Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Jesus - the most excellent of men.

Psalm 45:1-17
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is “the most excellent of men” (Psalm 45:2). He is much more than that. We look at Jesus Christ, the risen Lord (Acts 2:24, 36), and we say, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8). Help us to approach our Lord Jesus Christ with “reverence”, “honouring” Him, “bowing down” before Him, “worshipping” Him, and “obeying” Him (Psalm 45:11).

Conversion

" ... Will you ... come and stand before Me in this house, which bears My Name, and say, We are safe" - safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears My Name become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 7:8-11).

“God demands a conversion of the mind and heart as the basis of peace and security (cf. Is 26:3), not the superstitious veneration of a stone building or a traditionally sacred site” (R K Harrison, Jeremiah).

Can You And I Become Giantkillers - For God?

1 Samuel 17
David faced a giant. We face giants. His giant was called Goliath. Our “Goliaths” are the giants of unbelief and disobedience. We’re told that it doesn’t matter what you believe. We’re told that it doesn’t matter how you live. Like David, we must rise up with faith in the Lord. Like David, we must move forward in obedience to the Lord. Let us challenge today’s “Goliaths” – “I come to you in the Name of the Lord … whom you have defied.”We do not face these “Goliaths” in our own weakness. We face them in the strength of the Lord. Knowing that “the battle is the Lord’s”, we take our stand upon the Word of God: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord” (1 Samuel 17:45-47; Isaiah 54:17).

The Lliving God, The Loving God

Daniel 6:1-28
‘He is the living God and He endures for ever; His Kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end’(26). He is the living God. He is also the loving God - ‘His love endures forever’(Psalm 136). He is the King. He is a very special kind of king. He is ‘the King of Love’. The coming of God’s Kingdom will be the victory of His love: ‘Kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord: Love has the victory for ever!’. We enjoy the victory of His love as we lift our hearts to Him in worship: ‘Who can see Your greatest Gift and fail to worship You?’ We enjoy the victory of His love as we give our lives to Him in service: ‘Let us labour for the Master... Let us talk of all His wondrous love...’(Church Hymnary, 388; Mission Praise, 86,759).

Help us, Lord, to keep on worshipping You and witnessing for You - especially when the going gets tough.

Jeremiah 20:7-18
‘Cursed be the day I was born!... Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?’ (Jeremiah 20:14-18). Lord, we read about Jeremiah. We see that he is deeply depressed. He has been preaching Your Word. He’s getting nothing but abuse in return: ‘The Word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (Jeremiah 20:8). We thank You, Lord, that he didn't stop preaching. He kept on going. He felt like giving up: ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name.”’ We thank You, that he was driven on by a greater Power - ‘His Word is in my heart like a fire’. No matter how much he tried to keep silent, he could not do it (Jeremiah 20:9). We thank You, Lord, that he moved forward in triumphant faith: ‘The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior’ (Jeremiah 20:11). We thank You that he called upon Your people to worship You: ‘Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord!’ (Jeremiah 20:13). Help us, Lord, to keep on worshipping You and witnessing for You - especially when the going gets tough.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Faith - Leading On To Holiness

Let us never forget the importance of faith and holiness – 'without faith it is impossible to please God ... without holiness no-one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 11:6; 12:14). We are to 'live holy and godly lives' – 'make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love ... if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ'. In all of this, let us never forget to give all the glory to our Saviour – 'To Him be glory both now and for ever!' (2 Peter 3:11; 1:5-11; 3:18).

Restoring the foundations of past generations

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the foundations of past generations. You will be called the Rebuilder of Broken Walls and the Restorer of Streets where people live” (Isaiah 58:12). How important it is that we build on a solid foundation, and not shifting sand. We are to build on Christ, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If the broken walls are to be rebuilt and the streets are to be restored, we need to recognize our great need of this work of rebuilding and restoration - “Truth has fallen in the street, and honest can’t come in” (Isaiah 59:14). We need to rediscover truth. We need more than a respect for human honesty. We need faith in, appreciation of and love for divine truth - Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). When there is rebuilding and restoration, based on the truth of God, it will be said of God’s people: “You will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.”It will be said of their God: “the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your God will be your glory” (Isaiah 60:18-19).

My Redeemer Lives!

In Job 18, Bildad, the Shuhite, shows his lack of spiritual stature. In his description of “the wicked” (Job 18:5), he implies that all that he says applies to Job. His speech ends with the summarizing words: “This is what happens to the homes of wicked people and to those who do not know God” (Job 18:21). The opening words of the book of Job - “He was a man of integrity ... He feared God” (Job 1:1) - make it clear that Bildad’s words do not apply to Job.
For most of his speech, in Job 19, Job is in the depths of despair, then, towards the end of his speech, there is a breakthrough- “I know that my defender (or Redeemer) lives, and, afterwards, he will stand on the earth. Even after my skin has been stripped off my body, I will see God in my own flesh. I will see Him with my own eyes” (Job 19:25). There is, in Job’s heart, a great conflict. Immediately after speaking these great words of triumphant faith and glorious hope, he speaks, again, with deep agony - “My heart fails inside me!” (Job 19:27).

Listen to What God Is Saying.

In Job 32 - 37, we have a long speech from Elihu. He thinks that he can improve on the speeches, given by Job’s other ‘comforters’: “None of you refuted Job. None of you has an answer to what he says” (Job 32:12). He maintains that his speech is better than anything Job has already heard. That’s why he says.”Pay attention, Job! Listen to me! Keep quiet, and let me speak ... Keep quiet, and I’ll teach you wisdom” (Job 33:31-33). Elihu isn’t interested in what Job has to say. Elihu is saying, ‘Let me do the speaking. You, Job, must do the listening and learning. I have the wisdom. I’ll pass it on to you. You’ve got it wrong.Let me put you right.’
Job 34 ends with a ‘prayer’, in which Elihu shows how far his view differs from the view presented by God in Job 1. He prays, “Oh that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man!” (Job 34:36). Job was being thoroughly tested. God was allowing this to happen to Job. Elihu was misrepresenting the true nature of Job’s testing. Job’s was being tested before he gave answers. Whatever we may say about Job’s answers, we must point out that, despite all his despondency, Job does not speak as a wicked man. We must never forget that Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1). There is great pain in Job’s responses to his testing. There is, however, nothing to suggest that God needs to alter his view of Job. What does God say about Job? - He says this - “my servant Job” (Job 1:8).
Elihu is scathing in his criticism of Job - “Job opens his mouth for no good reason and talks without having any knowledge” (Job 35:16). That’s what Elihu said about Job - but it’s not what God said about His “servant, Job.” According to Elihu, Job is “given the judgment evil people deserve” (Job 36:17). This view is very different from God’s view of Job. Generally speaking, Elihu’s teaching has much to commend it: “Be careful that you are not led away with riches ... Be careful! Don’t turn to evil” (Job 37:18,21). When this teaching is combined with his false statements about Job, Elihu strays from being a true messenger of God to Job. This is highlighted in his parting words to Job - “That is why people should fear Him. He does not respect those who think they’re wise” (Job 37:24). True! - but Job does fear God, and he recognizes God as the only One who is truly wise.

