Thursday, 30 April 2015

A New Song

"Sing a new song to the Lord" (Psalm 98:1).
What is a new song? It's a song that wasn't there - until the Lord put it into our hearts. It's a song that's come to us from the Lord. We give back to Him what He has given to us.   

Friday, 24 April 2015

Saved By Grace, Saved For Good Works, Saved To Be A Witness

 * Saved by grace - "He saved us, but not because of anything we had done to gain His approval. Instead, because of his mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5). 
 * Saved for good works - "God’s saving kindness ... trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12).
 *  Saved to be a witness - We are to "show the beauty of the teachings about God our Savior in everything we do" (Titus 2:10). Witness is more than what we say. It's what we do. Our whole life - words as well as actions - is to point people away from ourselves to our Saviour.

"Lord, teach us to pray ... Ask, seek, knock ... " (Luke 11:1,9).

Prayer is more than a form of words. It's about what we're becoming as well as what we're saying. Are we becoming people who are learning to say, "What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer"? "Take it to the Lord in prayer" - Teach us, Lord, to do this.

What no-one else could ever do for us, God has done for us.

"No one can ever buy back another person or pay God a ransom for his life" (Psalm 49:7).
What no-one else could ever do for us, God has done for us -  "... the  Son of Man came ... to give His life as a ransom for many people” (Mark 10:45). "God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).

A Great Celebration, A Great God

"Clap your hands, all you people. Shout to God with a loud, joyful song. ... " (Psalm 47).
What a great celebration! What a great God!

The Mercy Of God

"The mercy of God lasts all day long! ... I trust the mercy of God forever and ever" (Psalm 52:1,8).
Mercy is God's gift to us. Trust is our response to God's mercy. His mercy is for here-and-now. It's for today. His mercy is everlasting - "His mercy endures for ever" (Psalm 136). It's for today. It's for tomorrow. It's for every today. It's for every tomorrow. May God help each of us, today and every day, to trust His mercy. 

More Than My Opinion!

"The Lord, the only true God has spoken" (Psalm 50:1). 
How are we to make sense of life? What are we to believe? Are there answers to life's biggest questions. Where have we come from? Where are we headed for? What's life all about? We don't have all the answers. Sometimes, we have to say, 'I don't know.' - but there is something else that we must always say, "The Lord, the only true God, has spoken" (Psalm 50:1). We've not been left to wander around  in the darkness of our own uncertainty and confusion. God has given us His Word. His light has shone into our lives. We may not understand everything - but we do have His answers to our most important questions. Thank God - we can say more than "This is what I think. I may be right. I be wrong. This is my opinion." God has given us something better - "The Lord, the only true God, has spoken" (Psalm 50:1). We thank You, Lord that "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17). 

Where Does Revelation Come From?

" ... the sky opened, and I saw visions from God ... The power of the Lord came over Ezekiel" (Ezekiel 1:1-2).
Where does revelation come from? Does it come from us? Is it something that we discover? No! It comes from above. It comes from heaven. It comes from the Lord. It is given to us. It is the gift of  His grace. Revelation comes to us - but it doesn't begin with us. It begins with God. We see things differently - when our eyes are opened by the Lord. No glory belongs to us. All the glory belongs to the Lord. We dare not say, "Look  at what I have discovered." All we can say is this, ""To God be the glory! Great things He has done."

Monday, 13 April 2015

God's Power - And God's Mercy

"Listen to my cry for help, O Lord" (Psalm 61:1). God is the God of power and mercy: "Power belongs to God. Mercy belongs to You, O Lord" (Psalm 62:11-12), "I look to You in the holy place to see Your power and Your glory. My lips will praise You because Your mercy is better than life itself" (Psalm 63:3). When we consider how great God is - great in power, great in mercy, we are filled with thanksgiving, praise and joy - "I will thank You as long as I live ... My mouth will sing Your praise with joyful lips" (Psalm 63:4-5).

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Two types of people ...

In Psalms 36 and 37, we see the conflict between the righteous and the wicked, the godly and the ungodly. By drawing this radical contrast between these two types of people, God’s Word calls us to make our choice. What kind of people will we be? How will we live? There is no more important than the question of character. Will our lives be shaped by the character of God? or Will thy be shaped by a very different character - Satan, the evil one?

Comforters? or Critics?

In Job 15, we have another speech from Eliphaz. He charges in with all the subtlety of an elephant on the rampage: “you destroy the fear of God, and diminish devotion to God” (Job 15:4). He continues in the same vein, getting bolder and brasher in his word of accusation: “Your sin teaches you what to say. You choose to talk with a sly tongue. Your own mouth condemns you, not I. Your lips testify against you” (Job 15:5-6). Eliphaz did not listen to Job, but he insisted on Job listening to him: “I’ll tell you; listen to me! I’ll relate what I’ve seen, I’ll tell you what wise people have declared” (Job 15:17-18). Eliphaz gives a vivid description of the tortured life of the wicked person (Job 15:20-35). He begins with the words, “The wicked person is tortured all his days” (Job 15:20). This part of his speech is in the third person. While he doesn’t explicitly say, “I’m describing you, Job”, it is perfectly clear that this is what Eliphaz is doing. “This is what you are like, Job” - This is the message that Eliphaz wants Job to take out of his description of “the wicked person.”
Job stands up to his ‘comforters’, who are really his critics: “You are all pathetic at comforting me” (Job 16:2). He is, however, at ‘the end of his tether’, as he tries to understand what is going on in his life: “now, God has worn me out” (Job 16:7). The extent to which Job has been overcome by despair becomes clear in the final verses of Job 17. Again, he stands up to his critics: “I won’t find one wise man among you” (Job 17:10). Again, he feels that his situation is hopeless (Job 17:14-16). As we read of Job’s deep distress, we should remember also the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he hung on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Christ suffered for us - but He also rose again for us. Job catches a glimpse of this when he says, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).

