Saturday, 28 May 2016

The eternal love of God


"The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8): Before we had sinned, God was planning for our salvation!

Our love for the Lord comes from His love for us.

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:9-11).

Our love for the Lord comes from His love for us. His love reaches us. His love changes us. With Jesus as our Saviour, our life changes direction. It's less of self - and more of Him. We're moving towards "the day of Christ." We're not there yet. We've got a long way to go. We find it so difficult to look beyond where we are right now. Jesus is very different from us. He looks right on to the end. He sees as we will be at the time of His Return. Now, we catch only a glimpse of the glory of Christ. Then, we will see Him in the fullness of His glory. What we shall be is still to be fully revealed to us. Saved by grace, promoted to glory - Here-and-now, these are, for us, words of faith. When He returns, we will enter into the full reality of what it means to be saved by grace and promoted to glory.

The Lord is my Shepherd ...

Psalm 23:1-6

“The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
He speaks to us. He calls us to Himself. He leads us on with Himself (John 10:3).
He is all that we need for walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
He works in us through the “oil” of the Holy Spirit and the “table” and “cup” of Christ (Psalm 23:5).
The completion of God’s work in us is beyond this life. It’s more than “as long as I live.” It’s “forever” (Psalm 23:6).

The sinner becomes the singer ...

Psalm 40:1-3
The sinner becomes the singer, the servant and the soul winner.
 * “a desolate pit”, “the muddy clay” - This is our sin. We bring our sin to the Saviour.
 * “a new song” - This is our song of salvation. This is the song that our Saviour has given to us.
 * “Many will see...” We do not sing for ourselves. We do not live for ourselves. We live for the Lord. We are to win people for Him.
Before a song can be a song of praise, it must be a song of salvation. We praise God because He has saved us.

Building On Christ - And Living For Him

“Whoever does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15:5).
Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which our faith is built. Building on Christ means more than believing the right things about Him. It also means living for Him. This is the message taught by Jesus in his parable of the wise man and the foolish man – “everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock… But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (Matthew 7:24,26). What  are we to believe? – This is not the only question we must ask. If our faith is real, we must move on from there to another very important question: How are we to live?

Life's Disasters And God's Love

“Maybe the nation of Judah will hear about all the disasters that I plan to bring on them, and they will turn from their wicked ways. Then I will forgive their wickedness and their sins” (Jeremiah 36:3). Even in all life’s disasters, we must never lose sight of God’s love. He sends disasters. This is not because He hates us. He loves us. Through these disasters, He’s calling us back to Himself. He’s calling us to receive His forgiveness.

The Lord saves me.

“I call on God, and the Lord saves me” (Psalm 55:16) - This is the Psalmist’s testimony. It is followed by his call to others to turn to the Lord and discover how good He is: “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and He will take care of you” (Psalm 55:22). “I praise the Word of God, I trust God, I am not afraid. What can mere flesh and blood (mortals) do to me?” (Psalm 56:4,10-11). “My heart is confident, O God, I want to sing and make music... I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord, I want to make music to praise You among the nations because Your mercy is as high as the heavens. Our truth reaches the skies. May You be honoured above the heavens, O God. Let Your glory extend over the whole earth” (Psalm 57:7,9-11). As we praise God, He leads us forward in His triumph.

Help And Hope - From The Lord

God is calling us to live as "righteous people" (Psalm 58:10-11). When we face hostile persecution, our only hope is in the Lord: “God is my Stronghold, my merciful God” (Psalm 59:9,17). Looking to the Lord, we pray, “Give us help against the enemy because human assistance is worthless” (Psalm 60:11). Trusting in the Lord, we have this confidence: “With God, we will display great strength. He will trample our enemies” (Psalm 60:12). Knowing that god is with us as the God of our salvation, we can say, with glad assurance of faith, “I will triumph!” (Psalm 60:6). We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Whatever Satan does, he will not succeed. We have the victory in Christ.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Search The Scriptures: New Testament (updated - I've just added notes on 2 Timothy 1)

This is an updated post. I've just added notes on 2 Timothy 1.
__________________

