Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year Two - April

1st April: 1 Samuel 17:1-58
David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about 'God' and the 'gods' (43,46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul - unbelief -and the attitude of David - faith (33,37). Unbelief is all around us. Don't be pulled into it. Don't forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (37). Put off the armour provided by men. 'Put on the whole armour of God' (38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are 'strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man' (Psalm 121:2; 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).
2nd April 1 Samuel 18:1-30
'Loved' by 'all Israel and Judah' (16,28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land - Saul (29). Saul was full of envy (7-8), suspicion (9) and violence (10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (17:33,50), and he didn't like it! David had more success with the women (7), and Saul wasn't happy about this! The women shouldn't have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn't have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord - not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! 'Saul was David's enemy continually' (29). His real argument was with God. 'The Lord was with David' (14,28). This didn't please Saul - 'Why am I not getting all this blessing? I'm the king!'. If anyone says, I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar... he who loves God should love his brother also' (1 John 4:20-21).
3rd April: 1 Samuel 19:1-24
Saul was planning to kill David (1). Jonathan warns David and tries to talk some sense into Saul (2,4-5). Saul took Jonathan's advice - but not for long (6,10)! Thank God that the 'like father, like son' rule didn't apply here! How much more difficult life would have been for David if he had both Saul and Jonathan for enemies! Sin can be a family tradition, passed on from generation to generation. The 'father' chooses a self-centred life. The 'son' follows in his footsteps. 'He's just his father's son'! You can be your Father's son: 'All who receive Christ become children of God' (John 1:12). Saul was seeking his own glory. Jonathan gave the glory to God (4-5). Let us not seek glory for ourselves (John 5:41,44). Give all the glory to God (Revelation 14: 7:12; Romans 11:36).
4th April: Romans 9:1-33
We read about 'Jews' and 'Gentiles'. We learn about salvation. The Jews are not saved because of their nationality. It is 'not because of works'. The Gentiles are not excluded because of their nationality. It is 'because of His call'. Salvation comes from God's grace, not from our good works. It is received 'by faith', not 'by works' (24,11,30-32). There is for us here a word of warning and a word of promise. Here's the warning - You can be religious without being saved: 'not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel...it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God' (6-8). Here's the promise - You can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ: Through faith in Him, those who were 'not God's people' became 'sons of the living God' (26). Trust in Christ, not in yourself!
5th April: Romans 10:1-21
To 'Jew and Gentile', God says, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' (12-13). The Jews had praised the Lord Jesus: 'Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'. Before long, they were shouting, 'Crucify Him, crucify Him!' (John 12:12-13; 19:6). We rejoice that the Gospel has now come to the Gentiles. We remember also that God still 'holds out His hands to Israel'(19-21). Still, Christ says, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem...How often would I have gathered your children together...' (Luke 13:34). 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem', for the advance of the Gospel among the Jews (Psalm 122:6). Pray also for the 'voice' of the Gospel, 'going out into all the earth' (18). Pray that 'faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard' (17).
6th April: Romans 11:1-36
'You stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe' (20). In 9:32, Paul contrasted 'faith' and 'works'. Here, he contrasts 'grace' and 'works' (6). Grace and faith belong together. 'Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling' (Church Hymnary, 83) - This is faith, looking away from itself to divine grace. We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other. We hear the Gospel invitation - 'O come to the Father through Jesus the Son'. Trusting in Christ, we say, 'To God be the glory! Great things He has done' (Church Hymnary, 374). It is only when we bow at the foot of the Cross that we are able to say, with Paul, 'To Him be the glory for ever!' (36; Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
7th April: 1 Samuel 20:1-42
'Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul' (17). He was ready to die for David (30-33). This is real love and true spiritual fellowship: 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends', 'If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another...' (John 15:13; 1 John 1:7). Where there is real love for the Lord, there will be depth of fellowship among His people. If our love for the Lord is shallow, our interest in other people will be superficial. Don't be like Saul - 'backstabbing', 'ready to put the knife in': 'Any one who hates his brother is a murderer...' (1 John 3:15). 'Let there be love shared among us...brotherly love that is real' (Mission Praise, 411). God will answer this prayer - if we really mean it and don't just 'mouth' it!
8th April: 1 Samuel 21:1-22:23
'Religion' is no substitute for compassion (21:3-6; Matthew 12:1-4,7). These were difficult times for David. His life was in great danger. He maintained his trust in the Lord. Looking ahead to the future, he speaks of 'what God will do for me' (22:3). Saul did not have the upper hand. God was in control. We wonder about the future - 'What will it bring?'. With our faith in the Lord, we say, 'I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future'. We look to the Lord and we say, 'My times are in Thy hand: My God I wish them there...My times are in Thy hand, whatever they may be...Why should I doubt or fear?...I'll always trust in Thee'. When life is hard, remember the One who suffered for you: 'Jesus, the Crucified' - He is our Guard and Guide' (Church Hymnary, 680).
9th April: 1 Samuel 23:1-29
Saul imagined that God was with him in his pursuit of David - 'God has given him into my hand' (7). He was wrong - 'Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand' (14). We may like to think that God supports us in everything we decide to do. We must, however, be honest before Him and recognize that there can be a great difference between 'what I want' and 'what God wants'. We must learn to choose God's will rather than our own will (Luke 22:42). We ask, 'What is God's will?'. God says, 'This is the will of God, your sanctification' (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God wants us to be 'changed into His likeness' (2 Corinthians 3:18). He renews our minds, enabling us to live a life that is more truly and more fully in line with His perfect will (Romans 12:2). Do you want your own way - or God's will?
10th April: Psalm 22:1-18
Read of the Psalmist's sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (7-8,18; Matthew 27:39,43,35). We highlight two statements: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?', 'They have pierced my hands and my feet' (1,16). Jesus Christ was 'crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men' (Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: 'The Lord has laid all our sins on Him' (Isaiah 53:6). When we read of Jesus Christ, 'pierced for our transgressions', we see Him 'pierced' by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46). Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - 'the mark of the nails', 'a Lamb standing as though it had been slain', 'pierced' (John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
11th April: Psalms 22:19-23:4
Jesus Christ has 'tasted death for everyone' (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to 'the congregation', to 'the ends of the earth' to 'future generations' (22,27,30). Jesus Christ, 'the same yesterday, today and for ever', proclaims salvation to the great 'congregation', drawn from 'every tribe and language and people and nation' (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed 'through the valley of the shadow of death' for us (4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from 'straying like sheep'. He leads us 'in paths of righteousness' (3; 1 Peter 2:25).
12th April: Psalms 23:5-24:10
For God's people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: 'I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever' (23:6). We 'receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation' (24:5). There is only one answer to the question, 'Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ 'shall stand in His holy place'. No one else has 'clean hands and a pure heart' - no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives 'blessing' from the Lord - and He gives it to us (3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts 'that the King of glory may come in' (7,9). How can 'the Lord, strong and mighty' live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, 'I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in' (8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
13th April: Romans 12:1-13:10
Here, we have practical Christian living, living the life of love. What can our 'sacrifice' be in the light of Christ's greater Sacrifice of Himself for us? It can only be 'our reasonable service', our 'spiritual worship'. His love calls for our response, the response of love: 'Love so amazing, so divine, demands (and shall have) my soul, my life, my all' (12:1; Church Hymnary, 254). Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. 'Love is a many splendoured thing' (12:9-21). Let love direct our thinking, speaking and living - His love, love for God, love for people (13:8-10). Let your prayer be, 'More love, more power, more of You in my life. And I will worship You with all my heart,...mind,...strength' (Songs of Fellowship, 392). Worship the Lord - and be changed by His love!
14th April: Romans 13:1-14:23
'Walk in love' - We must not fall out over matters in which difference of opinion is allowed (14:5,15). There can be a lot of bitterness over 'the Sabbath'. There can be so much pride. For some, this is the 'be-all and end-all' of Christian faith. They say, 'We are the Sabbath keepers. They are not!'. Others react, 'We rejoice in our Christian liberty. They are legalists'. 'Pharisees' are preoccupied with 'the Sabbath'. We must remember that Jesus is 'the Lord of the Sabbath'. We must let His love flow (Matthew 12:2,10,8,11-12). Let faith be real - not just keeping on the right side of narrow-minded people (23; Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:15). Let there be 'peace and joy in the Holy Spirit'. Don't think too highly of yourself. 'Count others better than yourself' (17; 12:3; Philippians 2:3).
15th April: Romans 15:1-33
With Christ's example, 'the encouragement of the Scriptures' and the enabling power of God, let us love one another,'with one heart and one voice' (1-6). This is the way of glorifying God. Trusting in Christ, 'the root of Jesse', we are blessed by 'the God of hope', filled with 'the power of the Holy Spirit' - so that we may 'abound in hope'. This hope comes to us through 'the Scriptures' (12-13,4). God's saving purpose was not only for the 'dyed in the wool' Jew. He saved both Jews and Gentiles (9-12). Thank God that Paul was not as narrow-minded as many people are today! God's blessing is not only for our type of people! Let us learn from Paul. 'A minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles', he was always reaching out to more and more people 'in the fulness of the blessing of Christ' (16,29).