God's Wisdom? or Our Wisdom?

In Job 11, we hear from Zophar. So far, so good - That’s what we can say about the basic principles of his message: “God’s wisdom is higher than heaven” (Job 11:8); “If you want to set your heart right, then pray to Him. If you’re holding on to sin, put it far away” (Job 11:13). There’s a problem with Zophar’s message. He applies these basic principles to Job. He allows the idea that Job has sinned to dominate his thinking rather than allowing for the possibility that God, in His perfect wisdom, may have another reason, a very different reason, for permitting Job to suffer. When we have two important principles - God’s wisdom and God’s forgiveness, we must not assume that we know exactly how the two relate to each other. If we act on the basis of our own wisdom rather than God’s wisdom, we may end up showing ourselves to be fools.
In Job 12 - 14, Job speaks. He emphasizes that wisdom comes from God (Job 12:13). He charges his so-called ‘comforters’ with speaking foolishly, without the wisdom which comes from God: “Will you talk wickedly for God and talk deceitfully on His behalf? ... Doesn’t His Majesty terrify you? Doesn’t the fear of Him fall upon you?” (Job 13:7,11). Job is still unclear about what is happening to him. He is still wishing that he was dead: “I wish You would hide me in Sheol” (Job 14:13). He still insists on his innocence: “I know that I will be declared righteous” (Job 13:18).

The Day Of Salvation Will Come!

In Job 8, we have the first speech of Bildad. Its theme is very straightforward. Sin leads to suffering (Job 8:4). Obedience leads to prosperity (Job 8:5-7). This teaching is presented in a heavy-handed way. In Job 8:20, we have an attack on Job’s character: “Certainly, God does not reject a person of integrity or give a helping hand to wicked people.” When this statement is applied to Job, it has the effect of saying to him, “You’re not a person of integrity. You’re a wicked person.” There’s a problem with Bildad’s words. He doesn’t recognize that there is an eternal perspective within which the divine judgment is set. Here, on earth, the wicked may be prospering, but the time of judgment will come. It may not be in this world, but it will come, in God’s final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). Here, on earth, the righteous may suffer much, but their suffering will not be forever. The day of salvation will come. There will be “a great reward in heaven!” (Matthew 5:10-12). Our suffering is “for a little while now”, but it will not last forever: “Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory and honour to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ appears again” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
In Job 9 - 10, Job speaks. He is in a mood of deep distress. He speaks of the futility of arguing with God (Job 9:3). His situation is very depressing: “I hate my life” (Job 10:1). He is surrounded by deep darkness: “So stop this, and leave me alone. Let me smile a little before I go away to a land of darkness and doom to a dismal land of long shadows and confusion where light is as bright as darkness. I’ll never return” (Job 10:20-22).

Is There Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

In Job 3, we see Job in a state of deep depression. At this stage, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. He is in desperate need of the Lord’s sustaining strength. Where will the Lord’s help come from? When will his time of suffering come to an end? Job has many questions. He doesn’t have any answers. This “the dark night of the soul.”
In Job 4 - 5, we have the first speech of Eliphaz. On the pretext of bringing comfort to Job, Eliphaz brings a message of accusation. However much Eliphaz claims to be bringing God’s Word to Job, we can be sure that he is not God’s messenger. Why? - It’s because his message conflicts with God’s understanding of Job’s situation (Job 1:8).
In Job 6 - 7, Job replies. There is real pain in Job’s words. He speaks of his “grief” and “misery” (Job 6:2). There is a real longing for God to answer his prayer. Sadly, his prayer has become a cry of despair: “that God would finally be willing to crush me, that He would reach out to cut me off” (Job 6:9). Even though he is in great distress, Job retains sufficient clarity of thought to know that his so-called ‘friends’ have got it wrong - “Please change your mind ... Change your mind because I am still right about this! ...or is my mouth unable to tell the difference between right and wrong?” (Job 6:29-30). There is sadness here - “As a cloud fades away and disappears, so a person goes into the grave and doesn’t come back again” (Job 7:9). Job hasn’t broken through this sense of hopelessness to the triumphant faith, expressed in his confession of confidence in God: “I know that my Redeemer lives ...” (Job 19:25-26), a tremendous declaration of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection in Him. It’s so wonderful that in a book, filled with so much suffering, there is this marvellous glimpse of an eternal glory, in which all suffering will be banished forever.