MATTHEW
Jesus was also called Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ This is the great message that comes to us from the first chapter of the New Testament. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. Along with the Name, Emmanuel, there is the better - known Name - Jesus. The Name of Jesus means “He saves” (Matthew 1:21,25). In the two Names - Emmanuel and Jesus, we have the Good News of our salvation. God has come to earth - that’s the meaning of the Name, Emmanuel. He has come to save us - that’s the meaning of the Name, Jesus.
The wise men did want to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:2). Herod said that he wanted to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). What a difference there is between saying that we want to worship Jesus and really wanting to worship Him. This highlights the conflict between false religion and true worship. Religion may say the right things, but, if we don’t really mean what we say, our words will not make any difference to the way we live. This kind of religion is worthless. What does God say to us about this kind of religion? - “God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod” (Matthew 2:12). God is still warning His people to steer clear of empty religion. When we come to the Lord, we must not come with empty words - words that we don’t really mean. Our worship is to shape our life. How is our worship to change our way of living? Real worship arises out of salvation. This is very different from religion. Religion says more about ourselves than it says about our Saviour. Salvation is not about us. It’s about Jesus, our Saviour. When He is the focus of our attention, we will learn to worship Him and live for Him.
As the story of Christ’s becoming one of us - His birth - moves on towards the story of His dying in our place - His crucifixion, the story of His baptism is a significant step forward. Jesus identifies with us. He stands in the place of the sinner. John the Baptist said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by You. Why are You coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus was doing everything that God required of Him - everything that needed to be done for sinners to be saved. The chief focus is on His death for us - “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We do, however, need to look back from His crucifixion to His birth and His baptism. In His birth, we see the sovereign purpose of God. In His baptism, we see the definite choice made by Jesus. In salvation, there is the work of God, and there is our response. God reveals Himself to us through His Son: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We respond to God’s revelation and redemption when we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, when we look away from ourselves - sinners - to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus' victory over Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4) must be seen in the broader context of His work of salvation. This was more than just a personal victory - a victory for Jesus. It was a victory for us. Jesus won the victory for us. He walked in the way of victory so that we might live in the power of His victory. After Jesus had won the victory over Satan, He called His disciples to Him - "Come, follow Me!" - and He sent them out from Him, empowered by Him, to be witnesses for Him - "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). His victory was more than a victory for His first disciples. It was a victory for all would become believers through their witness. This includes all of us, since each one of us has come to faith in Christ through the testimony of His apostles. When Jesus sent them out, He did more than send them. He showed them what they were to do (Matthew 4:23-25).
Jesus' words, known as "the Sermon  on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7), need to be taken as a whole. We're not to pick out the bits that we like, and ignore the bits that we don't like so much. We're not to come, looking for "comfort" (Matthew 5:4), if we're not also seeking for "righteousness" (Matthew 5:6). We're not to look for peace, if we're not preparing ourselves for persecution (Matthew 5:9-10). We're not to read one verse, and say, "This is great", and then skim over the next verse, as if it wasn't even there.
We're called to be "salt for the earth" and "light for the world" (Matthew 5:13-14). How can we be "salt" and "light" in a world that has turned its back on the things that matter most in life? Can we do this by "setting aside Moses' teaching or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17)? No! Jesus says, "No." He says, 'This is what we must never do. We cannot preserve true Christian living, if we set aside the Word of the Lord. A stripped-down ethic, which changeable from one generation to another, is no substitute for a Christian that is grounded in the Word of God, which is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Who are we come to the Word of God with the attitude that we can decide that there are some things that are "unimportant" (Matthew 5:19)? When God calls something important, we must also say, 'This is important.' It's not to be changed because it doesn't fit in with our modern outlook. Sometimes, people disregard what God's Word says because they think that they have the right, to say, 'This is important. That is unimportant.' When we say this kind of thing, what are we really saying? We're saying, 'I am more important than God. I know better than God." Such an attitude can have no place in the hearts of those who want, through their lives, to "praise their Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  
"You have heard that it was said ... But I say to you ... " (Matthew 5:21-22,27-28,31-32,33-34, 38-39,43-44). When we see the great contrast between what has been said in the past and what Jesus says to His generation and our generation, we must remember Jesus' words, "Don't ever think that I came to set aside Moses; teachings or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17). What does Jesus mean? Clearly, He doesn't just repeat what's already been said. Jesus says, "I didn't come to set them aside but to make them come true" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus doesn't contradict the Old Testament. He brings out its deeper meaning. He reveals its fuller meaning. Jesus is expounding the Word of God. He enables His hearers to see things in a new light - but He doesn't do this by setting aside God's Word. The Word of God stands - for every generation. It is not to be tampered with. It's to be upheld. At the heart of upholding God's Word, there's a very real question we must ask, "What are you saying to us, Lord, here-and-now?"
Jesus speaks about prayer (Matthew 6:5-15), doing good works (Matthew 6:1-4) and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). He emphasizes that we're not to be like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:2,5,16). Sometimes, it is difficult to work out where Jesus is leading us with. In Acts, there's a strong emphasis on God's people praying together. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of praying "in secret." Is there something about us that leads us in the direction of hypocrisy whenever we are praying with others? We find the same emphasis in Jesus' teaching about doing good and fasting. - "Make sure that you don't become like the hypocrites." When we move into the public sphere, we run the risk of hypocrisy. We must never forget this - and we must pray that God will deliver us from hypocrisy.
The values of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gospel values, Kingdom values are very different from the world's values. It's the difference between "treasures on earth" and "treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20). When we treasure the things of earth, we will worry about the things of earth. Jesus says that we are not to worry about these things. We are to have a higher priority than 'looking after No. 1'. We're to be concerned about "God's Kingdom and what has His approval"  (Matthew 6:33). When the things that matter most to God are not the things that matter most to us, other things will take over our lives. What matters most to you? This is what Jesus is asking us. Are the things that matter most to God becoming the things that matter most to us? 
Jesus calls us to be both holy and loving. We need both - holiness and love. We're not to be hypocrites who've given up on holiness. We're not to be content with keeping up appearances. We're to seek holiness of heart. This is the heart of holiness. We're not to be hypocrites who show no love for other people. How can we have much love for God if we don't have much love for other people? A life that's centred on ourselves is very different from a life that's centred on Christ. A life that's being shaped by Christ's love will be a life of receiving His love and sharing His love. He's teaching us how much He loves us. He's helping us to show His love to other people.
Jesus calls us to be both holy and loving. What will it mean to live a life that is becoming both more holy and more loving? It begins with being reached by the love of God and changed by the love of God. We cannot make ourselves more holy. We cannot make ourselves more loving. When we catch a glimpse of the great God, who is both holy loving, we see ourselves as we really are - sinners, and we also see the Saviour who is reaching out to us, the Saviour who can and will change us. How does he change us? He shows us our sin. He forgives our sin. Seeing our sin as it really is, we cannot be, like the Pharisee who looked down his nose at the tax collector (Luke 18:11). Seeing our Saviour as He really is, we know that there is hope for every one who comes to the Saviour. We have His precious promise - "I will never turn away anyone who comes to  Me" (John 6:37). When the love of Christ reaches us, we rejoice in this: "Every offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives." Thankful to the Lord for His love, which has reached us, we pray that His love will change us. We pray that we will become more like Jesus - more holy and more loving. We will say, 'Lord, Your love has reached us. May Your love change us. May your love inspire us to live a life that is pleasing to you - a life of holiness, a life of love.' We cannot change ourselves. We need to be changed by the Lord. Let us pray for His help. Let us pray that He will fill us with His love. This is where true  holiness comes from. It comes from the love of God, reaching us. It comes from the love of God, changing us. The love of God - This is the real power that lies behind a life of holiness and love. We need more holiness. We need more love. These are not things that we can reach out and grasp for ourselves. We must always look away from ourselves to the Lord - "How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?" (Matthew 7:12).
The choices that we make while we are here on earth will decide whether we will spend eternity with him or apart from Him. This is the message of Matthew 7:13-14. "False prophets ... vicious wolves" will seek to lead us away from the Lord (Matthew 7:15-16). We must pray that the Lord will deliver us from paying lip-service to Him without living our whole life for Him (Matthew 7:21-23). How are we to live for the Lord? - We must hear His Word and obey it (Matthew 7:24). Obedience to God's Word begins with hearing His Word. Hearing God's Word leads to obeying His Word. May God help us to build on Christ, always receiving His Word as the Word that speaks to us with His authority.
In Matthew 8:1-17, we see Jesus' healing ministry. There are three miracles - healing people who were suffering from "a skin disease" (Matthew 8:1-4), paralysis (Matthew 8:5-13) and "a fever" (Matthew 8:14-15). After these three miracles, we have a more general statement about the ministry of casting out demons (Matthew 8:16-17). This is followed by Matthew 8:18 - "Now, when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He ordered His disciples to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee." Jesus was moving from place to place, taking His ministry to more people. 
In Matthew 8:19-34, we learn about discipleship (Matthew 8:19-22), peace (Matthew 8:23-27) and deliverance (Matthew 8:28-34). How sad it is that this chapter ends with these words: "Everyone from the city went to meet Jesus. When they saw Him, they begged him to leave their territory" (Matthew 8:34). If it had ended with the words, "Everyone went out to meet Jesus", we would say, "Wonderful! We want more of this." When this is followed by the sentence, "When they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their territory", we sense that we are in the presence of something solemn, even something sinister. What we have here is the activity of Satan. Even when the Lord is working powerfully, Satan is also at work, seeking to hinder the work of God, creating resistance in the hearts of those who have begun to show an initial interest in Jesus. Satan gets worried. Hr does everything he can to prevent people moving from seeking to finding. Let us take our stand against Satan. Let us take our stand in the Name of Christ. Let us take our stand in the power of Christ.
We read, in Matthew 9:2, of the forgiveness of sins. This is followed, in Matthew 9:6, by the words that brought healing to the paralyzed man. When we read about Jesus' healing miracles, we must also remember the healing that comes to us through the forgiveness of our sins. The healing of our lives begins here. From this beginning - the forgiveness of our sins, we move on to the healing of our lives, which takes place when we look to the Lord to take the brokenness of our lives and put everything back together again. This is followed by Matthew's own story. He receives the forgiveness of his sins. From the conversion of Matthew, the message that comes to us is this: Jesus "came to call sinners" (Matthew 9:13).  We come to Jesus - with our sins. We receive from Him - our salvation. At the heart of our salvation is this great message: God does more for us than forgiving our sins. He gives us new life - described here as "new wine" (Matthew 9:17).
In Matthew 9:18-38, we read about Jesus' healing ministry. At the end of Matthew 9, there's a reminder to us that the Lord's work is to be carried on by His followers - "The harvest is large, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord who gives this harvest to send workers to harvest His crops" (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus wasn't saying, 'Look at what I am doing and see how great I am." He was saying, 'Look at what I am doing and learn from Me - learn how to see the crowds with compassion, to see them in their trouble, to see how helpless they are - "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). we are to be looking at Jesus and learning from Him. We are to be looking at the world and seeing how we can serve the world for Jesus' sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
"Don't go among people who are not Jewish ..." (Matthew 10:5). The time for reaching out to the Gentiles had not yet come. After Jesus' resurrection, the Good News of His love and His salvation were to be taken to "the ends of the earth" (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). This ministry was to be carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit - "The Spirit of your Father will be speaking through you" (Matthew 10:20). This was to continue after Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:8; Acts 2:3). If we are to speak for the Lord, He must be our "Teacher" (Matthew 10:24). The Lord teaches us, and we are to teach others - "Teach and make disciples" (Matthew 28:18-20).
In Matthew 11, we learn, from Jesus the Saviour, about John the Baptist. From the warnings given by Jesus to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, we learn of the urgency of the Word of the Lord. The highlight of Matthew 11 is found in verse 28 - "Come to Me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest."
"It is right to do good on the day of worship" (Matthew 12:12). Why did Jesus have authority over the day of worship? It was because of who He is. He is worshipped. Jesus fulfils prophecy (Mathew 12:17-21). He has authority over Satan (Matthew 12:28). The victory of Jesus over Satan becomes ours when we receive God's Word, with humble faith, as "the sword of the Spirit." This speaks of the work of the Spirit in and through the Word. The Spirit leads us to Jesus. He leads us out for Jesus. Jesus is risen from the dead (Matthew 12:40), Let us serve Him and be His true family (Matthew 12:50).
In Matthew 13, we see Jesus, the Storyteller. His stories are ordinary stories - with an extraordinary message. The stories are human. The message is divine. They are stories about people. They are stories about God. Following on from Jesus' parables, we have His return to "His hometown" (Matthew 13:54). The people were "amazed" at His teaching (Matthew 13:54), They did not, however, look for a divine explanation. They looked at Jesus in a human way. They said that He shouldn't be able to speak like this. They denied Him the right to speak with divine authority. They did not hear and receive what He said to them. What did Jesus say about them? "The only place a prophet isn't honoured is in his hometown and in his own house" (Matthew 13:57). What was the result of their refusal to recognize Jesus' authority? His power was not released among them: "He didn't work many miracles there because of their lack of faith" (Matthew 13:58).
Jesus the Saviour is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12). Jesus does more than proving physical food. He is the Bread  of Life (Matthew 14:13-21). Jesus has power over nature (Matthew 14:22-36) - because He is "the Son of God, Look, the Lamb" (Matthew 14:33). We look beyond John to Jesus. John pointed away from himself to Jesus, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  Jesus is our Saviour. Let us praise Him for all that He is, all that He has done for us and all that He has given to us.
The Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus with a question: "Why do your disciples break the traditions of our ancestors ...?" (Matthew 15:2). Jesus answered them with another question: "Why do you break the commandments of God because of your traditions?" (Matthew 15:3). Their question was shallow. His question was deep. They were concerned with external observance of human traditions. He directed their attention to something far important - heartfelt obedience to God's Word. We are  not to honour God with our lips, while our hearts remain far from Him.
"Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!" (Matthew 17:6). Even after there is divine revelation (Matthew 16:17), the influence of evil can be felt (Matthew 16:23). The warning - "Be careful! Watch out ... !" must never be forgotten. Satan is looking for an opportunity to leads us away from the Lord. We must hear what Jesus is saying to us about discipleship (Matthew 16:24), and we must commit  ourselves to Him (Matthew 16:25). There is nothing more important than this (Matthew 16:26). If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must learn to live our lives in the light of eternity (Matthew 16:27). We are to seek revelations of God's eternal Kingdom, revelations which will send us back, from the mountain-top, to live each day for Jesus.
"They saw no one but Jesus" (Matthew 17:8). Everyone else is secondary. Jesus is the central theme. "Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:21). We must not think according to human expectations. We must let the Word of God inspire us to accomplish great things for God and His Kingdom. May we never forget to give great glory to God. "The disciples became sad" (Matthew 17:23), because they did not understand. What god gives to us is greater than we can imagine. Let us praise Him.
Learning from children and caring for children: This is what Jesus speaks about in Matthew 18:1-10. We should never act like we know it all, and have nothing more to learn. We should never act like we're a law unto ourselves. We must do all that we can to protect little children in a world that has so many dangers. We need little children. They have something to teach us. Little children need us. They need the protection that we, adults, can give to them.
"The Son of Man came to save the lost" (Matthew 18:11). In Matthew 18:12-1, Jesus speaks about sheep. He's really speaking about us. He is the Shepherd. We are His sheep. Sheep wander away from the shepherd. We wander away from the Lord. The shepherd looks for the lost sheep. Jesus has come to seek for us and find us. He brings  us home to God, our Father. Through His saving grace, we receive new life - a life  in which we rejoice in our great Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He delivers us from the condemnation, which our sin has brought upon us. He brings us into the knowledge of His forgiveness. This Gospel of salvation changes us. It teaches us to live in the power of God's love.
Jesus speaks about "the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:12,23), "the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:14,24) and "eternal life" (Matthew 19:29).  Jesus' way of thinking and living is so very different from the world's way of thinking and living. He challenges us to think His way and live his way.
"The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). This is the reversal of the world's values. This is grace - not works. The way in which grace reaches us is through Christ's death and resurrection  (Matthew 20:17-19). When we hear the Gospel - Jesus "came to serve and gave His life as a ransom for many people" (Matthew 20:28), our eyes are opened to see who Jesus really is and to understand what He has done for us, and we follow Him (Matthew 20:34).
In Matthew 21:1-22, we learn that Jesus is a very different King from the kings of this world. He is the King of love. There is no tyranny, no dictatorship, no reign of terror. Alongside His love, there is His holiness. We see this in the cleansing of the Temple. He is looking for us to be fruitful. This is the lesson of the cursed fig tree. May God help us to be fruitful - in holiness and in love.
In Matthew 21:23-46, we learn that the authority of Jesus is heard in His words and seen in His actions. He speaks of grace. He lives by grace. Jesus is the foundation of our salvation. Without Him, there is no salvation. With Him, we are greatly blessed. What a great Saviour He is!
