Charles’s quotes


"It is surely ours to combine these elements of mourning for sin and joy in our salvation in one complex and composite experience which keeps us perpetually humble and yet perpetually joyful too."— Rev William Still

Monday, 28 December 2015

Can Things Be Turned Around?

In Ezekiel 26, we find an awesome Word of judgment, spoken against the city of Tyre. The Word, spoken by God through His prophet, is uncompromising - “Tyre, you famous city, you have been destroyed” (Ezekiel 26:17). The effect of Tyre’s fall is described: “Your defeat will make the people, who live by the coast, tremble. Your end will terrify the islands in the sea” (Ezekiel 26:18). This is the fear of the Lord. We become aware that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Gospel tells us about the hands that were nailed to the Cross for us, so that we might pass from judgment to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is a continuation of the Word of judgment, which began in Ezekiel 26. How final are the words at the end of Ezekiel 27: “You have come to a terrible end, and you will never exist again” (Ezekiel 27:36). This is the bad news concerning all of us. We are sinners. We are under God’s judgment. Our only hope is the God of grace and mercy. He has made Himself known to us as the One, who can turn everything around for us. He does through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s judgment on Tyre - This theme continues on from Ezekiel 26 - 27. The emphasis is on His judgment on the king - “the ruler of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1). Here, we look beyond “the ruler of Tyre.” We may look on from him to Satan. Like the king of Tyre, Satan will also “come to a terrible end” (Ezekiel 28:19). In Ezekiel 28:20-24, we have a prophecy of judgment on Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, we have a message of hope for God’s people, Israel - “they will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 28:26).