Attacked And Accused

With God’s permission, “Satan, the accuser” attacks Job (Job 1:8). The attack is ferocious, May the Name of the Lord be praised! Through all this, Job did not sin or blame God for doing anything wrong” (Job 1:21-22). Satan’s attack on Job is really a challenge to God. The Lord is in control of the situation. Satan can only do what God permits him to do (Job 2:6).
Job’s so-called ‘friends’ were watching the situation. They intended to sympathize with him and comfort him (Job 2:11). When they saw the “great pain” he was in, they did not say anything to him (Job 2:13). They were thinking about what was happening to him, and their thoughts moved from comfort to blame. They started off with the intention of being comforters. They ended up doing the work of accusers.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Lamentations

The title―Lamentations ― suggests human sadness. There is, however, something else here ― divine faithfulness. At the heart of this short book, we find this great declaration ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ (3:23). Knowing God as the God of great faithfulness involves looking beyond our circumstances and our feelings.
Israel’s circumstances were depressing. Jerusalem had fallen. The Temple had been destroyed. Depression seemed to be the mood of the moment. Humanly speaking, things did not look good. Israel had known better times. The Lord’s people had wandered from the Lord. The people of God knew little of the power of God. This was not, however, the whole story. The faithful God had not given up on his wayward people. He assured them that they would again have good reason to say ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. We could easily miss the five chapters of Lamentations. Hidden away between the fifty two chapters of Jeremiah and the forty eight chapters of Ezekiel, they hardly catch the eye. The title ― Lamentations ― hardly grabs our attention. It would be a great pity ― for us ― if we overlooked this testimony to God’s faithfulness. Here, we have a message of great contemporary relevance. Lamentations was written at a time, strikingly similar to our own day. God’s people had been taken captive. They lived in an alien environment. This is the story of our own nation in the twenty-first century. We live in a secularized society, a society in which there is little sense of God’s presence. Our society is a materialistic society, a society which has made money its ‘god’. The people of God are a people under pressure. We are tempted to become prisoners of our circumstances, prisoners of our feelings. We look at our circumstances, and we feel ‘desolate’ (1:4) and ‘despised’ (1:11). In our discouragement, we cry to God: ‘O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!’ (1:9). What did God say to Israel in their time of distress? He spoke to them of his great faithfulness, his readiness to revive his work. This is the message which we must hear in our day. It is a message which will draw out from our hearts that great confession of faith ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. How are we to live for Christ in the twenty-first century? We must live with realism, and we must live by faith. We need realism if we are to look honestly at our present circumstances. Looking beyond those circumstances calls for faith ― faith in the God of great faithfulness. The Church’s present situation is aptly yet sadly described in the words ― ‘How the gold has grown dim’ (4:1). We can come to God only in confession of sin ― ‘O Lord ... see our disgrace’ (5:1). We look at our secularized society, and we acknowledge that ‘our inheritance has been turned over to strangers’ (5:2). We look at the secularization of the Church, and we acknowledge that ‘our homes (have been turned over) to aliens’ (5:2).
We look into our own hearts and lives, and we acknowledge that ‘the joy of our hearts has ceased; (and) our dancing has been turned to mourning’ (5:15). In the world of today and the Church of today, it is not easy to rejoice in our hearts. It is even more difficult to be joyful in testifying for the Lord. We must seek a positive answer to the question, ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:4).
Israel’s difficulty in singing the Lord’s song is emphasized by the sad fact that ‘Mount Zion ... lies desolate’ (5:8). This is the situation, which is described in Psalm 137:1 ― ‘By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion’. In this situation, the ‘tormentors’ of God’s people mockingly say, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ (Psalm 137:3). When we are faced with similar circumstances, we are forced to ask, ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ How are we to do this? Are we to hide our heads in the sand, run away from our difficult circumstances and escape into pious emotion? This is what we must not do. We must face our circumstances honestly. This is realism.
We dare not ignore the reality of our situation. There is, however, another reality of which we must take account ― the reality of God, the God concerning whom we say, with faith, ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. By faith, we look beyond our circumstances to our God: ‘But thou, O Lord, dost reign for ever; thy throne endures to all generations’ (5:19). To believe in God’s faithfulness is to believe that his ‘throne endures to all generations’. God is still on the throne. There is no question of ‘God used to be on the throne, but now he is no lnger on the throne’. We have heard what the so-called ‘Death of God’ theologians have had to say for themselves.
We have also heard what the book of Lamentations says for God: ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. Having heard the voice of God, in the midst of the voices of unbelief, we affirm our faith in the living God. God is still on the throne. For ever, he reigns. His throne endures to all generations. This is the faith which inspired Israel in their captivity. This is the faith with which we move forward in the twenty-first century. It is the faith which transforms our feelings. By faith, we bring our feelings to God. Like Israel, we may feel forgotten and forsaken (5:20). In God’s presence, we exchange our feelings ― forgotten and forsaken ― for his blessings ― restoration and renewal: ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord ... Renew our days as of old!’ (5:21).
In the Lord’s presence, we become convinced of God’s faithfulness. He has not forgotten us, and he will not forget us. He has not forsaken us, and he will not forsake us. In our prayer for restoration and renewal, we bring our circumstances and feelings to God, refusing to be overwhelmed by them.
We pray with urgency, conscious of our great need of restoration and renewal. Prisoners of circumstances and feelings, we pray ― with faith ― that the chains will start falling and the changes will start happening. In prayer, we look back ― with thanksgiving ― to past blessings, and we look forward ― in hope ― to future blessing. We remember what God has done in ‘days ... of old’, and our faith grows ― God reigns for ever and his throne endures to all generations. Strengthened in faith, we pray, ‘Renew our days as of old!’ The restoration and renewal for which we must pray is the restoration of our walk with God ― 'He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:3) ― and the renewal of our witness for God ― ‘Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?’ (Psalm 85:6). Walking with God and witnessing for God, we are sustained by the joy of the Lord. In this Book with such an unpromising name ― ‘Lamentations’ ― the joy of the Lord comes shining through. Looking beyond our circumstances to the Lord, we are able, with joy, to affirm our faith: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end’ (3:22). The steadfast love of the Lord may also be described as his faithful love. His love is love, unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Rejoicing in such love, we praise God’s faithfulness: ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ (3:23).
Through the faithful love of God, we are given a testimony: ‘The Lord is my portion’. With this testimony, we face the future with the courage of faith: ‘I will hope in him’ (3:24). In our walk with God, this testimony ― ‘The Lord is my portion’ ― is an expression of the joyful faith which finds its true satisfaction in the Lord. We speak of  'a good portion’ and ‘a satisfying meal’. Those who have found that ‘none but Christ can satisfy’ have this testimony: ‘The Lord is my portion’. Assured of God’s faithful love ― a love which is completely trustworthy, utterly reliable and entirely dependable, we confidently affirm, ‘The Lord is my portion’. This faith is no secondhand faith. It may be a faith which reflects on the Lord’s dealing with the whole body of his people but it is, nevertheless, a personal faith ―‘The Lord is my portion’. In Christ, we have received the full portion of God’s blessing. As ‘his sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ’, we have received ‘every spiritual blessing’ (Ephesians 1:4-5). For once, the ‘child’s portion’ is the ‘full portion!’ Knowing Christ as ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:35) and ‘the living water’ (John 4:10, 13-14 and John 7:37-38), we gladly say ‘The Lord is my portion’. Those who have begun to walk with God are also to witness for him. Those who have the personal testimony ‘The Lord is my portion’ ― are to say to others, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34:8). We have found Christ. We are to share him with others. We have come to know Christ. We are to make him known Surprising though it may seem, the Book of Lamentations can be of some value in the preaching of the gospel. A book bearing the unlikely title ― ‘Lamentations’ ― hardly creates the impression that it will be