What variety there is in Matthew 22 - a story about a wedding reception, a question about taxes, the dead come back to life, love God and your neighbour, how can David's son be David's Lord? When we read the Gospels, we must allow the Lord Jesus to speak to us on all the subjects that He brings to us. We are not to select our favourite passages and ignore the other passages. If we only read the parts we like, we are not really listening to the Lord. He has so much to say to us. Lord, give us a listening ear.
In Matthew 23, we have a devastating protest against hypocrisy. What is a protest against hypocrisy? It's a protest for holiness. God is calling us to be holy. He is saying to us that we must never be content with hypocrisy. God has something better for us. The way of holiness begins with welcoming the Saviour. Our faith and life are grounded in Him - "Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39). Jesus inspires our worship. He gives us strength for living.
Why does Jesus speak to us about the end-times? - He is encouraging us to "endure to the end" (Matthew 24:13). We cannot endure to the end without the grace of God: "If God does not reduce the number of those days, no one will be saved" (Matthew 24:22). God's Word tells us that we are to "keep ourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). It also tells us that we are kept, in the love of God, by the power of God - the power of His love (Jude 24).
Jesus speaks about the end-times: "The earth and heaven will disappear." He also speaks about something that will never come to an end: "My words will never disappear" (Matthew 24:35). In all of life's changing circumstances, we must hold on to this great truth: God's Word is forever.
Whenever the end-times are spoken of, many strange things are said. People speak as if they know it all. The more they say, the more they show that they don't know it all. We need to make sure that we keep listening to what God's Word says to us. This will keep us from being deceived by people who make things up as they go along. The main thing that Jesus says to us is this:  "you must be ready because the Son of Man will return when you least expect Him" (Matthew 24:44).
Matthew 25 begins with the words, "When the end comes" (Matthew 25:1), and ends with the words, "eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). Often, we might wish that this was all that the Word of God says  about "the end" - "eternal life." This is not all that is said. Jesus also speaks to us about eternal loss (Matthew 25:11-12,30,41,46). The choices that determine eternal loss and eternal life are being made here-and-now. Each one of us must decide whether we will be like the wise bridesmaids or the foolish bridesmaids. By our way of life, here on earth, we will show whether we are "good and faithful servants" or "useless servants." Our response to the Lord will be seen in our response to other people (Matthew 25:40). Live for the Lord now. Live with Him in eternity.
"At that time, the Son  of Man will be handed over to be crucified" (Matthew 26:2). Jesus was not taken by surprise. He knew what He was letting Himself in for. He knew why He had come to earth. He knew what He had come to do. He knew the purpose of His life. "You will not always have Me with you. She poured this perfume on My body before it is placed in a tomb" (Matthew 26:11-12). Jesus was under no illusions about what lay ahead of Him. He had come to die. The time of His crucifixion was drawing near - and He knew it. Immediately after He speaks about His tomb, He speaks about the "Good News" being "spoken  in the world" (Matthew 26:13). He knew the connection between the two - His death and the Good News. He died for us. This is the Good News of God's love.
In Matthew 26:14-35, we read about Judas, Peter and Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus - but Jesus knew all about it before it happened. Jesus knew what was going on behind the scenes with Judas. Peter denied Jesus. Again, Jesus knew that this was going to happen. Between Jesus' identification of Judas and Peter as the men who would betray Him and deny Him, there is the Lord's Supper. How wonderful this is - we hear  about human failure (sin), and we also hear about our Saviour's sacrifice for the salvation of sinners.
"Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, let Your will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Jesus was not just a passive victim of circumstances. He embraced the will of God, his loving, heavenly Father. He saw what needed to be done, and He said, 'I will do it.' He said, 'I will give Myself in death so that sinners might be forgiven and live eternally in the heavenly glory of God's Kingdom.
"All of this happened so that what the prophets have written would come true" (Matthew 26:56). "The Son of Man will be coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). Here, we have looking back to what came before and looking forward to what lies ahead. If we are  to avoid becoming like Peter, who denied Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75), we need this big perspective on Jesus. He is much more than a man, more than a prophet, more than a good example. he came from heaven. He returned to heaven. He will come, again, from heaven. When we keep before our eyes what the Scriptures teach us about Jesus, we will not be taken in by those who reduce Jesus to the human level. We will, always by the grace of God, stand up for Jesus, lifting Him up as the perfect Son of God and the perfect Saviour of sinners.
"Thirty silver coins" (Matthew 27:3,9) - Jesus' enemies paid the price to Judas. Jesus paid the price for us. Thank God for Jesus. His sacrifice for sin was worth much more than the money paid to Judas by Jesus' enemies. His sacrifice of Himself for our salvation was the only way in which the price could be paid. Jesus took our sin upon Himself so that we might receive God's salvation - as a free gift.
"Jesus said absolutely nothing in him in reply, so the governor was very surprised" (Matthew 27:14). Jesus had not come to escape death. He had come to die. Pilate was surprised. He did not understand. This was not the normal response. Jesus could not be understood according to the thinking of other people. He was a special person. He had a special purpose. He was heading to the Cross. The place of His suffering was to become the place of our salvation. Thank You, Jesus.
"The release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus" (Matthew 27:20) - In this, we catch a glimpse of the meaning of Christ's death. The sinless Saviour dies for the guilty sinner. "He saved others, but he can't save himself" (Matthew 27:42. The two are  connected. He saves others by sacrificing Himself. "My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?" (Matthew 27:46). This is Jesus, taking our place, bearing our sin. "The curtain in the temple was split in two, from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51). Notice the direction. The barrier to our coming into God's presence is removed from above. It is the work of God. It is His doing. Glory to the Lord!
Securing the tomb - That's what they tried to do. Raising the dead - That's what God did. "He's not here. He has been brought back to life, as He said" (Matthew 28:6). What a tremendous turnaround! What, to man, is impossible, becomes reality through the power of God. "Don't be afraid! Go, tell My followers to go to Galilee. There, they will see Me" (Matthew 28:10). The first revelation of the risen Lord - It's for His followers, but they're not to keep the Good News to themselves. This is for us. We're to bring Jesus and His love to more and more people. We do not go to people in our name. We go with the "authority" of Jesus, our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20). He is with us "until the end of time."
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MARK
“Good News” - “the forgiveness of sins” and “baptism with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:1,4,8). This Good News is centred on Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son (Mark 1:11). Jesus was empowered by “the Spirit” (Mark 1:12). He comes to us with “the Good news of God” (Mark 1:(14). He calls for our response - “Change the way you think and act, and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15). Where does this change come from? It comes from the Good News. This is what changes us. By becoming Christ-centred (following Jesus), we become less self-centred and more other-centred. Jesus teaches us “how to catch people instead of fish” (Mark 1:17).
“He taught them with authority” (Mark 1:22). We need both - the teaching and the authority. It is the teaching that gives the authority. We are taught by the Lord. We speak with the authority that comes from this: God’s Word is truth. When we know that the revelation has come to us from the Lord, we are able to understand and communicate God’s Word of truth. This is not about our level of understanding or our ability to communicate. It’s about the Lord, making Himself known to us and enabling us to share His Word with others. What do we have to share with others? We have “Good News” (Mark 1:38-39). “People kept coming to Him from everywhere” (Mark 1:45). Lord, give us such blessing in our day.
Jesus brings us salvation - “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5) - and He calls us to discipleship - “Follow Me” (Mark 2:14). We cannot be His disciples without, first, coming to Him for salvation. We must emphasize that salvation leads to discipleship. Our discipleship demonstrates the reality of our salvation. We must hear the words, “I’ve come to call sinners” (Mark 2:17) before we can respond to the call to live as “saints” (God’s people). By nature, we are not God’s people. Through His redemption, we become His people. We are redeemed through the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). We are called to live in the strength of the Lord, walking with Him in the pathway of victory, “more than conquerors” through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
"New wine is poured into fresh skins" (Mark 2:22). New, fresh - This is the work of God. This isn't something that we can do for ourselves or give to ourselves. This must be done for us. It must be given to us. All the glory belongs to the Lord! "The Son of Man has authority over the day of worship" (Mark 2:28) - It's not so much the activity of worship that's important. It's the Saviour whom we worship - He's the One who makes worship so important. We worship Him.
"Jesus ... was deeply hurt because their minds were closed" (Mark 3:5). "Whoever curses the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He is guilty of an everlasting sin" (Mark 3:29). "Whoever does what God wants is My brother and sister and mother" (Mark 3:35). These are challenging verses, They call us to be open to the life-changing love of Christ, to draw back from the evil way of unbelief and disobedience, to allow the Lord to change us into "new creatures In Christ Jesus" and inspire us to live as "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Parables: Where does the understanding come from? It comes from the  Lord. Before there can be "harvest" (Mark 4:29), there needs to be sowing (Mark 4:26). We are not to say, "This one is good soil. Here, there is bad soil." Following some parables, we have Jesus calming the sea (Mark 4:35-41) - "Be still" (Mark 4:39): This is the Word of the Lord. Where does peace come from? It comes from the Lord. It comes to us through His Word.
In Mark 5, we learn that Jesus is for everyone - a demoniac called Legion, a synagogue leader named Jairus, a child,  a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for twelve years. The more we learn of Jesus, the more we learn that He is for everyone. Each of us needs Him. He comes to us at our point of need. He shows us how much we need Him.He reaches out to us. He draws us to Himself. He saves us. From whatever angle, we approach this chapter - Legion, Jairus, the child, the woman, the message is the same: Jesus is such a great Saviour!
"Their unbelief amazed Him" (Mark 6:6). The Lord has done so much for us. Why do we persist in unbelief? There is no real answer to this question, other than this: "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Our unbelief may be amazing. His grace is so much more amazing. it is also amazing that the Lord should choose sinners like us to carry forward His work (Mark 6:12-13).
"When Herod listened to John, he would become very disturbed, and yet he liked to listen to him" (Mark 6:20). There are people who like to listen to God's Word, but they refuse to be changed by God's Word. Listening to God's Word is of no value, if it doesn't lead to being changed by God's Word.
As we read of the feeding of the five thousand, our thoughts turn to the Lord's Supper - Jesus blessed the food, broke it and gave it to everyone. "All of them ate as much as they wanted" (Mark 6:42). In the Lord  Jesus Christ - the Bread of Life, there is more than enough for everyone.
"They were in a lot of trouble ...because they were going against the wind" (Mark 6:48).  We make a lot of trouble for ourselves when we go against the wind of the Spirit. John 3 and Acts 2 compare the Spirit to the wind. We need to go with the wind of the Spirit if we are to be blessed by the Lord."
They didn't understand ... their minds were closed" (Mark 6:52). Where does understanding come from? It comes from the Lord. How does understanding come to us? It comes to us when we open our minds - "Lord, show me what this means."
There's a huge difference between salvation through Jesus and the religion of the Pharisees. Jesus had this to say to the Pharisees: "You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions" (Mark 7:8). Jesus' words are a challenge to us - Will we stand on the Word of the Lord? or Will we let our own ideas become more important than God's Word? The woman who "happened to be Greek" (Mark 7:26) is a better example to us than the Pharisees. She's a woman of faith. Her trust is in Jesus. Faith brings blessing into our lives. Tradition sees no real need for a living faith - so long as we keep doing that have always been done. When Jesus is at work in us, He touches our ears - so that we may hear the Word of God clearly - and our tongues - so that we may not speak the Word of God faithfully and powerfully: "At once", following on from the touch of Jesus, "the man could hear and talk normally" (Mark 7:35).
What a difference there is between Jesus giving a sign and the Pharisees demanding a sign! Miracles are given when the Lord decides - not when we demand: "If these people are given a sign, it will be far different from what they want!" (Mark 8:12). A blind man came to Jesus. His sight Was restored - "He could see everything clearly, even at a distance" (Mark 8:25). The Pharisees couldn't see - "Don't you catch on yet?" (Mark 8:21). 'Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus.'
A confession of faith in Jesus (Mark 8:29) is followed by a rebuke from Jesus (Mark 8:33). How did Peter get from confession to rebuke? - Satan slipped into his heart and mind, leading him away from the Lord Jesus. Did Jesus give up on Peter? - No! Jesus was still speaking to all of His disciples. He was speaking to them about following Him (Mark 8:34-38). Jesus was still including Peter among the three whom He chose to be with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). Was this the Kingdom of God coming with power (Mark 9:1). In one sense - No! There was - and still is - more to come. In another sense - Yes! This was real. This was God among them. This was life-changing. Years later, Peter recalled that he had been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Peter 1;16-18). This was something special, something unforgettable. Was Peter made perfect on that day on the mountain? No! He failed the Lord at the time of crucifixion, but, again, Jesus didn't give up on Peter - and Peter was restored, and he became God's chosen vessel to bring salvation to 3,000 people in a single day (Acts 2).
The power of the Lord Jesus is seen in His miracles. It is the power of His love. His power is sen in His resurrection. This power is the power of life. Life triumphs over death. When we seek power for ourselves, we do not glorify the Lord. There is power in humility. We recognize that we are without power. We acknowledge that real power comes from the Lord. This power reaches out, though us, to others, when our actions show the love of Christ to them. We are to pray for the power of the Lord  to be at work in us, keeping us close to the Lord. The way in which the Lord changes us:it starts from the inside, and works its way out, to shape our way of life.
"Don't let anyone separate what God has joined together" (Mark 10:9). "Don't stop the children from coming to Me" (Mark 10:14). In today's world, people often devalue the things that were very important to Jesus. When we speak about standing up for Jesus, we must remember that this means more than speaking His Word to others. It also means living by the values that Jesus held and taught. It will standing up for the things that matter - marriage is important, children are important.
"It's impossible for people to save themselves, but it's not impossible for God to save them" (Mark 10:27). "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). Salvation doesn't begin with us. It begins with God - "God so loved the world" (John 3:16). We begin with the eternal love of God. It leads to eternal life for us.
"Jesus was going to Jerusalem"  - to be "betrayed", "condemned to death" and to "come back to life" (Mark 10:32-34). Hallelujah! What a Saviour! "Teacher, we want you to do us a favour" (Mark 10:35) - This sounds so self-centred. What does Jesus say about this? - "Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be most important among you will be a slave for everyone" (Mark 10:43-44). How do we learn to live this kind of life? We learn it from Jesus - "The Son of Man ... came to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many people" (Mark 10:45). "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Mark 10:51). Jesus asked this question in Mark 10:36. This time, the answer is for the glory of God - not the glory of man. Look at what follows this question - "Teacher, I want to see again ... Go, your faith has made you well. At once, he could see again, and he followed Jesus ... " (Mark 10:51-52). When we really begin to see things from Jesus' point of view, we will follow Him. We will look to Him in faith. He will make us well - "It is well with my soul." This will give us the strength that we need to follow Jesus.
"Hosanna!" (Mark 11:9-10) - This was a day of celebration, but the celebration didn't last long. The cursing of the fig tree (Mark 11:12-14,20-21) and the throwing out of the moneychangers (Mark 11:15-17) showed people that Jesus was different from what they wanted Him to be. We can't say, "This is what we want Jesus to be." We must let Him be who He is. "What gives you the right to do these things?" (Mark 11:26). Jesus has authority because of who He is. We recognize Him as the Son of God, and we live out this faith by submitting to Him as Lord of our lives.
In Mark 12, we see that much of Jesus' ministry must be understood within the context of conflict. The religious leaders were out to get Jesus, and Jesus didn't miss them when He spoke of their hypocritical religion. Mark 12 ends with a deeply moving picture of true devotion. It's a call to love the Lord with more than our words.
In Mark 13:1-2, Jesus speaks about the destruction of the Temple. In Mark 13:7, He speaks about "the end." There are events which point us to the end. These events make us think about the end. There's another "end" that we must think about - "the person who endures to the end will be saved" (Mark 13:13). This is our own personal end. Beyond our personal end, there is the end which comes with the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 13:26-27). When will He come? - "No one knows when that day or hour will come" (Mark 13:32). What the Lord does tell us is this: Make sure that you're ready - "I'm telling everyone what I'm telling you. Be alert!"
What a difference there is between Jesus' enemies and His friends. "The scribes" wanted "to kill" Jesus (Mark 14:1). The woman worshipped Him. There is also the sadness of Judas. He began as a friend, and, then, he became an enemy. Even in the Passover / Lord's Supper, Jesus showed love for Judas. Sadly, it was love from which Judas "turned away." Whatever our past has been, Jesus offers a way forward, into a better future, with Him.
We already know about Judas - what He was planning to do. Of the other eleven disciples, Peter wasn't the only one who failed the Lord - "All the other disciples said the same thing as Peter" (Mark 14:31), and, like peter, they let the Lord down. They kept well out of the way, making sure that they were not associated with Jesus. We see the same kind of thing in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus spoke to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? ... " (Mark 14:37-38), but it wasn't only Peter who was sleeping (Mark 13:37). Even after Jesus had said to them, "Stay awake ... ", they fell "asleep" (Mark 14:40). To each of us, Jesus says, "Stay awake, and pray that you won't be tempted" (Mark 14:38).
Jesus was betrayed by Judas. He was denied by Peter. Could Judas have been restored? From God's point of view, the answer is "Yes." The love of God was there - even for Judas. From Judas' point of view, the answer was "No." There was no turning again to the Lord in Judas' heart. In Judas' tragedy, we see (i) God is not willing that any should perish; (ii) many will perish because they refuse to return to the Saviour. Peter's story tells us of restoration. he failed the lord. He let his Lord down. His Lord lifted him up. Between the betrayal by Judas and the denial by Peter, there is Jesus' trial in front of the Jewish Council. They "condemned Him" (Mark 14:64). In doing this,  they condemned themselves. They passed judgment on Him - but, one day, He will pass judgment n them: "You will see the Son of Man in the highest position in heaven. He will be coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62).
Jesus - the Saviour - takes the place of Barabbas - the sinner. Each one of us can see ourselves in Barabbas - the sinner for whom Jesus died. "He saved others, but He cannot save Himself" (Mark 15:31) - This is missing the point of Jesus' death. It was by sacrificing Himself that He saved others. We look at Jesus Christ, crucified for us, and we say, "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!"
