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!”

A Very Important Question

Matthew 25:1-13
Will we be ready, when the Lord returns? This is the question the Lord is putting to us here. It’s the most important question. It’s the question that we cannot evade. It’s the question that won’t go away. It’s the question of our life. What is our life all about? What is most important to us? Who is most important to us – Jesus or ourselves?

Being With Jesus And Learning From Him

Mark 3:1-19
Jesus' ministry of preaching, teaching and healing was a remarkable ministry - but He did not go it alone. He called disciples to be with Him and learn from Him. How much do we know about these men? We know quite a lot about some of them. There are others about whom we know nothing at all. Do we need to know a lot about all of the apostles? No! We need to know about Jesus. The Saviour is more important than the servants. The message is more important than the messengers. This is a very important lesson. This is a lesson that we all need to learn. This is a lesson that we must never forget. Before we can work for the Lord, we are to "be with Him." We are to speak for Him (Mark 3:14). We are to pray that people will be changed (Mark 3:15).

Thursday, 21 July 2016

"But You, O Lord, remain forever" (Psalm 102:12).

Times change - but our God doesn't change. He's unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable - in His great love for us. His love doesn't come and go - sometimes up, sometimes down. His love remains forever. This is Good News for sinners. We have wandered far from Him - but He hasn't stopped loving us. He keeps on loving us. He's calling us to return to Him. He's calling us to make a new beginning with Him. This is love - and it gives us great hope for the future. Without His love, a New Year is just another year - more wandering around in the wilderness without really knowing where we're going. With His love, everything changes. His love changes everything. We move forward into the future with confidence in this: the Lord remains forever - and His love remains forever. Thank You, Lord, for Your great love. We don't deserve to be loved by You - but You keep on loving us. This fills our hearts with gladness - and with much hope for the future into which You are leading us.

The Lord - My Rock

“To You, Lord, I call; You are my Rock” (Psalm 28:1).
“I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave.
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath power to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages” (Lewi­s E. Jones).

Victory In Jesus

John 10:1-42
The Christian life is not easy. The devil ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’ (10).
Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying ‘to stone’ Jesus (31).
‘Again’, they failed (39). They could not take Jesus’ life. ‘His hour had not yet come’ (18; 7:30; 8:20).
When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control.
God has given us great promises (28-29). Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’.
Satan will cause us plenty of trouble.
* Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8).
* Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).

Facts, Faith, Feelings

Psalm 46:1-11
"God is our refuge and our strength ..." (Psalm 46;1). "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). First, the truth about God; Then, our feelings are brought into line with the truth about God,
Facts; Faith; Feelings
 * Facts - Christ's death and resurrection for us 
 * Faith - I believe the facts. My faith is built on the sure foundation - Christ, the rock of my salvation.
 * Feelings - Never start with feelings. They will lead you astray.
Safety; Certainty; Enjoyment
 * Safety - We have been saved by the Lord. It's His doing - not ours.
 * Certainty - We believe His Word. We stand upon His promises.
 * Enjoyment - We enjoy His blessing.

Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service.

1 Kings 7:13-8:13
Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service – “gold, silver, precious stones”. You’re calling us to leave behind the unfruitful life – “wood, hay, straw” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Help us to hear and answer Your call: “Rise up, O Church of God. Have done with lesser things. Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings.”

