Himself living in them. This is the ‘real' person today if you are a Christian.


Jesus addresses this indirectly in chapter 6 of Matthew. In the verse above and then in verses 5 and 16, he warns about putting on a show of piety, by giving publicly, praying publicly and fasting publicly. Why are these acts unreal? Because they are all actually being done for an ulterior motive, not for the basic reason you would do these things. If you see someone who is needy (v.2) and your heart is moved to give to them, that is real and good. If however you see their need as an opportunity to show your goodness in public, then your giving is hypocritical. It's not for their benefit, it's for yours! And when you are moved to pray (v.5) as you either recognise your need or simply want to praise God, that is real and good, but if you pray out in the open to be seen by others, that is hypocrisy, because you are not praying with a real desire to reach God or to bless God, but to make yourself look good or spiritual before others. And should you get moved to fast (v.16) by a sense of urgency or seriousness, then that is real and good, but if you are fasting simply to impress other people with your holiness, you are being hypocritical because you're not doing it for the real reasons people fast, but you're using fasting to make yourself look good in other people's eyes.


Every time we pretend, we are not being real. Unfortunately in both the world and in the church we are very good at pretence. In the world people pretend to be good, pretend to be nice, pretend to be enjoying their lives. In the church we pretend to worship when often we simply go through a ritual. Indeed that can be the danger of church services, we simply go through a ritual each Sunday and fail to be real with God or with each other. If you want to see examples of how we hide, go to the front page of this site and click on Book 1 of ‘Creating a Secure Church' and then chapter 1 and read part 1.3, “The Real People - An imaginary look at a Sunday Congregation”.


Jesus came ‘full of grace and truth' (Jn 1:14), meaning he was utterly real with no pretence in him and if we are, in fact, being changed into his likeness (see 2 Cor 3:18), then we too will seek, as far as we're able with his help, to be real and without pretence, real as the children of God that we are now with his grace, not real in the old me. The ‘real me' is the person he is making me to be. Isn't that wonderful!







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Meditation No. 19

Meditation Title: Jesus, Adoption Counsellor


Mt 6:9    This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”


In the day in which we live, fathers are contentious figures. With the breakdown of families, fathers seem to abandon their children with regularity, and so the picture of a loving, caring, supportive father, who is always there and can be relied upon, is quite an alien thing. For many younger people today, the thought of a father figure is not a good thing. However even those of us who have had fathers who stayed the course, can tell tales of imperfect fathering. When we think about human fathers, therefore, we come up with thoughts of imperfection. With this in mind, you might think that God would avoid being thought of as a father, but no, quite to the contrary, He makes a point of it.


Seventeen times in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to God as Father and most of them speak of “your Father”, meaning that God was the Father of the people of Israel . God was referred to as their father in the Old Testament – Isa 63:16, 64:8. The fact that He had brought them into being (see Num 11:12 implied) made Him their father. The fact that God is Creator makes Him, in one sense, father of all mankind, yet that concept makes Him appear a distant sort of Father. In truth, the fact that we, mankind, have abandoned God by our Sin, would suggest they we have made ourselves orphans. In our sinful, godless state we wandered without a family. In the way that Jesus speaks to his largely Jewish congregation in this sermon, he is constantly reminding them of a relationship that at least they once had, and for us who read it centuries later, he is hinting at a relationship with is actually possible. In this way he is acting as a counselor, who says to the orphans, would you like to be adopted, would you like to be put into a family that you have never yet known?


The idea of us becoming God's ‘children' comes through clearly in the New Testament. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13). How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God (1 Jn 3:1,2).


Thus Jesus' work was to show us the possibility of being reunited with God as our Father, and then to provide the means for that to come about through His work on the Cross, and then by sending his Holy Spirit to us. The apostle Paul was later to write of the Holy Spirit, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.” (Rom 8:15,16). The work of the Holy Spirit, who comes and lives in us at new birth, is to help us feel we are God's children and He is our loving Father. “Abba” was simply Aramaic meaning ‘daddy' the term for Father that the young child uses, a term of endearment and intimacy.


Thus Jesus' role is to introduce us to his Father, show us the possibility and then make the legal papers in order for adoption (the Cross), and make us a literal child of God, united to God by His Spirit. In that way we very much become united with the Father and are part of His family.