Before we move on to Jesus' resurrection and His return to heaven, we must turn our thoughts to His death and His burial. The world doesn't want to hear about death, but this is something about which we must speak. There is no Gospel, if we stop short of Jesus' death, if we speak only of Jesus, the teacher and example. We cannot rush on to His resurrection - a message of joy - without speaking of His death. resurrection has no meaning without death. The reality of Jesus' death is underlined in the description of His burial - "the body of Jesus ... Jesus was dead ... the corpse ... the body" (Mark 15:43-46). Jesus' experience of death was more than physical suffering. There was the suffering of the judgment of God upon our sin, as it was laid on Jesus - "My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?" (Mark 15:34). The answer to this question is "reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:21). As we read about God forsaking Jesus - because our sin was laid on Him, we must also see that the God, who forsook Him, as He hung upon the Cross, is also the God who raised Him from the dead. All praise and glory to the Lord our God, the God of our salvation!
"Who will roll away the stone ... ?" (Mark 16:3). "The stone had been rolled away" by God (Mark 16:4). What man cannot do, God has done! - Jesus "has been brought back to life" (Mark 16:6). "Shock and trembling overwhelmed them ... they were afraid" (Mark 16:8). This was the initial reaction. They came to "anoint Jesus." They didn't expect this. This was just the beginning. There were appearances of the risen Lord. "He did not look as He usually did" (Mark 16:12). There was something different about Him. He had moved beyond the life that He had known. He was on His way towards being "taken to heaven", where He would be given "the highest position" (Mark 16:19).
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LUKE
“You will know that what you have been told is true” (Luke 1:4). Historical truth underlies the spiritual truth through which the Spirit brings home to our hearts the meaning of the Gospel. Without the historical truth, there is no Gospel. The Gospel is not based on myth. It is God’s testimony to His truth: truth - unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. The historical truth of the Gospel is not something that we can set aside, as we search for some deep meaning, which is independent of historical truth.
“He will prepare the people for their Lord” (Luke 1:17). Before the people could come to Jesus, they needed to come to John. The role of the witness is to lead people to Jesus. They come to us with the question, “What do you have to say?” As they listen, they become less interested in what we have to say and more concerned with hearing the Word of the Lord. What is it that leads people beyond the words of man to the Word of God? “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:16).
We tend to think of Jesus’ birth as supernatural, and the birth of John the Baptist as natural. It should be noted that it’s in connection with John’s birth that the angel of the Lord says that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). John wasn’t born of a virgin - but his birth did have a supernatural dimension. In both births - Jesus and John, God was at work. He was carrying forward His plan of salvation.
The birth of Jesus and the birth of John are closely connected. God was sending His Son. He was also sending His prophet. The prophet should not be exalted too highly.  His purpose is to exalt the Saviour. As we read about Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, we see that each of them gave glory to the Lord. "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:41). "Mary said, My soul praises the Lord's greatness" (Luke 1:46). "Zechariah began to praise God .... Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied" (Luke 1:64-67).
"The glory of the Lord filled the area with light" (Luke 2:9). "The shepherds glorified and praised God for everything they had seen and heard" (Luke 2:20). Our worship is an entering into the glory of the Lord. He reveals His glory to us. He calls us to glorify Him.
There is the recognition that Jesus was special - "My eyes have seen Your salvation" (Luke 2:30) - and the revelation that Jesus was special - "I had to be in My Father's house" (Luke 2:49). How was Jesus special? - He is our Saviour. He is God's Son. The revelation comes to us, and it draws out, from us, the recognition that Jesus, God's Son, is our Saviour.
We move from John to Jesus - from the prophet to the Saviour: In Luke 3, more is said about  John than Jesus. It must, however, be very clear to all that the focal-point is Luke 3:22 - "You are My Son, whom I love, I am pleased with You. "Prepare the way of the Lord" - This was John's ministry. He pointed away from Himself to Jesus. He said, 'Jesus is superior to me. Look away from me. Look to Jesus.'
"Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1). No wonder Satan couldn't triumph over Him! He was also filled with the Word of God. He knew the Word of God, and He knew how to use it. Satan was left with no alternative but to leave Jesus - but he would be back (Luke 4: 13). Satan knows that he cannot prevail against Jesus - but Satan won't take "No" for an answer. He keeps on trying - protesting against the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we must never forget is this: In our battle against Satan, we stand on the victory of Christ, the victory He won for us. Satan cannot prevail against Jesus. Jesus makes us "more than conquerors" in Him (Romans 8:37). Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
"The power of the Spirit was with Him" (Luke 4:14). "He spoke with authority" (Luke 4:32). "Demons came out of many people" (Luke 4:41). Authority over evil, power to triumph over evil - As we read about Jesus, it becomes increasingly clear that He is more than a prophet. He is "the Son of God ... the Messiah."
"Take the boat into deep water, and lower your nets to catch some fish" (Luke 5:4). We need to go deeper with God, if we are to bring others to Him. We see this in the ministry of Jesus - "Large crowds gathered to hear Him and have their diseases cured. But He would go away to places where He could be alone for prayer" (Luke 5:15-16).
"Praising God, he (the healed man) went home" (Luke 5:25). "Everyone was amazed and praised God" (Luke 5:26). One man praising God, many people praising God - praise leads to more praise. Personal praise and corporate praise - we need both: praise that arises in my heart when I think of all that the Lord has done for me, praise that grows stronger when I gather together, with others, for worship.
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? " (Luke 5:30). The Lord's Supper is for sinners. When we sit with the Lord, at His Table, what we're saying is this: 'I'm a sinner. I need a Saviour.' What does Jesus say to us? He says, 'Yes. You are a sinner - and Yes. I am your Saviour.' This is Good News - the Good News of salvation. Jesus says, "I've come to call sinners to change the way they think and act" (Luke 5:32). When Jesus calls us to Himself, He doesn't leave us the way He found us. He changes us - from the inside, to the outside.
The contrast between the old and the new - What are we to take from these parables (Luke 5:33-39)? In the spiritual life, it's the new life that's better than the old life. when we have begun to live the new life in Christ, the old life loses its attraction. We're learning to see things through the eyes of Christ - to desire more of Him, and less of the world, more of the new life, and less of the old life.
"On a day of worship" (Luke 6:1); "On another day of worship" (Luke 6:6) - What is worship? Is it going to Church? Is it singing hymns? Jesus says, 'It's more than that.' Everything we do is to be done in a spirit of worship. We can be too 'holy'? Note that "the bread of the presence" was eaten by David and his men" (Luke 6:3-4). Is God's presence found only in the Temple. Wherever we are, He is there. The healing of the man with the paralyzed hand (Luke 6:8) - Jesus didn't say, 'I can't do this. I should be worshipping.' Jesus healed the man. This was part of His worship. how fitting it is that, on "the day of worship", the Lord healed this man. The point is: We define worship too tightly if we think that we can't offer kindness to our fellow human beings because we're preoccupied with singing praise to God. Let praise be seen in the full range of our life.
"Power was coming from Him and curing all of them" (Luke 6:19). This is the power of God that changes people. What we cannot do for ourselves, He does for us. The Lord Jesus calls us to be "committed" to Him (Luke 6:22). Those who are committed to Him will enjoy His blessing - even when we face much strong opposition.
"I tell everyone who is listening" (Luke 6:27). The Lord speaks to us. We are to listen to Him. Without our listening to what He's saying to us, His Word will never really get through to us. We need both - His speaking and our listening.
"Everyone who is well-trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). This is not just about the education of the mind. It's about training for living.
"Good people do the good that is in them" (Luke 6:45). We need to be changed from the inside. We need to be changed by the Lord. "Change my heart, O God ... " How is our heart to be changed? We must build on the "good foundation" - hearing what Jesus says to us and obeying what He says to us (Luke 6:48-49).
There's a difference between the way other people see us - "He deserves our help ... " (Luke 7:4-5) - and the way we see ourselves - "I don't deserve you to come into my house" (Luke 7:6). In the searchlight of God's  holy Word, we are taken more deeply into ourselves - seeing our sin as it really is. Jesus doesn't save us because we deserve to be saved. He saves us by His grace. He looks at us, sees what we're really like, and keeps on loving us. This is love, real love, the greatest love of all.
"Everyone was struck with fear and praised God" (Luke 7:16). Here, we see a holy combination of the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, and the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. Fear of the Lord is not an end in itself. Through the fear of the Lord, we are to confess our sins and receive the joy of the Lord. This doesn't mean that the fear of the Lord is left behind. We carry the fear of the Lord with us - even when we are rejoicing in the Lord. It's the fear of the Lord which gives depth to our experience of the joy of the Lord. Without the fear of the Lord, our joy becomes superficial. When we are  growing in the fear of the Lord, we become more aware of our sin and more deeply appreciative of His saving grace. Throughout our life of faith, the fear of the Lord calls us back when we are being pulled away from the Lord. Our  obedience to the Lord grows as, with joy in the Lord and the fear of the Lord, we grow in our appreciation of His love for us and we are kept by His power, walking on the pathway of holiness.
"Whoever doesn't lose his faith in Me is indeed blessed" (Luke 7:23). Throughout life, there is a battle for faith. Who is it that keeps us in the faith? Is it ourselves? or Is it the Lord? In one sense, we are called to hold on to our faith. In a deeper sense, it is the Lord who holds on to us.
"He is far more than a prophet" (Luke 7:26). This is what Jesus said about John. How much more can we say this about Jesus - "He is more than a prophet." "Of all the people ever born, no one is greater than John" (Luke 7:28). If this can be said of John, how much more can it be said of Jesus.
"Your sins have been forgiven" (Luke 7:48). "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace" (Luke 7:50). At the heart of God's salvation, there is the forgiveness of sins and the peace of God. These blessings are received by faith. This is "the Good News about God's Kingdom" (Luke 8:1). When the Lord  is crowned in our hearts as King, this is Good News for us because it means that the Lord's blessing is upon us. To God be the glory!
"So pay attention to how you listen!" (Luke 8:18). Listening is more than hearing. Spiritual listening is more than just listening, and then saying, 'That was interesting.' When we listen to the voice of the Lord, we are changed by what we hear.
"My mother and My brothers are those who hear and do what God's Word says" (Luke 8:21). There's a spiritual bond that binds together God's people. This bond is stronger than family ties. That's not to say that family ties aren't strong. It's to say that, in the fellowship of Christians, we are bound together at a deeper level than the biological connection.
"Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25). This is a question that Jesus still puts to us. Do we still believe that He is in control, even when it seems like He has fallen asleep (Luke 8:23)?"
"Why are You bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You not to torture me!" (Luke 8:28). Is this what we think of Jesus? - He's bothering us. This is what many people think of Jesus. Can they be changed? Can we be changed? - "Dressed and in his right mind, he was sitting at Jesus' feet" (Luke 8:35). What about the other people? - "The people were frightened ... they were terrified" (Luke 8:35,37). It's only by God's grace that we are taken beyond this initial reaction into a real trust in Jesus.
"Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace" (Luke 8:48); "Child, get up! She came back to life, and got up at once" (Luke 8:54-55). When Jesus comes to us everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Life is new. The past is behind us. The future has begun. What is it that brings us out of our past and into the Lord's future? Jesus speaks about faith - "Your faith has made you well" (Luke 8:48); "Just believe, and she will get well" (Luke 8:50). This faith is not faith in ourselves. It's faith in Jesus. What we cannot do for ourselves, He does for us. This is the Gospel. It's not the Gospel of our faith - This is what I can do for myself. It's the Gospel of God's grace - This is what Jesus does for me. Faith looks away from ourselves. Faith looks to Jesus, and says, 'What a great Saviour He is!'
"Power and authority" (Luke 9:1) - "No weapon that has been made to be used against you will succeed ... victory comes from Me" (Isaiah 54:17). "Who is this person I'm hearing so much about? so Herod wanted to see Jesus" (Luke 9:9). There is no suggestion that Herod was about to become a believer. Nevertheless, we can read these words in terms of the way in which God creates a hunger to know more of  Jesus, a hunger that can only be satisfied by our Saviour. We find Him, and we say, "He found me." He created the hunger, and He satisfies it. Praise be to His Name!
Ministry to the large crowds - "five thousand" (Luke 9:13), ministry to the small group - "His disciples" (Luke 9:18). As Jesus was exercising His ministry, He was looking beyond it to His death and resurrection (Luke 9:22), and He was looking further on to His return - His coming in glory (Luke 9:26).
"While Jesus was praying, the appearance of His face changed" (Luke 9:29). Prayer changes things. Prayer changes people. "Moses and Elijah ... appeared in heavenly glory" (Luke 9:29-30). "They saw Jesus' glory" (Luke 9:32). How can we remain the same when we catch a glimpse of God's glory? "This is My Son, whom I have chosen" (Luke 9:35). We are changed when we listen to Jesus. "They saw that Jesus was alone" (Luke 9:36). We are changed when we look to Jesus. Looking to Him and listening to him, we learn from Him. We learn  to be changed by His glory.
"Everyone was amazed" (Luke 9:43). When we think of the Lord and all that He has done for us, we should be amazed at the wonder of His love for us. "Whoever starts to plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Being amazed at the love of God is not just a passing phase. It is to be something which grows as we continue our journey through life.
"Many prophets and kings wanted to see and hear what you've seen and heard, but they didn't" (Luke 10:24). We read about the prophet. We read about the kings. Sometimes, there were good times. Sometimes, there were bad times. Beyond all that we read about in the Old Testament, there is Jesus. He says to us,"He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He's greater than all the prophets and all the kings.
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). This question is asked to Jesus, the "teacher" (Luke 10:25). We must remember that He is more than our teacher. He is our Saviour. While the parable of the good Samaritan focuses on love for our neighbour, we must note that Jesus speaks, first, about  love for God (Luke 10:27). The way in which Jesus speaks about love for God makes us feel hopeless. How can we possibly love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind? This leaves us deeply aware of our failure and our need of the Saviour. This brings us to hear another answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" The answer is "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31). When we come out of the parable of the good Samaritan, we meet Mary and Martha. We are warned that we must not concern ourselves with attempting to earn our own salvation. "Martha was upset about all the work she had to do." She complained that she had to "do all the work by herself" (Luke 10:42). With Mary, things were very different. "Mary sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His Word" (Luke 10:39). This, said Jesus, is "the only thing we need."Listen to Jesus. Hear His Word of salvation. Trust in Him. Be saved by Him.
"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). We cannot teach ourselves to pray. We can only be taught by the Lord.The spirit of prayer does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
"Because He is your friend and because you were so bold" (Luke 11:8) - not just "because you were so bold": first, it's "because he is your friend" - "What a Friend we have in Jesus ... What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer."
"A stronger man than he may attack him and defeat him" (Luke 11:22) - the victory of Christ over Satan.
"Someone greater than Solomon is here! ... Someone greater than Jonah is here! ... " (Luke 11:31-32). Jesus is such a great Saviour. He is a "bright ... lamp shining on us" (Luke 11:36).
Jesus told the truth, and"the scribes and the Pharisees" didn't like it. They "held  a terrible grudge against Him" (Luke 11:53). The truth of God will either make us or break us. Some people hear the truth, and they're set free to know, love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. Others are like "the scribes and the Pharisees" - "they watched Him closely to trap him in something He might say" (Luke 11:54). Lord, help us to receive Your Word - not to resent it; to heed Your Word - not to hate it; to love your Word - not to loathe it.
"At that time, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say" (Luke 12;12). We are not alone. Our words are not our own. The Holy Spirit is with us. He gives us His words.
"Be concerned about His Kingdom" (Luke 12:31). God is calling us beyond the concerns of this world. He's calling us to have a higher purpose and higher priorities.
God's Kingdom and God's Spirit - it's the Spirit who inspires us to live as the people of God, who are living for the Kingdom of God and waiting for the Kingdom of God.
"Lord, did You use this illustration just for us or for everyone?" (Luke 12:41). The Lord's Word was not just for His disciples. It's also for us.
"Do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? No! I can guarantee you that I came to bring nothing but division" (Luke 12:51). There are no shortcuts to peace. We must come by the way of repentance. Before we can enter into the life that is blessed by the Lord, we must hear His Word of warning that calls us back from the pathway that will lead us away from Him, the pathway which will bring no blessing to us. As we see the emptiness of life without Christ, we learn to look to Him for the life that is full of His blessing.
"So why don't you just for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:57). Authentic morality and spirituality - these are not just second-hand. The real thing must come from within. It's from the Lord - but it has to be real in us.
Jesus looked for a response from His hearers - Turn to God, and be changed in your way of thinking and your way of living (Luke 13:3,5); Bear fruit (Luke 13:6-7). The change, the new life, comes from the Lord. It's His power that changes us. What we can't do for ourselves, He does for us (Luke 13:10-17). His work in us has small beginnings, but it grows (Luke 13:19).
As Jesus comes near to entering Jerusalem, He speaks about entering the new Jerusalem. The people of the old Jerusalem are called to open their hearts to Him (Luke 13:24,340. This is not just about Jesus entering Jerusalem. It's about Jerusalem entering into Jesus. It's not just about things that happened a long time ago. It's about faith. It's about us. It's about Jesus, welcoming us when we come to Him. It's about Jesus, calling us to follow Him.
Reading about Jesus at a banquet, we think of the words of Song of Solomon 2:4 - "He sat me at his banqueting table, and his banner over me is love." These are words that make us think of Jesus, the Host at the Lord's Table. Jesus is not an invited guest. We are the invited guests. In love, He invites us to come. In love, He welcomes us. What great love! What a great invitation! What a great welcome! What a great Saviour! As we think of Jesus, inviting us to His Table, we rejoice in His love and we give thanks. Thank You, Lord, for Your love. It's the greatest love of all.
Jesus speaks about the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35). As we read on to the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (Luke 15:1-32), we learn of grace. We must never forget grace. Our discipleship is grounded in God's grace.We are not saved because we are great disciples. We are saved because we have a great Saviour. When we sing, "How great Thou art", let us not think only of God's great power. Let us think also of His great love. This is what inspires us to follow Jesus.
What is most important to us - the things that will pass away or the things that will last forever?  In Luke 16, Jesus challenges us to think about what really matters to us. Jesus gives us something to think about: Are we living for eternity? This is not a question that we can push away from ourselves. It keeps coming back to us. We must answer this question with our lives - not just our words.
"Give us more faith" (Luke 17:5). What does it mean to have more faith? It means more looking away from ourselves to Jesus. Our faith is not in ourselves. Our faith is in Jesus. "Your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:19) - It is faith in Jesus that makes the difference, not faith in ourselves.