The Love Of God - Reaching Us And Changing Us

Acts 2:37-38
At the heart of the Gospel, there is the love of God. This is the story
told by Peter on the Day of Pentecost – the story of God’s
love for us. In love, God offers to us the forgiveness of sins and the
gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 38). These blessings are undeserved –
we are “far off” (v. 39). As the message of salvation was
proclaimed, the Spirit of love was powerfully at work, creating faith
– “they were cut to the heart and asked, ‘Brothers,
what shall we do?’” (v. 37). The story of salvation calls
for our response. Can we hear this story of salvation without
responding in faith, without earnestly seeking the blessings promised
to us in Christ? – Sadly, there are people who hear the Gospel
many times but are never gripped by the Gospel. We are only gripped by
the Gospel when we allow the Spirit of God to do His work in us,
drawing us to Jesus Christ. This emphasis on the Spirit is important.
Repentance and faith come to us through the work of the Spirit in us.
This is very different from the suggestion that we depend on our own
ability to save ourselves through our own ‘good works’ of
repentance and faith. Peter calls for repentance. When we repent , we
turn from every attempt to save ourselves. It cannot be done. We put
our trust in Christ. He alone can save us. We do not come to God,
demanding that God must accept us because of our repentance.Trusting in
Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit.
We receive the power we need to live a new life, centred upon Christ
rather than self. It is the power that comes from knowing that our sins
have been forgiven. It is the Spirit’s power to change us, making
us more like Jesus. What does it mean to be gripped by the Gospel? What
does it mean to have faith in Christ? There are two elements in faith.
First, there is faith in the events, believing that they really
happened. Second, there is trust in what the events reveal. We trust in
the love of God. What is faith? In one sense, faith is personal. In
another sense, faith involves being in community with other believers
– “they were added to their number” (v. 41). In
Peter’s call for baptism, we see this second element of faith. In
baptism, we are taken beyond the purely personal aspect of faith. Our
attention is focused on the community of faith into which we enter. We
are not simply isolated individuals. We belong to the body of Christ,
in fellowship with other believers.

The Good News of salvation (Psalm 6)

(1) The Psalmist’s need of salvation.
He comes to God in his need – “My soul is in anguish” (v. 3); “I am worn out from groaning” (v. 6); “My eyes grow weak with sorrow” (v.7). He looks to the future, and all that he sees is “the grave” (v. 5).
(2) The Psalmist’s prayer for salvation
He looks to the Lord for salvation – “Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (v. 4). He prays that God will not come under the judgment of God – O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath” (v. 1) He prays that God will have “mercy” on him – “Be merciful to me, Lord” (v.2) He trusts in God’s “unfailing love – “Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (v. 4).
(3) Repentance and Faith
In the Psalmist’s prayer, there is repentance - “Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping” (v. 8) – and faith – “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (v. 9).
(4) Assurance of Salvation
Coming to the Lord in repentance and faith, the Psalmist receives assurance of salvation – “the Lord accepts my prayer” (v. 9).
 (5) A Word of Warning and a Call to Repentance
“All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace” (v. 10). What are we to say about this final verse? Is the Psalmist gloating over his enemies? I believe that he’s saying something much more positive than that. He’s warning them, “This is what will happen if you refuse to repent.” He’s calling them to return to the Lord. The future need not be filled with shame, dismay and disgrace. Like him, their hearts can be turned back to the Lord. Their lives can be turned around for God. They need not remain God’s “enemies” for ever – “when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). We have been saved by the Lord. Let’s keep on proclaiming the Good News of Christ – “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Even the “enemies” of Christ can be saved by grace – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). —— We have come to God as sinners. He has heard and answered our prayer for salvation. Let us pray for others that they will bring their sin to the Saviour and will receive His salvation. When we pray for others, let us be bold in our prayers. The Good News of grace reaches beyond those whom the world may describe as ” a righteous man” “a good man” (Romans 5:7). We look at the Cross of Christ, and we remember this: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) – This is the Gospel of our salvation. As we rejoice in God’s salvation, let us make this our earnest prayer: “O that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me would all mankind embrace.” Having received God’s salvation, let us commit ourselves to sharing the Good News of His love: “’tis all my business here below to cry: ‘Behold the Lamb.’”

Real Listening ...

Real Listening, A Real Turning To The Lord And A Real Sense Of His Blessing (Psalm 85:8)
We are to pray for real listening - ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord - ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing - ‘He will speak peace to His people’(Psalm 85:8).

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

In The House Of The Lord

“One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…”(Psalm 27:4).
Why do we come to the House of the Lord? – We come to offer to Him our heartfelt worship.