Sunday, 28 February 2016

What are the most important things in our lives?

1 Samuel 19:1-24
What are the most important things in our lives? Why are they so important to us? Everything revolves around ourselves, Lord. We forget about You. Call us back, Lord - back from the brink, back from "the broad way that leads to destruction" (Matthew 7:13). Call us into "safety, certainty and enjoyment" (George Cutting) - saved by You, assured of Your salvation, enjoying Your salvation.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Often, we wish we could look into the future, and see what's going to happen to us.

2 Samuel 18:1-33
Often, we wish we could look into the future, and see what's going to happen to us. We can't. the future belongs to You, Lord - not to us. Help us to wait on You, Lord - to wait patiently for the time when Your future becomes our present. Our 'tomorrow' can never become our 'today' - until our 'today' becomes our 'yesterday.' Help us, Lord, to forget about gazing into some kind of 'crystal ball.' Give us the grace to walk with You in faith - one day at a time.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

What, Lord, we are to do when Your presence does not seem so real to us?

Song of Solomon 4:9-5:16
There are times, Lord, when You come very near to us. We pray, "Let my Beloved come to His garden" (Song of Solomon 4:16). You answer, "I come to My garden ... My Bride" (Song of Solomon 5:1). There are times when You seem to be far away from us: "I opened to my Beloved, but my Beloved had turned and gone" (Song of Solomon 5:6). What, Lord, we are to do when Your presence does not seem so real to us? Help us to remember the great promise that comes to us from the risen Christ: "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). Help us to hold on to this promise, believing that the times of blessing will return: "His speech is sweet; He is altogether lovely ... my Beloved ... my Friend" (Song of Solomon 5:16).

What, Lord, are we to do when things seem to be going from bad to worse?

Psalm 38:1-22
“My guilt  has overwhelmed me. Like a heavy load, it is more than I can bear” (Psalm 38:4). What, Lord, are we to do when things seem to be going from bad to worse? What are we to do when everything seems to be falling apart? When, Lord, we are “completely devastated” and our “heart is in turmoil” (Psalm 38:8), help us to join with the Psalmist in saying, “I wait with hope for You, O Lord” (Psalm 38:15).

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Mark Schultz: Broken and Beautiful

What are we to do when our whole life seems to be one problem after another?

2 Samuel 21:1-22:7
What are we to do when our whole life seems to be one problem after another? We're to pray - and, when we pray, we're to believe that You will hear and answer our prayers (2 Samuel 21:14; 2 Samuel 24:25). What are we to do when the going gets tough? We turn to You, Lord. It's not about how tough we are. It's about how trustworthy You are. You are absolutely trustworthy, completely dependable, utterly reliable. You are the faithful God. Those who trust You fully find You wholly true. Help us, Lord, to trust You - to know that You are faithful.

What a difference there is between fear and faith.

1 Samuel 27:1-28:2
What a difference there is between fear - "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul" - and faith - "The Lord will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine" (1 Samuel 27:1; 1 Samuel 17:37). Sometimes, fear, sometimes faith - this was the story of David's life. It's the story of our life. How, Lord, are we to overcome fear? How are we to grow strong in faith? It's Your "perfect love that casts out fear." It's Your love that makes us strong in faith and gives us the victory (1 John 4:18-19; 1 John 5:4-5). Lord, fill our hearts with Your love. May there be, in us, more faith and less fear.

Lord, You are our Commander-in-Chief. Your work is to be done in Your way.

1 Chronicles 24:1-25:31
Lord, You are our Commander-in-Chief. Your work is to be done in Your way - "as the Lord God of Israel had commanded" (1 Chronicles 24:19). Help us never to 'get too big for our boots.' Help us never to imagine that we're more important than we really are. You're the One that's important. You're the One that's at the centre of everything. Help us, Lord, to exalt You - and not ourselves.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Some things are worth repeating!

2 Samuel 22:8-51 
Some things are worth repeating! Help us, Lord, never to tire of praising You, We can never praise You enough. You are greater than all of our praise. Help us, in our worship, to lift up our hearts to You. Help us to think of how great You are. Help us to rejoice in the greatness of Your love for us. Help us to remember all that You have done for us. 

Sometimes, Lord, it seems like You are far away from us.

2 Kings 9:1-37
Sometimes, Lord, it seems like You are far away from us. Why do we feel like this? It’s because we have wandered away from You. We’ve allowed something else to come between ourselves and You. Call us back to Yourself, back from the brink, back to a new beginning, back to the blessing that will grow stronger and stronger as we learn to trust You and say, from the heart, “The Lord is God. He is our God. He has blessed us, and we are glad.”

Help us, Lord, to take sin seriously. Help us to take Your salvation even more seriously.

1 Samuel 28:3-25
Help us, Lord, to take sin seriously - "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). Help us to take Your salvation even more seriously. Help us to believe that the story of our life is more than the story of our sin. It's also the story of Your salvation. When we are deeply aware of our sin, may we become even more deeply appreciative of Your promise of salvation: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

Help us, Lord, to offer our whole life to You - not just the 'religious' part of it.

1 Chronicles 26:1-27:34
Lord, You're calling us to serve You. We're to serve You in the world. Before we can serve You in the world, there must be this: "ministering in the House of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 26:12). Part of our worship involves the dedication of "gifts for the maintenance of the House of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 26:12). When we're worshipping You in Your House, when we're supporting the work that is centred on Your House, help us to remember this: When our service of worship ends, our service in the world begins. Help us, Lord, to offer our whole life to You - not just the 'religious' part of it. Help us to serve You every day of the week.

When you read God's Word ...

"When you read God's Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, 'It is talking to me, and about me.'" (Soren Kierkegaard).

Salvation, security, singing and sharing

Psalm 40:1-17
Lord, we thank You for Your gifts – salvation, security, singing and sharing. You have saved us – “He drew me up from the desolate pit … ” (Psalm 40:1). You give us security – You “set my feet on a rock, making my feet secure” (Psalm 40:1). You give to us “a new song … a song of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). You give us something wonderful to share with other people – “I have not hidden Thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation … ” (Psalm 40:10). Thank You, Lord.

Sometimes, Lord, we have more questions than answers.

Psalm 77:1-20
Sometimes, Lord, we have more questions than answers (Psalm 77:7-9). The questions keep flooding into our minds. We wonder where the answers are going to come from. What, Lord, are we to do when this happens? We remember what You have done for us (Psalm 77:11-12). Help us, Lord, to look back over the “years” – and remember that Your “hand” has been upon us (Psalm 77:5,10). May the memories of Your many blessings fill us with strength – to face the future with confidence in You. Help us, Lord. to trust in You – and be truly happy.

