Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Let Us Worship The Lord With Holy Fear And Heartfelt Love.

Psalms 98:1-100:5
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’(99:5,9; 98:4,6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’(99:5,9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’. Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).

Psalms 101:1-102:28
‘I will sing of Your love... I will walk with integrity of heart...’(101:1-2). These words were written many centuries ago. ‘Things are very different now’- so we’re told! Worshipping the Lord and walking with Him: Are these things out-of-date now? Are they to be forgotten? So many people have no time for the Lord. They feel that they can do without Him. They refuse to worship Him. They do not walk with Him. In our ever-changing world, there is something we must never forget: The Lord is ‘enthroned for ever’. His ‘Name endures to all generations’. In all the changes of life, the Lord ‘remains the same’. His ‘years go on through all generations’. His ‘years will never end’(12,24,27). These words were ‘written for a future generation’. They were written for us. We must not forget to ‘praise the Lord’(18)!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Show us, Lord, that we’re not forgotten. We’re remembered.

Psalm 10:1-18
Lord, when it feels like You’ve forgotten us, help us to see the truth as it really is. We have forgotten You. We’ve taken our eyes off You – and now everything’s out of focus. There’s a blurring of our vision. Lord, take us to the Cross of Jesus. Show us that we’re not forgotten. We’re remembered.

Which is most important to us – pleasing ourselves or serving You?

1 Kings 6:14-7:12
We read about Solomon – he built “his own house”, and he built “the House of the Lord” (1 Kings 6:37-7:1). Which was the most important to him? Which is most important to us – pleasing ourselves or serving You? Help us, Lord, not to be “lovers of self, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure”. “Lovers of God” – this is what You call us to be (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Help us, Lord, to keep on making our choice – to become the kind of people that You want us to be.

God's Unfailing Love

"Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love" (Psalm 48:9).
What do we do when human love fails? We look beyond human love. We look to divine love.  God's love never fails. It's an "unfailing love." We should think, often, of the love of God. We should think of Jesus - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16). We should think of the supreme demonstration of God's love - "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Think of Jesus. Thank God for Jesus.

Monday, 25 July 2016

The true God and false gods

There is a great contrast between the true God and false gods (Isaiah 31). God brings great blessing into our lives. He does this through the gift of the Holy spirit – “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:14). In Him, we receive “peace” (Isaiah 32:18). In Him, we receive “the riches of salvation”, which “are wisdom and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6). We look away from ourselves in “the fear of the Lord.” We find our “treasure” in “the Lord” – “our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King, our Saviour” (Isaiah 33:6,22).

We come to You, Lord. We come in our weakness. We ask for Your strength.

2 Chronicles 8:1-9:31
Lord, we look at Solomon – and we see ourselves. There is strength (2 Chronicles 8:16) – and there is weakness (2 Chronicles 8:11; 2 Chronicles 9:12). We want to love You more, but the world keeps on pulling us back – away from you and into sin. We come to You, Lord. We come in our weakness. We ask for Your strength. May our comfort and convenience never become more important to us than our consecration and commitment to You.

God's Word Brings Blessing.

"… the seed shall sprout and grow, he himself does not know how …" (Mark 4:27).
God has given us a great promise – “my word that goes out from my mouth … will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11). When we feel that God’s Word is returning to us empty, we have this Word of encouragement: God’s Word will not return to Him empty. God gives us His great promise “my word … will accomplishwhat I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We do not see all that God’s Word is doing as the Spirit of God brings Christ to the people. God sees the full impact of His Word. That is why He says that His Word will not return to Him empty. When we have preached the Word, we must say, with the hymnwriter, “I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through the word, creating faith in Him.” We don’t understand all that God is doing as His Word is preached. We do know that He is at work. How do we know this? – We know Him – “I know whom I have believed.” We know that we can trust His promise – His Word will achieve the purpose for which He sends it. When the “seed” of God’s Word is sown in the hearts of men and women, it will “sprout and grow” – even if we are barely aware of all that is happening. The salvation of sinners – it may be beyond our understanding, but it’s not beyond God’s power: “the gospel … is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

When our faith is being sorely tested, help us, Lord, to turn to You.

Psalms 14:1-15:5
When our faith is being sorely tested, help us, Lord, to turn to You. Help us to know that, through it all, You are there with us – suffering with us, leading us into Your joy. Teach us, in our suffering, to wait for the day when You will “restore our fortunes”, when You will answer our prayer: “O that salvation … would come”, when we will, again, “rejoice” and be “glad” in You (Psalm 14:7).

Sunday, 24 July 2016

How can I be saved? - Is there a more important question than this?

Psalm 49:1-20
How can I be saved? Is there a more important question than this? In Your Word, Lord, You speak to us about our need of salvation and Your provision of salvation. You call us to receive Your salvation. We cannot save ourselves – “No man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life. The price to be paid for his soul is too costly” (Psalm 49:7-8). We thank You that Your Son,Jesus, came to earth “to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Help us, Lord, to believe Your promise – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), and to enter into the blessing that is promised – “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

He Has Risen!

"Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love ..." (Psalm 90:14).