"The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21); "When the Son of Man comes again ... " (Luke 17:26) - We are to live for the Lord here-and-now, and we are to look to Him to fulfil His promises. When Jesus speaks about His Second Coming, He asks a challenging question: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8). Looking to the Lord - this is faith. Living for Him - this is the life of faith. Faith is not only about what we believe. It's about how we live. The link between what we believe and how we live is who we trust - our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are to come to God with the humility that comes from knowing that we are sinners: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). We are to come to Him with the humility that comes from knowing that we are nothing and know nothing that really matters: "Whoever doesn't receive the Kingdom of God, as a child receives it, will never enter it" (Luke 18:17). We are to come to Him with the humility that knows that we need to learn, from Him, how we are to live our lives. This is part of what Jesus is saying to the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22). It may also be said that Jesus is showing us that we cannot save ourselves. We can only be saved by the Lord (Luke 18:26-27). This is salvation by grace. In emphasizing salvation by grace, we should make sure that we also emphasize that grace changes us.
"But they didn't understand any of this. What He said was a mystery to them, and they didn't know what He meant" (Luke 18:34). As well as physical blindness, there is also spiritual blindness. "Receive your sight! Your faith has made you well" (Luke  18:42). Jesus gave sight to the blind man. He opens our eyes. He reveals Himself to us. He is the risen Lord. When He comes to us in the power of His resurrection, we see what He means - He is our Saviour, and we follow Him and praise God (Luke 18:43).
In Luke 19, we read about the day a wee man met the Big Man - and the wee man was never the same again. What a difference Jesus makes. Jesus gave Zacchaeus a new stature - the stature of being a man in Christ, a man who was no longer lost, a man who had been saved by the Lord.
How do we serve the Lord? Do we bear fruit for Him? God is calling us to be fruitful in His service. We must remember that He is the King. We must remember what kind of king He is. He's the King of love. Fear will keep us from being fruitful (Luke 19:21). Love changes everything. When we appreciate the Lord's love for us, we will respond with love for Him. His love for us creates and inspires our love for Him.
"The Lord needs it" (Luke 19:31,34). The Lord doesn't need us - yet He chooses to "need" us. The young "donkey" (Luke 19:30,33) was chosen by the Lord. We have been chosen by the Lord. Before we ever thought of Him, He was thinking of us, loving us and calling us into His service.
"They shouted joyfully" (Luke 19:38). Where does our joy come from? - It comes from this: The Lord has come to us. He gives us His "peace." He leads us on to His "glory" (Luke 19:38). The Lord has called us to be a people of "praise" and "prayer" (Luke 19:37,46).   
Jesus had enemies. They were God's enemies. They're our enemies. What does the Word of God say about them? They will be crushed. Why? - Because they refused to come to Jesus and receive His salvation, What does the Word of God say about Jesus? He's the "cornerstone of our faith" (Luke 20:17-18).
Jesus spoke with true wisdom, the wisdom of God. He was so different from the religious leaders of His day. They thought they were smart, but they weren't. "His answer surprised them, so they said no more" (Luke 20:26); "From that time on, no one dared ask Him another question" (Luke 20:40). Where did Jesus' wisdom come from? It came from this - He was more than "David's son" (Luke 20:41). He was "David's Lord" (Luke 20:44) - and He is our Lord. This is why He had the right to say, "Beware of the scribes!" (Luke 20:46). They were men-pleasers. Jesus lived for one thing only - pleasing His heavenly Father.
Jesus' words concerning His Return come to us from such a long time ago, yet they are still words that prepare us for His future. "The earth and the heavens will disappear, but My words will never disappear" (Luke 21:33). We must take time to read His Word. We must also "pray so that you have the power to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand in front of the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). Along with reading God's Word and praying, there is also to be giving (Luke 21:1-4).
Satan was working (Luke 22:3) - and so was Jesus (Luke 22:7-30). What does Jesus say about this spiritual warfare? He says this:"The hand of the one who will betray Me is with Me on the table. The Son of Man is going to die, the way it has been planned for Him" (Luke 22:21-22). Satan's schemes will come to nothing. God's plan of salvation will triumph over the schemes of Satan.
"Who is the greatest?" (Luke 22:24). This is a meaningless question. There is only one who can be called "great" - Jesus. In ourselves, there is weakness (Luke 22:34). Satan is stronger than we are. Jesus gives us His strength (Luke 22:32). He is stronger than Satan.
God's "will must be done" (Luke 22:42). Even when God's will is being done, there is the activity of Satan - "This your time, when darkness rules" (Luke 22:53). The honest verdict on Jesus is, "I can't find this man guilty of any crime" (Luke 23:4). "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (Luke 23:21) - Awful words! Beyond the words of hostility, shouted by the crowd, there is the will of God and the love of God. Jesus is crucified, Barabbas is set free. This is grace. How wonderful this is! Jesus took the place of Barabbas. he has taken our  place so that we might go to be with Him in his place.
"Father, forgive them ... " (Luke 23:34). The love of Christ is shining out to us from the Cross. "Jesus, remember me when You enter Your Kingdom" (Luke 23:42). By giving Himself, in death, for us, Jesus opened the door to God's Kingdom. What wonderful words of life - eternal life, He speaks to those who trust in Him - "I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Why are you looking among the dead for the Living One? He's not here. He has been brought back to life!" (Luke 24:5-6). The wonderful message of His resurrection is this - For Jesus, death was not the end. for us, death will not be the end. How re we to understand the Gospel story of Jesus, our Saviour? - We turn to "the Scriptures." We learn from "the Scriptures" (Luke 24:27,32). Our listening to the Scriptures and our learning from the Scriptures is set within the context of "praise and worship" (Luke 24:52-53).   
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JOHN
"The Light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it" (John 1:5).
Jesus is the Light of the world. We are to be like John, who said, "Make the way for the Lord straight" (John 1:23). Like John, we are to say, "Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When we are faithful, we will see others being brought to the Saviour. At the beginning of their faith, they will be filled with the joy of the Lord. Like Jesus, we must teach them that there is greater joy, still to come: "You will see the sky open and God's angels going up and coming down to the Son of Man" (John 1:51).
There's a contrast between the two parts of John 2 - the joy of water being turned into wine (John 2:1-12), The seriousness of the money changers being thrown out of the temple courtyard (John 2:13-17). We need both - joy and seriousness; the joy that comes from knowing Jesus, the seriousness of commitment to following Jesus. The rebuilding of our lives comes from the resurrection of Jesus (John 2:18-22). This rebuilding comes to us when we seek to know the reality of the Lord in our lives. This reality comes to us when we seek to be real with God (John 2:23-25).
God's love sent God's Son (John 3:16). God's power brings the new birth (John 3:6-8). God's love and power flow through those who, like John the Baptist, give first place to Jesus - "He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance" (John 3:30).
"We have heard Him ourselves" (John 4:42). Conversion comes when we hear more than the voice of the messenger. We hear the voice of the Lord. This is real conversion. This is the new birth that comes from above.
"It was the same time... " (John 4:53) - 'That moment, from Jesus, a pardon receives": God doesn't wait for us to prove ourselves before He rewards us with His salvation. He gives His salvation to us when we put our trust in His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is salvation by grace through faith.
"Jesus was the man who made him well" (John 5:15). What a great Saviour Jesus is! What the Lord does for us - it's for eternity. Jesus is more than a servant of God. He's the Son of God (John 5:19). "The Son gives life to anyone he chooses" (John 5:21). what a joy it is to know that we are not disqualified because of our sin. Our Saviour is greater than our sin. "The wages of sin are death. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Our sin closes the door of heaven. The Saviour opens the door of heaven for us.
Following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus speaks of Himself as the Bread of Life. This is not only about what happened a long time ago. It's about  us. It's about here-and-now. Between the miracle and the Bread of Life, there is Jesus walking on the sea. Again, this is more than an ancient story. This is for us. Jesus is with us in the storms of life. At the end of John 6, there are the wonderful words, "Your words give eternal life" (John 6:68). Jesus can never be left in the past. He's for today. He's for us.
Jesus was so different from the religious leaders of His day. "Streams of living water" (John 7:38): This is what made the difference - the power of the Holy Spirit. They judged "by outward appearance." Jesus "judged correctly" (John 7:24). This was the work of the Spirit in Jesus. God is calling us to follow Jesus - living in the Spirit.
"Jesus said, I don't condemn you either. Go! From now on, don't sin" (John 8:11). We need to hear and say the things that Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery. If we are to have hope for the future, we need more than forgiveness for the past. We need a sense of direction for our way of living, as we move  forward with the Lord into His future. Forgiveness of sin does not lead to continuing in sin. It leads to departing from sin.
Jesus is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). Without Him, we walk in darkness. He brings us out of His darkness and into His light. He comes to our world. He comes from His world (John 8:23). He brings us into this world. we are still in this world, but we have been given a glimpse, a foretaste, of His world.
"The Truth will set you free ... The Son will set you free" (John 8:32,36). The Son is the truth. The Son speaks the truth. The Son lives the truth. He saves us. He shows us that we need Him, to set us free. We come to Him, our perfect Saviour, and we are set free from our guilty past - forgiveness - and His glorious future - eternal life.
In John 8:37-59, we see authenticity (Jesus) and hypocrisy (the religious leaders). Authenticity - This comes from God, our loving, heavenly Father. Hypocrisy - This comes from the father of lies, the devil. More authenticity, less hypocrisy - This is the way of Jesus, the way into which He calls us, the way we are to travel with Him.
"I do know one thing. I used to be blind, but now I see" (John 9:25). This is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a great Saviour He is! With Him as our Saviour, our eyes are opened to see - and live in a new and wonderful way.
Jesus is "the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11). He gave His life for us. We see this in His crucifixion (John 10:11).   He took His life back again. We see this in His resurrection (John 10:17-18). Through Jesus, crucified for us and risen for us, we have "eternal life" (John 10:28). Jesus is God's Son - and He is our Saviour (John 10:36). May God help us to proclaim Jesus through our whole life - not only our words. May we see a positive response to our witness: "Many people believed in Jesus" (John 10:42).
"Lazarus has died, but I'm glad that I wasn't there so that you can grow in faith" (John 11:15). "I am the One who brings people back to life, and I am life itself" (John 11:25). The Lord is working in us to strengthen our faith in Him. He is our living Saviour. "See how much Jesus loved him" (John 11:30). In the raising of Lazarus, we see more than the power of Jesus. We see the love of Jesus.
"It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed. Caiaphas didn't say this on his own ... he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. He prophesied that Jesus wouldn't die merely for this nation, but that Jesus would die to bring God's scattered children together and make them one" (John 11:50-52). A purely human analysis will never be enough. We need more than that. We need to see the spiritual dimension.
"The fragrance of the perfume filled the house" (John 12:3). Personal holiness is not something we can keep to ourselves. Its influence spreads. It affects other people - challenging them and inspiring to seek God and pursue holiness.
"At first Jesus' disciples didn't understand what these prophecies meant. However, when Jesus was glorified, the disciples remembered that these prophecies had been written about Him. The disciples remembered that they had taken part in fulfilling these prophecies" (John 12:16). Sometimes, we don't realize what God is doing with us, until later on. Then, we look back, and we say, "Praise the Lord."
"Sir, we would like to meet Jesus" (John 12:21). Where do we meet Jesus? - "When I have been lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people toward Me" (John 12:32). When Jesus was crucified for us, He was showing us how much God loves us. At the Cross, we see the great love of our Saviour - and we see the great love of our heavenly Father. we get to know God through Jesus, His Son - and we know, in our hearts, that we are loved with the best love of all - the love of God.
"Believe in the light so that you will become people whose lives show the light" (John 12:35). What we believe and how we live - both are important. Where believing doesn't lead to living - this is being a secret disciple: "Many rulers believed in Jesus. However, they wouldn't admit it publicly because the Pharisees would have thrown them out of the synagogue. They were more concerned about what people thought of them than about what God thought of them" (John 12:42-43).
"I didn't come to condemn the world but to save the world" (John 12:47). Jesus came to be our Saviour. When, however, we reject His words, we place ourselves under judgment: "Those who reject Me by not accepting what I say have a judge appointed for them. The words that I have spoken will judge them on the last day" (John 12:48). Jesus opens for us the door to "eternal life" - but He will not force us to walk through the door to "eternal life" (John 12:50). He calls us to come. We must choose to come. Grace allows us the freedom to come to the Lord or to turn from Him. Grace gives us the strength that we need to step out of  "the dark" and into "the light" (John 12:46). Jesus is the Light. He calls us on to better things than "the dark" can ever give to us - but we must say, "Yes" to Him, if "the light" is to shine in our hearts.
"Jesus loved them to the end" (John 13:1). Jesus' love is endless love. It's everlasting love. It's love without limit. He never stops loving us. He keeps on loving us - to the end. "You don't know what I am doing. You will understand later" (John 13:7). We don't understand everything, all at once. The Lord is leading us step-by-step, into a deeper and richer experience of His love. We don't understand why the Lord loves us. We are sinful. He is holy. We don't need to understand His love. We rejoice in His love. "I'm telling you now before it happens. Then when it happens, you will believe that I am the One" (John 13:19). Jesus is not taken aback bu the turn of events. He knew why He had come to earth. He knew what lay ahead of Him. He looked beyond His crucifixion to His resurrection. Beyond the suffering, there was the glory.  So it was with our Saviour, so it will be with us.
"Hurry! Do what you have to do ... Judas had the moneybag.  So some thought that Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the festival or to give something to the poor" (John 13:29). Often, people don't see the full picture. They don't see behind the scenes. Jesus does. He understands. He knows that there is a spiritual battle going on, and He is with us. He gives us His strength.
"You can't follow Me now to the place where I'm going. However, you will follow Me later" (John 13:36). When we will be called home by the Lord is not in our hands. It's in the Lord's hands. We must entrust our eternal salvation into the Lord's hands. Jesus is "the sure and steadfast anchor of our soul" (Hebrews 6:19). The timing of our going to be with the Lord is not known to us. We don't need to know. All we need to know is this - When God decides to call us home, that is enough. 
Jesus is the Way to the Father's House. Without Him, there  is no going. He is also the Truth and the  Life. Without Him, there is no knowing and no living (John 14:6). Everything is centred on Jesus. Once, we have taken our focus of attention off Him, we have lost our way. We are moving out of the light and into the darkness, and we have no hope for the future. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus.
"The person who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). We look at Jesus, and we learn what God is like. Jesus is the perfect revelation of God's character. In Jesus, we see God's love, holiness and power. Jesus was no ordinary man. He was more than the greatest man who ever lived. From the beginning of his Gospel, John stated the deepest truth concerning Jesus: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).    
"They will do even greater things" (John 14:12). Jesus' ministry was limited to the land of Israel. Now, the Gospel has been taken to the nations of the world. what was started by Jesus has been continued by His people. Jesus was not part of the advance of the Gospel beyond Israel. The reaching out to the nations came after Jesus  had returned to the Father. In His death and resurrection, Jesus, , laid the foundation for the Gospel going out to the whole world, but He did not remain on earth for a long time - to take part in bringing the Gospel to the nations. He left that to others. What a great privilege and a great responsibility! This great privilege was not given to Jesus. He never left Israel. Making disciples of all nations - This was the great responsibility entrusted by Jesus to His first disciples. This great responsibility has been entrusted by Jesus to every generation on believers, since His time on earth.
Jesus speaks of "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17), "the Holy Spirit" (John 14:26), "the Helper" (John 14:17,26). We need the truth of God. It's the foundation upon which we must build a life of holiness. We build a life of holiness on the foundation of truth, when we receive help from God, through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. Without Him, we cannot build on truth, and we cannot live a holy life.
"I have loved you the same way the Father has loved Me. Live in My love" (John 15:9). Love reaches us. Love changes us. Love does not from us to God. It comes from God to us. Once His love has come to us, there is love in our hearts for Him. This love - His love, reaching us and changing us, makes us new: "a new creation in Christ Jesus" (2 Corinthians 5:17). His love, for us, leads us, in love, to serve others for the sake of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:5).
"In the world you'll have trouble - But cheer up! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Jesus speaks with realism. This realism is never pessimism. However dark our situation may be, the light of Christ shines more brightly. This is the basis of our joy. Our Saviour is greater and stronger than our enemy.
"Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth" (John 17:17). Jesus has already spoken about "the Spirit of truth, "the Holy Spirit." In our life of faith and obedience, we need both truth and holiness. God has given us His Word. Jesus is His Word. Scripture contains the words that make up the written Word of God. Through God's written Word, Jesus, God's living Word, guides us in the way of truth and holiness.
"Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to Him" (John 18:4). "Shouldn't I drink the cup of suffering that My Father has given Me?" (John 18:11). "It was better to have one man die for the people" (John 18:14). God had a plan. For Jesus, it meant suffering. For us, it means salvation.
What a contrast there is between Peter and Jesus! Peter denies Jesus. Jesus is a faithful witness: "My Kingdom doesn't belong to this world ... My Kingdom doesn't have its origin on earth ... I have been born and have come into this world for this reason: to testify to the truth. everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Me" (John 18:36-37).
"Long live the king of the Jews" (John 19:3). He did live long. He rose from the dead. He is alive forevermore. This is more than "He said that He is the king of the Jews" (John 19:21). The resurrection was God's way of saying, "This is My Son." "He was declared the Son of God, This was shown in a powerful way when He came back to life" (Romans 1:4).
In John 19:28-20:10, we read about Jesus' death burial and resurrection. Without death, there can be no resurrection. Without resurrection, death is the end. Thank God for both the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus.
"Mary!" (John 20:16). Each of us is called by name. "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you" (John 20:21). Peace is not to be kept ourselves. It's to be shared. "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). These words were spoke by the man who has come to be known as 'doubting Thomas." The Lord brings us out of doubt and into faith.
In John 21, we see Jesus, caring for the gathered fellowship of God's people, and we see him caring for the individual, Peter, who was being called to be the leader of God's people. He teaches us to be fishers of men (John 21:6). He teaches us that serving Him arises out of loving Him (John 21:15-17). In John 21:24-25, we learn that this Gospel is based on "eyewitness" accounts. John tells us that what has been included in this Gospel is what God wanted us to know about Jesus. What we don't need to know has not been included in the Gospel.     