16th April: Romans 16:1-27
Paul was writing to a Church with big problems (17-18). Deeply influenced by the wrong kind of people, the Church gets bogged down in 'dissensions and difficulties'. Critical, fault-finding people exert an extremely divisive influence. They look after their own interests. They only think about themselves. Nothing else matters to them. They manipulate other people - to get their own way. They go out of their way to get their own way! The problem may be great - but the power of God is greater (19-20)! Strengthened by 'the God of peace' and 'the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ', let us press on in 'obedience' to God, claiming His victory over 'Satan'. Let 'the preaching of Jesus Christ' make you strong for God (25-27).
17th April: 1 Samuel 24:1-22
Saul recognized that David was a 'righteous' man to whom 'the kingdom' would be given (17,20). There is a vital connection between godly character and fruitfulness in God's service. We dare not imagine that we will be fruitful for God if we refuse to give ourselves fully to Him. There is no short cut to God's blessing which by-passes the dedication of our hearts and lives to Him. We learn this lesson from David. A man, 'raised up to be king', he was - first of all - 'a man after God's heart', a man who would 'do all God's will' (Acts 13:22). It was great that Saul recognized David's righteous character and spiritual potential. It was sad that this made no real difference to the way in which Saul lived His own life. He continued to 'play the fool', going his own way rather than God's way (26:21).
18th April: 1 Samuel 25:1-44
Forewarned is forearmed. Know where the trouble's coming from before it hits you and knocks you off your feet. This is the message of verse 25. Nabal was well named - Fool!. He is described as 'that wicked man', 'this ill-natured fellow', 'this worthless person', 'this man of Belial'. We need to be on our guard with people like this around! In 2 Corinthians 6:15, Paul uses the word, 'Belial'. It is another name for Satan. It's hardly any wonder that Nabal was a trouble maker. He was a man of Satan! Be on your guard against Satan. He doesn't always come 'as a roaring lion'. Sometimes, he 'masquerades himself as an angel of light' (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14). It's better to be forewarned and forearmed than to have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, 'I wish I had known then what I know now'!
19th April: 1 Corinthians 1:1-2:5
Paul preached the Gospel, 'not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power' (17; 2:4). He preached 'Christ crucified' with a determination 'to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified'(23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - 'Christ crucified...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God' (23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord' (26-31). Our faith is 'not based on human wisdom but on God's power' (2:5). 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace' (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. 'Let us rejoice and be glad' in Him (30; Psalm 118:24).
20th April: 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:23
We come to know God when 'the Spirit' leads us to 'Jesus Christ' (2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - 'What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants ...'. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - 'Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth' (3:5-7). We are not members of a 'mutual appreciation society' - 'You pat my back, and I'll pat yours'! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, 'He must increase, but I must decrease' (John 3:30). Let 'Jesus take the highest honour'. Let His Name be 'the Name high over all'. ''Tis all my business...to cry Behold the Lamb!' (Mission Praise, 378,385) - Let's say it and mean it!
21st April: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21
As 'servants of Christ', we must concern ourselves with one thing - being 'found faithful'. This is not a matter of pleasing people - 'it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you...'. Pleasing God - this is the most important thing (1-4). Serving Christ is not easy. There are always those who are quick to pass judgment on the Lord's servants. What does God say about this? - 'Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes' (9-13,5). Being 'found faithful' is not just a matter of 'saying the right words'. We must be the right people. This is what Paul means when he says, 'The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power' (20). 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses' (Acts 1:8; Romans 12:11).
22nd April: 1 Corinthians 5:1-6:11
'Your boasting is not good' - May we never become so taken up with ourselves that we forget Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us: 'Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us', 'you were washed...sanctified...justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God' (5:6-7; 6:11). There were problems among God's people - 'sexual immorality', 'lawsuits' (5:1; 6:7). In all of this, Christ was being forgotten. There are no depths to which we cannot sink when we take our eyes off Christ. There are no heights to which we will not be raised as we look away from ourselves to Him. Christ is able to lift from the guttermost and 'save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him' (Hebrews 7:25). Let it be more of Christ and less of self!
23rd April: 1 Samuel 26:1-25
Saul and David were very different. David was wise. He had respect for 'the Lord's anointed' (11). This was grounded in 'the fear of the Lord' which 'is the beginning of wisdom' (Psalm 111:10). Saul 'played the fool'. He 'erred exceedingly', choosing the way of self rather than the way of the Lord (21). This is not only the story of David and Saul. It's like looking into a mirror. In David and Saul, we see ourselves. We are at the cross-roads. We must choose. God promises blessing - 'The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness' (23). This promise is full of challenge. Choose 'righteousness and faithfulness'. Choose Christ. Keep on choosing Him. 'O happy day, that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God...That vow renewed shall daily hear' (Mission Praise, 499).
24th April: 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2
What a difference there is between fear - 'I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul' - and faith - 'The Lord will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (27:1; 17:37)! These words were spoken by the same man - David. There is a battle going on within each one of us - a battle for faith, a battle against fear. How do we overcome fear? How do we grow strong in faith? - 'Perfect love casts out fear'. It is God's love which gives us the victory - 'We love, because He first loved us'. Strengthened by His love, our faith grows strong, and we say, 'This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith...Jesus is the Son of God' (1 John 4:18-19; 5:4-5). 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine' (Isaiah 43:1). Let faith grow strong and fear be banished!
25th April: 1 Samuel 28:3-25
Saul sinned against the Lord. He brought God's judgment upon himself: 'Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord...the Lord has done this thing to you this day' (18). 'Saul disguised himself'' - he thought he could get away with his sin. He was wrong: 'Be sure your sin will find you out' (8; Numbers 32:23). There is no hiding from God - 'Before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do'. God's Word warns us: 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God'. Do not 'trample the Son of God under foot, treating His blood as an unholy thing and outraging the Spirit of grace'. Don't fight against God. You will be the loser! Don't 'shrink back' and be 'destroyed'. 'Believe' and be 'saved' (Hebrews 4:13; 10:29-31, 39; Acts 16:30-31).
26th April: Proverbs 10:1-22
What a difference there is between the 'wise' and the 'foolish'. It is the difference between 'righteousness' and 'wickedness' (1-2). Throughout life, there are choices to be made. We may choose wisely, being led by the Lord 'in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake'. We may choose foolishly, going 'astray', refusing to 'call upon the Lord' (Psalms 23:3-4; 14:2-4). We must be very careful about the choices we make. There is a 'way that leads to life' and a 'way that leads to destruction' (16-17; Matthew 7:13-14). 'Flee from the wrath to come'. Choose Christ. Choose life. 'He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him' (Matthew 3:7; John 3:36).Choose Him now. 'Now is the day of salvation' (2 Corinthians 6:2).
27th April: 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:24
The Lord has placed the highest value on us: 'you were bought with a price' (6:20; 7:23). Our love for Him must be stronger than any other love. Some are under pressure, at home, from an unbelieving husband or wife. You wonder whether your Christian witness is doing any good (7:16). You feel you are getting nowhere. You feel like giving up. You feel yourself being dragged away from the Lord. What does the Word of God say? - 'Lead the life which the Lord has assigned'; 'Remain with God' (7:17,24). A difficult situation at home is just one example of 'the world' trying to 'squeeze us into its own mould' (Romans 12:2). The world will keep chipping away at our faith - until there's nothing left. 'Do not love the world or the things in the world...He who does the will of God abides for ever' (1 John 2:17).
28th April: 1 Corinthians 7:25-8:13
We are to 'use the things of the world' without becoming 'engrossed in them' (31). Becoming more worldly in our way of living is not a purely personal thing. We harm other people 'for whom Christ died'. They look to us for a godly example and we let them down. We 'sin against them'. We 'sin against Christ'. Our choices affect other people. We choose a self-centred life. We cause them to 'fall into sin'. We live a life of 'love', and they are 'built up' in their faith (11-13,1; Matthew 18:5-7, 10). How are we to live? Are we to become preoccupied with how our actions affect those who watch our every move? That could become very confusing and distracting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must live 'not ...as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart...' (Ephesians 6:6-7).
Wed. 29th April: 1 Samuel 29:1-30:15
'David was greatly distressed...But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (30:6). Things are going badly. What do you do? Do you start feeling sorry for yourself? That won't do any good. God's Word says, 'Be strong, and let your heart take courage' (Psalm 27:14). In times of difficulty, where does your strength come from? - 'The Lord is my strength and my shield... The Lord is the strength of His people...' (Psalm 28:7-8). How are we to strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God? We must remind ourselves that God is in control: 'The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as King for ever'. This is the way in which 'the Lord gives strength to His people!'.This is the way 'the Lord blesses His people with peace!' (Psalm 29:10-11). Let us be strong in the Lord
30th April: 1 Samuel 30:16-31:13
Here, we have tragedy and triumph - the tragedy of Saul (4), the triumph of the Lord (23). What we are, in ourselves, is tragic - 'all have sinned...the wages of sin is death' (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This is not the full story of our life. There's something else: 'what the Lord has given us' - 'they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus', 'the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (23; Romans 3:24; 6:23). This is the triumph of the Lord. It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. 'This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes' (Psalm 118:23). We give all the praise and glory to the Lord: 'Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph. Let us 'spread the knowledge of Him everywhere' (2 Corinthians 2: 14).