Search The Scriptures: Genesis

Genesis 1:1-2:3
There is, here, a real sense of the majesty of God. He is "beyond description." We cannot comprehend Him. We can hardly put into words this sense of God's greatness. We are transported into an eternal dimension, which is so different from our earthly existence. We read, "In the beginning, God ... " (1:1). Many live as if God was absent, as if humanity was the only reality. Here, it is we who are absent from view. Here, we see God only. Humanity only comes into view when God chooses (1:26-27). Everything about this is God-centred rather than man-centred. The light comes when God says, "Let there be light" (1:3). Prior to God's Word of command, in 1:3, we see "the Spirit of God hovering" (1:2). The Spirit is on the alert, ready to move into action, ready for the Word of God to be spoken, ready to empower the Word so that it becomes mightily effective. All that follows - described as "very good" - comes from God, from His Word and His Spirit. Only good can come from God. The reality of evil has not yet come into view. When it does, everything changes except one thing - the love of God for His creation.
Genesis 2:4-25
Here, we see the privilege and responsibility of being human. As well as the privilege - created in the image of God (1:26-27), there is also the responsibility - in relation to (a) the creation: "farm the land and ... take care of it " (15); (b) the Creator: "you must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (17). Human life is lived within two horizons - (i) the temporal or earthly horizon: we have relationships with one another: "It is not good for the man to be alone" (18); (ii) the eternal or heavenly horizon: we are related to God. Human relationships do not fully satisfy us. There is a longing for God our Creator: "He has put a sense of eternity in people's minds" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He has given us good things to be enjoyed (1 Timothy 4:4). He has also created us to be "inwardly ... renewed" by feeding on the "things" that "last forever" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Genesis 3:1-24
From the majestic perfection of God and the privileged responsibility of humanity, we now move to the evil subtlety of Satan. An intruder has sneaked into the privileged place between God the Creator and mankind. His creation. Chapter 2 ends with the absence of shame. Chapter 3 begins with the presence of Satan. The work of Satan, successfully executed, ensures that chapter 3 ends rather differently from chapter 2 - "the Lord God sent the man out of the Garden of Eden" (23). This was "Paradise Lost." Was there a way to "Paradise Regained"? There are two answers to this question: 'No' and 'Yes.' Taking ourselves as the starting-point, the answer is 'No' - God will not permit us to take salvation into our own hands (24). Starting with God, we answer, 'Yes' - this is the answer of verse 15: Christ (the woman's descendant) will be crucified (the bruising of His heel), but the outcome of this will be the defeat of Satan (the crushing of his head).
Genesis 4:1-26
This chapter tells the story of the progression of humanity, the increase of sin and, in it final sentence, the development of worship. There are interesting snippets of cultural information (20-22). There may be progress in the horizontal dimension - agriculture, music, industry, but history reveals, again and again, that all is not well in our relationship with God. Sin was on the increase (1-16). Things were getting out of control. Could they be turned around again? A strongly positive answer to this question is not spelled out in detail in this chapter. There is, however, a hint of God at the end of the chapter. He is still at work, calling sinners to worship Him, and people are beginning to respond. This is the note on which the chapter ends - "At that time people began to worship the Lord" (26). At the end of a chapter which is, at best, informative - the progression of culture, and, at worst, depressing - the increase of sin, this is the ray of hope, the word of encouragement.
Genesis 5:1-32
"Enoch walked with God" (22-23). Following this striking statement about Enoch's remarkable walk with God, we are introduced to Noah (28-32). Like Enoch, "Noah walked with God" (6:9). "Noah" means "Relief" - "Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this child shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands" (29). This seems to be a rather mundane statement. The deeper signicance of this "relief" becomes clearer as we look more closely, chapters 6-9, at the place of Noah within the purpose of God. By building the ark, Noah brought relief from the storm of God's judgment. What an awesome judgment of God the flood was. In the midst of this judgment, there was relief (salvation). The ark is a picture of Christ. Those who are in Him are saved. Those who are outside of Him are lost. Christ is the "child" of our salvation. He takes salvation into His hands, taking it out of "the painful labour of our hands." Now, looking to Christ and what He has done for us, we can say, with confidence, that we are "safe in the arms of Jesus."
Genesis 6:1-22
As we read the story of Noah, we learn of the place of Noah within the divine revelation of the Gospel of grace. "Noah found grace" (8) might be turned around to read, "Grace found Noah." "Amazing grace ... I once was lost but now am found." The significance of Noah, highlighted in 5:29, is expressed in the words, "Not the labour of my hands can fulfil Thy law's demands ... All for sin could not atone, Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling." To think of the flood exclusively in terms of judgment is to see only one side of what God was doing. As well as judging, He was also saving - "In this ship a few people - eight in all - were saved by water" (1 Peter 3:20). The ark points forward to Christ, "who came back from death to life", Christ who "saves" us (1 Peter 3:21).
Genesis 7:1-24
What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. We read that, once all were in the ark, "the Lord closed the door behind them" (16). What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9): This is the spiritual significance of what we read in Genesis concerning the flood. Christ is the Door. Those who enter through Him will be saved (John 10:9). We must listen to what God says concerning salvation. If we listen to what the world says, we will conclude that all will be saved. If we listen to the Lord, we will come to Christ and find salvation in Him alone.
Genesis 8:1-22
At the end of the flood, God said to Noah, "Come out of the ship" (15). We are "in Christ". He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ only for our own benefit. He sends us out into the world to bring others to Christ. Noah and the remnant of faith had been preserved so that they might be fruitful (17). This is still God's way. In love, He lays claim to our lives so that we can be fruitful for Him (John 15:16). This fruit comes to us as we abide in Christ (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone into the world. We are sent out as those who are in Christ. From a position of strength, we go forth, resting on our Shield and our Defender, to bring strength to others. Strengthened in "the ship", we step out with Christ and for Him.
Genesis 9:1-28
'When you see a rainbow, remember God is love.' The love of God is revealed in the rainbow. It is more fully revealed in the Cross: 'We sing the praise of Him who died ... Upon the cross we see, in shining letters, "God is love." He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above." When we read the Old Testament stories - such as the story of Noah, we must learn to look beyond the story itself, seeing its place within the fuller Story, the Story of God's salvation: 'I will sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me.' This is the greatest story of all - "the Story ... of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love ... the story of wonderful redemption, God's remedy for sin.' 'This is our story. This is our song, praising our Saviour all the day long.' This is the 'story to tell to the nations, the song to be sung to the nations, the message to give to the nations, the Saviour to show to the nations.'
Genesis 10:1-32
Names are important to God. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, "calls His sheep by name' (John 10:3). Among the many names, there is an interesting reference to "Nimrod, the first mighty warrior on the earth ... a mighty hunter whom the Lord blessed" (8-9). When we note that the first amiong the "cities in his kingdom" is "Babylon" (10), alarm bells ring. Yes, we are told that "the  Lord blessed" Nimrod, but, when we read of the development of the city of Babylon, we are not reading of God's blessing so much as Babylon's rebellion. With the privilege of God's blessing comes the responsibility of maintaining His blessing. There are mighty warriors according to the flesh, and there are mighty warriors according to the Spirit. There is something we must never forget - "The weapons we use in our fight are not made  by humans. Rather, they are powerful weapons from God" (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Genesis 11:1-32
Between the list of names in chapter 10 and 11:10-32, there is the story of what happens when we make ourselves the focus of attention rather than God - "Let's make a name for ourselves" (4). What a contrast there is between the tower of Babel, with the human builders trying to make a name for themselves, and the great declaration of Proverbs 18:10 - "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower." In the one case, there is scattering - "From that place the Lord scattered them all over the face of the earth" (9). In the other, there is safety - "A righteous man runs to it and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10). Following on from Proverbs 18:10, we read, "A rich person's wealth is his strong city and is like a high wall in his imagination" (Proverbs 18:11). "God chose what the world considers weak to put what is strong to shame" (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Genesis 12:1-20
The blessing promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) takes us right on to the book of Revelation, to "the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven" (Revelation 21:10). The story of Abraham is more than a human story. It is part of God's eternal purpose which will find its ultimate fulfilment in the coming of God's eternal Kingdom. From the outset, we see this as a Divine Story. It has human elements (Genesis 12:10-20), but, in its deepest meaning, it is God's Story. Recognizing this divine dimension, we use the God-given name - Abraham (Genesis 17:5). The name 'Abram' (exalted father) draws attention to the man. The name 'Abraham' (father of many) points to God's purpose. With Abraham, we worship the Lord (Genesis 12:7-8). We say, 'He is exalted' - Christ must increase, and we must decrease (John 3:30). We read of Abraham, and we look beyond him to Christ.  Looking to Christ, we say, 'Christ triumphant, ever reigning, Saviour, Master, King." To Him, we say, "Yours the glory and the crown.'
Genesis 13:1-18
The life of God's people - those who worship Him (Genesis 13:4) - is always set in the context of wickedness. There are always choices to be made. Like Abraham, we can choose to worship God, or we can be like Lot and choose to go the way of wickedness. The choices we make reveal the people that we are. Those who choose the way upon which the Lord's blessing rests show that their hearts belong to the Lord. Those who choose the way upon which the Lord's judgment rests show that their hearts belong to the world. the worldly man, Lot, thought only of himself. The spiritual man, Abraham, concerned himself with doing the Lord's will. There is a great difference between Lot and Abraham - "Lot chose the whole Jordan plain for himself"; "The Lord said to Abraham ... 'I will give you all the land you see to you'" (Genesis 13:11,15). The worldly man takes for himself. The spiritual man waits to receive from God.
Genesis 14:1-24
Following the conflict in Genesis 14:1-16, there is a great sense of the peace of God in Genesis 14:17-24. Here, we have a glimpse of Jeus Christ, the King of love and Prince of peace, the Great High Priest, who comes to us with bread and wine (Genesis 14:18). He comes to us with blessing. He comes in the Name of God Most High. In  His Name, the Name of our Creator, we have the victory (Genesis 14:19-20). He gives us so much. We are to give ourselves to Him (Genesis 14:20). There is another king who lays claim to our lives - "the king of Sodom." This king does not speak in the Name of the Lord. He comes from Satan, and he is to be resisted (Genesis 14:21-24). Our strength comes from the Lord, and not from anything which Satan can offer to us. In our hearts, we must learn to say with real delight in the Saviour: 'I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold ... than riches untold.'
Genesis 15:1-21
In Genesis 15:2,8, Abraham asks two questions: " ...what will you give me?" " ... how can I be certain ... ?" For us, these rae the questions of salvation and the assurance of salvation - God has given us His salvation, and we have the assurance that this salvation has been given and received. Where are we to look for answers to these questions? We are to look to the "Almighty Lord" (Genesis 15:2,8). How are we to receive God's answers? - By faith: "Abraham believed the Lord" (Genesis 15:6). Through Christ: When we read Genesis 15:10, our concern is not with thse animals. It is with the fact that they were sacrificed, and that this sacrifice points forward to "Christ, our Passover Lamb (who) has been sacrificed" for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). In Him, we have both salvation and the assurance of salvation (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).
Genesis 16:1-16
We move from salvation and the assurance of salvation to Satan and the activity of Satan. Sarai came with temptation - "Why don't you sleep with my slave? Maybe I can build a family through her." Abram gave in to temptation -"Abram agreed with Sarai (Genesis 16:2). The evil influence of Sarai continued: "Sarai mistreated Hagar so much that she ran away" (Genesis 16:6). When we read of Satan and his activity, we must not imagine, for a moment, that Satan wins the victory over the Lord and His purpose of salvation. This becomes clear as the story develops. The Lord's purpose will not be thwarted by the activity of Satan. The "Almighty Lord" will be victorious. This chapter ends with the birth of Ishmael. It is not a high- point in the purpose of God. It is a sign that Satan is trying to overthrow God and His gracious purpose. This leads to a 13-year gap in God's speaking to Abraham (Genesis 16:16-17:1), but that is only a hiccup, after which God continues to carry forward His great purpose of salvation.
Genesis 17:1-27