The Shepherd Of Love

"The Son of Man came to save the lost" (Matthew 18:11). In Matthew 18:12-1, Jesus speaks about sheep. He's really speaking about us. He is the Shepherd. We are His sheep. Sheep wander away from the shepherd. We wander away from the Lord. The shepherd looks for the lost sheep. Jesus has come to seek for us and find us. He brings  us home to God, our Father. Through His saving grace, we receive new life - a life  in which we rejoice in our great Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He delivers us from the condemnation, which our sin has brought upon us. He brings us into the knowledge of His forgiveness. This Gospel of salvation changes us. It teaches us to live in the power of God's love.

Lord, what a great difference there is between life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) and Life in the Son.

Ecclesiastes 8:1-9:10
Lord, what a great difference there is between life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) and Life in the Son. The world tells us that there is nothing beyond “the grave” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Our Saviour promises us “an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:24). Help us, Lord, never to lose sight of the eternal dimension. This is what gives our life real depth, true meaning and a strong sense of purpose.

We look, Lord, for happiness, but we cannot find it.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4:16
We look, Lord, for happiness, but we cannot find it. Why do we keep missing happiness? We’re looking in the wrong place. We try to find happiness in ourselves. You’re saying to us, “You’ll only find happiness when you come to Jesus. Only Jesus can fill the God-shaped blank in your heart.” Teach us, Lord, to listen to Your voice, speaking to us of Jesus, calling us to come to Him and receive from Him Your gift of salvation. Help us to rejoice in Jesus, to be glad that He is our great Saviour.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Less pride and more praise - That's what we need, Lord.

2 Samuel 24:1-25
Less pride and more praise - That's what we need, Lord. Less taking glory for ourselves and more giving glory to You - May that be the story of our life. Less living in our own weakness and more living in Your power - Lead us, Lord, into a life that is becoming less centred on ourselves and more centred on You.

When, Lord, things are going badly, we start feeling sorry for ourselves ...

1 Samuel 29:1-30:15
When, Lord, things are going badly, we start feeling sorry for ourselves - when we should be getting strengthened by You. You are "our strength and our shield." You give us Your "strength" and Your "peace" (Psalm 28:7-8; Psalm 29:10-11). Give to us the peace that comes to us from knowing that we are not alone. May we not fall down in our weakness. May we stand up in Your victory.

No-one goes on forever.

1 Kings 1:1-53
No-one goes on forever. We read about David’s reign coming to an end, about David being replaced by Solomon (1 Kings 1:30). Help us, Lord, to pray that the future will be “greater” than the past (1 Kings 1:37,47). In all of life’s changes, help us to remember this: You are the living God (1 Kings 1:29) – the God who remains constant when everything else is changing, the God whose love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.

What will heaven be like? and How do I get to heaven?

In Scripture, we catch glimpses of what heaven will be like. When we attempt to say too much about exactly what heaven will be like, we can very quickly get the feeling that we are out of our depth and that we are attempting to describe things that are are far beyond our present understanding.
As well as the question, “What will heaven be like?”, the Bible also addresses another question – “How do I get to heaven?”
What are we to say about these two questions?
Both questions are very important. We don’t, however, need to give a precise description of heaven, anticipating every question which could possibly be asked about it. We do need to know the way to heaven.
I suspect that, sometimes, people, who ask all sorts of imaginative questions about what heaven will be like, are not always so interested in making a personal commitment of their lives to Jesus Christ.
In Deuteronomy 29:29, we read, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
I think that this verse is relevant to the way in which we approach the two questions, “What will heaven be like? and “How do I get to heaven?”
* When we ask the question, “What will heaven be like?”, we should always remember that “the secret things belong to God. We know enough about heaven to create in us a desire to be there. When, however, the question is pressed, “What will be heaven be like?”, we become aware of how little we know.
* One thing we do know is this: Jesus Christ is our Saviour. This has been “revealed to us”. The heart of our message must always be to point to Jesus Christ as “the Way” to heaven (John 14:6).
* Notice also, in Deuteronomy 29:29, the emphasis on the call to obedience.
Thinking about heaven should change the way we live here-and-now. This is very much more practical than just wondering what it will be like.
We don’t know everything about heaven. We do know all that we need to know about the way to get to heaven – Jesus is the Way (John 14:6) – and that’s enough for now! It’s enough to get us on the way to heaven and to keep us walking in the way that leads to our heavenly destination – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

When everything seems to be going wrong ...

Psalm 41:1-13
When everything seems to be going wrong, help us, Lord, not to forget about You. Things will only get worse, if we turn away from You. Help us to turn to You, and receive help from You. Give us the strength that we need to say, with confident faith, “My enemy has not triumphed over me” (Psalm 41:1). Help us to rejoice in You, Lord, and to say, from our hearts, “Blessed is the Lord .. ” (Psalm 41:13).

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Power And The Glory

"Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us" (Ephesians 3:20).
The power comes from God. The glory goes to God.

We compare ourselves to other people ...

2 Kings 13:1-14:16
We compare ourselves to other people. We like to think that we’re doing pretty well. What, Lord, do You think about all of this? Are You impressed? You’re saying to us, “What about Jesus? How do you compare to Him? Help us, Lord, to look at Jesus – and see where we need to be changed. Help us to look to Him – and be changed by Him.

We thank You, Lord, that You are the God of new beginnings.

1 Kings 2:1-46
We thank You, Lord, that You are the God of new beginnings. Your purpose doesn’t stand still. It moves forward. Will we move forward with You? – That, Lord, is the question that each of us must ask answer. We cannot stand still. There are two ways we can go. We can move forward with You. We can go back to the past, back to what we were before Christ saved us, before He took hold of our lives, before He began to make us new people. Dare we even think of going back to the old life? That life can’t even begin to compare with our new life in Christ. Help us, Lord, to press on into the future, Your future, the new life in Christ, eternal life.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Lord, we thank You that You are preparing a wonderful future for us.

Psalms 23:5-24:10
Lord, we thank You that You are preparing a wonderful future for us. It’s glory with You. It’s eternal life: “I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). Fill our hearts, O Lord, with resurrection hope – the true and living hope, the sure and steadfast hope that comes from knowing You, the God who has raised Your Son, the God who raises us up, with Jesus, to everlasting life.

"Awake, O sleeper" (Ephesians 5:14).

God wants us to ‘grow up in every way into Christ’(Ephesians 4:15). We are to ‘walk in love’(Ephesians 5:2), a life which is ‘pleasing to the Lord’(Ephesians 5:10). It is so easy for us to settle for something less than God’s very best. We settle down into a state of spiritual complacency. What does God have to say about this? – ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’(Ephesians 4:30). He gives us His wake-up call: ‘Awake, O sleeper…’(Ephesians 5:14). God says to us, ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength… Shake yourself from the dust, arise’(Isaiah 52:1-2). Have you become ‘lukewarm’? – ‘Be zealous and repent’. Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him’(Revelation 3:16, 19-20). What will you say to Him? – ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’.