Daily Devotional Readings: Year Two - February

1st February: Judges 1:1-2:5
'You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7). Everything seems to be going well - 'From victory to victory His army He shall lead till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed' (1-18; Church Hymnary, 481). Things went badly wrong. God commanded His people to 'drive out' His enemies. Again and again, they failed (19,21,27-33). This failure brought a stern rebuke from 'the angel of the Lord'. God had blessed His people. Now, He has to rebuke them - 'you have not obeyed my command'. Read of Israel's weeping, and pray for this: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation' (2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 7:10). 'Strong in the Lord...' let us 'tread all the powers of darkness down...and stand complete at last' (Church Hymnary, 441).
2nd February: Judges 2 6-3:31
What sadness there is in the words of 2:10 - 'there arose another generation...who did not know the Lord...'! As the generations pass, we must pass on the Gospel of Christ, praying that those who follow after us will 'know the Lord'. In Isaiah 30:21, God says, 'This is the way, walk in it'. Here, in the sin and shame of Israel, He warns us, 'This is not the way, do not walk in it' (2:11-15). Don't be conformed to this world, 'entangled' in its ways (3:5-7; Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 2:4). God is angry with His rebellious people, but He does not cease to love them - 'the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel (3:8-9). Read of the deliverers - Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar - and rejoice in our greater Deliverer: 'Jesus...He will save His people from their sins' (3:9,15,31; Matthew 1:21).
3rd February: Judges 4:1-5:11
Barak is an example of 'faith' (Hebrews 11:32-34). Faith involves believing God's promise - 'I will give...' and obeying His command - 'Go' (4:6-7). God still says, 'Go...I am with you always...' (Matthew 28:19-20). Barak needed Deborah's help (4:8-10). Both needed God's help - 'Our sufficiency comes from God' (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). In Deborah's song, we learn of the importance of giving all the glory to God: 'Bless the Lord...To the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord...Bless the Lord' (5:2-3,9). We are to repeat the triumphs of the Lord'. This is our high calling as 'the people of the Lord' (5:11). 'Awake, awake, Deborah'...Arise, Barak...' (5:12) - God is still calling His people to wake up, to rise up: 'Rise up O Church of God, awake!' (Church Hymnary, 477; Mission Praise, 178).
4th February: Judges 5:12-6:10
'The people of the Lord marched down for Him against the mighty (13) - God is still calling His people to march for Him: 'March on, my soul, with strength, with strength, but not thine own; The conquest thou shalt gain, through Christ the Lord alone' (Church Hymnary, 614). This is not 'marching' for ourselves, for our own cause, trying to get our own way. This is about keeping our eyes on Jesus, living in His strength, living for His glory. Where self reigns, there is sin - 'The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord' - and shame - 'Israel was brought very low' (1,6). Where Christ reigns, there is prayer to the Lord and blessing from the Lord. With God's blessing comes our responsibility - Worship God, listening carefully to His Word and living in obedience to Him (6-10).
5th February: Acts 13:1-43
'Set apart' by 'the Holy Spirit', 'sent out by the Holy Spirit', 'filled by the Holy Spirit' (2,4,9): In the ministry of Paul and Barnabus, we see the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In their teaching, we have 'the teaching of the Lord' (12). This is what Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - 'When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers'. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. What is God saying to us as we listen to His Word? - 'Continue in the grace of God' (43). How are we to continue in the grace of God? - Keep looking away from the human servant to the divine Saviour: 'After me One is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am unworthy to untie' (25).
6th February: Acts 13:44-14:28
When God is working powerfully through His servants, there is always the tendency to attach too much importance to the servants. We must resist this temptation. The glory belongs to God alone. We must never forget: 'We too are only men, human like you'. God has called us to 'bring Good News' to sinners, the Good News of salvation. As we proclaim this Good News - 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' - , we must never forget this: We are 'unworthy servants', 'the worst of sinners' (14:28; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; Luke 17:10). Look beyond the preacher, the evangelist, the teacher of God's Word. Look to the Saviour. Give all the glory to Him. He is the Gospel. He is our salvation. He is the living Word. The Gospel is preached. There is blessing. We say, 'God has done this!' (52,8,27).
7th February: Judges 6:11-7:14
'We are weak but He is strong' (Church Hymnary, 418). In himself, Gideon was weak (15). In the Lord, he was 'a mighty warrior'. Gideon was full of questions. God said to him, 'Go...I will be with you' (6:12-16). Our true strength does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord - 'Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth' (Psalm 124:8). Gideon's true strength came from 'the Spirit of the Lord' (34). We must always remember Jesus' words, 'Without Me you can do nothing' (John 15:5). Consider Gideon's weakness. Consider your own weakness. Rejoice in God's power. Never say, 'My own hand delivered me'. Our testimony must always be this: '...God has given...'(7:2,14). 'It is the gift of God...lest any man should boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9).
8th February: Judges 7:15-8:35
'For the Lord and for Gideon' (7:18). Notice who comes first. It is not Gideon. It is the Lord! 'The men of Israel' attached too much importance to Gideon - 'Rule over us...you have delivered us'. Gideon gave all the glory to God - 'I will not rule over you...the Lord will rule over you' (8:22-23). What happens when people make too much of the man and not enough of the Lord? - As soon as the man is taken away from them, they forget the Lord (33-34). It seems like they were just waiting to turn away from the Lord. The moment Gideon was no longer there to keep an eye on them, they were back to their old ways again (33)! We must never let the servant of the Lord become more important than the Lord. When God's servant has become a distant memory, we must keep on 'remembering the Lord our God' (34).
9th February: Judges 9:1-49
Things were going from bad to worse! The people of Israel had forgotten 'the Lord their God' (8:34). 'The enemy' was ready to 'come in like a flood' (Isaiah 59:19). Abimelech - Gideon's son by 'his concubine who was in Shechem' (8:31) - was very unlike his father. Gideon had pointed away from himself to the Lord (8:23). Abimelech was eager to draw attention to himself. He murdered his seventy brothers, paving the way for himself to become king (1-6). Abimelech spelt trouble! Things were only going to get worse with Abimelech. There was 'an evil spirit' at work among God's people (23). Where was God in all this? - 'Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct' (Romans 1:28). What kind of person are you becoming? Each of us must choose!
10th February: Judges 9:50-11:11
With verses 56-57, read Romans 1:18 - 'The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth'. Doing 'what was evil in the sight of the Lord', 'the people of Israel' brought themselves under God's judgment (10:6-9). When Israel began to return to the Lord, He said to them, 'Mean what you say' (10:10-14). When they persisted with their confession of sin, He answered their prayer - 'In all their affliction He was afflicted...In His love and in His pity He redeemed them' (15-16; Isaiah 63:9). God's answer came in the shape of Jephthah, 'a mighty warrior', a man who 'spoke all his words before the Lord' (11:1,11). Thrust out by men (11:1-2), he was loved by the God of grace - His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9)!
11th February: Judges 11:12-12:15
Israel was not looking for trouble - 'Let us pass...through your land to our country'. The Amorites insisted on fighting with them. They had to be faced and defeated (19-21). The Christian life is like an 'obstacle race'. We do not go out looking for problems. Sometimes, we cannot avoid them. Obstacles can become opportunities - for spiritual growth (James 1:2-4). Watch what you say (29-40; Ecclesiastes 5:2-6). Watch how you say it (1-6). The accent is not the important thing. It is the attitude. Is the accent on Christ? Let the attitude be less of self and more of Christ. Proclaiming the same Christ is more important than pronouncing the words in exactly the same way! Be slow to say, 'He is not one of us'. Be quick to say, 'Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice' (Philippians 1:18).
12th February: Acts 15:1-35
The Gospel is for all nations. In the Old Testament, we catch a glimpse of this (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalms 96:1-3;100:1; Isaiah 45:22). Here, we have the Gospel made clear. Peter says, 'We shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus' (11). Paul says, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved' (16:31). This is the Gospel: 'By grace you have been saved through faith' (Ephesians 2:8). Together with the Good News concerning salvation, there is also an 'exhortation' to go on with the Saviour (31). In this call to submit to the Lord, we hear the word, 'abstain' (20,29). Does this sound negative? It is a positive call to be set apart for God - 'saved...for good works...' (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christ is our Saviour. He is also our Lord. In salvation and surrender, we find our true joy (31).
13th February: Proverbs 8:1-36
Hoping for 'good luck', some people expect good things to happen to them - all the time! God says, 'Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times'. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (2:6; 6-8). Wisdom is not only for 'kings and rulers, princes and nobles'. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (13,35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than 'silver, gold and jewels' (10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: 'He who wins…' (11:30). Don't keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
14th February: Judges 13: 1-14:9
Samson's birth was announced by an angel. Jesus' birth was announced by angels (13:3; Luke 1:30-33; 2:8-14). Samson's death was a great triumph over the Philistines. Jesus' death brought the greatest triumph of all - victory over Satan (16:30; Hebrews 2:14-15). The story of Samson points us to the greater Story of Jesus. There is, however, a great difference between Samson and Jesus. Often, Samson was concerned only with what pleased him (14:3,7). Always, Jesus did the will of God (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me' (Luke 4:18) - We expect these words from Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God. When, however, we read that 'the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon' Samson (14:6), we rejoice in the grace of God - 'while we were yet sinners...the Holy Spirit has been given to us' (Romans 5:8,5).