The contrast between Sarai (Genesis 16) and Sarah (Genesis 17) is striking. It is the contrast between human sin and divine grace: "Don't call your wife by the name Sarai anymore. Instead, her name is Sarah (princess). I will bless her ... " (Genesis 17:15-16). What she was is a thing of the past. What she will become is the work of God's grace. The Lord intends to bless her and make her a blessing - "she will become a mothe rof nations and kings will come from her" (Genesis 17:16). Human experience can always be viewed from two very different perspectives - the perspective of sin and the perspective of grace. We must learn to look at our lives and say, "Sin shall not have dominion. Grace is victorious" (Romans 6:14).
Genesis 18:1-33
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14). God was intent on doing something great - "through him (Abraham) all the nations of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 18:18) - and nothing was going to stop Him. Even if a great many people - Sodom and Gomorrah - refused to honour God, His purpose would not be hindered. He would find a remnant for Himself. the remnant may have seemed impossibly small, but it was to be the beginning of blessing for all the nations. the smallness of the beginnings serves to emphasize the greatness of the blessings. This is not man's doing. It is the work of God, and all the glory belongs to Him, the god of salvation, the God of grace, the god of glory.
Genesis 19:1-38
In a rather forgettable chapter, we find these gracious words - "God ... remembered Abraham"; "Lot was allowed to escape from the destruction that came to the cities where he was living" (Genesis 19:29). What a great thing it is to be "remembered" by God. What a great thing it is to have God's salvation - "everything we need for life and for godliness" - by which we are able to "escape the corruption that sinful desires cause in the world" (2 Peter 1:3-4). While we have this provision of God for godliness, we need to be constantly on our guard. The sad episode, recorded in Genesis 19:30-38, makes it so clear that we must be careful. Even those, whom we hoped would be a help to us, can turn out to be a hindrance. Devotion to the Lord needs to be renewed day-by-day. If we fail to maintain our devotion to the Lord, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy and we will be overcome by him.
Genesis 20:1-18
We do not see Abraham in a good light here. There is, in this incident, a reminder of the deceitfulness of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Our only hope of real change is in the Lord who says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stubborn hearts and give you obedient hearts" (Ezekiel 36:26). In the human heart, there is conflict - the flesh and the Spirit wrestling with each other (Galatians 5:17). If the Spirit is to display the victory of Christ in our lives, we must "put on the whole armour of God", receiving "power from the Lord and from His mighty strength" (Ephesians 6:10-11). This strength comes in this way: "take salvation as your helmet and the Word of God as the sword that the Spirit supplies" (Ephesians 6:17).
Genesis 21:1-34
There are two very different kinds of laughter in the story of Sarah. there is the laughing in Genesis 18:13-15. This is the laughter of unbelief, laughing at the Lord, with the proud attitude that God's Word cannot be taken seriously. There is the laughter of faith, the laughter which rejoices in the Lord - "God has brought me laughter and everyone who hears about me will laugh with me" (Genesis 21:6). This is the rejoicing of Sarah at the birth of Isaac. Hagar and Ishmael are not forgotten - God's sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). The final section - Genesis 21:22-34 - sees Abraham acting more nobly than he did in Genesis 21. It ends with Abraham worshipping the Lord, the everlasting God (Genesis 21:33).
Genesis 22:1-24
Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac - "You did not refuse to give Me your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12). God did give His only Son for us - "God did not spare His only Son but handed Him over to death for us all" (Romans 8:32). While there may be comparisons made between the sacrifice of Isaac and the sacrifice of Jesus, we must emphasize the great difference - the sacrifice of Isaac did not happen, the sacrifice of Jesus did. For Isaac, there was a way out. For Jesus, there was no other way. Abraham's faith was proved genuine without the sacrifice of Isaac. Our faith only becomes a reality through the sacrifice of Christ (Galatians 2:20-21; Galatians 3:13-14).
Genesis 23:1-20
Genesis is known as "the book of beginnings." We can also learn from the endings. here, we read of the death of Sarah. As we read of the generations coming and going, we come to rest in the truth that only God is eternal. This is the great truth, proclaimed in Psalm 90. He alone is "God, from everlasting to everlasting" (Psalm 90:2). From Psalm 90, we learn the lesson: "Teach us to number each of our days so that we may grow in wisdom" (Psalm 90:120. The experience of bereavement is very distressing - "Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to cry about her death" (Genesis 23:2). Nevertheless, we look beyond the things that are temporal to the things that are eternal, and we know that our suffering is light and temporary while our eternal glory is greater than we can imagine" (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
Genesis 24:1-67
The story of how Isaac and Rebekah came to be married is told in vivid detail. It is a touching story. There is  a real sense of God being in control of the events - God working out His perfect plan for Isaac and Rebekah. "The Lord knows what he is doing with us. We must hold on to this truth when it seems that our circumstances have become a tangled web, a long and winding road which appears to be leading nowhere. Whatever our feelings may sometimes suggest, we must affirm our faith - "As for the Lord, His way is perfect." There is no better place to be than in the centre of God's will. We must pray for the Lord's leading so that we can truly testify, "The Lord led me in the right direction" (Genesis 24:48).
Genesis 25:1-34
Following the accounts of Abraham's second marriage and his death (Genesis 25:1-11) and the twelve tribes of Ishmael (Genesis 25:12-18), we move on to the story of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:19-34). Esau was born first - yet, in line with God's purpose of grace, "the older will serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23). God's grace does not operate according to human standards. Salvation is by grace so that it may be seen that it is not by works. Jacob was born holding on to Esau's heel - "so he was named Jacob (Heel)." He was well-named, but God made something of him! Esau showed "contempt for his rights as firstborn" (Genesis 25:34). He missed out on God's blessing because he did not treasure it highly.Jacob was not superior. Esau was not inferior. Grace lifted Jacob and the glory belongs to God. Grace could have lifted Esau, but he refused to come, to submit. The fault lies with Esau.
Genesis 26:1-35
The promise to Isaac was to be fulfilled in Christ - "Through your descendant all the nations of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 26:4). There were to be "numerous descendants", but there was only one descendant through whom God's great salvation was to come to the world: Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the true and living Way - the Way to God. In Genesis 26:19-22, there's the story of the three wells - 'Argument', 'Accusation', 'Roomy.' Progress is made after things seemed to go from bad to worse. Isaac "worshipped the Lord" (Genesis 26:25). Abimelech recognized that Isaac was a man of God - "We have seen that the Lord is with you" (Genesis 26:28). The quality of our life is to be such that others will recognize that we belong to the Lord. At the end of the chapter - Genesis 26:34, there is a warning: even those who love the Lord can make mistakes!
Genesis 27:1-46
This is the story of deception. It ia very human. It is difficult for us to see how God works out His perfect plan through all of us. By faith, we believe that God is in control, working out His purpose of salvation, even where self-centred men and women (here, it is Rebekah and Jacob) are plotting to get their own way. 'My will be done' - this is what we are hearing from  Rebekah and Jacob. Behind it all, there is God, and He is saying, 'My will be done.' From the fact that God was working out His purpose here, we must not conclude that He condones the devious way in which Rebekah and Jacob acted.  Rather, we are to believe that God's purpose does not depend on us. Though we fail Him often, He will not fail us. He can turn things around for His glory, so that it may be seen that is His doing, and not ours.
Genesis 28:1-22
Into a story, full of deception, comes grace - superabundant grace. Jacob was just looking for a good night's rest (Genesis 28:11), but he got more than he bargained for. This was a night to to be remembered - a night he would never forget as long as he lived. This was the beginning of a new Jacob. There were to be further experiences of divine grace. The most striking of these spiritual experiences is described in Genesis 32:22-32. When we look at Jacob's deceit, we might expect that he had disqualified himself from being useful in the purpose of God. To think like this is to forget the grace of God and the God of grace. God comes to Jacob (and to us) not once but many times. He comes with His precious promises: "I am with you ... I will not leave you ... " (Genesis 28:15).
Genesis 29:1-35
Jacob receives his heart's desire - Rachel, but not in the way he intended. God was teaching Jacob patience. Doing God's will is more important than getting our own way. We may receive our heart's desire, but it will be as a side-effect of doing God's will and not as the be-all and end-all of our lives. The sons of Leah (Genesis 29:31-35) are given names with meanings. There is, in Leah, a progression towards a more spiritual attitude. (a) Reuben ('Here's my son') - "Now my husband will love me" (Genesis 29:32). (b) Simeon ('Hearing') - "The Lord has heard that I'm unloved, and He has also given me this son" (Genesis 29:33). (c) Levi ('Attached') - "My husband will become attached to me' (Genesis 29:34). (d) Judah ('Praise') - "This time I will praise the Lord" (Genesis 29:35). Her earlier concerns [(a) - (c)] are valid, but her response to the fourth birth highlights a progression beyond her own feelings to a deeper commitment to praising the Lord.
Genesis 30:1-43
Jacob was prospering. His family and his flocks were increasing. In Jacob's prospering, we must see more than human factors. God was in this. This is the teaching of the Scriptures. We are to see the Lord in the whole of life, and not only in a carefully demarcated area labelled 'spirituality.' The most significant event in this chapter is the birth of Joseph, the son of Jacob, upon whom the remainder of the book of Genesis is centred. It is easy to lose sight of the most important thing when so many other things are happening. This is what we must not do. We must learn to see what is most important. We must learn to centre our lives around the most important priority. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted into a life with many interests and no real centre.
Genesis 31:1-55
Stories like this are so human - with all the complications of relationships between people. there is, however, a depth-dimension. If we read these stories on the surface without digging deeply for spiritual truth, we will miss their point. What we must see is this - God was with Jacob (Genesis 31:42). This is the truth we must never forget in all the complexities of our own very ordinary experiences. He is there, even when we are least aware of His presence. He will never leave us. He is the faithful God, who graciously accompanies along all the pathways of life's long and winding road.
Genesis 32:1-32
In Genesis 32:1-21, we read about Jacob's relationship with Esau. It seems to be a very ordinary story - until something extraordinary happens (Genesis 32:22-32). What an amazing experience of divine grace there was for Jacob at Peniel ('Face of God)! - "I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved" (Genesis 32:30). When we hear of God's perfect holiness, we imagine that there is no way we could possibly stand in His presence - "O Lord, who would be able to stand if you kept a record of sins?"(Psalm 130:3). In the presence of the God of perfect holiness, we discover - through divine revelation - something else: perfect love. "O perfect love, all human thought transcending" - How are we to respond to such amazing love? - "Lowly, we kneel in prayer before Thy throne" (Genesis 32:31).
Genesis 33:1-20
So often, life can be looked at from the purely human point of view - events involving people. So often, God is left out on the sidelines. It is important that we do not do this. We must learn to see the deeper significance of the things that are going on in our lives. This is brought out well in this chapter: "He set up an altar there and named it 'God is the God of Israel'" (Genesis 33:20). Life is full of incidents which can be viewed on the surface level. Here, we have the meeting of two brothers. There is more than that here. God is there. He is not obtrusive. He waits for us to recognize His presence. He waits for us to acknowledge Him as our God.
Genesis 34:1-31
The Name of the Lord is missing from this chapter. Sin - this is the stroty of human life. We do not, however, have to go any further that the first word of Genesis 35 to discover that God is there. He has been waiting in the wings, ready to speak His Word into the human situation. Often, God appears to be absent, but He is not. He is both the god of judgment and the God of grace. Sin is an offence to God, yet sinners are forgiven by God. There is a 'rollercoaster' feel about the progress of the stories in Genesis. Genesis is such a low. In Genesis 35, God Himself picks it up again. Life is like that. there can be deep valleys and high mountain-top experiences. In the valley, let us not imagine that the Lord cannot lift us. On the mountain-top, don't forget the Lord. He brought us there.
Genesis 35:1-29
What great plans God had for Jacob! This was grace. It had nothing to do with Jacob. It was grounded in God's goodness. In Genesis 35:7, we read of a place called El Bethel (God of the House of God). The house of God is important. God is even more important. It is His presence which makes our worship truly live. It is His preence which fills our worship with His blessing. God is good. He has so much to give to us, so much to say to us, so much to do for us. When we come to the house of God, let us come with expectaation of His blessing. Let us not only come to the House of God. Let us come to the God of the House of God.
Genesis 36:1-43
"This is the account of Esau and his descendants. There are so many names. there is so little of any real note. What a contrast between this and the story of Jacob, leading on to Joseph and then, on from there, to the Exodus and, beyond that, to Christ. There are routes which are full of the blessing of God. They take us on the continuing story, which runs from Genesis to Revelation, the story of God's salvation. There are also dead-end streets which are going nowhere. The direction of our life is determined by the choices which we make. We can choose to go our own way. There is a better choice, a better way. We can choose to go God's way.