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Meditation No. 20

Meditation Title: Jesus, Challenger of Priorities


Mt 6:19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


I have written two books on ‘Creating a Secure Church ', the first of which is all about personal security. In there we examine how people would have felt meeting Jesus. We look at a variety of people who were less than perfect, yet loved and accepted by Jesus and who would have felt secure in Jesus' presence. He was a wonderful person and, unlike any other we would have felt utterly safe and secure with him. Yet there is another face to this security and we find it in today's verses.


In order to bring us into a secure place, Jesus comes and challenges our priorities, challenges the things that we rely upon which do not promote security. The illustration in these verses (and there are others in the Gospels) is of relying upon material things. Please understand that Jesus doesn't promote a romantic notion about poverty and is not saying it is wrong to be well off, but he is saying that when you are, it is so easy to make getting wealth and holding onto wealth the foundation of your life, and that is a foundation that is not to be trusted. There are people who continually worry about the future and so keep on putting money away into bonds or stocks and shares or savings accounts, and so never ever enjoy their prosperity. There are people who are so busy making money that life passes them by and they completely miss out on so much that could be. Working for and storing up ‘treasures on earth', when it takes over your life, is a pointless exercise. Jesus gives another reason why it is pointless: it fills you heart. Why is that pointless? Because you are filling your heart with materialism and God has made us spiritual beings who have a need for spiritual nourishment. When we focus on the material to the detriment of the spiritual, we find that on the inside we are like a desert – dried out!


But this is just one example of Jesus' ministry as a challenger of priorities. There is a strange paradox here. If we are insecure we may well be put off by some of Jesus' challenges, but if we accept the challenges, we find they strangely bring us into a place of security. In Luke 14:31 -33 Jesus speaks about a king thinking about going to war, who will first sit down and consider whether this is the right course of action. At the end of that little picture, he concludes,In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Now if we feel insecure that sounds like a terrible statement.

Give up EVERYTHING? Give up everything means surrender it, hand it over, to Jesus. Why? Because he is God's Son and he knows best about your life. A disciple is one who follows a Master (teacher) – because the Master is wiser. When we come to a point of desperation in our lives, where what we have is not satisfying, and where we must know God, then all else becomes meaningless, and so we don't worry about ‘hanging on' to things. When we let go and put everything that we have into God's hands, then suddenly we realize that He is utterly for us, and it's not a case that He wants to take everything away, but that now everything is under His care, under His direction, and suddenly, yes, we find we have a sense of security like we've never known before. He is in charge! And it's good! In fact it's wonderful! Yes, Jesus comes to bring security, but to do it he gets us to put all that is insecure and release it into God's hands. Peace!








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Meditation No. 21

Meditation Title: Jesus, the carefree


Mt 6:25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?


Stop and listen in on conversations in the street or anywhere where people gather, and you would soon notice that the human race is blighted with worry and anxiety. Parents worry about their children. Children worry about school or college. Men and women worry about their jobs. People worry about their health or the future. We spoke in yesterday's meditation about feeling secure. Most people don't feel secure, so they worry. The same was true of life in Israel two thousand years ago, and then along comes Jesus and says, don't worry.


Later, warning about the last days, Jesus said, Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” (Lk 21:34). Those will be characteristics of many in those times. Do you see that – anxieties of life – something that Jesus warns against, and warns that they will come upon us without warning, like a trap. Obviously bad, yet we take worry and anxiety for granted, because it is just such an ordinary features of so many of our lives. The apostle Paul was later to write: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6,7).


Let's put what we know of Jesus together with what Paul says. Jesus came fully assured of who he was, the Son of God the Father, who had come down from heaven (see Jn 6:35 -40). He had complete trust in his Father and in who he was himself. He knew that in himself he had everything he needed. He knew that as he operated within his Father's will, His Father would provide everything he needed. Read through the Gospels and note the assurance that Jesus conveys.