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ACTS
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:2,5,8,16) - This was the time for the fulfilment of promises made by Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 14:16,25; John 16:12).
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4,17-18,33,38) - God is doing a new thing. This far surpasses all that happened in the Old Testament. What had been promised is now reality. From prophecy to power - This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost.
Peter points away from  himself to Jesus (Acts 3:12-16). What he's emphasizing is this - This is more than what I say about Jesus. It's what the prophets said about Him. This was God speaking through the prophets (Acts 3:18).
"The power of Jesus Christ" (Acts 4:10) - This is more than the healing of one man. This is salvation for all who come to Jesus, the Saviour (Acts 4:12).
"All the people were praising God for what had happened" (Acts 4:21). This wasn't  praise for Peter and John. It was praise to God. We must learn to look beyond the servants of God to the God whom they serve.
The apostles pray for God's help (Acts 4:23-31). The believers share their property (Acts 4:32-37). The Lord is doing a mighty work among His people. At the heart of this work of God, there is "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:31).
God was doing a mighty work - and He was protecting it. Satan was trying to destroy the work of God - but God was one step ahead of him. This work must go on. It must not be spoiled. Following on from the act of divine judgment (Acts 5:1-11), there was great blessing (Acts 5:12-16). The judgment came so that Satan may be prevented from having a mighty triumph over God's people. This judgment paved the way for the blessing. First, there was God's purifying judgment. Then, there was His abundant blessing.
"The Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). "The men you put in prison are standing in the temple courtyard. They're teaching the people" (Acts 5:25). "Every day in the temple courtyard and from house to house, they refused to stop teaching and telling the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah" (Acts 5:42). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Lord moved forward. There was great boldness in preaching the Gospel. People were brought to the Saviour.
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5) - This is in relation to social concern. "Prayer and the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4) - This is not the whole service of the Lord. It lies at the heart of God's work, but there must also be ways of showing people that we care.
"Stephen spoke with the wisdom that the Spirit had given him" (Acts 6:7). This wisdom was grounded in the Scriptures (Acts 7), and it led to boldness (Acts 7:51).  "His face looked like an angel's face" (Acts 6:15). "Look I see heaven opened and the same Man in the position of authority God has given Him ...Lord Jesus, welcome my spirit ...  Lord, don't hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:56,59-60). "Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:55). What grace was given to Stephen! What glory is given to God!
In Acts 8:1,3, we read about Saul. This is the man who became Paul. When we read about Saul becoming Paul, we can only bow before God, and praise Him for His amazing grace - "To God be the glory! Great things He has done." In Acts 8:14,17, we read about Samaritans "accepting the Word of God" and "receiving the Holy Spirit." Our thoughts may turn to Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. Again, we praise God for His wonderful grace. May God help us to learn from the Samaritans - accepting the Word of God and receiving the Holy Spirit.
"The Good News about Jesus" (Acts 8:35), "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter ... His life on earth being short" (Acts 8:32-33) - Why is this Good News? How is this Good News? It's the meaning of His death that makes the story of His death Good News. "He was like a sheep that is silent ... He didn't open His mouth" (Acts 8:32). In these words, we catch a glimpse of the meaning of His death. He took the place of sinners. Why did He do this? - so that sinners might be forgiven. How does His death bring life to us? He bore our sins so that we might be set free from sin and its power over us. This salvation begins on earth. For the final fulfilment of God's purpose, we must look beyond this earthly life. We thank God that Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God ... takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
The conversion of Saul: What a turning-point this was - for the whole Church, and for the many people who would become believers through the ministry of this man, who was to become known as the Apostle Paul. From the very beginning of his new life, it was clear that the hand of the Lord was on Saul: "Saul spoke boldly with the power and authority of the Lord" (Acts 9:28). What blessing there was - "The number of people increased as people lived in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31).
What a transformation there was in Peter (Acts 9:32-43)! This is the same man who denied the Lord three times at the time of His crucifixion. Why is He so different now? - "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23).
Cornelius has a vision (Acts 10:1-8). Peter has a vision (Acts 10:9-23). God was preparing Cornelius for Peter. He was preparing Peter for Cornelius. This was a real turning-point in the history of the early Church. The Gospel was received, for the first time, by Gentiles. This was a major step forward in the fulfilment of God's purpose that Christ be made known to all nations. Peter was playing a major role in carrying out God's plan - "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20).
"When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came to these people" (Acts 11:15). Human words, divine power: That's the way it was then. It is still that way today.
It seemed like Herod had the upper hand (Acts 12:1). Peter was in prison (Acts 12:5). By the end of Acts 12, Herod was dead, and Peter was preaching the Gospel and winning people for Christ (Acts 12:23-24). What a turnaround! What a God!
"Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13L9). Here, we have the explanation for the great change that took place in Saul's life. He didn't change himself. The Holy Spirit changed him.
"Brothers, if you have any words of encouragement for the people, feel free to speak" (Acts 13:25), "a man after My own heart will do everything I want him to do" (Acts 13:22), "the person you're looking for ... will come later" (Acts 13:25). Words of encouragement focus on Jesus, our Saviour. there is no-one like Him. He is more than " a man after God's own heart." He is our Saviour. None can compare with Him. The resurrection of Jesus - This was the heart of the apostles' preaching (Acts 13:30,34). Jesus has risen from the dead. Hallelujah! This is Good News. Believing the Good News, we are filled with "joy and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52). The joy comes from the fact that the Lord has risen. The Holy Spirit's power is seen in the resurrection of Jesus.   
The ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Iconium, Lystra and Antioch - "They reported everything God had done through them, especially that He has given people who were not Jewish the opportunity to believe" (Acts 14:27).
In Acts 15:1-21, we learn that free grace is also costly grace. God's salvation is His gift to us. Having received God's salvation, we are to walk in His way - the way of holiness. Teaching the Lord's Word and spreading the Good News (Acts 15:35) - Through this ministry, believers are encouraged and strengthened (Acts 15:32).
One door closes, and another door opens (Acts 16:9-10). Lydia - the Lord opened her heart, and she opened her home (Acts 16:14-15). The "evil spirit" recognized Paul - "These men are servants of the Most High God. They're telling you how to be saved" (Acts 16:16-17): this was Paul's great mission. When the question was asked, "What do I have to do to be saved?", he gave God's answer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-31). "They met with the believers" and "encouraged them" (Acts 16:40). "He had discussions about the Scriptures with the synagogue members" (Acts 17:12). Here, we see twos sides of Paul's work - evangelism and encouragement.
These are still the heart of the work of God.
"There is another king, whose name is Jesus" (Acts 17:7). Jesus is more than just another king. He's the King of kings" (Revelation 19:16). When He returns, every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:11).
In Berea, God was working mightily, drawing men and women to Himself (Acts 1710-12). There was opposition from "the Jews in Thessalonica", who went to Berea "to upset and confuse the people" (Acts 17:13). When God is at work, Satan will try to spoil God's work. Let us take our stand for God and against Satan. Let us be assured that, in Christ, we are on the victory side.
We hear the words of the song, "From a distance, God is watching us." Here, Paul tells us something else about God - "He is never far away from any of us" (Acts 17:27). Whatever else we may say about the greatness of God, we must also say this: How great is this: God is near to us.
"Paul devoted all his time to teaching the Word of God" (Acts 18:5). "Paul strengthened the faith of all the disciples" (Acts 18:32). The strength didn't come from Paul. It came from the Word of the Lord.
The ministry of Apollos paved the way for the ministry of Paul (Acts 18:24; Acts 19:1).
In Ephesus, God was doing great things through Paul, and Satan was doing all that he could to hinder the work of God.
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" - This is what we see here: Eutychus falling asleep as he listens to the Word of God. Thank God - There is a greater Spirit than our own weak spirit. the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Praise God! Glory to Him!
Paul's message to the Ephesian elders: What a moving occasion this was! There was a real sense of the presence of God, as he gave to them his personal testimony. This is personal - but it doesn't draw attention away from the Lord to Paul. It directs attention away from Paul to the Lord.
As we read the story of Paul in Acts 21, there's a growing sense that this is more than the story of Paul. This is the story of God. It's God, working in Paul. It's God, working through Paul. In Acts 22, we have a great testimony from Paul. The Lord came to Him in power - and he was never the same again. The persecutor became the preacher.
From Jerusalem to Rome (Acts 23:11) for Christ - and not alone in this journey: "the Lord stood near Paul." What a difference this makes - "Don't lose your courage" (Acts 23:11). Human protection (Acts 23:23-24): There is more than that. There is divine protection. In Acts 24, Paul gives his testimony to Felix. He speaks with the power of God. In Acts 25 - 26, Paul stands before Festus and testifies to Agrippa. Again, he speaks with power - God's power. In Acts 27, we read about Paul continuing on his journey and being shipwrecked. "He spread the message about God's Kingdom and taught very boldly about the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31). Paul was faithful and fruitful in his day. May we be faithful and fruitful in our day.
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ROMANS
"Good will and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be yours" (Romans 1:7). Here, there is an echo of the message of the angels at the time of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:14).
"I long to see you to share a spiritual blessing with you so that you will be strengthened. What I mean is  that we may be encouraged by each other's faith" (Romans 1:11-12). Paul encouraged them. They encouraged him.
In Romans 1:18-32, we have a strongly worded part of God's Word, which is unpopular in today's world. What right do we have to ignore what is said here? We say that we like Romans 1:16-17, and, then, we turn a blind eye to the verses that follow on from these great verses. Can we make any sense of this kind of selectivity, which chooses some verses for special attention and dismisses other verses as if they weren't even there? What we must say is this: "We have refused to use secret and shameful ways. We don't use tricks, and we don't distort God's Word" (2 Corinthians 4:2). That's what we don't do. what we do is this: "As God watches, we reveal the truth to everyone" (2 Corinthians 4:2).
"Don't you realize that it is God's kindness that is trying to lead you to Him and change the way you think and act?" (Romans 2:4). when it seems like God isn't there, we must remember this: He is in the background of our life. He has not abandoned His purpose of love. He loves us. In love, He is working for our good - to reach us and change us.
Each of us must choose how we are going to live. Will we stubborn and refuse to change the way we think and act (Romans 2:5)? or Will we listen to God's Word and do what it says (Romans 2:13)?
From conscience to Christ: Living with a good conscience is a good idea - as far as it goes. There is a problem with this. We cannot achieve a good conscience - not all the time. Sometimes, our conscience defends us. Sometimes, it accuses us (Roman 2:15). There is another message that comes to us, here, from Paul. His message is "Good News." He preaches "Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:16). In Christ, we have a Saviour, who took our sins upon Himself so that we might receive the forgiveness of all our sins. This is Good News!
Where does our "praise" - the praise that we seek - come from? Does it "come from God"or 2from people" (Romans 2:29)?
The Good News from God begins with bad news about ourselves. We need to be shown that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) before we can appreciate the Good News of salvation (Romans 3:24). "By grace you have been saved ... " (Ephesians 2:8-10) - This is what Paul is teaching us in Roman Romans 3:21-31).
Abraham had "faith" (Romans 4:3) - but this was not "something he did" (Romans 4:2). Faith is never understood as a work by which we earn God's favour. It is the way of receiving God's approval, but the real emphasis is not on ourselves but on the One in whom we trust - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
There's a great difference between a "gift" and "something that is earned" (Romans 4:4). Our faith receives God's gift. It doesn't earn God's reward.
"Faith" and "gift" belong together (Romans 4:15). Both faith and gift are contrasted with "law" (Romans 4:13-14).
Our faith is in "Jesus, our Lord" (Romans 4:24-25). The focus is not on our faith. It is on our Saviour.
God's love, Christ's death (Romans 5:8); God's glory, our eternal life (Romans 5:2,9-10) - This is the Gospel of God's salvation. The Gospel comes from God. The Gospel comes to us. His grace comes to us. The glory goes to Him.
Salvation has come to us "through the kindness of Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:15). There is only one Saviour - Jesus. There are not many saviours - each one saving himself of herself. Left to ourselves, we repeat the sinful and tragic story of Adam. Beyond the failure of Adam, there are "many failures" (Romans 5:16) - as each and every one of us chooses to walk in the way of Adam, going our own way rather than walking in God's way. We follow the pathway of the sinful creature rather than the holy God.  Who can bring us back to God? - There is only One who can do this for us - "Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21).
The new birth and new life in Christ - This is the end of the old life. The old must die so that the new might come to life. From our viewpoint, there is a constant battle. From Christ's viewpoint, everything is seen in absolute terms - death to sin, life in Christ (Romans 6:10-11). We accept that there needs to be realism. Our redemption has a long way to go. We need more than realism. In Christ, we have full salvation. Let us keep on looking away from ourselves to our Saviour. and let the fullness of His salvation flow in us and out from us, and let all the glory be given to God.
The new life is to be lived. After speaking of God's gift to us - new life in Christ, Paul speaks about our responsibility to live the life we've been given:  "Therefore, never let sin rule ... "(Romans 6:12). This new life is the beginning of "eternal life" (Romans 6:23).
In Romans 7:1-6, Paul continues to speak about the new life that we have received through faith in Christ. In Romans 7:7-12, Paul speaks about sin. We must never try to hide our sin or make excuses. We must confess our sin. Take it to Jesus. Let Him forgive our sin. That's why He died - for the forgiveness of our sins. In Romans 7:14-25, we see the contrast and conflict between God's salvation and our sinfulness. This continues throughout our earthly life - until our full and final deliverance.
Through faith in Christ, we are justified and sanctified. "There is no condemnation", and we have been given a "spiritual nature" (Romans 8:1,4). In Romans 8:5-9, Paul contrasts "the corrupt nature" and "the spiritual nature." The corrupt nature is ours. the spiritual nature is given to us by God. In Romans 8:10-17, the spiritual nature is summed up thus: it's "the Spirit" living in us. Our new life is life in the Spirit. We must never think of spirituality as if it is some kind of higher nature in us. It's the Spirit who has been given to us. In Romans 8:18-27, we read about suffering on earth, and we learn that this is not all that there is. God is leading us on to glory. "The One who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties" (Romans 8:37).  Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord is greater than all of them.
Our salvation comes from "God's mercy" (Romans 9:16). We were "not His people." Now, we are His people.We have come to know that He loves us. We have become His people (Romans 9:25-26). This is His doing. What a great God He is! He's the God of our salvation. All attempts to gain God's favour are doomed to failure (Romans 9:31-32). Salvation doesn't begin with "I." It begins with God. This is what Paul is saying when he speaks about  "an approval based on faith" (Romans 9:30). Faith is the only appropriate response to grace. It's not something we have in ourselves. It's given to us by God. It's created by saving grace through the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In Romans 10:3, we see the contrast between our way of of obtaining God's approval and God's way of salvation. The first leads to failure. The second brings forgiveness. Faith comes ti us when the Gospel is brought to us (Romans 10:17). It's the Gospel that creates our faith. Jesus comes o us through the Gospel. He calls us to Himself.. He draws us to Himself. Our coming to Him in faith is only and always a response to His coming to us in love. In Romans 10:18-21, we learn that the Gospel of God's salvation reaches out beyond the Jews. It's for all nations. It's the grace of God. They weren't a nation. They didn't understand. They weren't looking for God. They weren't asking for Him. How did they find Him? It was by His revelation. His grace reached them.
In Romans 11:1-15, we learn that God's love is for all. There's not a competition between the Jews and the Gentiles. He loves both. In Romans 11:16-24, we learn that, in God's plan of salvation, there is no place for human pride. The Jews are not to despise the Gentiles. The Gentiles are not to despise the Jews. Both are to give all the glory to the Lord. "Glory belongs to Him forever" (Romans 11:36). When we consider the work of God in saving both Jews and Gentiles, we can only say this: "To God be the glory. Great things He has done ... "
There is, at the start of Romans 12, a pattern that is similar to the start of Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments). Before God says, "This is what you are to do", He says, "This is what I have done for you." Romans 12:1 speaks of God's mercy. Mercy - This is a one-word description of all the Gospel teaching that is set out in Romans 1 - 11. God has been merciful. Now, let us live for Him. The teaching concerning God's mercy is the foundation on which our life of faith is built. The transformation of our way of living begins with the transformation of our way of thinking. We receive the gospel teaching, and it changes us. Romans 12:3 speaks to us of the kindness of God. Romans 12:8 speaks to us of showing kindness to others. What we  the "dark"have received, let us also give.  
"Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good"(Romans 12:9). Love is not to be turned into a situation ethic. Love is to be practised alongside maintaining strong convictions regarding good and evil.