Lord, we thank You that You want to bless us ...

Genesis 27:1-40
Lord, we thank You that You want to bless us - more than we want to be blessed by You. We don't deserve to be blessed - but You keep on blessing us. Help us never to forget to say, "Thank You, Lord." Help us always to treasure Your blessing - and to keep on praying that it will grow and grow and ...

Notes: Hosea to Malachi

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).
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).
5:15-7:16  -  We are to leave the old way of sinful disobedience and follow the new way of faith and obedience: ‘Come, let us return to the Lord... Let us press on to know the Lord’. As we return to the Lord, pressing on to know Him, His blessing returns to us. He leads us in the way of fruitfulness: ‘He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth’ (6:1,3). We must not be like those who react to God’s Word with ‘pride’: ‘They do not return to the Lord their God’. God longs to ‘redeem’ them, yet they ‘rebel against’ Him: ‘They do not turn to the Most High God’ (7:10,13,16). Our ‘love’ for God is not to be ‘like the early dew that disappears’. Let us ‘acknowledge our guilt and seek His face’. Let us love Him with a ‘steadfast love’ (5:15; 6:4,6). 
8:1-9:17  -  ‘Israel’ had ‘forgotten’ and ‘forsaken’ the Lord (8:14). We have not remembered the Lord. We have turned away from Him. We have forgotten Him. We have been ‘unfaithful’ to Him. This is the sad story of our life - a story of forgetting and forsaking the Lord. God is very different from us. He has not forgotten us. He has not forsaken us. He has ‘remembered’ us. He has been ‘faithful’ to us. He has shown us His ‘salvation’ (Psalm 98:3). How do we know that God remembers us? How do we know that God is faithful to us? - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’; ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8). ‘If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot be false to Himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13).
10:1-12:9  -  God’s love for us is much greater than our love for Him. So often, we are like ‘Israel’ - ‘they did not fear the Lord’. Our love for God grows weak. His love for us remains strong. He refuses to give up on us. We wander away from the Lord. He calls us back to Himself - ‘It is time to seek the Lord’; ‘You must return to your God’ (10:3,12; 11:1,8; 12:6). When we return to the Lord, He leads us in the way of His ‘love’. He teaches us to ‘walk in the Spirit’. He produces in us ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (10:1; 11:3-4; Galatians 5:16-18,22-25). God will help us to grow strong in our love for Him - ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We must ‘not quench the Spirit’. We must ‘not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).
12:10-14:9  -  The Lord loves us. He invites us to come to ‘know’ Him as our ‘Saviour’. We are to ‘return’ to Him and receive the blessings of His salvation. He ‘forgives all our sins’. He leads us in the way of ‘fruitfulness’. He gives us eternal life - ‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will redeem them from death ...’ (13:4,14; 14:1-2,4,8). The call to receive salvation from the Lord is a call to choose which way we will live. We must choose to be ‘righteous’ rather than ‘rebellious’. We are to acknowledge that ‘the ways of the Lord are right’. We are to choose the way of  ‘the righteous’ who ‘walk in the Lord’s ways’. We are to reject the way of  ‘the rebellious’ who ‘stumble over the Lord’s ways’. Let us walk in the light of the Lord’ (14:9; Isaiah 2:5).
________________

JOEL
1:1-2:17  -  ‘Joel’ means ‘the Lord is God’. The Lord is our God. He is ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love...’. Let us ‘return to the Lord our God’. Let us ‘return to Him with all our heart’. Let us look to Him for His ‘blessing’ (2:12-14). Alongside God’s promise of blessing for those who return to Him, there is His Word of warning for those who take no notice of Him and pay no attention to His Word: ‘The Day of the Lord is near. It will come like destruction from the Almighty... Let all who live in the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand - a Day of darkness and gloom...’(1:15; 2:1-2). God wants to bless us. Let us ‘cry out’ to Him for His blessing: ‘To You, O Lord, I call’ (1:14,19).

2:19-3:21  -  Each of us is ‘in the valley of decision’. We must make sure that we are prepared for ‘the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord’. God has given us His promise: ‘Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved’ (2:31-32; 3:14). The Lord promises great blessing to those who call upon Him. He ‘will pour out His Spirit’ upon us. He will do ‘great things’ for us. He will be our ‘Refuge’ and ‘Stronghold’. He will fill us with ‘joy and gladness’. He will fill our hearts with ‘praise’ (2:20-21,23,26,28-29; 3:16). Make sure that you ‘call on the Name of the Lord’. Make sure that you do not miss out on the great blessings the Lord gives to those who call on His Name. Make your decision now - ‘I will call on the Name of the Lord’ (1 Kings 18:24).
___________________________
AMOS

1:1-2:16  -  ‘The Lord roars’. ‘The Lord thunders’ (1:2). God’s Word comes to us from above -  ‘The Lord will roar from on high’. He speaks to us from heaven - ‘He will thunder from His holy dwelling’. We dare not ignore the Word of the Lord. His Word comes to us as a Word of warning - ‘He will shout against all who live on the earth’ - and a Word of judgment - ‘He will bring judgment on all mankind’. God is calling for our attention: ‘Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth’. God speaks to us about His ‘fierce anger’. He calls us to turn from our sin. Let us return to the Lord and hear His Word of salvation: ‘I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 25:30-32,37; 31:34).

3:1-5:5  -  ‘You only have I chosen... therefore I will punish you for all your sins’ (3:2). Along with the privilege of being ‘chosen’ to belong to the Lord comes the responsibility of living as the servants of the Lord. God’s Word is not to be taken lightly - ‘The lion has roared - who will not fear?’ (3:8). God speaks to us very directly about the way we are living - ‘You have not returned to Me’ (4:6,8-11). We must take Him seriously: ‘Prepare to meet your God’ (4:12). God calls us to ‘seek Him and live’: ‘Seek the 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’ (5:4; Isaiah 55:6-7).