Now when we have a living relationship with God through Jesus, we will talk to the Father about the things that concern us, and when we do, we find we are left with a strange peace that denies the circumstances. As we encounter the Lord (when we pray or read His word or worship) we realize He is in control, He knows our needs and He will provide for us what we need. This should produce a new level of carefree-ness. Are so many Christians full of worry because they do not exercise this relationship? The apostle Paul came to realize these truths in great measure. Listen to his words:God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8) Isn't that amazing! That is the truth! God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus ” ( Phil 4:19 ) Have we taken it in yet?


No doubt these verses challenge the major unbelief that permeates modern society, a society that has been taught by atheists that there is nothing beyond the material world, a society saturated in materialism, a consumerist society that tries to obtain meaning and purpose by buying things, a society that is spiritually bankrupt. The truth is that God is here and life and purpose and meaning are found in Him alone, and in Him alone can we find peace, assurance, confidence and security. Know it!







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Meditation No. 22

Meditation Title: Jesus, the Wordsmith


Mt 7:3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?


There a certain people who have a way with words. They may be public speakers or they may be writers. When we hear or read them something is instantly communicated. They have an ability to catch our attention and leave us wondering. These are the wordsmiths of our world. Jesus was a wordsmith par excellent. What does a wordsmith do? The take a few words and convey meaning in a memorable way.


Take the example we have in our verse today. In the previous couple of verses Jesus has challenged his listeners not to judge others. Now with a few words he conveys the folly of wrongly judging others. Look, he says, you are worried about a speck of sawdust in someone else's eye and ignore the plank in your own eye. Was there a carpenter's shop nearby? Possibly not, but at least everyone knew what a carpenter's shop was because they were very common. They knew of the sawdust that piled up as wood was sawn and knew how easy it was if the wind blew in for it to be blown up into your eyes. They also knew what a plank was as the carpenter of those days had to saw and prepare them in his shop. They knew a speck of sawdust was a small thing and a plank was a big thing. The picture is instantly clear to them: don't worry about small issues in other people's lives while you've got big issues to sort out in your own life!


Some people say the Bible is difficult to understand. Jesus' teaching denies that. I remember when I first started learning economics at school. It seemed an alien subject of principles that seemed far from my understanding. That was a shame, because at its basic level at least, it is simply about how life works, so why was I struggling to understand it? Because my teacher focused on principles! As soon as I saw it working out in daily examples it became easy to see. So often in church we deal with principles, but Jesus said it in pictures. Most of us, we're told, think in pictures.


Listen to this same picture language from Jesus a few verses later: Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” (7:9,10) How graphic is that? Can you see the crowds there, listening to this and thinking, “That's right! What sort of father would do that?” Giving them hardly time to think more, Jesus adds to this point: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (v.11). Can you now imagine the listeners thinking, “Wow I'd never thought about it like that before! Yes, that's right!”


Yes, reading Leviticus and working out all about sacrifices and offerings may be difficult, but reading Jesus' teaching is staggeringly easy, so easy in fact that many of us think it must be more complicated. No it's not. Jesus uses simple words for simple people and ordinary everyday examples to ordinary, everyday people. Bear that in mind: Jesus was talking a lot of the time to the ordinary people so it's straight forward stuff. Yes, on occasion he is speaking to the educated scribes or Pharisees and so refers back to the Law, but much of the time it's to the ordinary uneducated people, so you and I really have no excuse. As you go through the Gospels, look again at the simplicity of Jesus' teaching. See the picture, imagine it, visualize what is taking place, think about what was happening and you'll soon see the point of what Jesus was saying. No excuses now!







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Meditation No. 23

Meditation Title: Jesus the Storyteller


Mt 7:24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.


We considered yesterday, Jesus the wordsmith, the worker with words. Today we move to his bigger use of words – to tell stories. There is something about the human race that likes telling stories. Every culture has its stories. We tell children stories, we watch stories on television or film. There is something about stories. They can stir us, move us, challenge us or just entertain us. Stories are a series of related pictures forming a narrative, and Jesus was good at telling stories. His stories we call parables because they always had a point. He used stories to teach his listeners. A word picture is good, but a story is better. A picture stays in the mind but a story even more so.