Genesis 37:1-36
At first, the story of Joseph looks like it's going to end up in a dead-end street. Joseph is sold as a slave. He is taken down into Egypt. Humanly speaking, Joseph was being rejected by his brothers. God, however, had other ideas. He had a great purpose for Joseph. His purpose was revealed in a dream. This was no ordinary dream. This was a revelation of God's plan. The remaining chapters of Genesis tell the great story of the unfolding of God's plan - in Egypt.
Genesis 38:1-30
This is a sinful and shameful chapter. As we read it, we must hear and heed the warning. Do not let things drift. Keep close to God.  "I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear, my foes are ever near, around me and within, but Jesus, draw nearer and shield my soul from sin." "Day-by-day, O dear Lord, three things I pray - to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow more nearly, day-by-day." - This should be our prayer.
Genesis 39:1-23
What a change there was in Joseph's circumstances. He was in charge of Potiphar's household (Genesis 39:4). He was in prison (Genesis 39:20). There was one thing that did not change: the love of God - "His unchanging love" (Genesis 39:21). Whatever happens, we can depend on this: God's love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable - "All may change, but Jesus never. Glory to His Name!"
Genesis 40:1-23
Dreams can be interpreted by Joseph, but the glory is given to God (Genesis 40:8). When we bring God's message to the people, we must remember this: it is God Himself who gives the Word. We cannot create the Word. We can only receive it from God , and then we are are to pass it on to others. We must take care that we hear and speak only what God Himself says to us. We must not allow our own ideas to drown out the Word of the Lord. God is to be glorified in our hearing and our speaking.
Genesis 41:1-57
Joseph's exaltation is a great picture of Christ's exaltation. Joseph was sent to prison. Christ was sent to the Cross. Joseph was exalted to a place of honour. Christ was raised to the place of highest honour. When Joseph came, people said, "Make way " (Genesis 41:43). We say of Jesus, "Make way, make way for the King of kings." "The whole world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain" (Genesis 41:57). Before Jesus Christ, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord  - to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
Genesis 42:1-38
Joseph is putting his brothers to the test - to see if they will truly repent of their sin against him. God does this with us . He speaks to us through our circumstances concerning our need of repentance. we look at ourselves. We look at the events of our life. We wonder about our actions, "Did I do right, or do I need to repent?" In all of this, Joseph never ceased to love his brothers. God never ceases to love us. In love, He calls us to repentance.
Genesis 43:1-34
It appears that Joseph is being devious. There is, however, a deeper sense in which Joseph believes that the purpose of God is being fulfilled in these events. He affirms his faith in God (Genesis 43:23). He emphasizes the need for God's blessing (Genesis 43:29). Whenever life seems to weave a complex web, we must hold on to this: God is in control. No-one else may seem to believe this, but we must not lose sight of the sovereign God, the God who is working out His perfect plan.
Genesis 44:1-34
The story of Joseph and the brothers continues. It's such  a human story. It would be very easy to miss the hand of God in all of this. Life is like this. One thing leads to another. There seems to be no obvious threa, holding the whole sequence of events together. In this chapter, there is only one reference to God (Genesis 44:16). Sometimes, He seems to be hidden away. He may be hidden, but He's not absent. He is there. He is 'the God who is there.' However much He may retreat to the wings, He does not leave the stage altogether. He never abandons us.
Genesis 45:1-28
Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. An invitation is given by Pharaoh. Jacob is to bring the whole family to Egypt. As the story develops, it becomes clear that God is in it. There is much more direct reference to God now. Joseph seeaks openly of his faith in the Lord: "God sent me ahead of you ... God sent me ahead of you ... It wasn't you who sent me here, but God ... God has made me lord of Egypt" (Genesis 45:5,7-9). Joseph and his brothers had parted company. It looked like their paths would never cross again. God can bring people together again, people who appear to be living in different worlds. he is the God of reconciliation. He is the God of new beginnings.
Genesis 46:1-34
Behind the re-uniting of the family, there was God. This is made clear in Genesis 46:1-4. When God is at work, His purpose cannot be thwarted. He is fulfilling His plan of salvation - "I will make you a great nation." God's saving purpose is more than a purely national thing. This is only the early stages of what God is doing. He has His eye on the whole world.
Genesis 47:1-31
Jacob's life is nearing its end. God's work moves forward by stages. One man slips into the background. Another emerges. It is not the man who is important. It is the Lord. All of our attention is to be directed towards Him.
Genesis 48:1-22
The best thing we can leave behind us is the blessing of God. There is nothing better than this. If our influence has been of God, then our life has been useful. It has been beneficial to others. It has been pleasing to God.
Genesis 49:1-33
This must have been a very moving scene. Jacob speaks to each of his sons. He speaks to them about the future. He says to them, 'I am the past. You are the future.' - "Come here, and let me tell you what will happen to you in the days to come." Our future - whether it will be blessing or curse - is shaped by our response to God in the present. Reuben was "out of control" (Genesis 49:4). Simeon and Levi were "men of violence" (Genesis 49:5). They were not to receive and enjoy God's blessing. Joseph is the greatest example of a man who was being blessed by God (Genesis 49:22-26). Here, we see the hand of God at work in the most wonderful way.
Genesis 50:1-26
Time moves on relentlessly. God has been at work in Joseph's life (Genesis 50:20). Now, the time has come for Joseph's life to reach its end (Genesis 50:26). In Scripture, we read the stories of people who loved God, and people who had no real love for Him. We read about them. we must also learn from them. We must make up our mind: What is important to us? Will we plan evil? or Will we submit ourselves to God's good plan (Genesis 50:20)? This is the great question which the stories of Genesis - and the whole of Scripture - put to every one of us. It is a question which demands an answer. It is a question which keeps on coming back to us. It comes to us with persistence. It breaks through our complacency. It calls us to decision. It is this decision which will shape our future for good or for evil. When we commit ourselves to walking in the Lord's way, we can move forward confidently in the sure knowledge that God is with us. Beyond the care of man (Joseph) - "Don't be afraid! I will provide for you and your children", there is the care of God - Joseph says, "I'm about to die. God will definitely take care of you ... "(Genesis 50:21,24). As our life moves on, it is very reassuring to know that God is in control.