5:6-6:14  -  ‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil...’ (5:6,14). Those who truly seek the Lord are to live a godly life. God sees right through hypocritical religion. He is not pleased with it: ‘I hate your show and pretence - your hypocrisy of ‘honouring’ Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies... Away with your hymns of praise - they are mere noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is’ (21,23). God is looking for true obedience: ‘a mighty flood of justice - a torrent of doing good’  - ‘Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (24). God speaks to us about our sins - ‘Many and great are your sins. I know them so well’ - so that we might learn to ‘hate evil’ and ‘love good’ (5:12,15).

7:1-9:15  -  ‘That’s enough, prophet! Go back to Judah and do your preaching there... Don’t prophesy here at Bethel any more’ (7:12-13). Amos was a faithful preacher of God’s Word - but his hearers wanted to get rid of him! This was the beginning of a time of great darkness: ‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it’ (8:11-12). There were dark times ahead - but God was looking beyond them to a brighter future: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel’ (9:14). ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation...’ (Psalm 85:4-7).
__________________________

OBADIAH

1-21  -  ‘The Kingdom will be the Lord’s’ (21). When God’s Kingdom comes, there will be both salvation - ‘The house of Jacob will possess its inheritance’ - and judgment - ‘There will be no survivors from the house of Esau’ (17-18). ‘Not by works but by Him who calls’ - This is the great contrast between ‘Jacob’ and ‘Esau’. We have not been saved ‘because of any good deeds that we have done’. We have been saved ‘by grace’. We can never be saved ‘by works’. We can never receive His grace ‘by works’. We receive His grace ‘by faith’. We look away from ourselves to the Lord and say, ‘He saved us’. ‘It is by grace that you have been saved through faith... not by works, so that no-one can boast’ (Romans 9:10-13, 30-32; 11:6; Titus 3:4-7; Ephesians 2:8-9).
____________________

JONAH 

1:1-2:10  -  ‘Salvation comes from the Lord’ (2:9). We can never save ourselves. We can only be saved - by the Lord. Left to our own devices, we ‘flee from the presence of the Lord’. We ‘run away from the Lord’ (1:3). Sin - This is the story of our life. Salvation - This is the story of what the Lord has done for us. We are sinners. We need to be saved. How can our life be turned around? How can we turn from the way of sin and seek the way of salvation? We cannot change ourselves. We need to be changed by God. We cannot forgive our own sins. We need to to be forgiven by the Lord. Where does the desire for forgiveness and change come from? Does it come from ourselves? No! It comes from the Lord: ‘He drew me, and I followed on...’ (Mission Praise, 499).

3:1-4:11  -  The people of Nineveh ‘believed God’ and ‘turned from their evil ways’. God had shown Himself to be ‘a gracious and compassionate God...’. How did Jonah react? Was he rejoicing in the Lord? No! He was complaining - ‘Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry’. Jonah was a proud Jew. He despised the Ninevites. He didn’t want them to be saved. That’s why he was ‘so quick to flee to Tarshish’ (3:5,10; 4:1-2). What does God’s Word say about Jonah’s attitude? - ‘You have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else’. We must not ‘show contempt for the riches of His kindness’. We must not say, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men’. We must pray, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Romans 2:1,4; Luke 18:11-14).
____________________

MICAH

1:1-2:13  -  Micah was a fearless preacher of God’s Word. His message was not popular: ‘Let the Lord God be a witness against you’. He was a forthright preacher of God’s Word. He knew that the people wouldn’t want to hear what he had to say to them. He demanded that they listen to him. This wasn’t only Micah’s word. It was the Word of the Lord. That’s why Micah said, ‘Hear, O peoples, all of you. Listen, O earth and all who are in it’ (2:2). We cannot afford to ignore the Word of the Lord. We must listen to His Word. He speaks His Word against us. He says, ‘You cannot save yourselves’ (2:3). He speaks His Word against us so that we might learn to rejoice in His Word of salvation: ‘I will bring you together like sheep returning to the fold’ (2:12).

3:1-5:1  -  Micah speaks to those ‘who hate good and love evil’ (3:2). He calls upon them to change their way of living. He calls upon them to worship the Lord - ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’ - and walk with Him - ‘We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God for ever and ever’. How do we learn to ‘walk in His paths’? We come to His ‘House’. We listen to His ‘Word’. We pray that His Word will come to us ‘with power’. We ask Him to ‘teach us His ways’. We pray that we will be ‘filled with the Spirit of the Lord’ (4:2,5; 3:8). We worship the Lord in His House. Gathered in His House for worship, we ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us’. Through His power, we are equipped for witness: ‘you will be My witnesses...’ (Acts 1:8).

5:2-6:16  -  In 5:2, we have a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus at ‘Bethlehem’. This prophecy invites us to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’. At ‘Bethlehem’, we see ‘shepherds, glorifying and praising God’ (Luke 2:15,20). We also see Jesus our Shepherd. He is the One whom the shepherds worshipped. He is the One who ‘will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...’. He is ‘the Good Shepherd’. He ‘laid down His life’ for us. He is ‘the Great Shepherd’. He ‘was raised from the dead’ for us. He is ‘the Chief Shepherd’. He will ‘come’ again for us (5:4; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). Jesus our ‘Shepherd’ gives us ‘strength’ to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (6:8).

7:1-20  -  ‘Who is a God like You? You forgive sin... You love to be merciful.You will again have compassion on us... You will throw all our sins into the depths of the ocean!... You will bless us... You will set Your love upon us...’ (7:18-20) - ‘I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. He took my sins and my sorrows. He made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone. When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see, ‘twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me. How marvellous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be: How marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s love for me!’ (Mission Praise, 296). 
___________________

NAHUM

1:1-2:9  -  ‘Fulfil your vows’ (1:15). God is calling us to be faithful to Him. We are to be faithful in worship. We are to be faithful in reading His Word. We are to be faithful in prayer. We are to be faithful in giving. We are to be faithful in witness. Our faith is to be real. Our faith is to make a difference. It’s to change the way we live. It’s not to be a case of ‘faith without works’. That kind of ‘faith’ is ‘dead’ (James 2:17). Our whole life is to be a life of faith. It is to be a life of ‘love’. We are to live ‘for the glory of God’ (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 16:14; 10:31). ‘Fill Thou our life, O Lord our God, in every part with praise... Not for the lip of praise alone, nor even the praising heart we ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part’ (Church Hymnary, 457).