This particular parable, that our verse comes from, is the first real parable in Matthew's Gospel and it's appropriate in that it comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Within that sermon there had been many word pictures (Salt – 5:13, light – 5:14, treasures – 6:19, lamps – 6:22, birds – 6:26, sawdust and a plank – 7:3, pearls and pigs – 7:6, doors – 7:7, gates and roads – 7:13, fruit – 7:16) but only this one story. It is simple and obvious: two house builders, one building on rock the other on sand, and a storm. The application of it comes at the beginning and it's all about DOING what Jesus says. Coming at the end of this sermon, it says, don't just listen to these words; put them into practice. If you put them into practice you will stand firm in the face of the storms of life. If you just listen to them but do nothing about them, your life will be wrecked by the storms of life. Hearing is not sufficient; doing is essential.


As we read through each of the Synoptic Gospels (the first three similar ones) we come across many of these stories with a point. Mostly they have a single main point but, without doubt, some of them have a number of aspects to be applied. Many of them come with little explanation and Jesus' listeners are left to think them out themselves. A few of them come with explanations from Jesus. Chapter 13 of Matthew's Gospel is parable laden. The first one, the parable of the Sower, as it is called, would perhaps more aptly be called the parable of the ground. Verses 3 to 9 tell the story and later in verses 18 to 23 Jesus explains what the parable meant.


Between that story and that explanation, comes a significant teaching. The disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables and he says so that you, my disciples, will understand, but the general people won't. That sounds a bit shocking doesn't it, and even goes against what we've said about stories being a memorable way of teaching. To explain what he means, Jesus refers to Old Testament prophecy where God said people would see but not understand, hear but not realize what was being said. God looks for wholeheartedness for He knows that anything less breeds hypocrisy. If God laid it out on a plate people would grab it half-heartedly, apparently responding and obeying outwardly but their hearts would not be really changed. So Jesus teaches in parables so that those whose hearts are all for him, will be able to see, understand and respond, but the spectators, who are just there for a show, will hear, remember the story, and go away unchanged. Parables, therefore, are Jesus' way of communicating with believers. The heart change has to come first, then comes understanding through the parables, that helps the believer understand more fully what is happening in God's kingdom. You see?








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Meditation No. 24

Meditation Title: Jesus the Compassionate


Mt 8:2,3 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.


A sense of failure and inadequacy and, subsequently, guilt and isolation, touches virtually everyone in some way or other. That is the effect of sin and human beings spend much of their time covering it up or trying to compensate for it. A man with leprosy epitomizes all of this, but whereas our sinfulness is invisible until we express it, for him it is something obvious, blatant and clearly visible for all to see. Whatever sort of leprosy it was, from simple skin infection to flesh eating disease, it separated him off from the rest of mankind and, depending how serious it was, it excluded him from society generally. This is exactly what sin does and we will hate it, tolerate it or embrace it – but it still makes us different, separate from other people, this sense of my individual failure and inadequacy. The thing we long for most is loving acceptance, someone who will take us just like we are and love us just like we are.


So the man comes, full of awareness of who he is and who Jesus is. He is aware that he himself is in dire need of cleansing but of himself he is unable to do anything about it. He is also aware that Jesus has the power to do it for him. He's aware that Jesus could do it for him but he's not sure if Jesus would do it for him. We know God is all-powerful but does He have good feelings towards us so that He might use that power for our benefit? That is the question in so many of our hearts. We have no problem with the fact that God has the power but will He think well of me enough to use that power to help me? The man approaches Jesus in humility, in word and in action.


If we were onlookers we might now be wondering how Jesus is going to respond to him. Will he respond with a sharp rebuke: “No, go away; it's your own fault you're like that!”? Will he stand at a distance and simply speak words of healing? We watch with avid interest, for how he deals with this man may give a clue to how he feels about me. Incredibly Jesus reaches out and touches the man. Oh no! Have you ever seen someone with a raging skin infection that completely messes up their skin? You touch it? Oh no! That's horrible. But just a minute, the infection is gone. What happened? How could that happen like that? Jesus has healed him. But what was Jesus thinking of when he reached out and touched him, what was he feeling at that moment? Why did he have to actually touch the man? Compassion, pity moved to action .