15th February: Judges 14:10-16:3
'This man receives sinners' (Luke 15:2). These are the words of legalistic Pharisees. They were intended as an insult. They are also words of divine grace: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15). Samson was a sinner. There is no question about that. Is he any different from the rest of us? - 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23). Samson was a sinner yet, 'the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him' (14:19). We are sinners. Christ died for us. God has given us His Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). This is divine grace. Samson often wandered. Still, the Lord was at work in him. Prompted by the Spirit, Samson 'called on the Lord'. Samson was 'very thirsty'. He prayed. He was 'revived' (15:18-19). 'Wilt Thou not revive us again...? (Psalm 85:6). Pray for revival!
16th February: Judges 16:4-31
The story of Samson is a story of tragedy and triumph. We see Samson's tragedy - '"I will go out at other times, and shake myself free". But he did not know that the Lord had left him' (20). There is a warning for us here. Yesterday's triumphs do not guarantee today's victory. Today's challenge needs today's grace. We need to keep close to the Lord - 'His mercies...are new every morning' (Lamentations 3:22-23). We see Samson's triumph - In his death, he triumphed over the Philistines (30). What encouragement there is for us here! How often we feel like Samson - 'seized...gouged...brought down...bound...in the prison' - going through 'the mill' (21)! Satan seems to have the upper hand. We feel so helpless. Satan will not have the last word. Take this for your encouragement: Satan will be 'thrown into the lake of fire' (Revelation 20:10).
17th February: Acts 15:36-16:40
Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (25-34). They had gone to Philippi 'to preach the Gospel to them' (10). Even when they were 'in chains', the Gospel proved itself to be 'the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith' (Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). 'The Word of God is not bound'. It is 'living and active'. 'Sharper than any two-edged sword', it is 'the sword of the Spirit' (2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (30-31)? 'Pray at all times in the Spirit...with all perseverance' (Ephesians 6:18).
18th February: Judges 17:1-18:13
Things are not going well - 'every man did that which was right in his own eyes' (17:6). People were doing what suited themselves. Micah was trying to 'get the best of both worlds'. He was worshipping idols (17:4-5). He was trying to keep on the right side of the Lord - 'Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite priest' (13). Micah's priest was a 'Yes' man. He told Micah what he wanted to hear. Many people 'refuse to listen to the truth'. They prefer to listen to those who 'tell them what they want to hear' (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Many are 'lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God' (2 Timothy 3:4). We must not fall into the trap of 'trying to please all the people all the time'. Seek to be like Jesus - 'I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me' (John 5:30).
19th February: Acts 17:1-34
Notice the importance of the Scriptures for both public ministry - 'reasoning with them from the Scriptures' and private devotion - 'examining the Scriptures every day' (2,11). We need the Word of the Lord on the Lord's Day. We need the Word of the Lord every day. God is not the 'unknown God'. He has made himself known to us. For many, He seems to be the 'unknown God'. We must seek to lead them beyond a vague awareness of 'the God who made the world' to a real knowledge of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (24,3). When our faith is grounded in the Scriptures, we will not think of God as the 'unknown God' about whom we can know very little. We will make it our ambition 'to know Christ and the power of His resurrection' (Philippians 3:10). 'Let us press on to know the Lord' (Hosea 6:3).
20th February: Acts 18:1-21
It was not an easy situation at Corinth. There were some who 'opposed Paul and became abusive' (6). There was great pressure on Paul. He could have given up very easily. It was God's Word which kept Paul going (10). Paul did not collapse under thee pressure - 'he stayed a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them' (11). At Ephesus, there were people who asked Paul 'to stay for a longer period'. He 'declined'. Paul was moving on. He refused to be shackled by the expectations of other people. The important thing was 'God's will'. For us, there can be no standing still. We must move on with God. We must not get 'stuck in a rut'. Some say, 'Everything must remain the same. Nothing must change'. Paul had to 'set sail from Ephesus'. We must 'launch out into the deep' - at Jesus' Word (20-21; Luke 5:4-5).
21st February: Judges 18:14-19:30
'Keep quiet' - There is a guilty silence which comes from disobedience (18:18-20). When God's people remain silent, things go from bad to worse - 'Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint'. We must not be 'disobedient to the heavenly vision' (18:30; Proverbs 29:18; Acts 26:19). Chapter 19 warns us: Sin brings judgment. God cannot stand sin. He punishes sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Numbers 32:23). Sin must be taken seriously. God takes it seriously (Hebrews 10:29-31). It is not easy to see the hand of God in the sinful and shameful events of chapter 19. We must keep on believing that He is present, even when He is 'most invisible' (Church Hymnary, 670). Sometimes, He is present as our Judge. Judgment is not always immediate. There may be 'peace' before the storm. 'Consider' - and learn (19:20, 30)!
22nd February: Acts 18:22-19:22
Apollos 'taught accurately the things concerning Jesus'. He needed to have 'the way of God expounded to him more accurately' (24-26). There is always more to learn. We should never adopt a 'know-it-all' attitude. In 'two years' of ministry, 'God did' great things through Paul (10-11). Paul was moving on. His road led to 'Rome'. It was a road, full of blessing - 'The Word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily' (20-21). Paul was on the move. God was on the move. Wherever Paul went, there were opportunities to make Christ known.. Wherever he went, people were trusting Christ. Paul was moving from place to place, bringing Christ to so many different people. People were moving 'from death to life' (John 5:24). This is what drove Paul on - Bringing more and more sinners to his Saviour!
23rd February: Acts 19:23-20:16
Read verse 28: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians'. Remember Exodus 20:3 - 'You shall have no other gods before Me'. Remove all pretenders from God's throne. Rededicate yourself to the Lord - 'King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be' (Redemption Hymnal, 165). People could not get enough of God's Word. Be hungry and thirsty for God, for His righteousness, for His Word, for His blessing (7; Matthew 5:6). Paul wanted to be 'at Jerusalem...on the day of Pentecost' (16). This had been a place and time of blessing (2:1-4,41). Paul was eager for the blessing of God in his own life. He was eager to bring God's blessing to others. How much does the blessing of God mean to you? Do you want His blessing? Do you want to be a blessing? 'Lord bless me and make me a blessing'.
24th February : Judges 20:1-28
God uses a sinful and shameful situation - 'Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day' (19:30) - to call His people back to Himself - 'all the people of Israel...assembled as one man to the Lord' (1). God's call was clear - 'Put away evil from Israel'. 'The Benjaminites would not listen' to this call for holiness among God's people (13). This was a serious situation. It was not to be taken lightly. This was no mere difference of opinion, something that would soon be forgotten. 'The Benjaminites came together...to go out to war against the people of Israel' (14). Three times, God called His people to 'go up' against the Benjaminites (18,23,28). Victory comes from the Lord: 'I will give them into your hand' (28).
25th February: Acts 20:17-21:14
From Paul's farewell to the Ephesian elders, there are some lessons for all of us. (a) 'Repentance to God' and 'faith in our Lord Jesus Christ' (21) - This is not only a call for conversion. It is for every believer - all the time. (b) 'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock of God...Care for the Church of God' (28). Taking our own spiritual growth seriously will always involve caring for others. (c) 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' (35). Jesus Others Yourself - This is JOY. Let it be Thanksgiving ('I want to') rather than Duty Giving ('I ought to') or Grudge Giving ('I have to'). For Jesus and Paul, Jerusalem meant suffering. For both, the important thing was doing 'the Lord's will' (10-14; Matthew 16:21-23). 'Let us go forth to Him...and bear the abuse He endured' (Hebrews 13:13).
26th February: Acts 21:15-22:16
Here, we focus on two brief phrases - 'the things that God had done' (19) and you will be a witness for Him' (22:15). In the work of God we must learn to hold these two things together - divine power and human witness. Without the power of God, no one will come to faith in Christ: 'It is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness", who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ'. How does God work? - He works through human witnesses: 'we preach...Jesus Christ as Lord'. How are divine power and human witness related to each other? - 'We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent, superior, all-surpassing power belongs to God and not to us' (Corinthians 4:5-7). Let God speak - through you!
27th February: Judges 20:29-21:25
Judges ends on such a sad note: 'every man did what was right in his own eyes' (21:25). This situation is not merely political - 'no king'. It is moral and spiritual. The people had no regard for the authority of God and His Word. In Romans 5:20, we have Good News: 'where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'. Here, we have bad news: 'where grace increased, sin abounded all the more'. Reading Judges, we become acutely awareof the need for revival in our own day. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we see the way to revival: 'If my people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land'. Read of human 'compassion' (6,15). Rejoice: God 'will again have compassion upon us' (Micah 7:19).