2:10-3:19  -  To those who refuse to live in obedience to Him, God speaks His Word of judgment: ‘I am against you’ (2:13; 3:5). Those who refuse to listen to God’s Word of salvation - ‘The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him’ - will hear a very different Word from the Lord. It will be a Word of judgment. God’s Word will come like ‘an overwhelming flood’: ‘He will pursue His foes into darkness’ (1:7-8). None of us needs to face this ‘overwhelming flood’ and hear the words, ‘I am against you’. Each of us can come to Christ and hear His Word of ‘overwhelming victory’: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?... Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:31,37-39).
___________________________

HABAKKUK

1:1-2:14  -  ‘How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen?’ (1:2). There are times when it seems that God is not listening to us. What are we to do when we feel like this? Are we to give up on God? Are we to stop praying? No! We must wait patiently for the Lord’s answer - ‘I will look to see what He will say to me’. We must not forget His promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (2:1; Lamentations 3:25-26). ‘The vision awaits its time... If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay’. Let us ‘live by faith’, awaiting the Day when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’ (2:3-4,14).

2:15-3:19  -  We are to ‘be silent’ before God. We are to ‘stand in awe’ of Him. In His holy presence, we become deeply conscious of our sin which separates us from Him: ‘Your eyes are too pure to look on evil’. Confessing our sin to God, we pray that ‘in wrath’ He will ‘remember mercy’. We pray that He will ‘renew’ us with His blessing. God answers our prayer. He sends His ‘glory’ into our lives. He fills our hearts with His ‘praise’: ‘I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Lord God is my Strength. He makes my feet like the feet of the deer. He enables me to go on the heights’. ‘Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles...’ (2:20; 3:2; 1:13; 3:18-19; Isaiah 40:31).
______________________________

ZEPHANIAH

1:1-2:7  -  ‘The great Day of the Lord is near - near and coming quickly... That Day will be a Day of wrath... I will bring distress upon the people... because they have sinned against the Lord’ (1:14-17). This is God’s Word of warning. He is calling us back to Himself: ‘Seek the Lord - before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the Day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you’. We are to seek the Lord in ‘righteousness’ and ‘humility’. This is the way of being ‘sheltered on the Day of the Lord’s anger’ (2:2-3). God is calling us to ‘worship Him in Spirit and in truth’: ‘Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer’ (John 4:24; Romans 12:1).

2:8-3:20  -  Here, we have a story of sin - Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ - and a story of salvation - ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy... The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (3:1-2,14-17). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness - ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’ (Mission Praise, 573).
________________________________

HAGGAI

1:1-15 -  ‘“Why is everyone saying it is not the right time for rebuilding My Temple?” asks the Lord’. His reply to them is this: ‘Is it then the right time for you to live in luxurious homes, when the Temple lies in ruins?’ (2-4). God’s people had forgotten about God. They were pleasing themselves - but they were not pleasing God! God is challenging us to think about our way of living - ‘Consider your way of life’ (5,7). We are to ‘obey the voice of the Lord our God’. We are to change our way of thinking - ‘the people feared the Lord’ - and living - ‘They came and began work on the House of the Lord Almighty, their God’. Let us obey God’s voice. Let us trust in His promise - ‘I am with you’(12-14).

2:1-23 -  ‘“Be strong, all you people of the land”, declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you”, declares the Lord Almighty’ (4). We are to work for God. When we commit ourselves to serving Him, the Lord promises His blessing: ‘From this day on I will bless you’ (19). To His faithful servants, God promises great blessing: ‘I will fill this House with glory’ (7). ‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that, in the Lord, your labour is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58). ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?... We are on the Lord’s side, Saviour, we are Thine... Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine’ (Church Hymnary, 479).
______________________________


ZECHARIAH

1:1-2:13 -  God promises to bless His faithful people: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there My House will be rebuilt’ (16). God looks upon His House, and He sees His glory - ‘I will be the glory within it’ (2:5). He sees the glory of His presence - ‘I will live among you’ (2:10). We read here about the Temple at Jerusalem. We read about its glory. God’s Word speaks about another ‘temple’ and another ‘glory’. Through ‘faith’ in ‘Christ’, we have become ‘a holy temple in the Lord’ - ‘a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:21-22; 3:16-17). To every believer, God says, ‘Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you... Glorify God in your body’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
3:1-4:14 -  “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit”, says the Lord Almighty’ (4:6). There is only one Power by which the work of the Lord can be done. It is the power of the Holy Spirit. We must not try to do God’s work in our own strength. We must exchange our weakness for His strength. We must ‘wait for the promise of the Father’ - ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’. Great things happen when God’s people are ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ - ‘About three thousand were added to their number that day... The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’! Let us pray that God will ‘pour out’ His Spirit upon us (Acts 1:4,8; 2:4,17-18,41,47).
5:1-6:15 -  ‘Here is the Man whose Name is the Branch... It is He who will build the Temple of the Lord...’ (12-13). These words point us to our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). How does Christ build His Church? He sends His blessing when His people are obedient to Him: ‘Those who are far away will come and help to build the Temple of the Lord... This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God’(15). Christ is ‘building a people of power’. He calls us to ‘move through this land by His Spirit and glorify His precious Name’. Let us pray, ‘Here I am, wholly available - as for me, I will serve the Lord’ (Mission Praise, 151,229).
7:1-8:23 -  When people stop listening to God’s Word, their life becomes ‘a desolate wasteland’ (7:11-14). What are we to do when we see this happening? - ‘Do not be afraid... Be strong’. We must keep on believing God’s promise: ‘I will save you, and you will be a blessing’. We must keep on praying that our faithful witness will bring others to the Lord: ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’ (8:13,23). We must pray that ‘the Spirit will be poured upon us from on high and the desert will become a fertile field’. ‘Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father’ (Isaiah 32:15; Matthew 5:15-16).
9:1-10:12 -  ‘...See your King comes to you... gentle and riding on a donkey...’ (9:9). These words point us to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Jesus is our King. Jesus comes to us. How are we to welcome our King? We are to welcome Him with joyful praise - ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ (Matthew 21:1-9; John 12:12-16). Jesus our King has come to us from God the Father: ‘When the time had fully come, God sent His Son...’. Jesus our King has come to us to be our Saviour: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (Galatians 4:4; 1 Timothy 1:15). Christ will come again - ‘with power and great glory’. ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 22:20).
11:1-12:14 -  ‘They will look on Him whom they have pierced...’ (12:10). These words point us to Christ’s crucifixion. In Psalm 22:1, we read Christ’s prayer from the Cross: ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?’ (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). In the same Psalm, we read these words: ‘They have pierced My hands and My feet’ (16). In Isaiah 53:5, we learn that Christ ‘was pierced for our sins’ (53:5). In Revelation 1:7, the words of Zechariah 12:10 form part of a prophecy concerning Christ’s Return: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him ...’. In His heavenly glory, Christ will always be ‘the Lamb’ who was ‘slain’ (Revelation 5:6,9).
13:1-14:21 -  We ‘call on the Lord’s Name’. He ‘answers’ our prayer - ‘I will say, “They are My people”, and they will say, “The Lord is our God’ (13:9). We confess our faith in ‘the Lord’. He is ‘Lord of lords’. The Lord is King. He is ‘King of kings’. His Name is ‘the only Name’ of our salvation. His Name is ‘the Name that is above every name’ (14:9; Revelation 19:16; Acts 4:12; Philippians 2:9-11). We ‘worship the King, the Lord Almighty’. We sing ‘Holy to the Lord’: ‘Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come! Worthy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come! Glory to the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!’ (16,20; Mission Praise, 239).
________________________________