Lord, we’re always making choices ...

2 Kings 14:17-15:22
Lord, we’re always making choices. Sometimes, we make good choices. Sometimes, we make bad choices. Life can be very confusing. We wonder, “What’s for the best? What are we to do?” Show us Your way. Lead us in Your way. Give us the strength that we  need to walk in Your way.

Restore us, O God ...

Psalm 80:1-19
“Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:3). When, Lord, we come to You with the question of salvation – “What must I do to be saved?”, You come to us with Your answer – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). In Christ, You have “blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). Thank You, Lord.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Lord, we’re being pulled in two different directions ...

2 Kings 15:23-16:20
Lord, we’re being pulled in two different directions. You’re drawing us to Yourself. The world is pulling us away from You. Help us to confess our sin – we need to be better than we are. Help us to trust in Your power – You’re the only One who can make us better than we are.

Teach us, Lord, to worship You. As we worship You, may we receive from You the strength that we need to work for You.

2 Chronicles 3:1-5:1
Lord, You call us to work for You, to “work in the Temple of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 4:11; 2 Chronicles 5:1). This is no ordinary work. It’s spiritual work. It is “most holy” (2 Chronicles 3:8,10; 2 Chronicles 4:22). Real work come for You emerges from true worship of You. Before we can be Your workers, we must be your worshippers. Teach us, Lord, to worship You. As we worship You, may we receive from You the strength that we need to work for You.

Sometimes, Lord, You say to us ...

Judges 2:6-3:11
Sometimes, Lord, You say to us, "This is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). Sometimes, You say to us, "This is not the way. Do not walk in it." Help us, Lord, to walk in Your way -  and not in the way of the world.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Lord, when the service of worship comes to an end, may our service of living begin - and never end!

Psalm 132:1-18 
‘Let us go to the Lord’s House; let us worship before His throne’ (Psalm 132:7). Lord, You're calling us to worship You. We are to gather together as Your worshipping people. As we gather for worship, may we remember that You, Lord, are ‘King’. May we give You more than the praise of our lips. May we give You the praise of our lives. We do not only sing to You. We live for You. We come ‘before Your throne’ with this prayer, ‘Take my heart - it is Thine own; It shall be Thy royal throne’. You hear and answer our prayer. You give us Your strength. We rise to Your challenge: ‘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.’ Lord, when the service of worship comes to an end, may our service of living begin - and never end!

Walking In The Footsteps Of Our Saviour

"21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:21-25).

Christ is our example (1 Peter 2:21). This is more than a general instruction to walk in Christ's footsteps. It's a specific directive to imitate him in his sufferings. We are not to copy him or reproduce his sufferings. He suffered for us (1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 2:24). We can never repeat his sufferings. We benefit from them. His suffering is redemptive. He suffered for our salvation. The call to be imitators of Christ who, like sheep, went astray, and then, returned to the Shepherd of their souls (1 Peter 2:25). The example is the Shepherd. We are to follow in the steps of the Shepherd. This is more than imitation. We are becoming more like Christ, on the basis of his death for us. On this basis alone, we are able to walk in his steps. We do not walk on a path which will, eventually lead to communion with Christ No! We walk on this path only because of the communion with Christ we have enjoyed since the beginning of our faith. This fellowship with God is the gift of God's grace. This grace of God is the basis for all our Christian living - living on the basis of Christ's redemption.     

Union with Christ in his death and resurrection - facts, faith and experience

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:1-14).

In Romans 6, we read about union with Christ in his death and resurrection - (a) facts; (b) faith; (c) experience.
  (a) facts - We "have died to sin" (Romans 6:2). We have been "baptized unto his death" (Romans 6:3). We have been "buried with him through baptism into death" (Romans 6:4). We "have been united with him in a death like his" (Romans 6:5). "Our old self" has been "crucified with" Christ (Romans 6:6). We have "died with Christ" (Romans 6:8). 
These are the facts. This is what has happened to us. This is what it means to be a believer.
  (b) faith - Here, we focus on Romans 6:11-13. Believe the facts. You are no longer in bondage. Your old nature has been crucified. You are no longer what you who once were. Your chains have fallen. Reckon on all of this to be true in your heart and life. 
  (c) experience - When you reckon the facts to be true, this will be your experience - "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (Romans 6:14). There is to be a real "dying to sin" in our experience, a turning away from sin, a dying to the old life and the old ways, making a break with sin. The facts must become a reality in our experience. Sin must be put to death. This is to be our constant attitude. We speak of Christian faith as resurrection faith, but, first, there must be death. In our hearts and lives, sin must be put to death so that we can live in the power of Christ's resurrection.

Moving Out Of The Land Of Bondage And On To The Promised Land

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord’” (Exodus 6:6-8).

The people of Israel seemed to be overwhelmed. They felt that their situation was hopeless. They were living in dark times. It seemed like nothing but trouble lay ahead of them. Their courage was low. Their hope was almost gone.
How did God see this situation? How did he feel about it? He saw what was happening, but he also saw something else - "the promised land." Things seemed hopeless to man, but not to God. He was about to change everything. This change was the work of God, but the people needed to be ready for change. They needed to be willing to be changed by God.
God wanted them to move in the direction of love and life, the love of God, the new life He had for them, but they needed to be ready to move. The journey ahead of them would be hard and dangerous. Often, they would wonder what lay ahead of them.
We need to be ready to obey the call of God. He calls us out of our slavery and into his freedom. Our journey will not be easy: "When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus."

What Is More Important To You - Your Own Reputation Or The Glory Of God?

2 Samuel 16:1-23
What is more important to you - your own reputation or the glory of God? ‘Curse David’- This was the last thing David wanted to hear. It may, however, have been what he needed to hear. Here, we see David’s true spiritual stature. This was not a ‘feel good’ message. David recognized that this might be what the Lord was saying to him (10). He speaks against us so that we might learn to stop speaking against Him. He speaks of His righteousness that we might see our own unrighteousness. He speaks of His judgment that we might see how hopeless our situation is without Christ. He speaks of our sin that we might be brought to Christ for salvation (John 16:8-11; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-2:2). Let there be no more talk of your righteousness. Confess your sins and trust the Saviour.

Lord, give us wisdom. Help us to share this wisdom with others.