28th February: Psalm 19:1-14
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God's revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1,14). The testimony of the Psalmist - 'The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul' (7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - 'I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him' (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
29th February: Matthew 17:1-8
'When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only' (8). reading through God's Word, we read about many different people. Moses and Joshua, Saul and David, Peter and Paul - These are just some of the people we learn about in God's Word. There is, however, One who stands head and shoulders above them all - our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. None can compare with Him. 'His Name is higher than any other. His Name is Jesus. His Name is Lord'. When we read God's Word, let our prayer always be 'Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus'. Let it be 'Jesus only' in our lives - 'Jesus shall take the highest honour. Jesus shall take the highest praise' (Mission Praise, 233,545,378). we 'lift up our eyes'. We see 'the hills' (Psalm 121:1). Let us look beyond the hills - and see Jesus!

Daily Devotional Readings: Year Two - March

1st March: Ruth 1:1-2:23
Ruth meets Boaz. It seemed like a 'chance' meeting - 'she happened to come...'(2:3). It was more than that. God was at work. Ruth had committed herself to the Lord (1:16-17). She was being guided by the Lord (Psalm 37:3-5; Proverbs 3:5-6). Ruth was unassuming and grateful, hard working and responsible (2:10,13,7,18). She is a fine example of the 'good wife' described in Proverbs 31:10-31. In Boaz, she found a good man - godly, generous and sensitive (2:12,14,16). We read about Ruth. We learn about Jesus Christ. When you come to Him, He says, 'Do not go to glean in another field...' - 'There is salvation in no one else' (2:8; Acts 4:12). In Him, there is amazing grace. He loves us. He looks upon us favourably. He takes notice of us. He died for us (2:10; Romans 5:8). Let us follow Him (1:16-17; John 6:67-69).
2nd March: Ruth 3:1-4:22
Ruth was covered by the 'garment' of Boaz, her 'kinsman - redeemer' (3:9). Jesus is our Kinsman - Redeemer. He has become one of us. He shares our 'flesh and blood', our 'humanity'. Through His 'suffering' and 'death', we are brought to 'glory' (Hebrews 2:10-11,14-15). In Him, we 'rejoice': 'He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness' (Isaiah 61:10). 'Our righteous acts are like filthy rags'. Bring your 'robes' to Christ and let them be 'washed', 'made white in the blood of the Lamb'(Isaiah 64:6; Revelation 7:14). A 'Moabitess', Ruth was brought into the house of Israel (4:10-11). In Christ, Jew and Gentile become one (Ephesians 2:11-18). Ruth played her part in leading us to Christ (4:13-17; Matthew 1:1,5-6). May God help us to lead people to Christ.
3rd March: Acts 22:17-23:35
A Jew, 'praying in the temple' at 'Jerusalem', Paul was obedient to God's call - 'I will send you far away to the Gentiles' (22:17,21). The racists would not hear of this - 'Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he ought not to live' (22:22). This was not simply dislike for Paul. This was hatred directed against the God who, in Jesus Christ, offers salvation to all nations. Paul was a 'Roman citizen' (22:25-29). God was protecting Paul for his future ministry - 'you must bear witness also at Rome' (23:11). Paul was giving his own testimony when he wrote the words, 'All things work together for good to those who love God' (Romans 8:28). Serving the Lord is never easy. Sometimes, it can be very difficult. When we face violent opposition, we draw our strength from God's Word - 'Take courage' (23:10-11).
4th March: Acts 24:1-27
Paul did not abandon the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures - 'I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets (14). He read the Old Testament. It led him to Christ. Paul's great theme was 'faith in Christ Jesus' (24). Paul speaks. Jesus is speaking through him. Jesus did 'not come to abolish the law and the prophets'. He came 'to fulfil them'. 'Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself' (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27). God has spoken 'through the prophets'. God has spoken through His Son' (Hebrews 1:1-2). We read the Old Testament. We learn from 'Moses' and 'Elijah'. They step back. We see 'Jesus, only'. He is God's 'beloved Son'. We 'listen to Him' (Matthew 17:3,8,5).
5th March: Acts 25:1-27
Paul stood before Festus as an accused man. Festus listened. Recognizing his own shortcomings and respecting the accused wishes, he gave Paul a fair hearing (20-21,25). Festus made no decision - 'I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him' (26). Jesus was 'dead'. Now, He is 'alive' (19). This is not just 'something to think about'. We must make our decision. There can be no 'sitting on the fence'. Some are indecisive - 'I have nothing definite to say about Jesus'. It's 'make up your mind' time - 'How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3). Festus had to make a decision about Paul. There is a more important question: 'What do you think of the Christ?'. Each of us must answer the question: 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (Matthew 22:42; 27:22).
6th March: Acts 26:1-32
Paul answers three questions concerning himself. He puts a most important question to his hearers. (a) What was I before my conversion? Here, he speaks of his religion - 'According to the strictest party of my religion I have lived as a Pharisee' (5). This brought him 'to the ground' (14). (b) How did my conversion come about? Here, he speaks of his Saviour - 'I am Jesus...Stand up!' (15). (c) What happened after my conversion? Here, he describes how he became a 'servant' and a 'witness' (16). (d) The final question concerns our response - What about you? Will you become a Christian? (27-29). Do you have a story to tell? - Tell your story: the 'before', the 'after', the fact that it was Jesus who made the difference. Don't forget the challenge: To 'all who are listening to me today' - Come to Christ (29).
7th March: Acts 27:1-44
There is, in this story, a great picture of God's way of salvation. (a) Our human situation is hopeless: 'All our hope of being saved was at last abandoned' (20). We are sinners. We cannot save ourselves. (b) There is hope: 'God has granted you all thosee who sail with you' (25). God has provided a way of salvation: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (John 3:16). (c) Faith believes the Word of God: 'I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told' (25) - 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved' (16:31). (d) Safety: 'all escaped to land' (44). God has 'prepared' for us 'a better country', a 'heavenly one', 'a city', 'the city which is to come'. Do you want to 'escape', to be saved? Make sure that you don't 'neglect such a great salvation' (Hebrews 11:16; 13:14; 2:3).
8th March: Acts 28:1-31
Read of Paul's protection from the 'snake'. 'Rejoice' - Christ has won for us a great victory over 'that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan'. When God gives us His victory, we must not think too highly of ourselves - 'he was a god'. We must give all the glory to God: 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of God and the authority of His Christ have come' (3-6; Genesis 3:14-15; Revelation 12:9-12). 'So we came to Rome' (14) - These are words of triumph. God had fulfilled His promise: 'you must bear witness also at Rome' (23:11). Rejoicing that 'this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles', Paul was 'preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered' (29,31). Don't miss God's opportunities to share Christ's Good News!
9th March: 1 Samuel 1:1-28
Hannah 'wept'. Hannah 'was no longer sad' (7,18). What made the difference? No child had been born. She had not even conceived. These things did not happen until later (21). Why was there such a change in Hannah? She believed. God's Word had been spoken (17). Hannah believed His Word. She rejoiced in Him. Jesus ephasized the importance of praying with faith (Mark 11:24). We are to 'ask in faith', to pray 'the prayer of faith' (James 1:6; 5:15). We are also to pray 'according to His will' (1 John 5:14-15). God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He 'gives grace to the humble' (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
10th March: 1 Samuel 2:1-36
What a contrast between the son of Hannah and the sons of Eli - 'the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord...in the favour of the Lord', 'the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord (21,26,12). This is the difference between 'the children of God' and 'the children of the devil' (1 John 3:10). God's Word speaks to us with a promise and a warning: 'those who honour Me I will honour and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed' (30). Let your attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: 'There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God' (2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: 'My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exulted in the Lord' (1). May the Lord help us to be 'His faithful ones' who walk with Him (9).
11th March: 1 Samuel 3:1-4:22
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' (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' (4:10-11,22). We may lose 'goods, honour, children, wife' (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people - We must not lose this!
12th March: 1 Samuel 5:1-6:16
In 5:3-4, we read of God's superiority over Dagon - 'The Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King' (Jeremiah 10:10). 'The hand of the Lord was heavy' on those who set themselves against Him (5:6-7,9,11). Let 'the Lord alone be exalted'. He is our only 'Saviour' (Isaiah 2:17-18; 43:10-11). Through His victory over Dagon, the Lord calls us to be completely devoted to Him: 'Down went Dagon, smashed in pieces when the ark of God came in. So shall God destroy those idols that defile our hearts within. Come, Lord, and destroy them'. The return of the ark brought joy (6:13). When the Lord is restored to His rightful place among His people, there is joy. 'Heaven came down and glory filled my soul'. When the Lord comes to us, we 'rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory' (1 Peter 1:8).
13th March: 1 Samuel 6:17-7:17
God is 'holy' (20). He calls His people to be holy. With His call to holiness, there is His promise of blessing (3). Committed to serving the Lord only and calling on the Lord for His help, Israel wins a great victory over the Philistines (4-11). God's people give thanks to Him - 'Until now the Lord has helped us' (12). The victory over the Philistines was spectacular. There were, however, many 'ordinary' days. Here, we may learn from Samuel. He served the Lord 'all the days of his life' (15). The spectacular triumphs were few and far between. The 'ordinary' days were many - 'he went on a circuit year by year...'(16). In all his journeys, he did not forget to 'come home' (7:17). Other places and other people seem to be so interesting. Don't forget - There is much work to be done at 'home'.