Out of the darkness of the night, into the light of the morning - "Very early on the first day of the week ... He has risen!" (Mark 16:4,6). Our new morning comes from Christ's resurrection morning.

Praise The Lord - At All Times!

Psalm 34:1-22
"I will praise the Lord at all times" (Psalm 34:1) - in the bad times as well as the good times. "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). "His praise will always be on my lips" (and in my heart) (Psalm 34:1). This Psalm begins with "I" (see also Psalm 34:2 - "I will boast in the Lord"), but it move on, from there, to "Proclaim with me the Lord, let us exalt His Name together" (Psalm 34:3). Note also "I" (Psalm 34:4) and "Taste and see" (Psalm 34:8).
The way to happiness - true and lasting joy (Psalm 34:5,8): True joy goes hand in hand with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 34:11-12).
The Lord sees us in our need, and He has compassion on us. He is near to us - "Emmanuel." He saves us - "Jesus" (Psalm 34:18; Matthew 1:23,21).
What the Lord does for us is summed up in Psalm 34:22 - He redeems us. This is more than changing our life here-and-now. This is eternal life. This comes to us through the death of Christ (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33,36). He died that we might live.    

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Glory of the Lord in His Creation (Psalm 8)

This Psalm is a hymn of praise. It proclaims the glory of the Lord in His creation. The focus is not so much on the glories of nature. The great theme is the glory of Him who created nature. The Psalm begins and ends with the praise of God – “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (v. 1); “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (v. 9). The whole Psalm is filled with the fear of God and joy in God. The words of verse 2 – “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” – are quoted in the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ” ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:16). The reference to “children and infants” refers also to those who are without spiritual learning since they have not received spiritual instruction. How are we to receive real spiritual understanding? Each of us must become a babe in Christ by being humble before God, our Creator and Redeemer. The way of humility is the way in which we come to a proper understanding of God and ourselves – “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (vs. 3-4). In verse 3, the emphasis is upon God rather than nature. This leads us on, in verse 4, to the question, “What is man?” This question is grounded in the question, “Who is God?” – ” Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19). How are we to come to a right understanding of ourselves? We must not come to God as know-it- alls. We are to come to Him as worshippers. We learn, from this Psalm, that God’s revelation and our self-understanding are intimately related. The revelation of God enlightens our self-understanding. A true understanding of ourselves cannot be achieved if God is disregarded. By faith, we see ourselves from God’s perspective. He is our Creator. We are His creatures. We learn, from this Psalm, that God is midful of us. He cares for us. He is gracious towards us. He loves us. How are we to respond to God, our Creator? – We come, with awe, before His majesty. We come, with joy, because of His love. From verses 5-8, we learn that human dignity is a gift of God. This isn’t a song of praise to man. It’s a song of praise to God – “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). May God help us to worship Him with both awe and joy. As we rejoice in the Lord, let us not forget that He is the awesome God. As we bow before His majesty, let us not forget His love. Remembering how much He loves us, our hearts will be filled with true and lasting joy.

Praying Through God’s Word: Ephesians

Ephesians 1:1-2:10
Lord, You call us to live a holy life. We cannot do this in our own strength. True holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from You. It comes from Your love. Your love reaches us. Your love changes us. Your love is stronger than our sin. May Your love inspire us to live a holy life. May Your love enable us to live a holy life – a life that brings glory to You, the God of our salvation.
Ephesians 2:11-4:6
When You, Lord, are at work in us, everything changes. You save us. You sanctify us. You strengthen us. Help us to serve You.
Ephesians 4:7-5:14
Lord, You want us to “grow up in every way into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). You want us to “walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2). You want us to live a life that is “pleasing to You” (Ephesians 5:10). Why do we settle for something less than Your very best? Help us, Lord, not to “grieve Your Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:14). When we hear Your wake-up call – “Awake, O sleeper … ” (Ephesians 5:14), help us to open the door of our heart to Jesus, our great Saviour” (Revelation 3:20).
Ephesians 5:15-6:24
“Be very careful how you live” (Ephesians 5:16). When, Lord, You say this to us, we wonder, “How are we to do this?” You say to us, “Be filled with the Spirit”, have “reverence for Christ”, “love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying” (Ephesians 5:18,21 & 6:24). Help us, Lord, to love Jesus – and help us to live for Him.

Those who trust in the Lord cannot be moved.

Psalms 125:1-127:5
‘Those who trust in the Lord… cannot be moved…’ When, Lord, we put our trust in You, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we don’t put our trust in You, we are like the’ foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. Help us never to forget that ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’ (Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). Help us to remember that ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’ (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4). We thank You, Lord,  that ‘Christ died for our sins… He was raised on the third day’. Help us to keep on rejoicing in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm  126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).                                                                                                    

Personal Salvation (Psalm 7)