1 Kings 4:1-34
Lord, give us wisdom (1 Kings 4:29). Help us to share this wisdom with others (1 Kings 4:32-34). What, Lord, is wisdom? Is it knowing a lot about history, geography and science? No, Lord, true wisdom is knowing Jesus, knowing that He is our Saviour, knowing that He shows us what life is all about, knowing that His love is the greatest love of all, the love that changes everything, the love that changes us. Help us to share His love with others. This is wisdom – knowing Jesus, knowing that He loves us, being changed by His love. Christ is “our Wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Help us to rejoice in Him – and to share His love with the people that we meet.

Receive New Life From The Lord - And Live Your Life For Him.

What's it all about - this Christianity? is it a form of religion or a code of ethics? The words, 'religion' and 'ethics' are well wide of the mark when it comes to describing what it means to be a Christian.
The word, 'life' is the word used by Jesus: "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Jesus did not say, "I have come that they might have religion (or ethics)."
Jesus came to give us life - the life of God.
When we have received this life from Him, we come to understand that being a Christian is about a personal relationship with God. It's not just a matter of following a certain code of religious or moral behaviour.
This personal relationship with God is entirely bound up with Jesus Christ. Apart from him, there is no life. There is only the emptiness of life without God, in this world and in the world to come. With Jesus Christ, there is life - a life given by God, a life dependent on God, a life lived for God.
  • (1) A life given by God
What is a Christian? Is it about being kind to others, giving to charities, not committing crimes? A humanist does all of these things. Is it about going to church services? the New Testament says something different: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
Note the contrast between the things which we do and the New Testament teaching that Christianity is Christ .
This contrast is emphasized in the Gospels. The religious leaders of Jesus' day had become so tied up with rules and regulations that they had neglected their relationship with God. Jesus, offering them something better - a life that is to be given to us by God. He told them, in no uncertain terms, that they needed to be "born again."
This is a message that we need to hear today. Like the Pharisees, we tend to complicate the simplicity of the Gospel. We turn it into a complex system of rules. God invites us to come to know Him as our loving Father. Why do we insist on thinking of God as a kind of heavenly policeman, who is constantly trying to catch us out when we do wrong? The idea of God as a kind of heavenly policeman, who's trying to catch us out, needs to be rooted out of our thinking.
There's another idea we need to get rid of - the idea that God is a kind of heavenly skinflint, a tight-fisted character, who's only interested in what he can get out of us. The idea of a god, who is on the make, s the exact opposite of the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is a loving God, a giving God - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16).
It's often said, "You only get what you pay for." If you approach the Christian Faith from this angle, you will come up with the most complete misunderstanding of the Christian Gospel imaginable.
If God were to give us what we've paid for, there would be nothing, for us, but judgment and condemnation. This is what we deserve from God - nothing more, nothing less: judgment and condemnation. The amazing thing is this: God has, in His Son, paid the price of our sin. this is the Gospel. This is the Good News that comes to us from God. In Jesus Christ, God has taken the punishment for our sin. At the heart of the Christian Faith is the death of Jesus Christ as our substitute. He took my place and died for me. This is what the Christian has come to know. Those who have come to the Cross and accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour can truly say, "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
There is no room, at the Cross of Jesus Christ, for a 'skinflint' god. It is, at the Cross, that we must receive the gift of God, the gift for which we can never even begin to pay, the gift which has been paid for the death of Another - our Lord Jesus Christ. At the Cross, we learn that it is not we who give to God. It's God who gives to us. we learn that we can only receive from God. From Him, we receive the gift of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
  • (2) A life dependent on God
We must avoid carefully the idea of a god, who is always on the make. We must also take care not to take God for granted. The kind of person, who tries to get as much as he can out of God with the least personal involvement, has misunderstood completely what it means to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To have faith in Christ is to "live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). The Christian life is lived in the light of the death of Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. It doesn't make sense to say, "I believe the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me", and, then, hold back from giving ourselves to Him, in glad surrender.
The question may be asked, "Can I accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour without submitting to Him as my Lord?" This question is based on reveals on a serious misunderstanding of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved by the grace of God. We can do nothing to deserve His grace. We must receive the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as God's free gift. We must never lose this emphasis. It is the heart of the Christian Gospel. Building on the foundation of God's grace, we must emphasize that Christian commitment is a privilege before it is a responsibility.
Trusting Jesus is not like wearing a lucky charm. It's not just a way of getting on the right side of God, and making sure of a place in heaven. We are called to a life of faith: "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
  • (3) A life lived for God
If the life of trust and obedience is to be real in you and me, we must take great care to avoid two very dangerous misconceptions of the Christian life.
(a) The first is that we become so heavenly-minded that we're no earthly use. This kind of person is very concerned to make sure that he himself is going to heaven, but he shows no real interest in serving the Lord and serving other people here on earth. He needs to understand that real faith is more than booking a place in heaven. We need to be wary of a self-centred desire to get to heaven, which doesn't lead us to serve God and other people here and now. Salvation leads to service.
(b) The second is that we become so earthly-minded that we're no heavenly use. Some people throw everything into their work., their family life and their personal interests. The Christian has a higher priority: serving God and pleasing Him. This doesn't mean that we should all be preachers or missionaries. What it does mean is this: use your gifts and abilities to the full for God. The Bible never separates believing and doing. Faith and work belong together. We are not saved by works, but we are saved for works. When faith is real, it will lead to good works.
Live for God. This is very important. Words mean nothing, if we're not living for the Lord.

Lord, Your Word brings peace to our hearts - but Your blessing is not to be kept to ourselves.

Psalms 46:1-47:9
You call us, Lord, to “be still and know that You are God” (Psalm 46:10). You call us to “shout to You with songs of joy” (Psalm 47:2). Your Word brings peace to our hearts – “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). Your blessing is not to be kept to ourselves – “Sing to the Lord … Let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands” (Isaiah 42:10-12). Help us, Lord, to rejoice in Your love for us, and to share Your love with others.

God was manifested in the flesh ...

"I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God ... the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh ..." (1 Timothy 3:15-16).

We read, in 1 Timothy 3:16, of our deeply-held convictions concerning our Saviour, Jesus Christ: "God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory." Paul is not only speaking about beliefs that we hold with our minds - 'I believe this about Christ. I believe that about Him.' He's speaking about beliefs that change the way we live - "how you conduct yourselves in the house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15).  
When Paul speaks about "the mystery of godliness", he's speaking about "God was manifested in the flesh". He's also speaking about "how we conduct ourselves in the house of God." This is the practical mystery - How can sinners live a godly life? This takes us beyond recalling the events of Christ's life. This takes us beyond, "I believe this about Him. I believe that about Him." This takes us on to Paul's teaching concerning the Holy Spirit: "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you ... you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit ... " (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 
When Paul writes to us about "how we conduct ourselves in the house of God", we may recall his description of our life (it's more than our body, it's our body and our spirit) as "the temple of the Holy Spirit." Paul is not only concerned about how we behave when we set foot in the house of God. He's concerned about our whole life. He's saying to us, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
What is the connection between "the mystery of godliness" - God was manifested in the flesh" - and "the mystery of godliness" - sinners saved by grace are led in the way of the Holy Spirit? - "You were bought at a price": If we really believe the things that happened to Christ and the reason that these things happened to Him ("for us and for our salvation"), how can we continue to live as if these things were not true?
How we conduct ourselves - in the house of God and in the whole of life: This is where the real strength of our faith will be seen. Strong faith expresses itself in godly living. A strong faith is always ready to ask the question, "How much is my life being changed by the Lord?"