As I read, in Romans 13, Paul's words about "the government", I recall his experience of how he was protected by the law when he was sent from one Roman leader to another. The hand of the Lord was upon him - not just the hand of the law. Love sums up the Ten Commandment. It doesn't dispense with them. It doesn't mean that we now have a situation ethic, and we can set aside the Law of God. What it does mean is this: Our obedience to God's law is to be carried out in the spirit of love. It's not so much a legalistic way of living, in which the Law is the focus of our attention. We put Jesus at the centre of our life. We learn how much He loves us and He teaches us to love Him.Seeking to love the Lord, we see the Law of God through new eyes. It is no longer a taskmaster which batters us into unwilling submission. It is a guide that gives direction to our life of love for God and love for another. "It's time for you to wake up. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first became believers. The night is almost over. So we should get rid of the things that belong to the dark, and take up the weapons that belong to the light" (Romans 13:11-12). The call to "wake up" is based on the nearness of "salvation." We're not to hold on to the things that will have no place in the future which is coming - our eternal salvation. Preparing ourselves for His glory, we are to get rid of the things that hinder our spiritual progress towards our glorious, heavenly destination. God has given us His "weapons" - to arm us for our battle  against the "dark" (Romans 13:12). It's better to "live in the light of day than to stumble around in the dark (Romans 13:13). We are walking in the light when we are looking to "the Lord Jesus Christ" and we're learning to "live" for Him and "live like" Him (Romans 13:14).
Have strong convictions about faith and life - "Anything that is not done in faith is sin" (Romans 14:23), but don't impose your opinions on other people - "Welcome people who are weak in faith, but don't get into an argument over differences of opinion" (Romans 14:1). What we may regard as weak may not be weak in the eyes of the Lord. Having strong views, while failing to recognize the differing views of others - Is this strong, or is there weakness in it? Does the ability to recognize the views of other people come from weakness or strength? There seems to be a strength, which combines holding our own view firmly and recognizing the right of other people to hold views than are different from our own - "All of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God. So let's stop criticizing each other" (Romans 14:12-13). We're not to give an account for other people. They must give account for themselves. As we seek to understand them, we will learn humility. We may not change our own view of things, but we will have learned to be more appreciative of those who disagree with us on one point or another. We will be open-minded without being empty-minded. We have reached conclusions of our own, but we have not adopted a know-it-all attitude, which conveys the impression that we're always right! We're to have faith in the Lord, but we're not to speak and act like we are God.
In Romans 15:1-3, we are called to care for one another because Christ cared for each and every one of us. In Romans 15:4-13, Paul speaks about Jews and Gentiles. He emphasizes that we are we are called by God to be united in Christ.In Romans 15:14-19, Paul speaks of his God-given ministry to reach out, with the Gospel, to the Gentiles. In Romans 15:20-33, we read about partnership in the Gospel. Paul has brought the Gospel of Christ to many people in many places. He goes to these people with the desire and  prayer that they will come to Christ and enjoy "the full blessing of Christ" (Romans 15:29). In this work for the Lord, he faced opposition from "those ... who refuse to believe" (Romans 15:31). He asks for prayer that he will be "refreshed" with the "joy" of the Lord, and he prays that the Church at Rome will enjoy great blessing from the Lord: "May the God of peace be with you all" (Romans 15:32-33).
In Romans 16, there are many names. As we read these names, we are reminded that God knows each one of us by name. Each of us matters to Him.
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1 CORINTHIANS 
1 Corinthians speaks "to people everywhere who call on the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:2). In 1 Corinthians 1, our attention is drawn to Christ, He is mentioned in every one of the first ten verses  of this chapter. The focus on Christ continues in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. He  is much more important than the messengers who are sent to preach His Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we learn that the Gospel of Christ turns human wisdom upside down. Through the Gospel, we see things from God's point of view - not man's. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, we learn that all the grace comes from God, and all the glory goes to God.
In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, we note the contrast between  "persuasive intellectual arguments" and "spiritual power"  (1 Corinthians 2:4). In 1 Corinthians 2:6-9, we read about a different kind of wisdom - the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, there's a contrast between "intellectual arguments"  and "the Spirit's teachings" (1 Corinthians 2:13). In 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, we read about the difference the Spirit makes.
In 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, we are called to grow in Christ. When we are babes in Christ, we take our eyes off the Lord and pay too much attention to the preachers. We need to have our attention brought back to the Lord. He will start working in us so that we are changed by Him. May we learn to keep our spiritual focus on Him - and may we learn to give all the glory to Him. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, we learn that there is only one sure foundation for our faith and life - Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). In 1 Corinthians 3:16-23, we are reminded that, when we see things from God's point of view, everything is turned on its head.
In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Scriptures, the written Word of God - "you should learn from us not to go beyond what is written in Scripture." In 1 Corinthians 4:20, he emphasizes that "God's Kingdom is not just talk, it is power."
Even those who are "handed over to Satan" (1 Corinthians 5:5) are prayed for by Paul. His prayer for them is that they will be "saved on the Day of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 5:5). In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul teaches us that "Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed" for us. We are called to celebrate His sacrifice for us - with "the bread of purity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). There is to be purity and truth in every part of our life - not just the appearance of purity and truth, when we come to the Lord's Table.
What we were before being saved by the Lord and what we are to become after receiving Christ as our Saviour - the two are to be very different (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We are not to doubt the power of God's grace to transform us - and we're not to abuse the grace of God bu continuing to live a sinful life, which brings dishonour to the Name of the Lord. Saved by our Lord Jesus Christ, let us walk with Him on His High Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8).
At the heart of 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes these very important words - "I am showing you how to live a noble life of devotion to the Lord without being distracted by other things" (1 Corinthians 7:25).
"Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds them up. Those who think they know something still have a lot to learn" (1 Corinthians 8:1-2) - how much we love is more important than how much we know.
Winning people for Christ - this was the great goal of Paul's life (1 Corinthians 9:19).
In 1 Corinthians 10:11, we learn about the importance of learning from the written Word of God. If we are to stand firm in the faith, we need both the warning (1 Corinthians 10:12) and the promise (1 Corinthians 10:13). The warning exposes our weakness, and sends us to the Lord. When we come to the Lord, we find that He is waiting for us - waiting with His promise, waiting with His grace, waiting for us, waiting to be our God, waiting to lead us in the pathway of His victory, waiting for us to say, "To God be the glory!"
"Do everything to the glory of God ... I try to please everyone in every way" (1 Corinthians 10:31,33). Is Paul looking in two different directions at the same time? No! The glory of God comes first. What does he mean when he speaks about pleasing people? - "I don't think about what would be good for me, but about what would be good for many people so that they might be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:33). People being saved, God being glorified - the two belong together. We are to seek both the salvation of sinners and the glory of God. 
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul emphasizes the importance of both the spiritual and the practical: the Lord's Supper is set within the context of Christian living.
The Spirit exalts the Saviour (1 Corinthians 12:3). Where the Spirit is at work, the Saviour is exalted.
In 1 Corinthians 13, we read about a love that is more than human love. This the love of God - the only love that continues forever (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Why did Paul write to the Corinthian Christians? This is what he tells us - "to help them grow, to encourage them, and to comfort them" (1 Corinthians 14:3). If believers are to grow in Christ, the message of Christ must be preached clearly. "So that you may help the Church grow" (1 Corinthians 14:12) - This is to be our aim in preaching God's Word. How can our preaching lead to spiritual growth? It needs to be clear - "if the trumpet doesn't sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8). What is spiritual growth? In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul says this - "When it comes to evil, be like babies, but think like mature people." We don't need to know a lot about evil. we need to know that it is evil, and we need to see it as something to be avoided. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul emphasizes that spiritual growth is more than a private matter between each individual and God. We are to help each other to grow - "Everything must be done so that the church may be built up."
At the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul places great emphasis on Christ's death (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2). In 1 Corinthians 15, he places great emphasis on Christ's resurrection. Paul emphasizes both - the message of Christ's cross and the power of His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Paul gives his own testimony - "He also appeared to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8).
First, there were the appearances of the risen Lord, described for us in the Gospels.
Second, there was an appearance of the risen Christ, which isn't described in any of the Gospels - "After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Third, there is Paul's encounter with the risen Lord. This was later on - "last of all", (1 Corinthians 15:8), .
When Paul uses the phrase, "last of all" to describe his own encounter with the risen Lord, he speaks with humility. Paul had missed the opportunity to become a believer while Christ was on earth. The other appearances came at the right time - the resurrection time. They are to be given a higher priority than Paul's encounter with the risen Lord. This may be reading too much into the phrase, "last of all", but it may also be suggested by the phrase, "born later than expected." It's possible that Saul of Tarsus knew nothing of the Lord while He was on earth. We don't know. It could be that Paul did know of Jesus, but he didn't respond to Christ's call until he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. Paul had not been one of the original twelve disciples. He had not been with Jesus during the three years of His earthly ministry. In 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul says this, "I'm the least of the apostles. I'm not even fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted God's Church." Is Paul saying, "I had my chance, earlier on, during the Lord's earthly ministry, but I didn't take it. How great it is that the Lord gave me a second chance"? We don't know. Saul of Tarsus may have been among the crowds who heard Jesus teach. He may have never even heard of Jesus until the day that Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7). Whether or not Saul of Tarsus (the old man) had any knowledge of the earthly Jesus, we do know this: Paul the Apostle (the new man) was deeply aware of the grace of God, and he was profoundly grateful to the Lord.
From the human viewpoint, resurrection is impossible. What man regards as impossible, God has done - "now Christ has come back from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20). Our faith, the world tells us, is based on an illusion. God's Word says that it is based  on the great divine fact - God has raised His Son from the dead. Thank God - our faith is built on a firm foundation - Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
We do not only look back. We look forward. We look back to Christ's resurrection. We look forward to His return, His reign and our redemption. Our redemption begins here-and-now. It results in the renewal of our life. The Lord is changing us as we learn to live in the light of eternity. He's making us more holy, more like Himself, the holy God.
The life that comes to us from heaven, the life that we go to in heaven, is so much better than greater than the the life that we have here on earth. God is calling us upward. We're heading for heaven. He's calling us on to glory. We're travelling to the glory land. In 1 Corinthians 15, we catch a glimpse of the glory of heaven. It's greater than we can put into words. It's greater than we can imagine. This vision of God's heavenly and eternal glory changes us here-and -now. It assures us that we have the victory in Christ. It makes our want to build our faith on Christ and live as His faithful servants (1 Corinthians 15:58).
"I have a great opportunity to do effective work, although there are many people who oppose me" (1 Corinthians16:9). Where there is opportunity, there will also be opposition. We shouldn't disregard the opposition, as if it wasn't even there. We should be aware of the opposition, so that we can take our stand against it, and for the Lord. We shall not be overcome by the opposition.
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2 CORINTHIANS
Receiving and giving - We receive from God and we give to others (2 Corinthians 1:4); suffering and learning to trust God (2 Corinthians 1:9). God calls us to live with God-centred holiness and sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12). This kind of life is based on the message which is true - "God's Son, Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:17-18). We live this life in the power of "the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 1:22).
"As Christ's spokesmen and in God's presence, we speak the pure message that comes from God" (2 Corinthians 2:17).
"We are being changed into His image with ever0increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
"Our message is not about ourselves. It is about Jesus Christ as the Lord" (2 Corinthians 4:5).
In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, we have the eternal perspective. Life on this earth is what we have here-and-now, but it's not all that we will have. We're looking forward  to something more than this, something very much more wonderful than this, something more enduring - eternal life.
God has restored our relationship with Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). He has made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:19). What we were has been placed firmly in the past. With Christ, we step out into a new future. Our sins have been forgiven, and we have received new life.
"Now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). If we do not act now, we may never act. Tomorrow may never come. There may never again be such a real opportunity to come to Christ. Miss this opportunity, and there may never be another. Do we ever really have anything else but now? The past has gone. The future is not yet. Now can be the day of salvation, but it can also be a day of judgment, a day when we move further away from the Lord, further on down a road that will take us far from Him. May God help us to walk with Him day-by-day, in faith, on the pathway of His salvation.
"Our lives demonstrate that we are God's servants" (2 Corinthians 6:4). This is more than paying lip-service to the Lord. We read 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 - "as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger", and we ask, "Where does this fit into prosperity theology? It doesn't. God's people have a hard time of it. What makes the difference is the presence of God - "in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left" (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). It's God who turns our times into His times of blessing. This doesn't mean that we won't suffer. It means that, when we suffer, God will be there with us to touch our lives with His blessing. What's happening to us may be the last thing we want to be happening to us- and it may that we can do nothing to change it, but God is there with us, every step of the way. We need to learn to see life on two levels - "we're beggars although we make many people spiritually rich ... we have nothing although we possess everything" (2 Corinthians 6:10). What we see, on the surface, is not the full story. when God is at work, there's something else happening. Our God is leading us closer to Himself - even when our circumstances are threatening to tear us away from Him.
"We have a place for you in our hearts ... Make a place for us in your hearts too" (2 Corinthians 6:11,13). True ministry comes from the heart, and it reaches the hearts. 
God has given us great "promises." What is to be our response to His promises? - "We need to cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, and live a holy life in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). "Open your hearts to us (2 Corinthians 7:2). We're to open our hearts to one another. "You are in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 7:3). The Lord has opened His heart to us. Touched by His heart of love, we are to love one another. There is human comfort, and there is divine comfort - "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him" (2 Corinthians 7:6-7). While we value the human comfort, we must never lose sight of the divine comfort: God is at work.
"They gave themselves to the Lord and to us" (2 Corinthians 8:5). Personal is not private. We give ourselves to the Lord. This is personal commitment. We don't keep ourselves to ourselves. We give ourselves to others.
"We intend to to do what is right, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of people" (2 Corinthians 8:21). We're not to be 'so heavenly-minded that we're no earthly use.' Our attitude towards the Lord is to express itself in our attitude and actions towards other people.
"A demonstration of your love" (2 Corinthians 8:24). Love is more than something we talk about. Show love. Don't just speak about it.
"When you always have everything you need, you can do more and more good things" (2 Corinthians 9:8). "In your lives he will increase  the things you do that have his approval" (2 Corinthians 9:10). Spiritual warfare, spiritual weapons and a spiritual outcome (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) - We must keep on choosing the way of obedience, not the way of disobedience. 
Boast of what the Lord has done and get his recommendation (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).
"Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). We're not wrestling against flesh and blood. Satan is our enemy - but there's something we must never forget: Jesus is our Saviour, and he has won the victory over Satan. He won the victory for us. May god help us to take our stand against Satan, to take our stand upon the victory of Christ over Satan.
We are "weak" (2 Corinthians 11:30). The Lord is strong. This is something we must never forget.
"My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:8) - What a promise from the Lord! Satan is doing all that he can to pull us away from the Lord. God says, "My grace is sufficient for you."
We are to be changed in the way we think and live (2 Corinthians 12:11-21).
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ... " (2 Corinthians 13:13). This is more than 'the end' of the service. It points us to a salvation that will never end. 
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GALATIANS 