Called into the service of the eternal God

Jeremiah was called into the service of the eternal God - “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for My holy purpose. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah called the people back to the Lord, “the fountain of living (life-giving) water” (Jeremiah 2:13). He called them to be converted - to turn around. They were turning their backs on the Lord. They were replacing Him with something else, something useless, something that would never bring them real satisfaction (Jeremiah 2:13). Now, they were to turn their faces to Him (Jeremiah 2:27). To a returning people, God promises his mercy - “Come back, unfaithful Israel. It is the Lord speaking. I will no longer frown on you because I’m merciful, declares the Lord, I will no longer be angry with you.” returning to the Lord means confessing our sins - “Admit that you’ve done wrong! You have rebelled against the Lord your God ...” The message of Jeremiah is summed up in the words, “Come back, you rebellious people” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).

Sunday, 27 December 2015

God speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.

Samaria and Jerusalem behaved like prostitutes. In graphic language, the sin of turning from the Lord is compared to sexual immorality. Why does God expose their sin with such plainness of speech? He wants to show them the full extent of their rebellion, so that they may see the folly of continuing in sin and may be moved to return to the Lord - “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 23:49).
In Ezekiel 24, we learn about God’s holiness and His love. If we are to appreciate the wonderful love God has for sinners, we need to become more deeply aware of the awesome holiness of God’s hatred of sin. We look at our sin. We look at God’s holiness. We learn about ourselves. We see how far we have fallen short of God’s glory. We learn about God. We come to know that He is the Lord. Deeply aware of God’s holiness and our own sin, we are led, by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, to see Jesus, crucified for us. We hear about God’s holiness. This is the Word of His judgment upon our sin. This is not, however, the final Word that He speaks to us. He speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.
“Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:4,7,11). “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:17). God is in control. This is the message of the prophet. The events on earth express the purpose of God. It is so important that we do not lose sight of this spiritual dimension. People say, ‘Everything is politics.’ God’s Word tells us, ‘Politics isn’t everything.’ We must not imagine that we can leave God out of the reckoning. He will remind us of His presence - “That you may know that I am the Lord.”

"The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say ... Listen to the Word of the Lord.”

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1) - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “the sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory.
“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Jeremiah 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.

Give Me Wisdom ...

“Give me wisdom and knowledge so that I may lead these people ... This great people of Yours” (2 Chronicles 1:10). Wisdom is not given to us for our own benefit, It is given to us for the benefit of others - so that we might lead them to the Lord. We are to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. He “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
“I want to build the Temple for the Lord my God. I want to dedicate it to Him” (2 Chronicles 2:4). Everything that we do is to be done for God. Everything that we do is to be dedicated to Him. This is the lesson that we learn from Solomon and the building of the Temple. We are to do all things for the glory of God. He alone is worthy of our praise. We are not only to worship Him in the place of worship and at the time set aside for worship. We are to worship Him all of the time, wherever we are. We are to praise Him in His House. We are to continue to praise Him, as we go out from His House to the world.
The building of the Temple - It was “the Lord’s Temple” (2 Chronicles 3:1). It was being built “for the Lord’s Name” (2 Chronicles 2:1). The glory of the Lord - This must never be forgotten. There is nothing more important than this. God is to be glorified. This was the reason for the building of the Temple.This must be the driving force in our lives - in everything we do. Let God be glorified in all things. Blessing will only come to us when we give the glory to God. We must not seek glory for ourselves.
“The Lord’s glory filled the Lord’s Temple” (2 Chronicles 5:14), The emphasis is not on Solomon. It is the Lord who must be the focus of our attention. It is the Lord who is to receive glory. Solomon emphasizes this: “I’ve built the Temple for the Name of the Lord God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:11). In his prayer (2 Chronicles 6:14-42), Solomon prays for “salvation” (2 Chronicles 6:41). He does not only pray for himself. He prays for others. He prays that they will come to God, praying for “salvation”. He asks God to hear and answer these prayers.
The continuation of God’s blessing is conditional on the continuation of Israel’s obedience. The Temple does not guarantee the continuation of God’s blessing: “If you and your descendants turn away from Me ... I will reject this Temple that I declared holy for My Name. I will make it an example and an object of ridicule for all the people of the world” (2 Chronicles 7:19-20). These are God’s words of warning. He also gives His promise of blessing to those who turn to Him - “If My people ...” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).
The grandeur of Solomon was most impressive. After reading about all of his glory, we come to the point where he dies. This is a reminder that we cannot take our riches with us. It’s a reminder of Jesus’ words: “Do not lay up treasures on earth.Lay up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20), We must never lose sight of the eternal dimension of our life.
In the history of Israel, there were low points - “all Israel abandoned the Lord’s teaching” (2 Chronicles 12:1) - as well as high points - “Asa did what the Lord his God considered right and good” (2 Chronicles 14:2). Even Asa was not consistently faithful to the Lord. Despite the statement, “Asa remained committed to the Lord his entire life” (2 Chronicles 15:17), there are signs that, at the end of his life, his faith was not as strong as it should have been. God is calling us to move forward in faith and obedience. He is calling us to walk in His ways all the days of our life.
The reign of Jehoshaphat was a good reign. He was the “king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:31). He was very different from “King Ahab of Israel” (2 Chronicles 18:3). Good kings, bad kings - Each has his influence on the people: a good influence, a bad influence. Reading about these things makes us think about ourselves and the influence we have on other people. Is it good or bad? What about our own commitment to the Lord? Is it real? Is it changing us - and others?