A fuller definition might be the emotion experienced when a person observes and enters into the suffering of another, which moves them to act to relieve that suffering. That is what happened. Jesus saw the suffering that the man before him was experiencing; he entered into it and felt it. He knew the sense of isolation that the man felt and so, even before the healing came, he gave him what he needed almost more than the healing – acceptance, personal touch, contact. Yes, this is Jesus, the Son of God. He doesn't hold himself aloof from us, but he comes down, comes really close to us, touches us, accepts us as we are and then heals us. Are you taking this in? Jesus understands where you are. He feels with you in your life circumstances. He loves you where you are, as you are, and he loves you so much he won't leave you there, but will come close and touch you and transform you. This is the glory of the Gospel. Rejoice in it.








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Meditation No. 25

Meditation Title: Jesus the Man of Authority


Mt 8:8,9 The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, `Go,' and he goes; and that one, `Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, `Do this,' and he does it."


Sometimes the truth comes through very unexpected channels. On the occasion of our verse today, Jesus had just entered Capernaum when a Roman centurion came up to him to ask for help. He had a suffering servant at home and he wanted Jesus to heal him. He had obviously heard about Jesus and he had no question that Jesus could do this. All right, says Jesus, I'll come and heal him. Oh no, you don't need to do that replies the centurion. You can just speak a word and it will be done. Now that is faith!


What had the centurion seen? He saw in Jesus something to do with power that he understood. He knew that as a Roman official he could tell men below him to do something and they would do it. They would do it because all the might of Rome backed up this centurion so if they disobeyed him all the might of Rome would fall on them. Oh yes, he knew what authority was all about, and he saw it in Jesus. He understood that when Jesus spoke, he spoke with all the power of heaven behind him. This is a truly remarkable understanding, and one which few of us really comprehend. Jesus had come from heaven at the bidding of his Father (Heb 10:7) to act as a channel for His Father to move through. What the Father did, the Son did (Jn 5:17 ,19). Thus when the Son spoke he was speaking at his Father's bidding and the Father thus released the power of heaven to bring the changes on earth. Thus Jesus only had to speak a word and the Centurion's servant would be healed. He would speak and the power of heaven would be released and the man healed. That was Jesus' authority which this Roman soldier saw and understood, and for which Jesus commended him (v.10).


How do we view Jesus? Do we see him as a great teacher, or even as one with power within him to perform miracles and healings? The truth is that Jesus was a man under authority; he was under the direction of his Father. Because he was under his Father's direction as he put forth his hand to do it, the Father did it through him. That's how spiritual power works.


The same applies to us when we speak about gifts of the Spirit. They are simply expressions of Jesus exercising his ministry, and so as we are available and obedient and responsive to his prompting, so the resources of heaven are released and we are given revelation (prophecy), or healing power is released, from heaven and the circumstances are changed. Those words referred to above, in Heb 10:7, are all-important, I have come to do your will, O God.” In Acts 5:32 Peter referred to, the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.God releases the power of heaven in the form of His own Holy Spirit within us when we are obedient to His prompting, whether it be when we submit to Him at conversion, or simply respond to the prompting of the Spirit hundreds of times in our walk with Him. This is authority. Not that we have power to do what we think is a good idea, but that very simply we obey the prompting of the Spirit and all the resources of heaven are released into the situation as the Father sees fit. The Son is our head (Eph 4:15, 5:23) and the Father is head over the Son (1 Cor 11:3). The Father instructs the Son who instructs the Spirit who instructs us. We obey and it is done!








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Meditation No. 26

Meditation Title: Jesus the Senstive One


Mt 8:14,15 When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.


We've had quite a good number of church leaders into our home over the years and the home is a good place to reveal the true nature of people. There have been those who came prior to a meeting and so came into our front room and talked to me, the church leader. There have been those who came for a brief rest after a church meeting, and they too tended to come in to our front room and talk to me, the church leader. In both cases this happened while my wife made tea or coffee in the kitchen. There was one noted leader, however, who always made a point, whenever he came to us, of going straight into the kitchen, sitting on a stool and made sure he included my wife in the conversation. That man alone, was sensitive to the needs of my wife.