The New Birth

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (from above), he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
(1) The absolute need of the new birth – because of sin (Romans 3:23);
(2) The Gospel basis for the new birth is the death of Christ for us (Titus 3:3-7).
(3) The indispensable condition for the new birth is personal faith in Christ (John 1:12-13).
(4) The spiritual character of the new birth – by the Spirit through the Word (1 Peter 1:23-25);
(5) The spiritual benefits of the new birth:
     (a) a child of God (Galatians 4:4-6);
     (b) a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17);
     (c) partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1;3-4);
     (d) sharing in Christ’s victory (1 John 5:4-5);
     (e) eternal life (1 John 5:11-12).

Help us, Lord, to thank You for Your past blessings, and to trust You for Your future blessings.

Psalm 81:1-16
“Sing aloud to God; shout for joy to the God of Jacob” (Psalm 81:1). Teach us, Lord, to worship You with joy. You have blessed us in the past: “I am the Lord your God, who brings you out of the land of Egypt.” You will bless us in the future: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). Help us, Lord, to thank You for Your past blessings, and to trust You for Your future blessings.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Lord’s Words To “The Seven Churches”

Here are a few thoughts from the messages to “the seven churches.”
* Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love (Revelation 2:4).
This is one of the saddest verses in the whole of the Bible. It tells the story of so many of us. Let us pray that this will not happen to us.
* Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
Here, we have God’s call to faithfulness. He is calling us to be faithful to the end. Let us pray that God will give us His strength so that we may remain faithful to Him throughout our earthly journey.
* Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth (Revelation 2:15-16).
Why is the Church in such a terrible state? The explanation is clear – Compromise. We are too busy listening to the world.
We are not busy enough, listening to God’s Word.
* To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze (Revelation 2:18).
As we read these words, we must pray for a fresh awareness that, in Scripture, we hear “the words of the Son of God.”
* Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2:20).
Here, we have the same problem. There is too much listening to the world and not enough listening to the Word of God.
* Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy (Revelation 3:4).A few people! – Let us pray that there will be more than just a few!

* I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name (Revelation 3:8).
We read here of “an open door.” As we think of the open door of opportunity, let us think first of the opening of our heart to the Lord. Let us remember this. The blessing of fruitfulness is given to those who seek to maintain the obedience of faithfulness. Let us open our hearts to Christ, and let us pray that he will open for us a door of opportunity to bring blessing into the lives of others.
* Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20).
As we read the Book of Revelation, let us make sure that we never overlook this very important verse. This is God’s Word to us at the beginning of the Christian life. This is God’s Word to us at every stage in the Christian life. May God give us grace, day-by-day, to open our hearts afresh to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Lord, You want to “establish Your Word” among us.

1 Kings 5:1-6:13
Lord, You want to “establish Your Word” among us (1 Kings 6:120. Do we “rejoice greatly” when we hear Your Word (1 Kings 5:7)? Help us to welcome Jesus Christ, “the Word made flesh”, the living Word who “dwells among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Help us to welcome Him as “Emmanuel – God with us” (Matthew 1:23). May we rejoice greatly when Jesus stands among us as our loving Saviour, when He comes to us as the risen Lord, when He speaks to us as Your living Word.

An Always And Forever Love

Psalms 82:1-83:18
“A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). Help us, Lord, to look beyond human love and human friendship. Help us to see Jesus. His love is the greatest love. He is our greatest Friend. Thank You, Lord, for Jesus. Thank You for His love. He’s our Forever Friend. May we know, in our hearts, that His love is ‘always and forever’ love.

Help us, Lord, to keep on praying that our love for You will grow.

Psalms 128:1-129:8
‘Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways’ (Psalm 128:1). If, Lord, we are to enjoy Your blessing, we must fear You and walk in Your ways. Many people despise the place of worship. They ‘pass by’. They have no desire to know ‘the blessing of the Lord’. Lord, You’re warning us that we must not allow this attitude to grow in us: ‘May all who hate Zion be put to shame’. We must take care that our love for You doesn’t ‘wither’ away. Help us to keep on praying that our love for You will ‘grow’. If we place no value on Your blessing, our lives will be empty. May we come to You, our Lord, with this prayer: ‘The greatest thing in all my life is knowing You, loving You, serving You. I want to know You more, love You more, serve You more’.  You will ‘fill’ our life with Your blessing (Psalm 129:5-8; Mission Praise, 646).       

Monday, 15 February 2016

Everything seems to be falling round about us ...

2 Kings 20:1-21:18
“Carried off to Babylon” (2 Kings 20:17); “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!” (Revelation 14:18 & 18:2). Everything seems to be falling round about us. We hear so much bad news. We wonder, “What, Lord, do You think of all this?” Even “in Babylon” there were “the chosen” – people who belonged to You (1 Peter 5:13). Help us to be Your people – “in the world” but “not of the world” (John 17:11,16).

Lord, we see division among Your people ... You are not pleased.

2 Chronicles 10:1-11:23
Lord, we see division among Your people: "Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day" (2 Chronicles 10:19). You are not pleased. You say, "Do not go up to fight against your brothers" (2 Chronicles 11:4). This is not just ancient history. It's our problem. It's a big problem. We still need to hear the words of Jesus - "a house ... divided against itself cannot stand" (Mark 3:25). There are to be "no divisions" among us (1 Corinthians 1:10). We are "all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Lord, help us, in our praying and our living, to echo the prayer of Jesus: "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me" (John 17:21,23).

Overlowing Blessing

Psalm 23 - "The Lord is my Shepherd ... "

The words are so familiar. When we start to think that we understand all that this great Psalm is saying to us, the Lord comes to with something new, something fresh, something that speaks to our hearts, something that brings blessing into our lives. What are to say about this? ~ From God to us, comes blessing, much blessing. How much blessing? Who can say? All we can say is this - It's His blessing, and His blessing "overflows" (v. 5).