God's Power - And God's Mercy

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

The joy of the Lord and the fear of the Lord

As well as the joy of the Lord, there is also to be the fear of the Lord in our worship. Psalms 97, 98 and 100 speak of the joy of the Lord: “Find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 97:12). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Break into joyful singing” (Psalm 98:4). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord cheerfully. Come into His presence with a joyful song” (Psalm 100:1-2). Psalm 99 emphasizes the importance of the fear of the Lord: “The Lord rules as King. Let the people tremble. He is enthroned over the angels. Let the earth quake” (Psalm 99:1).

Personal worship - and public worship

Psalm 129 speaks of God's judgment upon "wicked people who attack" the Lord's people. Psalm 130 is a prayer for forgiveness. In Psalm 131, the Psalmist comes to the Lord with humility - "My heart is not conceited" (Psalm 130:1). In Psalm, he worships the Lord with joy - "Let your godly ones sing with joy" (Psalm 132:9); "Then Zion's godly ones will sing joyfully" (Psalm 132:16). Our worship is not only personal worship. It is also public worship - worshipping in fellowship with the Lord's people: "See how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in harmony" (Psalm 133:1).

Perfect love and perfect holiness

The Word of God speaks to us of God, who is both holy and loving. This God calls for our response to His Word. In love, He calls us to come to Him and receive His forgiveness. In holiness, He warns us that rebellion leads to judgment (Isaiah 1:18-20). His Word gives us a glimpse of His love and His holiness. The God of perfect love and perfect holiness invites us to say, from the heart, “Let’s go to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3). God’s blessing is promised to those who will honour Him as their God – “Tell the righteous that blessings will come to them” (Isaiah 3:10). Alongside this promise, there is also the warning: “How horrible it will be for the wicked! Disaster will strike them” (Isaiah 3:11).

The “Hallelujah” arises from the hearts of God’s people.

The Lord “turns a rock into a pool, filled with water, and turns flint into a spring flowing with water” (Psalm 114:8). The “Hallelujah” arises from the hearts of God’s people (Psalm 115:18; Psalm 116:19; Psalm 117:2), “The Lord is responsible for this, and it is amazing for us to see” (Psalm 118:23).

The Beginning Of Conflict And The Promise Of Victory

“Created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) - “God saw everything that He had created … it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). At the end of Genesis 1, things couldn’t get any better. It looked so promising. The future looked bright with hope. It was bright with the light of God’s love. Everything looked so good. Could things get any better than this? Sometimes when we feel like this, there can be trouble just around the next corner! That’s what we have in Genesis 3. It begins with the question, “Did God say?” (Genesis 3:1). This is asking for trouble – big trouble! Before long, questioning becomes contradiction – “the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God says one thing. The serpent (Satan – see Revelation 12:9) says something else. He says the exact opposite! From that moment, there was conflict – but there was also the promise of victory. In Genesis 3:15, there’s a great prophecy. It points forward to the death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. The serpent – Satan – bruises our Saviour’s heel. Jesus was crucified. This is the bruising of his heel. Beyond the pain of crucifixion, there was, for Jesus, the mighty triumph of resurrection. Jesus triumphed over Satan. It was not Satan’s heel that was bruised. It was his head! The heel and the head – what a difference there is between the two! Jesus has the upper hand! The victory belongs to Jesus. The conflict is “fierce.” The victory is “secure.” While we are on this earth, we can never escape the conflict. Satan will keep on badgering us. He will keep on sowing his seeds of doubt – “Did God say?” We are not alone in this battle. God keeps on coming to us. He comes with His grace – and He comes with His question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” He’s inviting us to walk with Him on the pathway of salvation, sanctification and service. He does not lift us above the conflict – but He does give us the victory: His victory. When Satan comes to us, may God give us strength to say, “No.” When Jesus comes to us, may we receive His strength, the strength to say “Yes”, the strength to say, “By Thy call of mercy … By Thy grand redemption, By Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side; Saviour, we are Thine… Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine.”

Saturday, 26 December 2015

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.”

From the Spirit, we receive new strength – God’s strength ...

In ourselves, we are weak. From the Spirit, we receive new strength – God’s strength, the strength that we need to live for the Lord, the strength that we need to be His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). This is the lesson that we’re learning from Acts. Remember what Peter was like at the time of the crucifixion. He denied the Lord three times (Matthew 26:69-75). Look at what he was like on the Day of Pentecost. Peter preached – and “three thousand” people received new life in Christ. Peter had changed – and lots of other people were changed with him. What was it that changed Peter? – It was the Spirit: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). In the Old Testament, God had given His promise: “I will pour out My Spirit” (Joel 2:28).  On the Day of Pentecost, He fulfilled His promise (Acts 2:14-17).
  Can we be changed? Yes. The Holy Spirit can do great things in us and through us – when we pray, “Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray –unreservedly – have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You” (Mission Praise, 241).

Sunday, 20 December 2015

"Jurassic Park" - a modern "Tower of Babel"

Genesis 11
* "Scientists can become so fascinated by what they could do that they do not even stop to think about whether they should." (Dr Ian Malcolm). * "God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs" (Dr Ian Malcolm).
* "I was overwhelmed by the power of this place, but I did not have enough respect for that power" (Dr Ellie Sattler). Monsters are created and morality is forgotten (see Robin Cook's book, Mutation). "Can we do this?" is not the only question that needs to be asked. "Should we do this?" must also be asked. When is morality forgotten? - We forget morality when we forget God. We forget morality when we forget to ask. "What does God want us to do?" What happens when God is forgotten, when we forget about what God wants us to do? "Come, let us build ourselves a city (a 'Jurassic Park') and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves" (4). Man is exalted. God is dismissed (see Robin Cook's book, The God-Player). That's what happens when people forget that they have been created by God, when they become preoccupied with creating a reputation for themselves. What does God think of all this ? - Read verses 5-8. "This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing will now be impossible for them" (6). When man starts to 'play God', things go horribly wrong. 'Jurassic Park' is a timely reminder to us that power must not be abused. We need to distinguish between the use and the abuse of power (see Irving Wallace's book, The Pigeon Project). We are not to abuse the power given to us by God. We are to use it responsibly. More than that - we are to be used by the power of God, used to establish His Kingdom.