of any real use in the proclamation of ‘good news’. The desolation of God’s people in the twenty first century is so reminiscent of the desolation of which we read in Lamentations. Many watch what is going on in our generation, and they wonder, ‘Where is the Word of the Lord’ in all this? (Jeremiah 17:15) The sadness which pervades so much of Lamentations reflects the mood of many of the Lord’s people in our day ― longing for better times, for the ‘days ... of old’ (5:21). Ours is an age of many questions and, so it seems, few answers. Lamentations is a book which ends with questions, ‘Why dost thou forget us for ever, why dost thou so long forsake us? ... Or hast thou utterly rjected us? Art thou exceedingly angry with us?’ (5:20, 22). So often, modern man expects no answer to his questions. In Lamentations, these questions are set in the context of believing affirmation ― ‘But thou, O Lord, dost reign for ever; thy throne endures to all generations’ (5:19) ― and earnest prayer ― ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old!’ (5:21). How are we to bring good news to a world that is living with questions, a world that shows little inclination to believe the confession of faith ― ‘Thou, O Lord, doest reign for ever’ ― and little interest in praying the fervent prayer ― ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord’? This is a question which calls for a practical response. It demands a response which will take into account the questions which men and women are asking in this generation. To speak of questions ― some spoken in the context of prayer and faith, and others asked with little expectation of an answer ― is to acknowledge that there are many different types of questions.
This may be brought out clearly through a brief review of the questions asked in the Book of Lamentations. In 1:12, we have a question put to those who despise the Lord’s people, ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’. In 2:12, there is the question asked by ‘infants and babes faint(ing) in the streets of the city’(2:11) -  ‘Where is bread and wine?’ In 2:13, there are questions which raise the question of the comfort and restoration of a fallen people: ‘What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you that may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?’ The question of the cynics who ‘hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem’ is found in 2:15 ― ‘Is this the city which was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?’ In 2:20, we have questions asked in the mood of prayerful moral indignation: ‘Look, O Lord, and see! With whom hast thou dealt thus? Should women eat their offspring, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?’
Moving into the third chapter, we find this triology of questions at vs. 37-39: ‘Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?’ There are so many different questions being asked today.
They are being asked by different people. They are being asked in different ways and with different expectations. What do the question of  Lamentations have to say to our day, a day of many questions? They may prompt the modern questioner to think about the question he’s not asking as well as the questions he is asking ― ‘Perhaps, there is a God who has his own questions to put to me.’ Lamentations asks its questions within the context of the great declaration of faith : ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ (3:23). This combination of intense questioning and confident faith might well increase the questioner’s expectation of an answer ― an answer which while it may leave some questions unresolved, opens the doors to faith. As we face modern man’s questions, we must ‘be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks us to give a reason for our hope’ (1 Peter 3:15). In giving an answer, we dare not imagine that we can ever hope to give a complete answer to every question. We must always remember that ‘the secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us’ (Deuteronomy 29:29). The answer which we give is not our answer. It is God’s answer.
Man’s question has been answered by God. He has answered it in person. The God of faithfulness ― the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14) ― is God’s answer to mans question. The answer which we give must always be a Christ-centred answer. We may now focus special attention on two of the questions asked in Lamentations ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’ (1:12), and ‘Where is bread and wine?’ (2:12). We read these questions in connection with two other questions, the first two questions asked in the Bible: ‘the serpent ... said to the woman, “Did God say ... ?” ’ (Genesis 3:1), and ‘the Lord God called to the man..., “Where are you?” ‘ (Genesis 3:9). Taking these four questions together, we may find a helpful pattern for thinking about Christian witness in today’s world. The Bible’s first question was asked by neither God nor man. It was asked by ‘the serpent’ ― ‘that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan’ (Revelation 20:2). We do not introduce the devil here in order to provide ourselves with an excuse for our unbelief. After all, Scripture tells us that ‘each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire’ (James 1:14). Rather, we speak of Satan’s question ― ‘Did God say?’ in order to emphasize that many of today’s questions arise from unbelief, and not from faith seeking understanding. We speak of the Satanic origin of the Bible’s first question in order to stress that, in today’s world, we are involved in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12), when we seek to bring the modern questioner from one form of questioning ― the questioning of unbelief ― to another very different form of questioning ― faith seeking understanding. We must  eckon with the activity of Satan when we encounter the questioning which arises from unbelief‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4;4). How is the problem of unbelief to be overcome? Unbelief gives way to faith, only when God is at work in the human heart: ‘it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). The emergence of faith in the human heart is the work of ‘the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:2). If we are to combat unbelief effectively, our evangelism must be God―centred. We proclaim the God of love, the God who sent his Son ‘to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10). God has not changed. He is still the God of love. He still calls out to the lost, ‘Where are you?’. In love, he still invites the sinner to return to him. His love is a yearning love, a passionate love, a love which says to the indifferent: ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’. His love for us is a love which draws out from our hearts a returning love ― ’Loving him who first loved me’. Touched by the love of God, the modern questioner finds that the character of his questioning begins to change. The question of the unbeliever gives way to the question of the seeker: ‘Where is bread and wine?’. There is a hunger and thirst which the world cannot satisfy, a hunger and thirst which can be satisfied only by the One whose body was broken for us and whose blood was shed for us. ‘Where is bread and wine?’ It is not the ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ of this world, which satisfies the deepest need of the human heart. It is Jesus Christ ‘the bread of Life’ (John 6:48), ‘the true vine’ (John 15:1). ‘Where is bread and wine?’ This is the question of the seeking heart. To those who are truly seeking, Jesus says, ‘You will find’ (Matthew 7:7). Why do we start asking the seeker’s question? His love lays hold on us. What do we find when we truly seek? His love. The love which prompted us to seek is the love which we find in Jesus Christ. Evangelism, when it is truly God-centred, will also be Christ-centred. Evangelism, which is both God―centred and Christ-centred, becomes effective through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is witness for Christ, which is grounded in walking in the Spirit. True evangelism is grounded in care and prayer. If we truly desire to see the mighty blessing of God in our day, we must care for those who are living without Christ, and we must pray for them. Caring and praying ― both are vital if we are to be really used by the Lord to bring his blessing into the lives of others. Caring for those who have yet to find the Saviour, we invite them to consider the question of 1:12 ― ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’. Praying for them, we pray that they will ask the seeker’s question ― ‘Where is bread and wine?’ (2:12). Caring and praying, we are ― by our lives and our words ― to invite men and women to consider Jesus Christ and to discover for themselves what w e can do in their lives. As we seek to be faithful to God in our Christian walk and witness, we will discover ― despite all the difficulties facing the Christian Faith and the Christian Church ― the great truth which lies at the heart of Lamentations ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’.