Between D-Day and V-Day

Tuesday 6th June 1944 : D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe - it was a decisive invasion of enemy territory.It was D-Day, but it was not V-Day. The day of final victory, V-Day, was still to come V-Day did not come until 1945.
 * D-Day and V-Day - What does this teach us concerning the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? D-Day is behind us. We are pressing on now to V-Day.
Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has made the decisive invasion into enemy territory.
When Christ returns, his victory will be complete. His victory will be revealed in all its fullness.
D-Day and V-Day: What lies behind these days? Warfare - There is a battle to be fought and a victory to be won.
Christ's resurrection and Christ's return: What lies behind these two great events? Warfare - We must fight the good fight, the fight of faith. We must press on to victory.
 - Between D-Day and V-Day, there is warfare.
 - Between Christ's resurrection and his return, there is warfare.
 - Between our personal decision and our call to glory, there is warfare.
 * Warfare - "long periods of intense boredom, punctuated by short periods of intense fright" (Churchill).
In our Christian warfare, the fight of faith, there are many ordinary days, days which are neither 'high' -the mountaintop experience - nor 'low' - the valley of despair. They are simply days of the hard slog, days when we must keep on going in the face of complacency, the feeling that it doesn't really matter all that much whether or not we go on with Jesus Christ. there are, of course, high times and low times, times when we seem to go from strength to strength, and times when we must hold on to faith or be overwhelmed.
High times, low times, but, more often than not, ordinary days, days when it would be so easy to take our eyes off Jesus, days when everything else seems so interesting, and Jesus seems so ordinary that we take him for granted.
The Christian warfare is never easy, but there is the promise of victory.
Here is a promise from the Lord: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when yo walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you" (Isaiah 43:2).
The waters bring the threat of drowning. The fire brings the threat of being burned out.
In the water, you must keep on swimming. Keep on swimming or start sinking. In the Christian life, we must keep on believing. We must keep on trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep the fire burning - the fire of the Holy Spirit, or be burned out by the fiery darts of the evil one.
 * Warfare and victory - They belong together. We are in the midst of warfare, but we must not lose sight of the victory. In 1 Peter 1:6-7, we see both warfare and victory.
"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed."
We have to suffer various trials, but look at the final outcome - "praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
"For a little while you may have to suffer various trials." What does this mean? - "for a little while". 
In the Christian life, there are, for each of us, times of particularly difficult testing. I believe that there is a more general meaning here. "For a little while" refers to the whole course of our Christian life. Our "little while2, here on earth, is contrasted with the "praise and glory and honour of eternal life."
How are we tested? Every time is a testing time.
 - In our 'highs', we are tempted to become overconfident in ourselves and take our eyes off Jesus.
 - In our 'lows', we are tempted to give up in despair.
 - In our many ordinary days, we are tempted to think that there is nothing much at stake, that it doesn't really matter whether we keep on going or give up on following on Jesus.
 * In our times of testing, i.e. at all times, we must keep our eyes on the victory. Look beyond the battle to the victory. Do you feel like David facing Goliath? You feel so small and weak. The opposition seems so great and powerful. But, that is only part of the story. There is something else - David had the Lord on his side. Goliath was full of confidence. He was the odds-on favourite. So it seemed, but there was another factor, a hidden factor, which Goliath could not understand - "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Samuel 17:47).
What does God say to us concerning the Christian life? - "Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you ... Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you" (2 Chronicles 20:17).
 * The battle is the Lord's, and the victory is the Lord's.
How does the Lord's victory become our victory? 
  (a) Don't give up when the going gets tough - "struck down but not destroyed", "we may be knocked down, but we are never knocked out" (J B Phillips) (2 Corinthians 4:9).
  (b) Keep right on to the end of the road. Keep on playing until the final whistle blows. 
When I was a boy, I played in a football match, in which we were losing 2-0 with 5 or 10 minutes to go. we kept on going. we won 3-2.
  (c) God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:56).  
D-Day has already taken place - the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. V- Day is still to come.
 - What are we to do between D-Day and V-Day?
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).
 - What can we look forward to? - V-Day: "The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down" (Revelation 12:9-10).

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Help us, Lord, to pray for revival.

Psalm 85:1-13
Help us, Lord, to pray for revival – ‘Restore us again, O God our Saviour… Will You not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?’(Psalm 85:4,6). Help us to pray that You will ‘grant us Your salvation.’ Help us to pray that ‘Your saving presence will remain in our land’, that ‘Your glory may dwell in our land’(Psalm 85:7,9). Help us to pray for real listening – ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to You – ‘turning to You in our hearts’- , and a real sense of Your blessing – ‘You will speak peace to Your people’(Psalm 85:8). Teach us, Lord, that prayer for revival does not begin as a prayer for others. It begins with ourselves: ‘O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival – start the work in me’. It begins with this prayer: “Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine.’

Saturday, 13 February 2016

The great promise of the Gospel and the strong warning of the Gospel

We have the great promise of the Gospel. In Christ, there is full salvation for all who come to God through Him. Alongside this great promise, there is also the strong warning of the Gospel. We read the solemn words of Psalm 11:6 – “On the wicked he will rain fire and brimstone; a scorching wind will be their lot” “Fire and brimstone” – What are we to say about this? We must note that Psalm 11 doesn’t end with “fire and brimstone.” It ends with the words: “upright men will see His face” (Psalm 11:7). God doesn’t want to leave us where He finds us. He doesn’t want to leave us trembling in fear of “fire and brimstone.” He speaks to us of these things so that we might see our need of the Saviour. He speaks to us of these things so that we might”flee from the wrath to come” (Luke 3:7). He speaks to us of these things so that we might find our way to the Cross of Christ. He speaks to us of these things so that we might learn to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Lord, we read, in Your Word that "every man did what was right in his own eyes" ...

Judges 20:29-21:25
Lord, we read in Your Word that "every man did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25) - and it seems like we are reading a description of today's world. We look around us, and we see so little love for You. Your Son is "despised and rejected by men" (Isaiah 53:3). Our Saviour is "ignored" (Hebrews 2:3). We seem to hear nothing but bad news. Is there any good news? Do You have something to say to us - something to lift us out of our darkness and into Your light? we thank You, Lord, that there is Good News - Jesus is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). Help us, Lord, to pray that the light of Jesus will shine more brightly in our world. Help us to pray for revival - and help us to begin with ourselves: "O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me" (J. Edwin Orr, "Search me, O God").

Lord, You do not keep Your distance from us - and You do not keep Your silence.

Psalm 50:1-23
“Our God comes, He does not keep silence … God the Lord speaks” (Psalm 50:3,1). We thank You, Lord, that You do not keep Your distance from us. You come near to us. We thank You that You do not keep Your silence. You speak to us. How do You come near to us? How do You speak to us? You come near to us in Jesus. He is “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14). You speak to us through Jesus, Your living “Word” (John 1:1).