The Psalmist was being pursued by enemies who were intent on his full and final destruction. He puts his trust in the Lord. He looks to the Lord for salvation – “O Lord my God, I take refuge in You; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me” (vs. 1-2). Following his opening words, we read about human sin – “O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands – if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe -then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust” (vs. 3-5) – and divine judgment – “Arise, O Lord, in Your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. Let the assembled peoples gather around You. Rule over them from on high; let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked” (vs. 6-9a). In thinking about what God is saying to us through this Psalm, we do not not limit ourselves to looking at David and his pursuers. We look at human sin and divine judgment. This is the bad news concerning ourselves. We look also at personal salvation. This is the Good News concerning our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Human Sin * “O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands – if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me” (vs. 3-4). Looking beyond the immediate situation of David and his pursuers, we ask, “What are these words saying to us?” Here, we must be honest with ourselves, and we must be honest with God. There is no “if” about it! We are sinners. we are guilty. * “Let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust” (v.5). We do not look only at David and his pursuers. We look into our own hearts. We have a pursuer. His name is Satan. He is the devil. He is our “accuser” – he “accuses us before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). When we are honest with ourselves, and honest with God, we must confess that Satan has every right to accuse us. “Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). Satan has won the victory over every one of us. This is the bad news concerning every single one us – without any exceptions. Divine Judgment The bad news continues. Sin brings judgment. We cannot escape God’s judgment. We must confess our sins. We are “the wicked” (v. 9). “God is the righteous Judge.” God’s wrath “rests upon us (v. 11). We hear the bad news about human sin and divine judgment. We wonder, “Can ‘the wicked’ become ‘the righteous’?” (v.9). Is there a way in which guilty sinners can escape the righteous judgment of God? Is there a way in which we can be victorious over our pursuer? Personal Salvation We come to God with our questions. We ask about salvation – “Can my sin be forgiven?” We ask about victory – “Can I triumph over Satan?” God gives to us His answer. Yes! There is a way of salvation. Yes! There is a way of victory. Here, in this Psalm, we have God’s answer to two very important questions - “What must I do to be saved?“ - “What must I do to be lost?“ * In verses 9-10, we learn that it is the “righteous God” who “makes the righteous secure” – “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.” What must I do to be saved?” – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31); “God is righteous and He declares righteous those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Trusting in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), we receive the forgiveness of our sins – “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin” (1 John 1:7). We also enter into Christ’s victory over Satan – “They overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb … ” (Revelation 12:11). Personal salvation is not about ourselves. It’s about our Saviour. We don’t save ourselves. Jesus saves us.
In verses 11-16, we have God’s answer to the very important question – “What must I do to be lost?” “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses His wrath every day. If He does not relent, He will sharpen His sword; He will bend and string His bow. He has prepared His deadly weapons; He makes ready His flaming arrows. He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.” We don’t enjoy reading this kind of thing. It doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves. It makes us realize that we have no right to feel good about ourselves. Before we can begin to appreciate the Good News of our Saviour’s love for us, we must give up on trying to feel good about ourselves and start listening to the honest truth about ourselves. What must I do to be lost? Do nothing. Just keep on trying to feel good about yourself. Just keep on turning a deaf ear to what God is saying to you about your sin. Just keep on refusing to take seriously God’s call to repentance. Just keep on living the way you have been living. God speaks to us with many warnings. He speaks of His righteous judgment. God speaks to us of His undeserved love. He calls us to return to Him. What happens when we keep on refusing to listen to what God is saying to us? We dig a hole for ourselves – ” He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made” (v. 15). We bring judgment upon ourselves – “The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head” (v. 16). The way of sin is a hopeless way – “He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment” (v. 14).
Is there a better way? Is there a way of salvation? Is there a way of victory? Jesus is the Way. He is the true and living Way (John 14:6). Thank God that this Psalm doesn’t end with the dark words of verse 16 – “his violence comes down on his own head.” Beyond the bad news concerning human sin and divine judgment, there is the Good News concerning personal salvation – “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (v. 17). The Psalmist moves from the inevitability of divine judgment (v. 16) to the assurance of personal salvation (v. 17). This is the work of divine grace. What are we to say about this? Is there a smooth passage way from divine judgment to personal salvation? No! Between divine judgment and personal salvation, there is the Cross of Jesus Christ. This is costly grace – Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. It is also free grace. We come in the emptiness of our sin and we receive the fullness of God’s salvation. At the Cross of Christ, we see both the judgment of God upon sin and the love of God for sinners. From the Cross of Christ, we hear the call to turn from sin and receive salvation. We look at ourselves. We see human sin. We look at the outcome of our sin. We see divine judgment. We look at the Cross of Christ – “We see Jesus … He suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). This is love. This is the greatest love of all. This is divine love. It’s sacrificial love. It’s victorious love. It’s eternal love. “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is God’s answer to human sin. We look at our sin and our hearts are sad. We look at our Saviour and He makes us glad. How does our Saviour turn bring us our sadness and into His gladness? Is it an easy passage way – from sadness to gladness? No! For Jesus, it meant going to the Cross. It meant going to the place where He cried out, in deep spiritual agony, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). When we hear the words, “God so loved the world … “, let us never forget what it meant for our Saviour who “loved us and gave Himself for us” (Galatians 2:20) – “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we consider our personal salvation, let us never forget our Saviour’s costly sacrifice, and let us say, from our hearts, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”