"Africa Bible Commentary" on Genesis

Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars
Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars
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The Africa Bible Commentary is unique. Written by African theologians and produced in Africa, it is the first one-volume commentary ever created to help pastors, students, and lay leaders in Africa apply God’s Word to distinctively African concerns, yet its fresh insights will have a universal appeal.
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'Scripture is not just a holy book from which we extract teaching and biblical principles ... it is a story in which we participate ... Scripture speaks to us because Scripture speaks about us ... Scripture is the living testimony to what God has done and continues to do, and we are part of that testimony.'

'Comment on the authorship of the Pentateuch (Genesis - Deuteronomy)' - ' ... it is not the author who is important. What matters is the existence of a message that is relevant to the community.'

'...'at that time men began to call on the name of the Lord' (Genesis 4:26b) ... Seth and his line feared God and called on his name. Lamech, Cain's descendant, called only on his wives to hear his boasting (Genesis 4:23).' (p. 19).

'Though everything that was not in the ark was destroyed (Genesis 7:21-23), the ultimate goal of the flood was not to destroy all life but to destroy the stranglehold of sin ... the flood did not aim to wipe out creation but to preserve it ... Destroying all creation would have signified the defeat of the Creator ... Not even the initial sin of Adam and Eve had derailed his plan, for he had immediately announced the future coming of the Saviour to crush the devil and bring in a new community that would celebrate his glory (Genesis 3:15).' (p. 22).