MALACHI

1:1-2:17 -  God looks upon us in our sin. What does He see? He sees ‘the Wicked Land. He sees ‘a people always under the wrath of the Lord’ (1:4). He looks at what Christ has done for us - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’; ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’; ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3). God looks upon us in Christ - and everything is so very different: ‘God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). There, at the Cross of Christ, we hear God’s Word of love - ‘I have loved you’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (1:2; Jeremiah 31:3).

3:1-4:6 -  God calls us to be His faithful people. He says, ‘Return to Me’. He promises to bless those who return to Him: ‘I will return to you’. God calls us to honour Him with our ‘tithes and offerings: ‘Bring the whole tithe (tenth) into the storehouse...’. When we honour the Lord, He has promised that He will honour us: ‘Those who honour Me, I will honour’. When we honour the Lord with our obedience, He promises that He will honour us with His blessing. He promises to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down for us an overflowing blessing’. Satan - ‘the devourer’ - will be defeated. We will ‘serve God’. He will take ‘delight’ in us. We will be His ‘treasured possession’ (3:8-12,17-19; 1 Samuel 2:30).


My Heart Is Overflowing With Good News.

"My heart is overflowing with Good News ... Grace is poured on your lips ... O warrior, strap your sword to your side ... Ride on victoriously in your majesty for the cause of truth, humility, and righteousness" (Psalm 45:1-4).
As we read this Psalm, we catch a glimpse of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - "You are the most handsome of Adam's descendants" (Psalm 45:2). The Good News comes to us from Jesus. Grace comes to us from Jesus. We hear the Gospel. we believe in Jesus. He forgives our sins. He leads us in the way of victory. He teaches us truth, humility and righteousness. His truth sets us free - to become less self-centred and more Christ-centred. He teaches us the truth about ourselves. This keeps us humble. We're never any more than sinners who've been saved by His grace. He teaches us the truth about Himself. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord. As we learn of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, He creates in us a desire to become more like Him - to be "led in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3).

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Our strength comes from our Saviour.

"Clothe yourself with strength" (Isaiah 52:1). Our strength comes from our Saviour. In ourselves, there is sin. In Him, there is salvation (Isaiah 53:6,10-12). We look to our Saviour's sacrifice for our sin. From the Cross, we hear His Word of love: "My kindness will never depart from you. My promise of peace will never change, says the Lord, who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10). This Word from the Lord brings strength into our lives. The Lord leads us in His way of victory. He says to us, "Their victory comes from Me" (Isaiah 54:17).

Words That Don't Come Easily

In Job 22, Eliphaz charges in with harsh words of accusation - “Aren’t you really very wicked? Is there no end to your wrongdoing?” (Job 22:5). He persists with his probing, heartless questions - “Are you following the old path that wicked people have taken?” (Job 22:15). In general terms, the words of Eliphaz were good words - “Be in harmony and at peace with God” (Job 22:21); “Keep his words in your heart” (Job 22:22). “Return to the Almighty” (Job 22:23); “Put wrongdoing out of your tent” (Job 22:24). The problem with his words is that they are bound up, in such a watertight way, with the promise of prosperity - ‘Do these things and you will prosper.” This leads to the assumption: Because Job is not prospering, he must have sinned. This is not what God says about Job (Job 1:8).

There is real sadness in the words, spoken by Job, in Job 23 - 24. There is no hint of a light at the end of the tunnel, as there was in Job 19:25 - “I know that my Redeemer lives.” That glimpse of glory has dimmed, and Job must continue in the battle for faith, without much to give him any encouragement. His words about God - “He does whatever what He wants” - are not words of complaint. They are words of faith. Job is holding on to God in the darkness of suffering - “He will carry out His orders concerning me, as He does with so many other things” (Job 23:13-14). This is a statement of faith in the sovereignty of God. It is not a cheap confession, mouthed in times of ease. These words do not come easily. They are words that have power because they are words that refuse to lose sight of God, even when suffering obscures Job’s view of Him.

Lift Up Your Eyes!

Isaiah 26:1-4
"Trust in the Lord forever .... the Lord is an everlasting rock!" (Isaiah 26:4). Forever, everlasting - We must never lose sight of this eternal perspective.

Teach us, Lord, to look beyond the things that are happening in our world today. Help us to keep on looking to You, Lord – ‘the God of hope.’

Jeremiah 4:19-5:9
‘One disaster follows another. The whole land is ruined… My people are fools. They don’t know Me… They are experts in doing wrong, and they don’t know how to do good’ (Jeremiah 4:20,22). Lord, we read the daily news. We wonder, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ We ask, ‘Where will it all end?’ Are we to give up hope? No! Teach us, Lord, to look beyond the things that are happening in our world today. Help us to keep on looking to You, Lord – ‘the God of hope.’ You say to us, ‘There is hope for your future.’ Sometimes, we feel like things are just going from bad to worse. When we feel like this, help us to remember Your Word: ‘I know the plans I have for you… to give you a future and a hope’. ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Jeremiah 29:11; Jeremiah 31:17; Romans 15:13).

“Blessed are those who wash their robes ..."

To those who come to Him, the Lord Jesus says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may … go through the gates into the city.”  Let us not remain “outside” of God’s Kingdom (Revelation 22:14-15).

There is a better way than continuing in sin. It is the way of coming to the Saviour and receiving from Him the forgiveness of sin, the power of a new life and the glorious hope of entering into the full glory of His heavenly and eternal Kingdom.

A Change Of Direction

Christ brings a change of direction into our life.
This change of direction is described for us in Acts 2:42 -“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Christ is preached. We believe the Gospel. We receive salvation. Life is no longer centred upon ourselves. It is centred upon Christ.

God Keeps On Loving Us No Matter What’s Going On In Our Lives.