Less About The Preacher And More About The Lord!

1 Corinthians 14:13-40
‘Be eager to prophesy’ (39).
Preaching God’s Word to the people is important. It is not everything. It is to be accompanied by prayer and praise.
Many come to hear ‘the preacher.’ Few gather to pray that the whole service of worship will be filled with the presence of the Lord.
Some come to hear a ‘sermon.’ They show little real enthusiasm for worshipping the Lord. They want ‘the Word.’ There is no real heart for worship, witness, and work.
The preacher’s public performance becomes more important than the prayerful praise of God’s people.
‘All things’ are ‘done decently and in order’ yet the atmosphere is forbidding. The Spirit of God is not moving freely among the people of God (39-40).
Let there be less talking about the preacher and more concern with giving all the praise and glory to the Lord.

Worshipping the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!

Psalm 104:1-35
‘I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 104:33). Sometimes, Lord, we feel like giving up. Other things become more important to us. Worshipping You gets pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes creep in. It starts with the idea, ‘Worship’s just an hour on a Sunday’. Then, it becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I feel like it’. It soon becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I’ve nothing better to do’. Before long, all desire for worshipping You Lord has gone! Little-by-little, we drift away from the Lord. It’s time, for us, to start thinking about what’s happening. It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time for an ‘all my life’ commitment to worshipping You, Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!

The “Rock of our salvation”

Isaiah speaks words of prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the “Rock of our salvation”, the “precious Cornerstone”, the “solid Foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ gives us the blessings of God’s salvation – “the deaf will hear the words, written in the book. The blind will see out of their gloom and darkness. Humble people again will find joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 29:18-19). With the Gospel proclamation – in Christ, there is full salvation – comes an appeal to come to Him and receive the blessings, promised to us by the God of love: “This is what the Almighty Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, You can be saved by returning to Me. You can have rest. You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting Me” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord is looking for our response. He longs to pour out His blessing on those who put their trust in Him: “The Lord is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:18). To those who put their trust in Him,the Lord gives His promise. He will lead them in the pathway of obedience, which is the highway of holiness – “You will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way. Follow it” (Isaiah 30:21).

What are we to do when our love for God grows weak?

Psalms 116:1-117:2
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’(Psalm 116:1-2). Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life. What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’(117:2). When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us. When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us. He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak. In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me.’

Saturday, 19 December 2015

We come to You, Lord, in our weakness, and You ‘renew our strength.’

Psalm 110:1-7 
‘The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand...’(Psalm 110:1). Lord, we read these words, and we think of our Lord Jesus Christ: When ‘He was taken up into heaven, He sat at the right hand of God’(Mark 16:19). When Jesus ascended to Your Father’s right hand, the Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven to fill our lives with Your blessing (John 7:37-39). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives are changed: ‘In the Day of Your power, Your people will come to You willingly...’. We come to You, Lord, in our weakness, and You ‘renew our strength’. We come to You in our weariness, and we are ‘refreshed’ by Your ‘streams of living water’(Psalm 110,7). ‘Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.’

Lord, Your Word makes such a difference!

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

The Lord's Great Love

Psalm 89:1-37
‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’(Psalm 89:1). Lord, we read these words from so long ago. Many generations have come and gone since these words were written. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time. We thank You, Lord, that there is something that has never changed – Your great love for us. As we think of Your great love, may we say, in our hearts – The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever.’ He is to be praised ‘through all generations.’ Help us to look back and remember that Jesus Christ was crucified for us, that  He has risen for us. We thank You, Lord, for the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever…’

Sent To Bring Life

“God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5).
We are to bring life. That’s why God has sent us. We are to bring the Saviour. We are to bring the Scriptures. We are to bring the Spirit. People coming to the Saviour, people learning from the Scriptures, people walking in the Spirit – this is what we’re praying for and working for.

Lord, You are the strength of Your people.

Psalms 28:1-29:11
Lord, You are “the strength of Your people.” May each of us say, “You are my strength” (Psalm 28:7-8). Your strength comes to us through fellowship. We receive strength from others, and we give strength to them. Your strength is more than human strength – the strength that comes to us through fellowship. It is the strength which comes to us through faith – faith in You, our Lord and our God.

We come to You, Lord, with our sin. You come to us with Your forgiveness.

Psalm 32:1-11
We come to You, Lord, with our sin. You come to us with Your forgiveness. What a tremendous blessing this is – the forgiveness of our sins (Psalm 32:1-2). You give Your promise to us: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We bring our prayer to You: “I make my sins known to You, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to You, O Lord. Then You forgave all my sins” (Psalm 32:5).

When, Lord, we’re feeling defeated, Your Word gives us great encouragement.

Psalms 60:1-61:8
“With God we shall gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies” (Psalm 60:12). When, Lord, we’re feeling defeated, Your Word gives us great encouragement. The battle isn’t ours. It’s Yours. The victory isn’t ours. It’s Yours. In the heat of the battle, You are our “strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:3). When we’re feeling the ferocity of Satan’s hostility towards the truth of Your Word and the Gospel of Your grace, help us to remember that You, Lord, are “enthroned for ever” (Psalm 61:7).

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.

Steadfast Love And Abundant Mercy

Psalm 69:1-36
When, Lord, we are going through “the deep waters” of suffering, help us to pray to You for deliverance (Psalm 69:16). We have sinned against You. We do not try to hide this – "the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You, my guilt is not hidden from You” (Psalm 69:5). You are the God of “steadfast love” and “abundant mercy” (Psalm 69:16). We remember that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” You don’t send the judgment we deserve – This is Your mercy. You send the blessing we don't deserve – This is Your grace. Help us to come to You and receive Your “mercy” and Your “grace” (1 Timothy 1:13-16; Hebrews 4:14-16).

Victory comes from You, Lord.

Psalm 44:1-26
Victory comes from You, Lord. In ourselves, we are defeated. In You, there is victory. It’s so easy to forget this. We take our eyes off You, and we get despondent – “You have rejected and humbled us …You have made us retreat before the enemy … You gave us up to be devoured like sheep … My disgrace is before me all day long … ” (Psalm 44:9-16). What are we to do when such negative thoughts fill our minds? Lord, help us to pray, “Awake, O Lord! … Rise up and help us; redeem us because of Your unfailing love” (Psalm 44:23,26).

Words For Singing, Words For Living

Psalms 75:1-76:12
“We give thanks to You, O God … I will rejoice for ever, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. Make your vows to the Lord your God, and perform them” (Psalm 785:1,9; Psalm 76:11). Teach us, Lord, that true rejoicing in You is more than singing praise to You. Teach us to live what we sing. “Fill Thou our life, O Lord our God, in every part with praise.” “Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.” Such words are not to be forgotten as soon as we leave the place of worship. They’re more than words for singing. They’re words for living. How, Lord, can we live a life of praise and consecration? – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

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.

Lord, we worship You in the place of worship ...

Psalm 48:1-14
Lord, we worship You in the place of worship – “Within Your Temple, we meditate on Your unfailing love.” Help us to go out from there, and play our part in seeing that Your praise “reaches to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 48:: 9-11). How will other people know of Your love, if we don’t tell them? How will they find their way to Your House, if we don’t invite them? When we share Your Word with others, help us to remember Your promise: “My Word … will not return to Me empty, but will … achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

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.

With God we shall gain the victory.