Encourage One Another ...

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good works, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

It's great that we are able to encourage one another in the Lord. Hebrews 10:25 speaks about "the assembling of ourselves together" and "exhorting one another." Each of us has a particular ministry of encouragement to those with whom we are gathered together to worship the Lord. It is a privilege to be able to share something of this ministry of encouragement with other people. We encourage one another in the Lord when we gather together for worship (Hebrews 10:25). The preaching of Christ strengthens our faith (Romans 10:17). What a great encouragement it is to know that "God is pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). What happens in the place of worship is important - but it's not the be-all and end-all. There's more than worship in the Lord's House. There's life outside of the place of worship. In the world - That's where we're to live a life of "love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24). If, when we're in the place of worship, we start thinking that this is all that there is - an hour on a Sunday, we've got it all wrong. When our worship ends, our witness begins. Our witness is more than words. It's living the life of a believer. In the world - This is where we see how real our worship is.

A Spiritual Harvest

At our Harvest Thanksgiving service, we must note the difference between our need and our greed. God provides for our need, but not for our greed. We think of God's provision for our material need, but we not forget his provision for our material need, but we must not forget his provision for our spiritual need. In the harvest, we see God's loving kindness towards us. He answers our prayer: "Give us, this day, our daily bread." In the gospel, we see God's loving kindness towards us. The gospel is love in action. God sees our need, and he provides for us, a Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God produces, in us, a spiritual harvest - "the fruit of the Spirit."
How is this spiritual harvest produced in us? - “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:23-24). Before we can have life, new life, eternal life, Jesus must die. He must sacrifice himself for our salvation - "I have come to do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7,9). This is the will of God - Christ's sacrifice, our salvation.
We are saved through Christ's sacrifice of himself for us. Once we have been saved by Christ, we are to sacrifice our own will to the will of God: "Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25). We are to sacrifice our own will to the will of God, by following Christ: "Whoever serves me must follow me ... My Father will honour the one who serves me" (John 12:26).  
How do we learn to serve the Lord? We get to know Him through reading His Word. We grow in our love for him as we learn how much he loves us. We look at Jesus. we learn from his earthly life, but we don't stop there. We look on to his death on the cross for us. We look on to his death on the cross for us. We learn that he "came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). His love reaches us. His love changes us - and there becomes less trying to get our own way and more walking in his way.
As we turn to Jesus Christ, crucified for us, we are called out of our sinful past and unto his holy future. We are called as sinners, called to receive salvation.We are called to be saints, called to be holy, called to life of love, called to reap a spiritual harvest. There will be two parts to this harvest. In our own lives, there will be "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23). There will, also, be the fruit in the lives of others to whom we bring the love of Christ.   

Friday, 12 February 2016

Past grace is no guarantee of present growth.

Past grace is no guarantee of present growth. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, ‘the Author and Finisher of our faith' (Hebrews 12: 2).

This Is All About Jesus!

I was reading Romans 1:1-7. I was asking the question, "What's this about?" There's one simple answer to this question: "This is all about Jesus!"

Thursday, 11 February 2016

What is happening, Lord, when we are gathered together for worship?

1 Kings 8:54-9:28
What is happening, Lord, when we are gathered together for worship? Is this merely a human thing, something that we do? – No! there is something more than this. Before we even thought of coming to Your House, You were there waiting for us. You welcome us. You speak Your Word to us: “Let your heart be wholly true to the Lord your God” (1 Kings 8:61). You’re calling us into a life of “joy and gladness” – a life of “walking before You with integrity of heart” (1 Kings 8:66; 1 Kings 9:4). This is true worship. It’s not just something that we do on a Sunday morning. It’s learning to walk with You all the days of our life. Lord, help us to worship You today – and every day.

Paul And James On Faith And Works

James' attack on "dead faith" (G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 137) and his protest for faith as "a truly experienced reality" (136), which dominates the whole of life, does not conflict with Paul who speaks against the works of the law but not against the works of faith.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

What happens when Your people “gather together”?

Nehemiah 8:1-9:5
What happens when Your people “gather together” (Nehemiah 8:1)? We hear Your Word (Nehemiah 8:2-3,8). We thank You for Your Son (Nehemiah 8:13-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). We dedicate our lives to You (Nehemiah 9:2). We worship You (Nehemiah 9:5). Lord, help us to enter in, with all our hearts, to all that You promise to bring into our lives when we respond to Your gracious call: “Let us worship God.”

So often, Lord, we start out well - and then something goes wrong.

2 Samuel 1:1-27
So often, Lord, we start out well - and then something goes wrong. Our heads go down. We lose our way. We fall away from You. Where does this spirit of defeat, this spirit of giving up, come from? - It comes from Satan. He sweeps in. He sweeps us off our feet. He sweeps us away from You. When Satan attacks us, help us, Lord, to remember Your promise: You are "able to keep us from falling" (Jude 24-25). Help us to hear Your Word: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Help us, Lord, to become better people – not bitter people!

2 Chronicles 26:1-28:27
Help us, Lord, to learn from the failure of King Uzziah. He began well – “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord … He set himself to seek God” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5). He lost his way – “When he was strong, he grew proud, and he was false to the Lord his God” ( 2 Chronicles 26:16). Help us, Lord, to become better people – not bitter people!

How much do the things of this world really matter – if we don’t have Jesus as our Saviour?

1 Kings 10:1-11:13
We look, Lord, at “King Solomon” – and we see ourselves! “He was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth” (1 Kings 10:23). We like to think that we’re ‘getting on in the world.’ There was something seriously wrong with Solomon – “His heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God …he did not follow the Lord completely” (1 Kings 11:4,6). This is our problem. There’s too much of the world in our way of life – and not enough of You, Lord! How much do the things of this world really matter – if we don’t have Jesus as our Saviour (Mark 8:36)?

The storm is raging. Jesus draws near. There is peace.

The storm is raging: ‘they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them’ (Mark 6:48). Jesus draws near, and there is peace: ‘the wind ceased’ (Mark 6:51). Another ‘storm’ continues to rage: ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders...?’ (Mark 7:5). How did Jesus respond to this ‘storm’ of criticism? - He exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the tradition of men more important than the Word of God (Mark 7:7-9,13). He invited ‘the people’ to come ‘to Him’, to ‘hear’, to ‘understand’. His Word was addressed to ‘all’ of them (Mark 7:14). Jesus emphasizes this point: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Which will it be? - ‘Their hearts were hardened’ (Mark 7:52) or ‘Loving the Lord your God with all your heart’ (Mark 12:30).

We come to You, Lord, with sadness. You give us gladness.