Psalm 119:49-72
God’s Word makes such a difference! When everything seems so hopeless, we turn to God’s Word and we find that there is ‘hope’(49). When we are going through a time of terrible ‘suffering’, we turn to God’s Word and we find ‘comfort’(50,52). When everything seems to be going so badly, we must keep on reading the Word of the Lord: ‘The wicked have laid a trap for me, but I do not forget Your law’(61). Through His Word, God is teaching us to see His purpose in our sufferings: ‘The punishment You gave me was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to Your laws’(71). God is showing us what is really important: ‘The law that You gave means more to me than all the money in the world’(72). He is teaching us to see His ‘love’ in every part of our life (64).

Psalm 119:73-96
We rejoice in God’s ‘constant love’. This is our ‘comfort’- God keeps on loving us no matter what’s going on in our lives. We may be going through really hard times - ‘Men persecute me with lies... They have almost succeeded in killing me’. There’s one thing that never changes - God’s ‘constant love’. He loves us in the hard times as well as in the happy times. His love inspires us to keep on loving Him when we feel like giving up in despair (76,86-88). We see many changes taking place in our world. Sometimes, we wonder, ‘Where is God in all of this? Has He abandoned us? Can we keep on trusting Him and rejoicing in His Word?’. When our minds are full of negative thoughts, we must remember God’s Word - ‘Your Word, O Lord, will last for ever... Your faithfulness endures through all the ages’(89-90).

A Mighty Work Of God

Exodus 1:1-2:25
The stage is set for a mighty work of God. The Lord’s people face a crisis situation. they are being oppressed by the Egyptians. God sees what is happening. He is making His plans – to give His people a better future. It may have seemed like God was doing nothing about Israel’s problems – “a  long time passed ” (Exodus 2:23). God was not standing back, paying no attention to what was going on. He was busy – preparing Moses to be the leader of His people. He was taking steps towards the great event of the deliverance from the oppressors. God was looking ahead to the Exodus and the movement from the land of bondage to the land of promise – “He remembered His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 2:24), and He was about to fulfil this promise with a mighty demonstration of His saving power.

Jesus - Our Saviour And Our Shepherd

“These are the people who are coming out of the terrible suffering. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb ...  The Lamb in the center near the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs filled with the water of life, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14,17).
The Lord Jesus Christ - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) - is our Saviour and our Shepherd. He forgives our sins, and He leads us on to His eternal glory.

Lifted From The Guttermost, Saved To The Uttermost

"He pulled me out of a horrible pit" (Psalm 40:2).

There are two things that we need to hear about - our own situation and God's salvation..
* Our own situation is hopeless. We need to be saved by the Lord.
* The Lord is able to lift us up. He is able to lift from the guttermost - and save to the uttermost" (Hebrews 7:25).

Words From God? or Words From Satan?

In Job 20, we hear, again, the voice of Zophar - the ‘so far, so good’ man. His principles concerning the judgment of God on the wicked are all right as far as they go. The problem is that they are general. They are floating over the specific case of Job, without really coming to terms with the real man to whom his harsh words are addressed. Zophar begins his speech with the claim that he has been inspired by God - “a spirit beyond my understanding gives me answer” (Job 20:3). He assumes that this spirit is God. He is, in fact, speaking in the power and service of another spirit - Satan. Zophar is serving Satan, whose purpose is to do down God’s servant, Job. Zophar speaks with arrogance, a ‘know it all’ attitude. He displays the kind of spiritual pride which is characteristic of Satan, the enemy of God and the people of God. Zophar’s speech ends with summarizing words: “This is the reward God gives to the wicked person, the inheritance God appointed for him” (Job 20:29). This is a general conclusion. The question he fails to answer is this: Does all that I have just said really apply to Job?
In Job 21, Job points out the folly of the idea that God’s judgment can be conceived solely in terms of what happens in this world. He observes that, very often, in this life, wicked people do not suffer for their sins. When the judgment of God is seen in the light of eternity rather than in connection with what happens here on earth, it becomes clear that the simplistic application to Job of the general principle - wicked people are punished by God - is very wrong. It assumes that Job was a wicked man. God’s Word tells us that Job was a righteous man (Job 1:8). Job emphasizes that God’s dealings with us are not simple and straightforward - according to an easily defined formula. Job asks, “Can anyone teach God knowledge? Can anyone judge the Most High?” (Job 21:22). We must humble ourselves before Almighty God, acknowledging that He is God and that He knows what He is doing. This is indicated clearly in the first two chapters of Job. God has given us His explanation of what was happening to Job. In drawing attention to this God-given explanation in the case of Job, we should note that, first, that, at the time of his suffering was not given to Job; and, second, God is under no obligation to give us an explanation of all that He is doing in our lives. To those who claim that God must do one thing or another, according to their own limited understanding, we must answer, as Job did, “How can you comfort me with this nonsense when your answers continue to betray me?” (Job 21:34).

Something For "A Cloudy And Dark Day"

" ... so will I seek out My sheep ... on a cloudy and dark day" (Ezekiel 34:12). Our life on earth is " a cloudy and dark day." Left to ourselves, we always lose our way. We cannot find our way back on to the way of the Lord without the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus does not leave us to stumble around on a "cloudy and dark day." He has come "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). He is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). His Light is still shining brightly. The darkness can't put it out (John 1:5). We look to Jesus, and we see beyond "the cloudy and dark day." We look to Him, and we say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation" (Psalm 27:1).

Help us, Lord, to see clearly that, even when we’ve been ‘brought up in the Church’, we still need to open our hearts to Christ.

Jeremiah 9:1-26
We read, Lord, about those who are ‘circumcised only in the flesh.’ They remain ‘uncircumcised in the heart’ (Jeremiah 9:25-26). Teach us, Lord, that salvation is not a matter of outward conformity to religious rituals. What we need is ‘circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit’ (Romans 2:28-29). Help us to remember Jesus’ words: ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7). Help us to see clearly that, even when we’ve been ‘brought up in the Church’, we still need to open our hearts to Christ. Even when we’ve heard Your Word preached many times, we still need to be born again through the power of ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Teach us, Lord, that our religious rituals mean nothing if, in our hearts, we remain unconverted: ‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation’ (Galatians 6:15).

My Grace Is Sufficient For You ...