'As long as the sins we have committed are not recognized, confessed to the Lord and abandoned, they will continue to be a great burden, no matter how much we try to hide our suffering. Only Christ's forgiveness relieves us and restores to us the strength and the joy of living to continue our service of faith.' (p. 22).

'The God who is to be feared because of his devastating judgment of evil is also the one who 'blessed Noah and his sons' (Genesis 9:1).' (p. 24).

'God provided the rainbow as a sign that he would keep his 'covenant for all generations to come' (Genesis 9:12-13) ... This sign is needed not because God may possibly forget his covenant - that is not his nature (Psalm 105:8; Psalm 111:5; Luke 1:72) - but an assurance to humans that God will not forget. Some have arg...ued that God has broken this promise, for there have been floods of various kinds that have claimed many lives. But what is promised here is not protection from all floods, but rather protection from a catastrophic flood that will 'destroy all life' (Genesis 9:15b).' (p. 24).


'Scripture ... records both the victories and the failures of God's people. readers are constantly reminded of the need of God's grace. None of us ... can claim to deserve God's acceptance.' (p. 24).

'Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master (Genesis 24:10). If we relate this to our being sent out on a mission by our heavenly master, the focus all the time should be on our master and not on ourselves. We owe nothing, and our entire mission is on behalf of our master.' (p. 44).

'Though the New Testament stressed God's free choice of Jacob over Esau (see Romans 9:10-13), this incident highlights the other side of the story - human responsibility. It cannot be denied that 'Esau despised his birthright' (Genesis 25:34b; Hebrews 12:16-17). There is a tension between God's choice of Jacob and Esau's responsibility for freely selling his birthright. In the same way, God's grace draws us to Jesus for salvation (John 6:44), but at the same time, it remains our duty to believe (John 3:16).' (p. 48).

'I am the God of your father Abraham (26:24a). God is not just identifying himself; he is also reaffirming his commitment. As the Lord was with Abraham, so he will be with Isaac. As his power was seen in the life of Abraham, so it will also be seen in the life of Isaac' (p. 49).

“The Bible records both the good and evil that men and women do. And not all evil was punished, for if it were, none would have survived. God graciously overlooks some evil.” (p. 68).

“Elders pass harsh judgments on people who have committed the same sins that they themselves are guilty of - except that they have managed to keep it secret. This is nothing less than hypocrisy!” (p. 68).

“Once a wrong act has been repented of and confessed, it should not be repeated.” (p. 68). “The Lord's presence always brings blessings. These will not always be material things, for the joy of communing with God is in itself a blessing.” (p. 68).

“... it does not matter where we serve the Lord. We may serve in a high position or in a low one. God can bless us in either position.” (p. 69).

“... the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph. He began by acknowledging his failure to remember Joseph earlier (Genesis 41:9) and then went on to tell how 'a young Hebrew' who was in prison had accurately interpreted his and the chief baker's dreams (Genesis 41:10-12). What mattered to Pharaoh was not what the young Hebrew was called but what he did ... what matters most is not whether people remember our names, but what they remember about us. How would they describe us to someone else? Do we simply have the label of being a Christian, or would people describe us as acting in Christian ways?” (p. 70). 

'When Joseph had asked the cupbearer to mention his case to Pharaoh, he was hoping that Pharaoh would listen and respond to his needs. But God's plan was that the needy one would be Pharaoh, and that Joseph would listen to him and meet his needs!' (p. 70).

'It is important to pray, but it is equally important to know that God will respond to our prayers in his own time and in his own way' (p. 70).

'Often those who claim that the Lord has given them gifts place God in a secondary role while they display the gift as if it were their very own. This is a very bad mistake. the gift can never be greater than the giver.' (p. 70).

'In Africa, many preachers ... have tended to speak to please the king, rather than to honestly declare the word of truth. In some cases, they have even become so involved in the politics of the day that they have compromised their role as servants odf God. we need more people of Joseph's character and courage to stand before our presidents if Africa is to move towars establishing systems that care for the needs of ordinary people. Fairness to all should be at the centre of the counsel our presidents receive from preachers.' (p. 71).

'As long as the sins we have committed are not recognized, confessed to the Lord and abandoned, they will continue to be a great burden, no matter how much we try to hide our suffering. Only Christ's forgiveness relieves us and restores to us the strength and the joy of living to continue our service of faith.' (p. 73).

'... at each step, it must be remembered that regeneration, the basis of all godly authority, begins with God working in the individual and extends to every facet of life' (p. 79).