14th March: Romans 1:1-32
'I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith' (16). Do you think it was easy for Paul to maintain such commitment to Christ, such confidence in Christ? What kind of world did he live in? - A world of 'ungodliness and wickedness' (18-31). Many times, Paul could have given up in despair - 'There is too much ungodliness and wickedness all around me. How can I go on?'. When you feel like giving up, when everything seems to be so difficult, remember Paul. Remember his longing to 'impart some spiritual gift', his desire to 'reap some harvest' his eagerness to 'preach the gospel' (12-15). Let us say, with Paul, 'God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 6:14). Let us be 'set apart for the gospel of God' (1).
15th March: Romans 2:1-29
None of us can 'escape the judgment of God'. None of us can 'presume upon the riches of His kindness'(3-4). We dare not come to God like the Pharisee, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men...'. We can only come to Him with the prayer of the tax collector, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' (Luke 18:11-13). We must not pretend that we are 'righteous'. We must confess that we are 'sinners' (Luke 5:32). Sinners, lost, dead - We must hear this 'bad news if we are to come to a true appreciation of the Good News: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), 'The Son of man came to seek and save the lost' (Luke 19:10), 'God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved' (Ephesians 2:4-5).
16th March: Romans 3:1-31
We are sinners - every single one of us. There are no exceptions - 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. When we see ourselves as we really are - sinners - , we come to see that there is no way for us to earn God's love. We will never deserve to be loved by God. His love is always 'a gift' - 'the redemption which is in Christ Jesus' (23-24). Through 'faith' we look away from ourselves to Christ. We rejoice that 'His blood' was shed for us. We receive from Him the forgiveness of our sins. This is the love of God. This is His gift. He gave His Son to be our Saviour. He gives salvation to all who trust the Saviour. 'By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God' (Ephesians 2:8). No 'boasting' (27) - Rejoice in your Saviour!
17th March: Romans 4:1-25
Salvation is not a 'reward' to be 'earned'. It is God's 'gift' (4-5). Salvation comes from the Lord. 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (John 3:16): Without the love of God, the gift of God, the Son of God, there can be no salvation. The way of salvation does not begin with the word 'I'. Jesus Christ is the Way. He is the Saviour. Salvation is in Him (John 14:6; Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12). Looking to 'Jesus our Lord', crucified and raised for our salvation, we are saved and we give 'glory to God' (20-25). We rejoice in 'God our Saviour' - 'He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy...'(Titus 3:4-7). Looking away from ourselves to Christ, we learn the truth of God's Word: 'it is on the basis of faith that it may rest on grace' (16). This is Good News!
18th March: Proverbs 9:1-18
There is, in verse 5, a Gospel invitation: 'Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed'. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (10). 'This sounds so old-fashioned' - so the world tells us. 'The fear of the Lord' - This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! - It is a lack of obedience. When we do not 'honour' God, we are 'without sense'. 'Claiming to be wise', we show that we are 'fools'. If we are wise, we will keep 'going straight on the way', looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from 'the depths of hell' to the heights of heaven (13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2,6).
19th March: 1 Samuel 8:1-9:10
Israel's demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (8:5,20). Having 'rejected' the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They 'chose for themselves' (8:7,18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (22,18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul's reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: 'I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly' (26:21). 'He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them' (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul's reign. God had greater things in store for Israel - but not until Saul's reign was over!
20th March: 1 Samuel 9:11-10:16
The Lord is King: We must never forget this. A human king is no substitute for the divine King (8:7). God was not pleased with His people. They wanted to be 'like all the nations' (8:5). God refused to abandon His people. They wanted a king. He gave them their king (15-17). He would wait patiently for His people to make a whole-hearted return to Him. The Lord would wait patiently until 'a man after His own heart' would rule over 'His people' (13:14). A human king must never forget the divine King. He must not become 'too big for his boots'. He must not impose his own will. He must submit to God's will. This is what it means to be 'a man after God's own heart' - 'Not my will but Thine be done', 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven' (Luke 22:44; Matthew 6:10).
21st March: 1 Samuel 10:17-11:15
Everyone was so happy - 'Long live the king! (24). Everything seemed to be so promising - 'The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul' (6). God's people were victorious (11). God's people 'rejoiced greatly' (15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse - 'You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you' (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: 'Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word...When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away... The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful' (Mark 4:15,17,19). Pray - 'Deliver us from evil' (Matthew 6:13).
22nd March: Romans 5:1-21
God has great things in store for His people! (a) 'Much more' (9-10): 'Justified by Christ's blood', 'reconciled to God', 'We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God', 'saved by His life'. (b) 'Much more' (15,17): 'The grace of God' has 'abounded for many'. In Christ, we have 'received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness'. Through Him, we shall 'reign in life'. (c) 'More than that' (3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be 'suffering'. God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: 'grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord' (21). 'We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God' (2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our 'suffering' in a new light, the light of 'God's love' (3-5).
23rd March: 1 Samuel 12:1-13:15a
To the king as well as the people, God speaks in promise and warning: 'If both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well... If you will not hearken to the voice of the Lord...then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king' (12:14-15). Samuel was not afraid to speak very directly to the king - 'You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God...Your kingdom shall not continue' (13:13-14). Saul's reign was about to end. God's love continued: 'The Lord will not cast away His people, for His great Name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself' (12:22). Saul had become too full of himself and his own importance. He needed to be replaced by 'a man after God's own heart' (13:14). To the divine King be all the glory!
24th March: Romans 6:1-23
(a) 'We know that our old self was crucified' (6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you 'a new creation in Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:17). (b) 'Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus' (11) - Believe it . This is what the Lord has done: 'you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit...the Spirit of God dwells in you...Christ is in you...the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you...His Spirit dwells in you' (8:9-11). (c) 'Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life' (13) - Act upon it'. 'Walk in newness of life' (4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are 'not under law but under grace' (14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
25th March: 1 Samuel 13:15b- 14:23
Humanly speaking, Israel seemed to be 'no hopers' (13:22). There was, however, something else. The Lord was with His people and He would give them the victory (14:6,19,12,23). There is a very important lesson for us here: 'The weapons of our warfare are not worldly'. We are to 'put on the whole armour of God' (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:11-13). The victory does not come from our own strength. It comes from the Lord (Psalms 21:16; 21:7). In all our difficulties, we say, with faith, 'If God is for us, who can be against us?...In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us' (Romans 8:31,37). Do you want to have this strong faith which rejoices in the Lord, even when life is very difficult? - 'Wait on the Lord and renew your strength' (Isaiah 40:31).
26th March: 1 Samuel 14:24-52
Making mistakes - it's part of life for all of us: 'We all make mistakes. If any one makes no mistakes ...he is a perfect man' (James 3:2). What are we to make of the 'mistakes' made by Saul and Jonathan? Saul's 'mistake' was an error of judgment which 'troubled the land' (24,29). Jonathan's 'mistake' was unfortunate. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he 'had not heard' what had been going on before he arrived on the scene (27). It was almost his last 'mistake' (43-44)! How are we to react to our mistakes? We can be like Saul or we can learn from our mistakes. Digging in his heels, Saul blundered on from one 'mistake' to another. He acted like he was the 'perfect man' who never makes 'mistakes'. He had got it wrong, and he was the last to see it (44-45)! May God help us to learn from our mistakes!
27th March: Romans 7:1-25
God's purpose is not easily fulfilled in us. Our battle with sin is extremely intense. There is a great conflict going on within us. 'The Spirit' and 'the flesh' are at war with each other (Galatians 5:17). God has given us His Spirit - 'we serve...in the new life of the Spirit' (6). We are still sinners - 'I am carnal, a slave to sin' (14). These are two sides of the one coin. The Spirit is within us yet we remain sinners. Honestly confessing our sin, we say, 'Wretched man that I am!'. Gladly rejoicing in our Saviour, we say, 'Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!' (24-25). Despite our many defeats, we say, 'Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (8:39). Wait for 'the final result': 'God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:57).
28th March: 1 Samuel 15:1-35
Saul chose convenience rather than obedience. He did what he wanted - not what God commanded (3,9). Saul was disobedient. God was not pleased with him (10). Saul made big claims for himself: 'I have performed the commandment of the Lord' (13). This was nonsense. Samuel saw through it immediately - 'What then is this bleating...?'(14). Saul had done what suited himself. God said one thing. Saul did another. Saul tried to 'pass the buck'. He blamed 'the people' (21). Saul appears to confess his sin. Still, there is this element of 'passing the buck'. He blames 'the people' - 'They put me up to it. It was their idea' (24). This was 'the last straw'. For Saul, this was 'the end' - 'the show was over'. He would be replaced (26-28). Love God 'with all your heart...' - not just a part (Deuteronomy 6:5)!
29th March: 1 Samuel 16:1-23
'Samuel did what the Lord commanded' (4). Real obedience comes from 'the heart'. It is more than just 'keeping up appearances'(7). 'The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart' - This is something we must never forget!'. 'It's the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need' (Songs of Fellowship, 256) - This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in verses 13-14: 'the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David...the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul'. David exerted a good influence upon Saul (23). Sadly, however, Saul's best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ' a man after God's own heart' (13-14). Don't settle for second best when you can have God's very best!