What are we to say about Bildad’s short speech in Job 25: “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t take a long time, saying nothing.” Bildad keeps it short. He lives up to his name - Bildad, the Shuhite (shoe height!!)! In general terms, what he says is true. He speaks about the universality of sinfulness. Lack of purity applies to all of us. It does not, however, provide us with an adequate explanation of Job’s suffering. To understand what was happening to Job, we must reckon with the activity of Satan and the permission of God. We should not blame God, saying, “It’s all God’s fault.” Satan attacks God’s people. He brings suffering upon them. We should not say, “Just pray, and everything will be okay.” This is not always true. There are times when God permits Satan to bring suffering upon His people. Why does God not answer the prayers of His people? The answer is not, “God doesn’t love us.” It’s “God loves us, but He is permitting Satan to attack us.” God does this because, in His time, He intends to bring us through our time of suffering, bringing us closer to Himself - “My grace is sufficient for you; my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whatever our circumstance here on earth, we take our ultimate comfort from this: “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 1:7).
In Job 26 - 27, Job protests his innocence - “It’s unthinkable for me to admit that you are right. Until I breathe my last breath, I will never give up my claim to integrity. I cling to my righteousness and won’t let go. My conscience won’t accuse me as long as I live” (Job 27:5-6). If these words weren’t true, they would be the height of arrogant pride. It is, however, clear, from the opening verse of the book of Job, that “Job was a man of integrity ... He feared God, and he stayed away from evil” (Job1:1). When Job protested his innocence, he was speaking words of truth. His words were not words of false pride. They were words of true godliness.
In Job 28 - 29, Job emphasizes the importance of pleasing God - “The fear of the Lord is wisdom. To stay away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). He describes the earlier part of his life - before his suffering: “God was in my tent ... The Almighty was still with me” (Job 29:4-5). He longs for the sense of God’s blessing to return to him: “If only my life could be like it used to be, in the days when God watched over me, when He made His lamp shine on my head, when I walked through the dark in His light” (Job 29:2). The meaning of past blessings and the hope of future blessings brings strength to Job, as he faces his present suffering.
“When I waited for good, evil came. When I looked for light, darkness came” (Job 30:26). There is great sadness in Job’s words. He could not see any way out of this situation - “Days of misery are ahead of me” (Job 30:27). Job wonders what he has done to deserve all this suffering. There is no suggestion that the more a person has sinned, the more he will suffer. We are not to make a direct link between personal sin and personal suffering. Following on from this long speech, covering Job 28 - 31, we don’t hear any more from Job until Job 40:3-5 and Job 42:1-6.

Let God's Love Lift You Up.

Lamentations 3:19-33
Do you want to "become depressed" (Lamentations 3:20)? - Keep on remembering the bad things that have happened to you.
Do you want to be lifted out of your depression and into the joy of the Lord? - Remember this: God loves you.
God's love is a "faithful love" (Lamentations 3:22). It doesn't come and go. It doesn't change with the weather or our changing circumstances.
"The Lord is good to those who wait for Him" (Lamentations 3:25) - God is good, but we need to learn to wait on Him, if we are to appreciate His goodness.
"Be silent" (Lamentations 3:28). Less complaining - all this shows is that we're seeing things for our own point of view.
"He will show compassion according to His abundant faithful love" (Lamentations 3:32 ) - This is God's point of view.

Comfort and compassion

What "joy" there is in the Lord's "comfort" and "compassion" (Isaiah 49:13). He reaches out to us in compassion. He reaches out to us with His comfort. We rejoice in Him - the God of compassion, the God of comfort. "The Almighty Lord helps me" (Isaiah 50:7,9). What help there is in the Lord! The Maker of heaven and earth is our Helper. "The people ransomed by the Lord will return. They will come to Zion, singing with joy" (Isaiah 51:11). How does the Lord help us? He has "ransomed" us. We have been "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). We have been "redeemed with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19).

God loves us …

God loves us. He comes to us. He calls us to come to Him.
The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel’s early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become ‘a prophet of the Lord’ through whom ‘the Word of the Lord… came to all Israel’ (1 Samuel 3:10, 19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were ‘defeated’ by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the ‘capture’ of ‘the ark of God’: ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (1 Samuel 4:10-11, 22). We may lose ‘goods, honour, children, wife’ (Church Hymnary, 454). The glory of God among His people – We must not lose this!
 
God loves us. His love for us inspires our love for Him.
Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: ‘I am the Lord your God’ who brought you… out of the house of bondage’ (Deuteronomy 5:6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (Deuteronomy 5:27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him – more!

God loves us. He has called us to salvation. He has called us to service.
God has called us to salvation – ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service – ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe.’ We are to ‘speak.’ This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).

Wait On The Lord And Renew Your Strength.

Habakkuk 2:15-3:19
We are to ‘be silent before God. We are to ‘stand in awe’ of Him. In His holy presence, we become deeply conscious of our sin which separates us from Him: ‘Your eyes are too pure to look on evil’. Confessing our sin to God, we pray that ‘in wrath’ He will ‘remember mercy’. We pray that He will ‘renew’ us with His blessing. God answers our prayer. He sends His ‘glory’ into our lives. He fills our hearts with His ‘praise’: ‘I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Lord God is my Strength. He makes my feet like the feet of the deer. He enables me to go on the heights’. ‘Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles...’(2:20; 3:2; 1:13; 3:18-19; Isaiah 40:31).

Peace, Power, Purpose

Acts 3:1-4:4
Contrast the Peter we see at the time of Christ's death and the Peter we see here.
There was failure, frustration and fear. Now, there is peace, power and purpose.
(a) Failure - Peter denied his Lord.
(b) Frustration - Things could have been so different, if only I had confessed my Lord.
(c) Fear - what can the future possibly hold for me, now that I have failed my Lord?
(i) Peace - His sins have been forgiven.
(ii) Power - God's power has come upon him.
(iii) Purpose - He's winning people for Christ.
What about us?
Left to ourselves, our life-story is failure, frustration and fear.
when Christ comes to us, He comes with His peace, power and purpose.
What peace, power and purpose there is in Acts 4:12!
 * Salvation brings peace - peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
 * Along with peace, there is power. We begin with the power to live a new life.
 * Christ's power does not only change us. It gives us the strength that we need to win others for Christ.

The Lord will be your everlasting Light.

Isaiah 60:1-22
‘Arise, shine; for your Light has come... the Lord will be your everlasting Light’ (Isaiah 60:1,19-20). We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus Christ is ‘the Light of the world’. When we ‘follow Him’, we ‘will not walk in darkness’. We ‘will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). We are living in difficult times. We are surrounded by much darkness. Help us, Lord, not to become discouraged - ‘the lamp of God has not yet gone out’ (1 Samuel 3:3).  When the darkness threatens to overcome the Light, may we take encouragement from Your Word - ‘The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5). When the darkness seems to be everywhere, help us to put our trust in the Lord - 'The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?' May ‘Your Word’ be ‘a lamp to our feet and a light to our path’ (Psalms 27:1; 119:105).