The Word Of God - Christ, Scripture, Preaching

If I were to go around the congregation and ask you, "Why have you come to this church service?", I'm sure I would get quite a variety of different answers. Some of you, if you were being perfectly honest, might have to say, "I came because I've got into a routine of coming to church on a Sunday." If this is what you're thinking, that's very sad. How can you expect to get anything out of the service, if you have only come to church because it's part of your weekly routine?
Others may say, "I feel that I must come because it's my duty." There's a sense in which this is true, yet, if that's all that brings you to church, you're missing a great deal. Such an attitude is surely a far cry from the attitude of the Psalmist: "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord'" (Psalm 122:1),
Others may say, "I've come to church to hear the minister speak." Yes. You will hear the minister speaking, but if you do not come to church, expecting God to speak to you through the minister, you will get very little from the church service.
We must come to hear more than the minister. We must come to hear God speaking to us. We must come for more than meeting other Christians. We must come to meet with God.
This brings us to the very heart of why we come to the church service - encounter with God.
We come to God as part of a worshipping, believing and praying fellowship of His people. We come, seeking to meet with Him. We come to worship Him, to pray to Him and to hear His Word.
Let's think together about hearing the Word of God.
What do we mean when we say "the Word of God"?
Often, our answer is given very quickly. Without much thought, we say, the Bible."
Do you know that, if you were to stop and think about the richness and the depth that there is in the phrase, "the Word of God", you would be both greatly blessed greatly challenged?
What do we use words for?
- We use words when we think.
- We use words when we speak to one another.
We use words to communicate our thoughts.
When we speak about "the Word of God", what we are saying is this; God has not kept His thoughts to Himself. He has shared His thoughts with us. He has told us about the love He has for us. He has opened His heart to us. He did not wait for us to come to Him. He has come to us. He has taken the initiative. He did not leave us groping around in the darkness, trying to make sense of our life. He has spoken to us of His love for us.
What a wonderful message He speaks to us!
- "God is love" (1 John 4:8).
- "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16).
- "God showed His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Think of these wonderful word, and let your heart be moved by the wonder of God's love for you. He loved so much that He sent His Son to die for you,
In the Bible, we find that "the Word of God" has three meanings:
- Christ is the Word of God (John 1:114Hebrews 1:1).
- Scripture is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
- The preached Word is described as the Word of God (Acts 4:31).
Let's think together about these three ways in which the Bible speaks about the Word of God.
  • First, Christ is the Word of God. This is the most fundamental meaning of the Word of God.
We do not really benefit from the Word of God in Scripture and preaching if we do not see Christ in them.
The aim of both Scripture and preaching is to point us to Christ.
It is Christ who is God's Word to us. It is Christ who is the Gospel. It is Christ who is God's way of salvation.
I remember, sitting in a meeting, listening to a godly man, reading and preaching God's Word. Before he began to preach, he prayed, "Lord, hide this preacher behind the Cross so that the only One who is seen is Jesus." Ne stated his text: It was these four words: "the Lord Jesus Christ." He spoke of how He loved to give Jesus His full title: "the Lord Jesus Christ." He emphasized that giving Jesus His full title helped us to see Him in all His fullness. He took us to some of the names that the Bible uses when it speaks to us of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was, for me, a rich experience as, together with others, we turned our eyes upon Jesus. As we looked from the preacher to Jesus, as we learned from the Scriptures about Jesus, I came to a deeper appreciation of something very important: Jesus Christ is the Word of God spoken to us by God Himself. Here, we see the great purpose of Scripture and true Gospel preaching. Both are given to us for this purpose - to lead us to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Second, the Scriptures have been given to us by God. They have been given to us so that we might be led to Jesus, our Saviour. Jesus says to us, "It is the Scriptures that bear witness to Me" (John 5:39). Jesus taught His disciples "in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). The apostles sought to point to Jesus from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2-3). If we truly hear and understand the Scriptures, we will open our hearts to Jesus Christ. The Scriptures speak to us God's Word. They say to us, "Consider Jesus."
  • Third, the Bible speaks to us of the preaching of the Word of God. To preach the Word of God is to preach Christ [Romans 10:17 - "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (KJV) / the preaching of Christ (RSV)].
Paul sought to know and make known Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:21:23). He sought to be unashamed of the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). He sought to glory only in the Cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14).
This is true preaching. It is more than a minister, giving his thoughts on one thing or another. It is the proclamation of Christ.
When Christ is proclaimed, God is pleased to come, by His Spirit, and bring men and women to faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:21).
What is your attitude to the preaching of the Gospel? Do you come to hear a preacher? or Do you come to hear God speaking to you? If you come to hear God, this is the Word you will hear - "Consider Jesus." This is what God says to you and me.
He directs our attention to Jesus. He says, "This is My Beloved Son, hear Him" (Matthew 17:5).
Can you hear God speaking to you? This is what He's saying to you: "If today you hear God's voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 4:7).
Jesus Christ is God's Word to you. He is God's Word of salvation. He is God's Son. He is our Saviour. Will you listen to His voice? He's calling you to come to Him.Will you receive Him as your Saviour?