This is why, when we come to this little incident with Peter's mother-in-law, I have such clear feelings about Jesus. The text seems to indicate the following series of events. Jesus preached on a hillside, came down and encountered and healed a leper. Following this, together with his disciples, he made his way into Capernaum where he intended to rest at Peter's home. On the way he is stopped by a centurion, who we considered yesterday, and healed his servant. Now one thing that Scripture does indicate, is that when Jesus healed, something went out of him (Mk 5:30, Lk 8:48). It cost him something. That Jesus became tired from travelling and from ministry is also quite clear (Jn 4:6). It is probable therefore, that Jesus, from preaching, travelling and healing, was quite tired and looked forward to resting at Peter's home. If it had been us, we might have just slumped in a chair and allowed ourselves to be waited upon by the disciples, but not so Jesus. Jesus was like this occasional visitor of mine who was sensitive to the needs of all the people in the home. As he is being led into the home, he passes an open door through which he sees Peter's mother-in-law in distress. The temptation to just pass by and look after his own needs is overcome and so he steps through the door, reaches down and takes her hand, quietly rebukes the fever (Lk 4:39), healing power flows, she is healed and he gently helps her up. Everything about this shows the caring, compassionate, Son of God who is sensitive to the needs of this older lady.


We saw previously, Jesus who was sensitive to the need of the leper to receive personal contact. In the story of Peter's mother-in-law, again, there was personal contact, a sensitivity to people. Sometimes this sensitivity extended to knowing what people thought (Mt 9:4, 12:25, Lk 9:47). If we think back to yesterday's meditation, we also see that Jesus was sensitive to his Father's presence and direction (Jn 5:17,19). This sensitivity also expressed itself in a sensitivity to the time (Jn 2:4, 7:6,8, 13:1, Mt 26:18). Jesus knew when it was right to do certain things or right not to (e.g. Jn 11:3-6).


This must leave us considering our own lives. Are we sensitive to the needs of those around us? Are we sensitive to the Father's presence and to His prompting by His Holy Spirit? Can God guide us in such a way? Are we sensitive to the time, knowing when it is right to speak and right to keep silent (Prov 10:14,19,32), when it is right to reach out and right to hold back. Surely each of these things require us to learn from Jesus' example, and learn to listen to God. May we be such sensitive people.









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Meditation No. 27

Meditation Title: Jesus, Dispeller of Darkness


Mt 8:16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick


Many years ago, a small group of us became involved for a short time in helping those in the drug culture, only to find a number of them deeply into the occult. Because we were young and immature and unprepared, we ourselves went down into a five week period of utter blackness. One of the ‘team' had what the world called a nervous breakdown. It took the grace of God in the form of a national figure with a deliverance ministry to come and pray over us and set us all free instantly, including the ‘nervous breakdown'! Depression is just one form of this blackness that seems to come down on people. Total subjection to the powers of darkness, because of dabbling with ouija boards or witchcraft, brings this terrible darkness that can involve depression and fear.


In the eleventh of these mediations we considered Jesus the Great Light. Here in our verse today we find him bringing light into the lives of those who have been brought into darkness by their foolish ways. In Isa 61:1, the Messianic prophecy reads, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoner.” The Greek version of that, which Luke quotes in Lk 4, speaks of freedom for the blind and as much as Jesus did actually do that, the picture of the darkness of the demonic is equally real if not worse.


We have previously considered Jesus' authority, his ability to bring change by simply speaking a word which released the power from heaven. Previously we saw it in respect of the sick but here it is both those enslaved by the demonic and the sick. How do people get enslaved by the demonic? By involving themselves in occult activities and giving themselves to it, whether they realize they are doing that or not. So often when people start dabbling in these things, they find an awareness of fear and even depression that they had not known before. These are the consequences of playing in Satan's playground. What is the answer? Come to Jesus. See his authority.


Whenever there is a case in the Gospels of a demon possessed person being brought to Jesus, there is never a conflict. Every time Jesus simply speaks a word and the demon is expelled, even when it was a multitude of demons as in the case of the man in the region of the Gadarenes (Lk 8:26-39). This is the Son of God who has the authority of heaven backing him. Nothing but nothing can withstand him when he is exercising the authority of heaven. Demons are merely part of his created universe and he has authority over all things – including demons.