When, Lord, You look upon us, You do not see our sin. You see our Saviour,

Song of Solomon 6:1-7:9
"You are beautiful ... How beautiful you are" (Song of Solomon 6:4; 7:6). We wonder, Lord, how You can possibly see any beauty in us? We are sinners - "We have all strayed like sheep. Each one of us has turned to his own way." We thank You, Lord, that Christ died for sinners: "the Lord laid all our sins on Him" (Isaiah 53:6). When You look upon us, You do not see our sin. You see our Saviour, Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When You look at us, this is what You see: "The blood of Jesus, Your Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). This, Lord, is the beauty You see - the beauty of Jesus, our Saviour.

Your redemption, Lord, is more than rules and regulations.

Exodus 20:21-21:32
Your redemption, Lord, is more than rules and regulations. It's not about the things that we do for You. It's about all that You have done for us. Jesus died for us - This is what inspires us to live for Him. What a great thing Jesus has done for us! Help us, Lord, to do great things for Him. Help us, Lord, to receive Your great salvation - and to give all the glory to You.

Saved by grace, saved through faith, saved for good works

Ephesians 2:1-10 
What we were without Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3); What God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Ephesians 2:8-10 - saved by grace, saved through faith, saved for good works
By grace - but not without faith and good works
Faith and good works - the fruit of grace
Faith and good works - Grace has done this.
The grace has come from God. The glory goes to God.

Jesus Is Risen. Jesus Is Lord.

“God raised Jesus Christ from the dead” (Acts 2:24).
Did this become true only because a lot of people said that it was true? Has it become false because many people refuse to believe that it’s true? No! It’s God’s great miracle. Death has been defeated. There is hope. Death will not triumph over us. Jesus Christ is Lord.

Come and see ... Come and listen ... Give thanks ...

"Come and see what God has done ... Come and listen, all who fear God,  and I will tell you what he has done for me ... Let everyone give thanks to You, O God." (Psalm 66:5,16; Psalm 67:3).

If we want to see what God has done for us, what's the best place to look? - The Cross of Christ. This is where we will see how much the Lord has done for us. This is where we will see how much the Lord loves us. 
When we come to the Cross of Christ, we come to look and listen. From the Cross, Christ speaks to us some wonderful words. 
Here are some of His words:
 * "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
Here, we see Jesus taking our sin upon Himself.
 * "It is finished" (John 19:30).
Here, Jesus declares that He has completed the work that needed to be done for us to be saved.
 * "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Through Jesus' death for us, we receive the forgiveness of all our sins.
 * "Truly, I say to you, today, you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). 
Jesus died for us so that we might live with Him - forever. 
Let us give thanks to the Lord for all that He has done for us. Let us give thanks that He still speaks to us of the great salvation, which comes to us through his death on the Cross for us. 

Praying for preachers

Lord, we pray for those who have been called to bring Your Word to Your people. May their words help us to be “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). May their words be a living echo of the words of Jesus our Saviour: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel” (Luke 4:18). May their words help us to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7). May their words help us to “worship You in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). May their words help us to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). May their words help us to say, “The Lord has blessed us. Praise His holy Name.”

Strengthened By The Lord

We thank You, Lord, for Your gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to serve You in our own strength. We come to You in our weakness. You give to us Your strength. This is the strength that we need - the strength that comes from You.

Thank God - for the Holy Spirit.

We thank You, our Father, that You have sent Your Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. We thank You that the new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. You are preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’(Romans 8:18). We thank You that the Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’ - He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more. We long for Your glorious future. We’re not staggering along on a dead-end street. We’re walking tall. We’re travelling with You, Lord. You’re leading us on to Your glory. May we always be led by Your Spirit. May we keep on growing in Your Spirit.

Notes on Hosea

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).
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).
5:15-7:16  -  We are to leave the old way of sinful disobedience and follow the new way of faith and obedience: ‘Come, let us return to the Lord... Let us press on to know the Lord’. As we return to the Lord, pressing on to know Him, His blessing returns to us. He leads us in the way of fruitfulness: ‘He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth’ (6:1,3). We must not be like those who react to God’s Word with ‘pride’: ‘They do not return to the Lord their God’. God longs to ‘redeem’ them, yet they ‘rebel against’ Him: ‘They do not turn to the Most High God’ (7:10,13,16). Our ‘love’ for God is not to be ‘like the early dew that disappears’. Let us ‘acknowledge our guilt and seek His face’. Let us love Him with a ‘steadfast love’ (5:15; 6:4,6). 
8:1-9:17  -  ‘Israel’ had ‘forgotten’ and ‘forsaken’ the Lord (8:14). We have not remembered the Lord. We have turned away from Him. We have forgotten Him. We have been ‘unfaithful’ to Him. This is the sad story of our life - a story of forgetting and forsaking the Lord. God is very different from us. He has not forgotten us. He has not forsaken us. He has ‘remembered’ us. He has been ‘faithful’ to us. He has shown us His ‘salvation’ (Psalm 98:3). How do we know that God remembers us? How do we know that God is faithful to us? - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’; ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8). ‘If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot be false to Himself’ (2 Timothy 2:13).
10:1-12:9  -  God’s love for us is much greater than our love for Him. So often, we are like ‘Israel’ - ‘they did not fear the Lord’. Our love for God grows weak. His love for us remains strong. He refuses to give up on us. We wander away from the Lord. He calls us back to Himself - ‘It is time to seek the Lord’; ‘You must return to your God’ (10:3,12; 11:1,8; 12:6). When we return to the Lord, He leads us in the way of His ‘love’. He teaches us to ‘walk in the Spirit’. He produces in us ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (10:1; 11:3-4; Galatians 5:16-18,22-25). God will help us to grow strong in our love for Him - ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We must ‘not quench the Spirit’. We must ‘not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).
12:10-14:9  -  The Lord loves us. He invites us to come to ‘know’ Him as our ‘Saviour’. We are to ‘return’ to Him and receive the blessings of His salvation. He ‘forgives all our sins’. He leads us in the way of ‘fruitfulness’. He gives us eternal life - ‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will redeem them from death ...’ (13:4,14; 14:1-2,4,8). The call to receive salvation from the Lord is a call to choose which way we will live. We must choose to be ‘righteous’ rather than ‘rebellious’. We are to acknowledge that ‘the ways of the Lord are right’. We are to choose the way of  ‘the righteous’ who ‘walk in the Lord’s ways’. We are to reject the way of  ‘the rebellious’ who ‘stumble over the Lord’s ways’. Let us walk in the light of the Lord’ (14:9; Isaiah 2:5).

Featured post

Enter in ...

" ... h aving  boldness  to enter  the Holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Hebrews 10:19). What a contrast there is between the many...