Questions And Answers (John 9)

John 9 is a chapter that's full of questions and answers.
  • (1) Question: " ... who sinned, this man or his parents ... ?" (John 9:2).
Answer: "Neither ,,, this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3).
  • (2) Question: "Isn't this the same man who used to ... beg?" (John 9:8).
Answer: "I am the man" (John 9:9).
Whatever we may have been, the grace of God is able to lift us up. Praise the Lord!
  • (3) Question: The "How" question - "how were your eyes opened?" (John 9:10).
Answer: The "Jesus" answer - "The man called Jesus ... " (John 9:11).
May God help us to look away from ourselves and say, "This is what the Lord has done for me.
  • (4) Question: "Where is this man?" (John 9:12).
Answer: "I don't know" (John 9:12).
When, at first, you don't find Jesus, keep looking for Him. he has given us His promise: "Seek and you will find."
  • (5) Question: "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" (John 9:16).
Answer: Sometimes, a question needs to be answered with some more questions - Is this man a sinner? Do His miraculous signs not show Him to be something more than a sinner?"
As our questions move from beyond unbelieving questions to questions that are listening for the answer of faith, we begin to hear God's answer: This is My Son. This is your Saviour.
  • (6) Question: What have you to say ... ?" (John 9:17).
Answer: "a prophet" (John 9:17).
Here, we have a step in the right direction. By itself, the miracle does not demonstrate that Jesus is the Saviour. Saving faith comes later. It comes through Christ's self-disclosure (John 9:35-38). Without the Gospel explanation, miracles remain strange events for which we can find no explanation. When Jesus reveals Himself to us as our Saviour, we see that all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together to make a beautiful picture. No longer do we see miracles as strange events that leave us wondering what to make of it all. We see Jesus as our great Saviour.
  • (7) Question: "Is this your son ... born blind?" (John 9:19).
Answer: "We know that he is our son ... born blind" (John 9:20).
What we are, in ourselves, is no obstacle to the grace of God. We recognize that the man's blindness was not caused by sin (Go back to the first question and answer - John 9:2-3). We should, however, say two things about the man's blindness and our sin. His blindness was no problem for Jesus. Our sin is no problem for Jesus. He gave the man his sight. He gives us the forgiveness of our sins.
  • (8) Question: "How then does he now see?" (John 9:19).
Answer: "We don't know" (John 9:20).
What a non-committal answer! When people don't want to acknowledge what's staring them in the face, they say, "We don't know." That's not really an answer at all! That's evading the question. This question calls for the answer of faith - not for "We don't know"!
  • (9) Question: "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" (John 9:26).
Answer: "Do you want to become His disciples?" (John 9: 27).
Here's a call to commitment. Let there be less "We don't know" and more "Yes, Lord. We want to be Your disciples."
  • (10) Question: "Do you believe ... ?" ( John 9:35).
Answer: "Tell me that I may believe" (John 9:36).
We hear the question, "Do you believe?" We ask the questions, "How am I to believe? What am I to believe?" Jesus is the answer to our question. everything is leading us to Him. The desire to believe, the search for faith - It all comes from Him. He is working in us. He is creating faith in our hearts. He teaches us what it means to have faith. He shows us that real faith is faith in Him.
  • (11) Question: "Are we blind?" (John 9:40),
Answer: " ... you claim to see ... your guilt remains" (John 9:41).
There is a blindness that does not come from sin (See, again, the first question and answer - John 9:2-3). There is another blindness that comes directly from our sin. It is the result of our sin. It is a blindness which Jesus can remove - but we must want Him to remove our blindness. We must want Him to forgive our sins. We must want Him to be our Saviour.

Grace, Gratitude, Glory

Grace, Gratitude, Glory – These three words summarize the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, the preaching of the Gospel, the message of the Bible.
We live in an age where there is a great call for originality and novelty. Often, people lose their bearings. They don’t know what to believe. In such a time as this, we need teaching which is both simple and profound – simple enough to state clearly the message of the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel and the Bible; profound in a way that makes us conscious that, in the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel and the Bible, we are in contact with Someone greater than ourselves – the God of grace, the God of glory. As we consider this God – the God of grace, the God of glory, we must allow our hearts, and not only our minds, to be deeply affected, so that, from our hearts, there arises a song of thanksgiving.
  • We have God’s call to thanksgiving.
“Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son” (Power Praise, 39).
  • There is also our response of thanksgiving.
“I’m forever grateful to You, I’m forever grateful for the cross, I’m forever grateful to You, That You came to seek and save the lost” (Power Praise, 195).
Grace, Gratitude, Glory
  • (1) The first of these words speaks of what God has done. When we gather at the Lord’s Table, we remember what the lord has done done for us. When we hear the Gospel, we hear the message: This is what the Lord has done for you. The Gospel is more than a story about a great man. Jesus says, “I have come down from heaven” (John 6:38). When we read the Bible, we read the story of God – “In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1). God has taken the initiative. Our first step towards can never be any more than a response: gratitude.
  • (2) In grace, He invites us to give thanks. In gratitude, we come to Him and our face is strengthened: “And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong’, Let the poor say, ‘I am rich’, Because of what the Lord has done for us” (Power Praise, 39).
How is our faith strengthened as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, reading the Bible, and hearing the preaching of the Gospel? We read John 6:53-55. We ask, “Are we to understand this literally?” No. Just as bread and water is needed to sustain physical life, so Jesus Christ is needed to sustain spiritual life or eternal life – “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
  • (3) Glory: God’s ultimate purpose is expressed in john 6:40. We look back to the day of grace – the Cross. We give thanks for the days of gratitude, the many times the Lord has strengthened our faith. We look forward to the day of glory – “the last day”: “I will raise him up at the last day” – “He whoo eats this bread (Christ) will live forever” (John 6:58).

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