30th March: Romans 8:1-39
Each of us must choose. We can 'live according to the flesh' or we can 'live according to the Spirit'. We can 'set the mind on the flesh' or we can 'set the mind on the Spirit' (5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater 'glory that will be revealed in us' (18). We have 'the first fruits of the Spirit'. 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 - 'an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you', 'the redemption of our bodies', 'the glorious liberty of the children of God' (21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (14,26,17).
31st March: Psalms 20:1-21:13
'We boast of the Name of the Lord our God...Through the steadfast love of the Most High' we 'shall not be moved' (20:7;21:7). We do not trust in things that 'collapse and fall'. We build on 'the Rock' (20:8; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalms 18:1-3; 62:5-7). We 'rejoice' in our God. He has made us 'most blessed for ever'(21:1,6; Ephesians 1:3). Think of Jesus Christ your Saviour. He is absolutely trustworthy. He is completely dependable. His love is an 'unfailing love' (21:7). In Him, there is salvation. In Him, there is joy. With His strong and powerful love, He has saved us. He has given us 'a new song' to sing, 'a song of praise to our God' (Psalm 40:1-3). Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise and worship: 'Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength,! We will sing and praise Thy power' (13).

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year Two - January

1st January: Joshua 1:1-18
For Israel, it was a new beginning. They were leaving the wilderness. That was their past. They were entering the promised land. This was God's future. For God's future there is God's command - 'Be strong' - and God's promise - 'the Lord your God is with you'. We wonder what the future holds. We wonder how it will all work out. God says, 'Don't be frightened. I will be with you wherever you go' (9). How can we face the future with confidence? How can we 'be strong in the Lord' (Ephesians 6:10)? How can we be sure that the Lord will never let us down (2 Corinthians 3:5)? How can we step out into a future full of His blessing? 'Meditate on His Word day and night'. Read your Bible - 'This Book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book': Which will it be? (8; Psalm 1:1-3).
2nd January: Joshua 2:1-24
The story of Rahab is summarized in Hebrews 11:31 - 'By faith...she gave a friendly welcome to the spies'. A friendly welcome - What an important thing this is! She spoke the word of encouragement - 'I know the Lord has given you this land' (9). This message of faith was taken back to Joshua (24). It was exactly what he needed! Few of us are 'big name' spiritual leaders like Joshua. All of us have an important part to play in the Lord's work. For every 'Joshua' we need plenty of 'Rahabs', giving the friendly welcome, speaking the word of encouragement. Let there be no more unhelpful, negative criticism - 'We cannot do this. We dare not do that. We must not do the other'. Let there be the friendly welcome, the word of encouragement. It will make such a difference - for the better!
3rd January: Joshua 3:1-17
'Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you' (5). 'Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth' (John 17:17). Together with the command, there is the prayer. We are called to set ourselves apart for God. We can only do this when we look to the Lord for His strength. We receive His strength through His Word. We give ourselves to the Lord. He gives His promise to us: 'the Lord will do wonders among you'. His promise of blessing is no guarantee of an easy time. In the promised land, there would be problems - and God: 'as I was with Moses, so I will be with you' (7). There would be conflict - and victory: 'the living God is among you...He will without fail drive out from before you...' (10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus - 'God with us' (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
4th January: Joshua 4:1-24
'These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever' (7). When, in the future, the question was asked, 'What do these stones mean?'(6), Israel would remember what the Lord had done for them (23). Knowing that 'the hand of the Lord is mighty', they would be strengthened to face their difficulties with confidence in God. Rejoicing in what the Lord has done - 'This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes' - , they would learn to 'fear the Lord their God for ever' (24; Psalm 118:23). Israel remembered. We must remember. When you're going through a hard time, don't forget - to remember! God has been good to you. He has blessed you. When God seems so far away, remember - and pray that, once again, 'times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord' (Acts 3:19).
5th January: Joshua 5:1-15
As you read about circumcision (2-7) and the Passover (10), think also of Paul's words in Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 - 'real circumcision is a matter of the heart', 'Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival...with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth'. 'The Commander of the Lord's army' came to Joshua (13-15). Christ comes to us. He calls us to worship. He equips us for battle. 'Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe...At the sign of triumph, Satan's legions flee...Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise...Like a mighty army moves the Church of God... Gates of hell can never 'gainst that Church prevail; We have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail...On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory' (Church Hymnary, 480).
6th January: Joshua 6:1-27
'The walls came tumbling down' - What a mighty work of God this was! It was 'the Lord' who gave Jericho into the hands of His people (16). His victory was received by faith: 'By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days' (Hebrews 11:30). Notice that the declaration of victory comes before the obedience of faith (2,16). We start out from victory. We do not achieve the victory by our own faith. The victory is given to us by the Lord. Faith simply receives the blessing already promised to us by the Lord. Faith expresses itself in obedience. Believing God's promise, they obeyed His command - and the blessing followed. They walked 'by faith, not by sight' (2 Corinthians 5:7) - 'It shall be done', not 'It can't be done'. Let us be 'devoted to the Lord' (17-19).
7th January: Joshua 7:1-26
This chapter begins with the word, 'But' - This is ominous! What comes next? - Sin: 'the people of Israel broke faith with regard to the devoted things'. The sin was Achan's, yet it affected the whole people of Israel: 'the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel' (1). Sin is like infection - it spreads! What kind of effect do your actions have on other people? Cain asked, 'Am I my brother's keeper (Genesis 4:9). His question was an expression of callous indifference. There is no place for this attitude among God's people: 'Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother' (Romans 14:13). Read the story of Achan, and remember this: 'Be sure your sin will find you out' (Numbers 32:23). Let no one have good cause to ask, 'Why did you bring trouble on us' (25).
8th January: Joshua 8:1-35
The victory was given by the Lord: 'I have given into your hand...' (1). The people still had to claim the victory. Israel's triumph was a spiritual victory from which we can learn much. We learn, first, that 'the battle is the Lord's' (7; 1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15). Believing the Lord's promise - 'the Lord your God will give it into your hand' (7) - we act upon His command: 'Do what the Lord has commanded' (8). God's work is to be done in God's way - Believing the promise, Obeying the command (18) - with God's Word at the centre. We need the whole Word of God - 'all that is written...'. In this, we learn from Joshua - 'He did not leave out one word from everything Moses had commanded'. We need 'the blessing and the curse' - the strong warnings as well as the precious promises (34-35).
9th January: Joshua 9:1-10:15
Some chose 'to make war against Joshua and Israel' (9:1-2). The Gibeonites came, looking for peace. They achieved their objective - 'Joshua made peace with them' (9:15). In this story we see the work of Satan, and we may catch a glimpse of the work of God. The 'peace' was based on deception. The Gibeonites 'acted with cunning' (9:4). The Israelites were easily deceived. They 'did not ask direction from the Lord' (9:14). The Gibeonites brought trouble to Israel (10:3-5). There were 'weeds among the wheat' - An enemy has done this' (Matthew 13:25,28). Through the grace of God, the Gibeonites' 'curse' could become a 'blessing'. Working at 'the place' of worship, they could come to know and love the Person who is worshipped (23,27; Psalm 84:4). Let Christ bring you from 'no peace' to real peace (Jeremiah 6:14; Romans 5:1).
10th January: Acts 1:1-26
We read, in John 7:39, that 'the Spirit' would not be 'given' until Jesus was 'glorified'. Now, as Jesus was about to be 'taken up...into heaven', He tells His apostles, 'the Holy Spirit' will 'come upon you' (11,8). He gives them His Word of promise: 'I send the promise of my Father upon you'. He gives them His Word of command: 'stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high' (Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only 'be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles 'devote themselves to prayer' (14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God's gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
11th January: Acts 2:1-47
'No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Corinthians 12:3). 'In Jerusalem', on 'the day of Pentecost' there are 'Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven' (1,5). They are 'amazed' at what they hear - 'we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God' (7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). 'To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!' (Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking 'as the Spirit gave them utterance', the apostles pave the way for Peter's bold proclamation: 'God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified' (36). Empowered 'by the Holy Spirit', this message - 'Jesus is Lord' - is still God's way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit's power. Look to God for His blessing (41-47).
12th January: Joshua 10:16-11:15
God gives the promise. Believing His promise, we obey His command, pressing on to victory (25,6). This is God's way of victory: 'go in to take possession of the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess' (1:11). As we read of Joshua's military exploits, we must not lose sight of the spiritual dimension: 'the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel' (42). This is what we must learn. The victory does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord who fights for us. Through 'the obedience of faith' (Romans 1:5), - believing God's promise, we obey His command - , the Lord's victory becomes a living reality in our lives. Joshua built on the foundation laid for him by Moses (12,15). Learning from 'the apostles and prophets', we build on God's Foundation, 'Jesus Christ' (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
13th January: Joshua 11:16-12:24
What is the spiritual value of this list of victories? Don't be sidetracked by the military aspect. This is not about Israel blowing its own trumpet. It is about giving glory to God. In Genesis 12:1-3, we have God's promise to bring blessing to all nations. Before Christ came as 'the Saviour of the world' (John 4:42), Israel was to become 'a great nation' - 'a holy nation', 'a light to the nations' (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 49:6). This involved the 'curse' on the rebellious peoples who presented a sinful obstacle to God's saving purpose. The Lord is King! The united people of God won a decisive victory in 'the whole land' (11:23). There was, however, still 'very much land to be possessed' by the individual tribes (13:1). God's Word is preached publicly. It must also be applied personally - by you!