But perhaps you aren't demon possessed, merely sick. That's a form of darkness, as is infirmity or disability. As the incident with the blind man (Jn 9) illustrates, we may not have done wrong; it's just that we live in a fallen world and these things come on us. But let's not be super-spiritual and say that when you are sick or infirm or disabled it's as good as if you weren't. We'd all like to be out of those conditions, because when you are in them, it's a struggle. And then comes Jesus and light shines. Sometimes that light is to deliver out of the condition, i.e. physical or mental healing. Sometimes the light comes in the midst of the condition. The condition stays but the life changes. It is an area of mystery where God obviously (see Jesus) wants to heal, but either can't because of us, or won't because there's yet a greater purpose being worked out – but the light is there!











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Meditation No. 28

Meditation Title: Jesus the Homeless


Mt 8:20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."


If you are reading this meditation I can almost guarantee that you are not homeless and the odds are you have never been homeless, so it's difficult for us to grasp what being without a roof over your head means. At the best it means having to rely upon others for hospitality. At the worst it means finding cover from the weather where you can sleep. It probably means you have to rely on charity for food, because homelessness and unemployment tend to go together.


Jesus makes this declaration of homelessness in the light of a, no doubt, well meaning teacher of the law who says he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. Jesus' response to him is a very gentle way of saying, well, you don't really understand. You'll have to give up all of your home comforts to come with me because you need to realize that I'm not part of some big organization, I don't have hotels booked wherever we go. It just happens and until it does, we have nowhere to stay, no home comforts, for food, no bed. That's what the future with me is like. Are you still up for it?


Was Jesus laying down a principle that all future Christians should live by? No, he was merely stating the cost of following him at that moment. To be with the Son of God at that moment was a roller coaster ride. On the one hand there were incredible happenings. People were being healed in lots of dramatic ways. Miracles were occurring, the crowds came in large numbers, and success seemed the order of the day. The downside was you didn't know where you would be tomorrow, where your next meal was coming from and where you might find a bed. In the decades to follow Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension, there would be those such as Peter and Paul who would travel extensively and, yes, they probably didn't know where they would stay initially at least. Yet the vast majority of Christians didn't leave their families or homes and travel the globe. Such a ministry to travel was a clear calling. Others were called to remain where they were and be leaders of local churches. Others were called to just stay where they were and be witnesses to the world.


Thus the calling to go with Jesus with no home, no bed and an uncertain future was a limited calling for a few. Yet the characteristics of that lifestyle are, in some measure at least, to be the characteristics of us all. If we are Christians, open and available to God, then we will suffer inconvenience, weariness and uncertainty, as things open up before us as we respond to the Spirit's leading and the needs or openness of people before us. Our time will be taken up, maybe our sleep patterns interrupted, and concern for others may cause us anxiety. A life that is truly open to be used by God, will in fact, find itself being challenged, for we are called to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). This means that we will not always be able to plot and plan what is going to happen next. When God is on the move, things sometimes happen at too fast a pace for us to be in control. This applies whether we are rich or poor; it doesn't matter. If we are open to God's leading, our responses to his leading will be faith responses, not being absolutely certain how it will work out, or where we will end up. This may be in respect of responding to individuals or big business opportunities in the name of the kingdom of God . This uncertainty was behind Jesus' words, and is part of a life of faith today.









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Meditation No. 29

Meditation Title: Jesus the Confident


Mt 8:24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.


Much of the time life just goes on day by day. There are no crises, or what there are, are minor and of little consequence and we handle them easily. Then something big blows up and it is then, and only then, that we really show the sort of people we are. There are some people who worry all the time, and there are some people who worry much of the time, and they clearly have no living relationship with the Lord. Then there are those of us who are at peace most of the time and who only worry in the main crisis. I mean a crisis is a time to worry isn't it? It may be life threatening, and that is worrying.


It's at this point that thoughts about Jesus in the boat become challenging. When there is such a storm, that the disciples who are fishermen are even scared, when water starts coming into the boat in large quantities, we find Jesus sleeping through it. Now he is either crashed out, or is he simply careless and clueless about the situation or is he completely confident in it? Now perhaps he is crashed out, completely exhausted from the previous days' ministry? That may certainly be so. Is he simply unaware of the situation? Probably not! Jesus seemed to be completely aware of everything that went on around him. Completely confident? Well, his response when he wakes would suggest that this is in fact the truth of this situation.