Galatians 1:1-5 - The call came from the Lord. He gives us salvation. He change us. All glory to Him. Galatians 1:6-10 - When "good news" is not GOOD NEWS. 
Galatians 1:11-24 - Divine revelation - This is where Paul, the man 'with a message and a mission, came from. 
Galatians 2:1-10 - Why did Paul take such a clear stand on the gospel of grace - "so that  the truth of the gospel would always be yours" (Galatians 2:4). Galatians 2:11-21 - At the heart of the Christian faith as an experienced faith, there is this: "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). This is not my Christian life - a life that I live and, then, call it my Christian life, This is Christ, living in me. This is the Christian life. This is Christ, living out his life in and through my life. 
Galatians 3:1-5 The teaching of Paul may be summed up in the words of Ephesians 2:8-10 - "By grace, through faith, for good works." Galatians 3:6-9 - "Scripture announced the Good News to Abraham ahead of time" (Galatians 3:8). We should never make too much of the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. It's perfectly clear that there are differences, but there is Good News in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It's the same God. In the Old Testament, he's promising that Christ will come. In the New Testament, he's declaring that Christ has come. 
Galatians 3:10-14 - The contrast between salvation by works (this never works!) and salvation by grace through faith (this does work - it's the work of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.)
Galatians 3:15-18 - Looking beyond Abraham to Christ: When we read the Old Testament, we must always ask the question - How does this lead me to Jesus, my Saviour? Asking this question will bring the Old Testament to life.
Galatians 3:19-29 - The Old Testament prepared the way for the coming of Christ. We read of the things that happened in Old Testament times, and we look on to Jesus. In the Old Testament, we see God's work of preparation - preparing the way for his Son.  
"When the right time came, God sent his Son into the world" (Galatians 4:4). Everything, in the Old Testament, was moving towards "the right time" - the time of fulfilment, the time when the time of prophecies would be fulfilled, the time of salvation. God gave his promise. God fulfilled his promise. This is the great theme of the gospel, as it looks back over all that went before the coming of Christ. We kook back, and we say, "What God has promised, God has given.
Galatians 5 - The life of works and the flesh is contrasted with the life of faith and the Spirit.  Why go back to the life from which we have been set free? There's a better way - the way of Christ, our Saviour.
"God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). We move on from 'God sent His Son' (Galatians 4:4) to the Son of God giving himself for us (Galatians 6:14). The gospel tells us that the Saviour came to this world, and it tells us why He came to this earth. Why should we glory in Jesus, our great Saviour? - It's because he has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. There  is no other way of salvation. We must never settle for anything less than Jesus. We look at what he has done for us, and we say, "Glory to God!" Christ crucified - This is to be the centre of our life, the foundation on which we build.
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EPHESIANS
"Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer" (Ephesians 1:3). This is wonderful!
Ephesians 1:4-6 - When we think of God's eternal love and eternal salvation, we give all the praise and all the glory to him. 
"Through the blood of his Son" (Ephesians 1:7) ... "praise Him and give him glory" (Ephesians 1:12). "Through the blood of his Son" - This is why we "praise him and give him glory." Our salvation does not come from ourselves. It's not something that we achieve. It's something that we receive.
The Holy Spirit - God's guarantee of eternal glory (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Paul's prayer for the Ephesians - and for us (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Ephesians 2:1-10 - What a great statement of the gospel this is! It shows us what we have been saved from - sin; who we are saved by - the God of grace; how we are saved - through faith; and what we are saved for - good works (Ephesians 2:10) and the world to come (Ephesians 2:7).
"But now, through Christ Jesus, you, who were far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13) - This is the gospel of salvation. It fills our hearts with praise to God.
The "mystery" has been "revealed" (Ephesians 3:6). We affirm divine revelation, while recognizing that mystery remains. 
"We can go to God with bold confidence through faith in Christ" (Ephesians 3:12).
Great love from God (Ephesians 3:18), great glory to God (Ephesians 3:20-21)
" ... live the kind of life that proves that God has called you" (Ephesians 4:1) - This life is the life "that the Spirit gives" (Ephesians 4:3).
"As each and every part does its job, Christ makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:16).
"Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ" (Ephesians 4:32).
"Live in Christ as Christ also loved us" (Ephesians 5:2).
What a contrast there is between contemporary society and biblical living. Living according to God's Word will always bring us into conflict with the world, which goes its own way rather than the Lord's way.
"Once you lived in the dark, but now the Lord has filled you with light" (Ephesians 5:8). We are to live the new life, and not to return to the old life. 
"Don't live like foolish people, but understand what the Lord wants" (Ephesians 5:16). "Wild living" must be left in our past, as we press on to a life that is "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) - a life of worship, thanksgiving and fellowship (Ephesians 5:19-21).
Ephesians 5:22-33 - Note how often Christ is mentioned. Everything is based on him.
"because you are Christians" (Ephesians 6:1); "Christian discipline and instruction" (Ephesians 6:4)
"Slaves ... Be as sincere as you are when you obey Christ ... obey like slaves who belong to Christ, who have a deep desire to do what God wants them to do" (Ephesians 6:5-6).
"Receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty armour that God supplies ... take up all the armour that God supplies" (Ephesians 6:10-11,13). The victory comes to us because the strength comes from God.
Ephesians 6:14-17 - What the world cannot give to us, God gives to us. Armed with his armour, we are "more than conquerors through his love" (Romans 8:37). We need not be defeated. We walk in the victory in the Lord.
"Pray in the Spirit ... pray that God will give me the right words to say ... pray that I speak about this Good News as boldly as I have to" (Ephesians 6:18-20).
Ephesians 6:21-22 - Thank God for his faithful servants. They may not be well known. That doesn't matter. What matters is doing what the Lord gives them to do.
It's not about getting a name for ourselves. It's about exalting the name of "God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 6:23).
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PHILIPPIANS
Joy (Philippians 1:4) - This is more than the joy that comes from recalling happy memories. This joy comes from the Lord, who was in those happy memories.
The promise is given in Philippians 1:6, but there is also a command - keep on growing (Philippians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:18).
"in prison" (Philippians 1:13-14,17), "set free" (Philippians 1:19)
Great blessing here on earth, greater blessing in heaven (Philippians 1:23)
Believing in Christ and suffering for Him (Philippians 1:29)
If our life is to be changed, we must keep our focus of attention on Christ (Philippians 2:1-5).
A tremendous revelation of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord (Philippians 2:6-11)
Salvation is given to us by God. He is at work in us, but it has to be worked out by us (Philippians 2:12-13).
"You will shine among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life" (Philippians 2:16). 
"Everyone else looks after his own interests, not after those of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:21). We're not to be like "everyone else." "Epaphroditus risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ in order to make up for the help you couldn't give me" (Philippians 2:25). "For the work of Christ" - we're to be like Epaphroditus.   
"Be joyful in the Lord" (Philippians 3:1) - This is what Paul returns to in Philippians 4:4.
"Beware of dogs" (Philippians 3:2) - those who will take our joy away from us. They will lead us away from faith and obedience.
It's better to have Christ than to have everything else, and not have him (Philippians 3:3-11).
A call to press on to spiritual maturity (Philippians 3:12-16)
"We, however, are citizens of heaven. we look forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, coming from heaven as our Saviour. through his power to bring everything under his authority, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his glorified body" (Philippians 3:20-21). 
The Lord is seeking to produce, in us, his love, his joy and his peace (Philippians 4:2,4,7).
Philippians 4:8-9 - This is a description of Jesus. It's a call to follow him.
"I know how to live in poverty or prosperity ... " (Philippians 4:12).
Christ is the true source of our strength. Nevertheless, we are helped by others (Philippians (Philippians 4:13-14). 
"In a glorious way, through Christ Jesus, God richly fills our every need" (Philippians 4:19), and we say, "Glory belongs to our God and Father forever" (Philippians 4:20). Glory comes from God. Glory goes to God.
"Greet everyone who believes in Christ" (Philippians 4:21). "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (Philippians 4:24). Here, we read of both grace and faith. First, Paul speaks of faith, but the final thought he leaves us with is this - "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ... " 
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COLOSSIANS 
"God's holy and faithful people ... who are united with Christ" (Colossians 1:2). It's from Christ that our holiness and faithfulness comes.
Before Paul asks, he gives thanks (Colossians 1:3-4) - asking and thanking (Colossians 1:11-12)
"The hope that is kept safe for you in heaven" (Colossians 1:5; see also 1 Peter 1:5); "the good news which is the message of truth" (Colossians 1:5; see also 1 Peter 1:22,25); this good new is producing results (Colossians 1:6-8; see also Isaiah 55:11)
God's salvation: it's all in Christ. Over and over again, this is emphasized in Colossians 1:13-29. "Our sins are forgiven" (Colossians 1:14) - This is God's way of dealing with our guilty past. "Christ living in you" (Colossians 1:27) - This is God's way of overcoming our present weakness."Giving you the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27) - This is God's way  of providing for our eternal future. All of this comes to us through faith in Christ (Colossians 1:23). 
Pressing on to maturity (Colossians 2:6-7); complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10); Christ at the centre (Colossians 2:16-23)
A call for Godly living, Christlike living, Spirit-filled living (Colossians 3:1-17) - We are to be both "holy" (Colossians 3:12) and "loving" (Colossians 3:14).
Colossians 3:18-4:1 - The Word of God is to be applied to our lives. God has something to say to every one of us. His Word helps us to understand our situation in life. It helps us to live our life in a way that is appropriate for each stage in life and every situation in life.
When you pray, remember to say, "Thank you, Lord" (Colossians 4:2).
Opportunities for speaking the Word of the Lord (Colossians 4:3) and opportunities which arise from living for Christ (Colossians 4:5-6)
Tychicus and Onesimus (Colossians 4:7-9) - We need more people like them. 
Colossians 4:10-14 - We read on down, through the list of names, and, again, we note the spiritual qualities of those who are mentioned by Paul: especially "Jesus, called Justus" - working for God's kingdom and providing comfort" (Colossians 4:11) - and Epaphras - praying intensely for growth into spiritual maturity and confidence in God's leading (Colossians 4:12).
In Colossians 4:15-16, we read about the church at Laodicea. In Revelation 3:14-22, we read more about what the Lord has to say to this church.
"Tell Archippus to complete all the work that he started as the Lord's servant" (Colossians 4:17). This is important. Starting well is good, but it's so important that we don't stop there. We are to keep on going, getting stronger in the service of the Lord.
"Remember that I'm a prisoner. God's grace be with you" (Colossians 4:18). Even in difficult times, God's grace is there for us, giving us the strength to say, 'This is the will of the Lord for me.'
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1 THESSALONIANS   
"The good news comes to us not only with words but also with power" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Where does this power come from? What is this power? It comes from God. It's the power of "the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 1:6). "You welcomed God's Word with the kind of joy that the Holy Spirit  gives" (1 Thessalonians 1:6).  From the power of the Holy Spirit comes the joy of the Holy Spirit. This is not a 'joy' that the world gives. It's the joy of the Lord. His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy is more than a passing emotion. It gives us the strength to "turn away from false gods to serve the real, living God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
"We don't try to please people but God" (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  "You know very well that we treated each of you the way a father that treats his children" (1 Thessalonians 2:11). We must seek to please God,our heavenly Father, and we must seek to show his love to his children. How do we combine the two - pleasing God and showing his love to his people? "We comforted you and encouraged you. Yet, we insisted that you should  live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). His love reaches out, through us, to bring comfort and encouragement. His love doesn't leave us as it finds us. His love is always seeking to change our way of living, to make our way of living more pleasing to God. In love, God calls us to himself, and he sends us out to live for his glory.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, we read about the preaching of the apostles. It was more than the words of men. It was the Word  of God. "This Word is at work in you believers." Our faith comes from God's Word. It's his Word that creates our faith.
Satan may make life hard for us, but he can't take from us our hope, our joy, our prize and our glory (1 Thessalonians 2:18-20).
We read about Timothy in 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3,5. At best, Paul and Timothy are faithful servants, We look beyond them to the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
God wants us to be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:7). We're not called to do this in our own strength. God gives us his Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8). We are called to love one another. How do we learn to do this? We learn this from the Lord. He  teaches us (1 Thessalonians 4:9). 
Paul speaks of the return of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He comes"from heaven" to take us to be with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). These are words that bring great comfort to us (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
We look back to the death of Jesus, our Saviour (1 Thessalonians 5:10). We look forward to the return of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12), Here and now, we must live the life of a believer (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22). We must pray for the Lord's blessing (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Without his blessing, we can do nothing that will bring glory to him. 
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2 THESSALONIANS
What a contrast there is between God's salvation and his judgment. In 2 Thessalonians 1, we read about the glory of his salvation and the gloom of his judgment. Because of our sin, God's judgment is upon us. Thanks God - his Son, Jesus, our Saviour, is greater than our sin.
Sin will have its day, but, after that, there will be the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:3,8).
God, our Father, loves us. In his kindness, he has given us "everlasting encouragement and good hope" (2 Thessalonians 2:16). Why has he done this? It's his way of giving us encouragement and strength "to do and say everything that is good" (2 Thessalonians 2:17). All of these  blessings come to us through "our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
"The Lord is faithful, and will strengthen you and protect you against the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3). This verse brings to mind the words Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is a great promise of God, a promise upon which we must take our stand - for God and against Satan.
"We lived a disciplined life among you" (2 Thessalonians 3:7). "Brothers and sisters, we can't allow ourselves to get tired of doing what is right" (2 Thessalonians 3:13). "May the Lord of peace give you peace at all times and in every way" (2 Thessalonians 3:16).   
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1 TIMOTHY
The law shows us our sin. It's the gospel that brings salvation to us (1 Timothy 1:8-11). In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul gives his testimony. He gives all the glory to God. At the heart of his message is this: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). 
At the heart of the life of faith, there is to be prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-3,8). 
"I want you to know how people, who are members of God's family, must live. God's family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15 How we live and what we believe are vitally connected.
We must be on our guard against those who teach false ideas about God. They lay the law upon us and know nothing of the love of God (1 Timothy 4:3). We must not listen to godless myths. The way we are to go is the way of godly living (1 Timothy 4:7). Our way of life is not to be shaped by ideas that are of this world only. We are to look beyond this world, to "the world to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Living a godly life isn't easy - "we work hard and struggle to live a godly life." This godly life emerges from our faith - "our confidence in the living God" (1 Timothy 4:18). Teaching and living are to go hand in hand (1 Timothy 4:12-13). What we teach and how we live - both are important.   
Caring about people (1 Timothy 5:1-6:2): This is the way of glorifying God. How can we glorify the Lord if we don't care about his people?
Contentment (1 Timothy 6:6): Trying to get rich can  lead to "a lot of grief" (1 Timothy 6:10). We find that the things of this world don't satisfy.  Why? - Because we were created for something more than this world. We were created by God and for God. 
God calls us to live "a godly life", which leads on to "everlasting life" (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
"The riches of this world" are not as important as many people think (1 Timothy 6:17). There is a better way of  living - living for the Lord while we're on earth and looking forward to living with him when he calls us into his eternal kingdom of perfect love (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
We are to "guard the gospel" against "false knowledge" (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Our gospel testimony is to be given in the face of the challenge set for us by those who have abandoned and opposed the faith that is centred on Christ. 
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2 TIMOTHY 
Here, on earth, we are learning to live the "life" of heaven (2 Timothy 1:1). At the heart of this life, there is prayer (2 Timothy 1:3). In our life, on earth, there will be "tears", but there will also be "joy" (2 Timothy 1:4).    
"Fan into flame the gift of God" (2 Timothy 1:6) - see also Exodus 3 (the burning bush) and Acts 2 (the tongues of fire). Where does the burning flame come from? It does not come from the spirit of man. It comes from "the Spirit" of God (2 Timothy1:7). May there be less of the cowardly spirit, and more of the Spirit of power, love and good judgment.
By the "grace" of God, we have been "saved and called to a holy life" (2 Timothy 1:9). The Lord is leading us on to eternal life (2 Timothy 1:10). This eternal life comes to us from his eternal love (2 Timothy 1:9). 
"I know whom I have believed ... he is able" (2 Timothy 1:12). If, by the grace of God, we are to keep on going in the way of faith, we need both sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:13-14).  
We are known to the Lord by name (2 Timothy 1:15-18).