Psalms 60:1-61:8
“With God we shall gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies” (Psalm 60:12). When, Lord, we’re feeling defeated, Your Word gives us great encouragement. The battle isn’t ours. It’s Yours. The victory isn’t ours. It’s Yours. In the heat of the battle, You are our “strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:3). When we’re feeling the ferocity of Satan’s hostility towards the truth of Your Word and the Gospel of Your grace, help us to remember that You, Lord, are “enthroned for ever” (Psalm 61:7).

Heavenly Birth, Life In The Spirit, Glorious Destination

Psalm 87:1-7
 ‘Glorious things are said of you, O city of God… The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion”. As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in You”’(Psalm 87:3,6-7). We thank You, Lord, that the ‘city of God’ is our glorious destination – ‘we are looking for the city that is to come’, ‘the Holy City’(Hebrews 13:14; Revelation 21:2). It is also the place of our heavenly birth – ‘This one was born in Zion’. The heavenly birth – This is where our journey to the ‘city of God’ begins: ‘No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above’(John 3:3). Between our heavenly birth and our glorious destination, there is life in the Spirit: As we journey with You, in this life in the Spirit, may we thank You for the words of the Psalmist - ‘All my fountains are in You’ – and the promise of  Jesus:  ‘Rivers of living water shall flow from the heart of anyone who believes in Me’(John 7:38).

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Real worship, joyful worship, heartfetlt worship

Psalm 84:1-12
‘How I love Your Temple, Almighty Lord! How I want to be there! I long to be in the Lord’s Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God’(Psalm 84:1-2). Lord, we read this words, and we know that this is much more than paying lip-service to You. This is real. ‘I long for You, O God. I thirst for You, the living God; when can I go and worship in Your presence’(Psalm 42:1-2).  ‘Let Your light and Your truth guide me… to the place where You dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight…’(Psalm 43:4). Here, Lord, we meet a man who found great joy in worshipping You.‘O God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You… my soul is thirsty for You’(Psalm 63:1). Here, Lord, we meet a man who worshipped You with his whole heart. This is real worship, joyful worship, heartfetlt worship. Lord, help us to worship You like that!

Lord, our whole life is to be a celebration of Your love.

Psalm 86:1-17
‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you… Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth… I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart… For great is Your love towards me’(Psalm 86:5,11-13). Lord, You love us. You forgive our sins. We receive Your love. We want to love You more. Your love inspires our praise – ‘I will praise You…’. Your love inspires our prayer – ‘Teach me Your way…’. Our whole life is to be a celebration of Your love – ‘Great is Your love towards me’. We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’(Psalm 86:4). We rejoice in You because of who You are- ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’- and what You have done for us – ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’(Psalm 86:15,17).

Friday, 4 December 2015

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.

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!

So Little Feeds So Many.

Andrew looked at the bread and fishes, and asked, “how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9). He did not understand how so little could find so many - but this didn’t stop him bringing the boy, with his bread and fishes, to Jesus. This was an act of faith. Andrew says to Jesus, “Here am I. Here is the boy. Here is the bread. Here are the fishes.”
We look at the situation in today’s world. there is so much to be done – but we can do so little. what are we to do? We are to say, “Here I am, wholly available. as for me, I will serve the Lord … The fields are white unto harvest, But O, the labourers are so few, So, Lord, I give myself to help the reaping, To gather precious souls unto You” (Chris Bowater).
If Andrew is to be viewed as a man of faith, what are we to say about the boy? He could have said to Andrew, “This is mine. You’re not having it.” He could have said that, but he didn’t. the boy was ready to be led to Jesus. He wanted to give his bread and fishes to Jesus.
This is still the question to be put to people today. Will you come to Jesus? Will you give yourself to Him?
What happened when the boy came to Jesus, when he gave his bread and fishes to Jesus?  - A great miracle happened. Out of so little came so much.
What do we learn from the story of the boy who brought his bread and fishes to Jesus? – Out of small beginnings comes a mighty work of God: “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the wise … so that no one may boast before Him … Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:27,29,31). When God does mighty things, let us give all the glory to Him.
May God help us to learn from the boy. May we stop saying, “This is mine. You can’t have it.” May we start giving ourselves to Jesus and giving all the glory to Him.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The sheep need a shepherd. Sinners need a Saviour. Jesus is our Shepherd. Jesus is our Saviour.

Many are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. We must not fail them. We must ‘teach them many things’ (Mark 6:34). In all our teaching from the Scriptures, let us point people to Christ (Luke 24:27). He is "the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep." He has come to give us "life in all its fullness" (John 10:10-11).

The Love Of Christ - For Us, His Bride

Christ loves us. He has given Himself for us. He calls us His ‘Bride’ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9).

Lord, sometimes, we feel like we’re stuck in a rut.

Lord, sometimes, we feel like we’re stuck in a rut.
When we feel like this, help us to see that You’ve moved on ahead of us. You’re calling us on – into Your future!
Do we need to see exactly where You’re leading us? – No! We don’t! We just need to keep on following You.
The future may be unknown to us – but it’s never unknown to You!
“Face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you. Look to the One who can put your past behind you. Be the one you were born to be – Don’t you want to be free? … There ‘ll be brighter days ahead” (Garry Brotherston).
Lord, let there be no more fear of an unknown future. Help us to look to the Son. Help us to know that, with Him, we can never be stuck in a rut! Help us to move forward with Him and for Him.

Lord, help us not to rest content with going through the motions of religion.

Exodus 9:1-32
Lord, help us not to rest content with going through the motions of religion. Beyond religion, there is redemption. Beyond ritual, there is reality. May our faith in Jesus, our Saviour, be a real faith, a living faith, a faith that changes us, a faith that brings glory to You.

Touch our hearts, Lord, with Your love.

Exodus 10:1-29
Touch our hearts, Lord, with Your love. So often, our hearts are hard. How can this hardness be broken down? You must do it. We can't do this for ourselves. We can't do this by ourselves. It's Your love that changes us. It's Your love that makes us new. Open our hearts to Your love. Fill our hearts with Your love.

Sometimes, Lord, we don't feel like the sun is shining upon us.

We highlight two interesting phrases - (a) ‘as you were shown on the mountain’ (Exodus 27:8); (b) ‘towards the sunrise’ (Exodus 27:13, New International Version). We need both ‘the Scriptures’ and ‘the power of God’ (Mark 12:24). Our faith is based on divine revelation - ‘according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We are ‘not’ to ‘go beyond what is written’ (1 Corinthians 4:6). Face the risen Son - We may not always be facing the rising sun, but we should always be facing the risen Son! The revelation, the resurrection, the Scriptures, the Son - these are the great focal-points of our Christian Faith: God has revealed Himself, Christ has risen. Encouraged by the Scriptures, and empowered by the Son, we face the risen Son and we say, ‘I will proclaim the glory of the risen Lord’ (Romans 15:4; Matthew 28:18-20; Mission Praise, 14).
Sometimes, Lord, we don't feel like the sun is shining upon us. When we feel like this, help us to know that the light and love of Your Son is always shining upon us. When we're feeling down, help us to remember that You raised Jesus up - "Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o'er His foes." This is what we need to hear. This is what lifts us up: up - into Your presence, up - out of our sin, up - into Your salvation' upwards and onwards - to Your eternal glory.

What are we to do, Lord, when we think that You're against us?

Job 9:20-10:22 What are we to do, Lord, when, like Job, we think that You are “against” us (Job 10:2)? Where do such negative thoughts ...