When he wakes he chides the disciples for their lack of faith and then turns and rebukes the storm and the wind and the waves immediately abate. That was impressive and it scares the disciples. Who is this we've got in the boat with us? They had seen Jesus do lots of miracles but they hadn't realized that extended to control of the elements! Now we've already considered Jesus, the man of authority, so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to us, and it's not too much of a jump, to consider that if you have someone with this sort of authority walking the earth, then they can be quite confident in who they are and what can or cannot happen to them.


Of course the disciples had probably not been around on that first day when Jesus had gone into the synagogue in Capernaum and read from the Isaiah scroll and declared himself the Messiah. They would have seen the angry men take him out to a nearby cliff to throw him over for blasphemy. And of course, they wouldn't have seen him, as Luke simply records it: “ But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Lk 4:30) . Somehow, presumably exercising his power, he simply walked away and the crowd let him. That was pretty spectacular! No, with this sort of power you can be quite confident, even when storms come against you.


But we may be forgetting something here. We said that authority, was simply what he sensed the Father doing, and was him responding to his Father's leading. So what was happening here? Jesus wakes, senses the Father's will, which was to protect him, and so exercised his Father's will and ordered the storm to stop – and heaven ordered it done! So why did he later die at the hand of unrighteous men? Because that was the will of heaven, that was the plan agreed from the foundation of the world. Now there is something more coming through here. Jesus was utterly confident in the knowledge that his Father was working out the will of heaven and so, for now at least, that meant complete safety. Do we have that security? Have we come into that realization, so that we too are living in the plan of God? That makes for a new confidence in life!









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Meditation No. 30

Meditation Title: Jesus, the all-Powerful


Mt 8:26 He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.


We considered yesterday one aspect of this particular account, and now we looked at a bigger issue, which we have already been touching upon as we have been considering Jesus, the man of authority. In that consideration we have been putting the focus on all Jesus' power as coming from heaven at the Father's bidding, but the truth is that is was manifested in Jesus and he was seen as all-powerful. That comment is so easily said, we need to examine it.


Probably one of the best summaries of Jesus' activity in respect of people, is seen in his reply to the disciples of John the Baptist, The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor(Mt 11:5). That is really a remarkable litany of the things going on through Jesus' ministry. Not just people with colds or headaches are healed, but major acts of healing that can only be described as miracles, were regular occurrences in Jesus' activity. These are nothing less than major changes in physical states. However you try to rationalize it, these are changes of atoms and molecules so that physical changes actually took place in seconds, and that simply at the word of a man, not once or twice but hundreds and hundreds of times. This sort of thing is repeated so many times in the Gospels that you either believe it or you completely reject it and reject Jesus. There is no half-way with this.


But it wasn't just physical changes in people, it was physical changes in things. Here in today's verse it is an instant and dramatic change in the weather, but the Gospels also record water changing into quality wine (Jn 2:6-11), Jesus multiplying food (Mt 14:17-21, 15:35-38), walking on water (Mt 14:25), and producing fish in the sea where there had been none (Lk 5:4-10, Jn 21:3-6). Again, in each of these instances, there is a physical change in the world, simply at the word of a man.


Many of us struggle with these things because, rather like Gideon, we say, Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about ?” (Jud 6:13). There are two aspects to the answer to that. First, God does seem to move in seasons and down through church history there have been times of revival when all of these things happened a great deal. In some part of the world, it's likely it is happening now, but we just haven't heard about it. Second, although Jesus said, I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (Jn 14:12), you do need to step out into a place of real risk for faith to be required in this measure. When we do that at God's bidding, we find the Lord turning up in such ways. Mostly, sadly, in the twenty first century we are so comfortable that we rarely step out of our comfort zones into places of risk when we have to reply on God for the impossible.


Nevertheless, the truth still stands. The Gospel record is quite clear. Jesus exhibited an almost unlimited power that changed people and circumstances. This was the unfettered Son of God, free to do his Father's will perfectly. This was God's will perfectly expressed. You either believe it, and accept him as Lord and Saviour, or you don't. As we said earlier, there is no half way about this. This was God on the earth, giving us every indicator we needed to believe. It's now a matter of will. Exercise it rightly!