1 Samuel 1:1-28
We come to You, Lord, with sadness. You give us gladness. How does this gladness come to us? It comes to us when we stand upon Your Word, when we believe Your promises. Our life is not controlled by our feelings - the feelings that drag us down, the feelings that pull us away from You. Your promises lift us out of these feelings. They lift us into Your presence. They assure us of Your love. They lead us into Your blessing. Thank You, Lord, for Your promises and Your presence, Your love and Your blessing.

The Problem, the Returning, the Blessing (James 5:19-20)

The Problem - "if one of you should wander from the truth"
The Returning - "if ... someone should bring him back"
The Blessing - "Whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins."
Does God have a message of hope for those who have wandered away from Him? - Yes!
He speaks with truth concerning our sin, and He speaks with love concerning His salvation.
"Seek t  he Lord while He may be found; Call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
What blessing is given to those who return to the Lord!
There was sin and guilt. Now, there is the forgiveness of sin.
There was death.  Now, there is life: new life - life with a new sense of meaning, purpose and direction; eternal life - life with the Lord in the everlasting glory of His everlasting Kingdom.

We thank You, Lord, that Your love is eternal love.

Psalms 56:1-57:11
“Be gracious to me, O God … Be merciful to us, O God” (Psalm 56:1; Psalm 57:1). In mercy, Lord, You don’t send to us the judgment we deserve. In grace, You give to us the salvation we don’t deserve.
How do You do this for us? You make Your grace and mercy available to us through Your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. How do we receive Your grace and mercy? We look to the Cross of Christ. There, we see Your “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 57:3,10). Your love is eternal love. It’s love unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable – “I will give thanks to You, O Lord … I will sing praises to You … Be exalted, O God” (Psalm 57:9-11).

What Kind Of People Are We Becoming?

Hosea 1:1-3:5
‘Hosea’ means ‘salvation’. Married to ‘an adulterous wife’, Hosea spoke with great compassion to ‘the land’ which was ‘guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord’(1:2). He brought God’s Word of love to the people: ‘I will show My love to the one I called, “Not My loved one”’. He spoke to them of the life-changing power of God’s love: ‘I will say to those called, “Not My people”, and they will say, “You are My God”’(2:23). He brought a Word of hope to God’s people: ‘The Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God... They will come trembling to the Lord and to His blessings in the last days’(3:5). His words of hope point us to our Saviour, Jesus Christ - ‘In these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son’(Hebrews 1:2).

Hosea 4:1-5:14
We read here of Israel’s rebellion against God: ‘A spirit of prostitution leads them astray. They are unfaithful to their God... A spirit of prostitution is in their heart. They do not acknowledge the Lord’(4:12; 5:4). God is not pleased with them. He speaks His Word of ‘judgment against’ them (5:1). We must look closely at our lives. What kind of people are we becoming? Are we becoming ‘slaves of sin’? God is calling us to be changed by His love and power: ‘Now that you have been set free from sin, and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap is holiness, and the result is eternal life’(Romans 6:16,22). Let His love show you that He has not abandoned you because of your sin. Let His power assure you that He can make you ‘a new person’(2 Corinthians 5:17).

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Here I am, Lord ...

1 Samuel 3:1-4:22
"Here I am, Lord ... I have heard You calling in the night. I will go, Lord ... I will hold Your people in my heart" (Daniel L. Schutte). Lord, You come to us. You come with Your Word. It is a Word for ourselves. It is a Word for others. We receive Your Word. We share Your Word. Glorify Your Name, Lord - in us and through us.

Why has God made us His ‘own people’?

In Christ, we are ‘a holy nation’. Why has God made us His ‘own people’? - ‘that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him... ’ (1 Peter 2:9).‘The nations are waiting for us, waiting for the gospel we will bring’ (Songs of Fellowship, 539).

What a great Saviour we have!

Psalms 58:1-59:17 
“Surely there is a God who judges the earth … Deliver me from my enemies, O my God” (Psalm 58:11; Psalm 59:1). May these words send us to the Cross of Christ. We come in our need. Lord, we need Your forgiveness and Your victory. What do we find at the Cross of our Saviour? – “My God in His steadfast love will meet me … My God will let me look in triumph over my enemies” (Psalm 59:10). What a great Saviour we have! We think of His love and His power, and our hearts are filled with praise to You – “I will sing of Your strength … I will sing of Your love … O my Strength, I sing praises to You; You, O God, are my Fortress, my loving God” (Psalm 59:16-17).

Thank You, Lord, for giving us our own name - and the Name of Jesus.

1 Chronicles 2:1-55 
Thank You, Lord, for giving us our own name. It makes us feel special - "I'm me. I'm not somebody else." We thank You, even more, for giving us the Name of Jesus. His Name is the Name of our salvation. Among all the many names of people, from all over the world, there's one Name that stands out. It's the Name of Jesus. Why is Jesus so special? It's because He's Your Son - and He's our Saviour.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Tower of Babel

Genesis 10-11
Following on from the reference to Babylon in 10:10, we have, in chapter 11, the story of "the Tower of Babel". "This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible to them" (11:6). What can we say about the world today, as men 'play God', taking the issues of life and death into their own hands? We need to remember that God is the Creator and we are His creatures. We dare not assume an authority which does not belong to us. God is left out by man who sees himself as the be-all and end-all, man who does things his way, man who seeks his own glory rather than God's glory. We must ask, "Does this glorify God or man? Does this show the love of God or the 'couldn't care less' attitude of godless man?" We must ask concerning ourselves: "Am I getting caught up in a secular, materialistic, godless way of thinking? Am I seeking to bring Christian values to bear on social concerns?"
What does God think about our godless society? It's all there in the 'Tower of Babel' story. It's still true today. * Nothing is hidden from God. He sees all that's going on. We cannot leave God out, no matter how much we might like to. * God sees man, and He is not pleased. Sin brings judgment. * God allows man to do his own thing, but this leads to confusion. Nobody knows what to think. Everyone does what they feel like doing. There is a desperate need for authoritative teaching from God's Word. * The saving purpose of God is not withdrawn. Look on to 12:1-3. Look further on to Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of this prophecy.

Our sin is sad. Our sin is shameful. Can anything be done about our sin?

2 Samuel 3:1-39
Our sin is sad. Our sin is shameful. Can anything be done about our sin? When, Lord, we think about our sin, help us to remember this: You have done something about our sin. Our sin threatens to overwhelm us. We feel like we're going down. We don't have a chance. we can't do anything about it. We can't - but You can! You can - because You have! When Jesus died and rose again, He triumphed over sin. He won the victory for us. That was a long time ago - but it's still the reason we believe that Your triumph can become real in us and through us. What You did then, You can still do now. You raised Jesus from the dead. Give us Your strength to "walk with You in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).

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