14th January: Acts 3:1-26
'Laid daily at the gate of the temple', the 'man lame from birth' had seen plenty of 'ordinary' days (2). This was no 'ordinary' day. This was a day for 'walking, and leaping, and praising God' (9). Jesus Christ can do for us what 'silver and gold' cannot do (6). He is 'the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith' (Romans 1:16). From the healing of the lame man came a great opportunity for Peter to preach the Gospel to 'the people' (10-12). Peter gave all the glory to God. Peter and John had not performed this miracle by their 'own power or piety' (12). This was the work of God, 'the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob', the God who raised Jesus from the dead (13-16). This is the God who calls us to return to Him. 'Turn' to Him. He will forgive your sins. He will send 'times of refreshing' (19).
15th January: Acts 4:1-5:11
Peter preached Christ with great boldness: 'There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved' (12). This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was 'filled with the Holy Spirit' (4:8). Don't say, 'I'm no Peter'. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from 'the company of those who believed'. They 'gathered together' for prayer. They 'were of one heart and soul'...' (31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don't pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you're really like. 'Search me, O God...' (Psalm 139:23-24).
16th January : Proverbs 7:1-27
The way of obedience is the way of life: 'keep My commandments and live' (2). This is not a shallow legalism. It is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is 'walking in the Spirit'. It is living as 'a new creation'. We do not glory in our own obedience. We 'glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 5:16; 6:16,14). Obedience is a mark of spiritual maturity. The 'mature' are 'those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil' (Hebrews 5:14). In His Word, God shows us how we are to live and how we are not to live. We must 'listen' to God. We must 'be attentive' to His Word, thinking on and doing 'these things' which will glorify Him (24; Philippians 4:8-9). 'Sin so easily entangles...let us fix our eyes on Jesus' (25-27; Hebrews 12:1-2).
17th January: Joshua 13:1-14:15
God has given the land to Israel. Still, there was the challenge: 'there is still very much land to be possessed' (13:1). 'God...has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing'. Now, we must 'lead a life worthy of His calling' (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1). 'Joshua was old and advanced in years'. Caleb was 'eighty five years old' (13:1; 14:10).These were men of faith. Forty five years earlier, they had called on the people to trust and obey: 'The Lord...will bring us into this land...Only, do not rebel against the Lord' (14:7-10; Numbers 14:6-9). They had persevered: 'I press on...'. They had been preserved: 'Kept by the power of God' (Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 1:5). 'I am still as strong to this day as I was', 'We will serve the Lord' (14:11; 24:15). This is faith -for yesterday, today and tomorrow!
18th January: Acts 5:12-6:7
There was great blessing: 'More than ever believers were added to the Lord' (14). There was persecution (17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles 'devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word'. They were supported by 'seven men...known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom' (3-4). Armed with 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God', let us be 'be strong in the Lord' - 'filled with the Spirit' - as we 'let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly' (Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (7).
19th January: Joshua 15:1-63
'The land of Negeb' had little water. The request was made - 'Give me also springs of water'. The request was granted. Trusting in the Lord's promise - 'the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him', we receive His blessing - 'rivers of living water' (19; Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39). 'The people of Judah could not drive out' the Jebusites. We may contrast Judah's failure with Caleb's faith - 'the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord said'. Learning from Judah's failure - 'Do not be conformed to this world' - , we must build on Caleb's faith - 'Be transformed by the renewal of your mind'. Let us commit ourselves to doing 'God's will - His good, pleasing and perfect will' (63; 14:12; Romans 12:2). Do His will. Let His 'rivers of living water' flow freely.
20th January: Acts 6:8-8:3
In life and death, Stephen was Christlike. In life and death, he made a great impact. In life, we see him, 'full of grace and power', doing 'great wonders and signs among the people'. People noticed that 'his face was like the face of an angel'. Even his enemies took notice of him. Unable to 'withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke', they decided that he needed to be silenced. (6:8,15,10-11). In death, we hear him praying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord, do not hold this sin against them' (7:59-60). In Stephen's words, we hear an echo of Christ's words from the Cross (Luke 23:34,46). Stephen was dying. Stephen was praying. Saul was watching. Saul was listening (8). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (9:4-6)!
21st January: Joshua 16:1-17:18
Compromise is a poor substitute for obedience. Fail to obey God, and you may have to live with the consequences of your disobedience: 'they did not drive out the Canaanites...so the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day (16:10). Settling for anything less than God's very best will surely lead us far from Him and His blessing: 'He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them' (Psalm 106:15). If we are to make real spiritual progress, we must not rest on our laurels' - 'We are a numerous people'. We must do the work of God: 'you shall drive out the Canaanites'. Our obedience must be more than 'empty words'. We must not live as 'the sons of disobedience'. We must 'live as the children of light' - 'God's own people' (14,18; Ephesians 5:6-10; 1 Peter 2:9).
22nd January: Acts 8:4-40
Make sure that it's real! Simon the magician was impressed by the 'signs and great miracles', but his 'heart' was 'not right before God' (13,19). The Ethiopian's conversion was real. Searching the Scriptures, he found the Saviour (30-35). From the Ethiopian's conversion, we learn of Jesus' promise: 'Seek and you will find'. From Simon's tragedy, we hear Jesus' warning: 'Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord", shall enter the kingdom of heaven...' (Matthew 7:7,21-23). What is God saying to us from these two very different stories? - 'Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure' (2 Peter 1:10). 'Search me, O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Lord, and know my thoughts I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me, Cleanse me from every sin and set me free' (Mission Praise. 587).
23rd January: Joshua 18:1-19:51
'How long will you be slack to go in and take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?' (18:3). God has given us so much: 'His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness'. How much are we giving ourselves to Him? - 'Make every effort to add to your faith...If you do this you will never fail; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 1:3-11). In Joshua, we see a fine example of the Christlike spirit - 'not to be served but to serve' (Mark 10:45). After 'they had finished distributing the... land', Joshua received his 'inheritance'. He led with the attitude of a servant. He wasn't 'in it only for what he could get out of it' - the city he chose had to be 'rebuilt' (49-50)!
24th January: Acts 9:1-43
Saul the persecutor become Paul the Apostle (13:9). What a great turning-point this was in the life of the early Church! When we read of Paul's missionary journeys (13:1-28:31). we may be tempted to think, 'What a great man Paul must have been'. In his letters, Paul insists that we must not think like this. He tells us that 'nothing good dwells within' him. Paul never forgot his 'past': 'I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him'. Paul describes himself as 'the worst of sinners'. Paul gives his testimony: 'The grace of God was poured on me abundantly' (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). God's true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, 'The Lord Jesus...has sent me...'(17). Saul 'preached boldly in the Name of Jesus' (27). Peter said, 'Jesus Christ heals you...' (34).
25th January: Joshua 20:1-21:45
We read of manslaughter, 'the cities of refuge' and the death of the high priest (20:1-6). What does all this have to do with us? We are sinners. Jesus Christ has died for us. He is our Refuge. He is our Great High Priest. In Him, there is 'no condemnation'. In Him, we become 'a new creation' (Matthew 5:21-22; Romans 5:8; 8:1; Hebrews 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Israel's story is a human story. It is also the Lord's Story (43-45). We fail God. He never fails us (2 Timothy 2:13). Sin threatens to overwhelm us. The Lord comes to us with His promise of deliverance and victory (Romans 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Our spiritual progress is so slow - 'little by little'(Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22-24). God does not lose patience with us (Psalm 103:8-13). He never stops loving us!
26th January:Acts 10:1-11:18
'When the Holy Spirit comes on you...you will be my witnesses...to the ends of the earth' (1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches 'the Gentiles' (10:45; 11:1,18) - is a movement of 'the Spirit' (11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God's Word, we read of (a) God's love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God's Son who died for 'the sins of the whole world' (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God's command that 'the Good News' should be preached to 'everyone' (Mark 16:15); (d) God's purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). 'Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save...Here am I, send me' (Youth Praise, 128). 'Go forth and tell!' (Mission Praise, 178).
27th January: Joshua 22:1-34
Joshua had heard God's Word (1:8). Now, he speaks God's Word to the people (5). To those who 'have obeyed' Him, God says, 'Keep on obeying Me'. This is the way of blessing (1-6). Together with God's promise of blessing, we need His warning against rebellion: 'Do not rebel against the Lord' (19). Why does God warn us against the dangers of 'rebellion against the Lord' (16)? It is because He wants us to say with heart and voice: 'Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord' (29). Our 'resolution' seems so weak - 'I feel like giving up'. The temptation to 'rebel against the Lord' seems so strong - 'I feel like I can't go on'. Let us pray for a stronger faith in God - 'The Lord is God' - and a richer experience of His presence - 'We know that the Lord is in the midst of us' (34,31).
28th January: Joshua 23:1-16
God has done, is doing and will do great things for us (3-5, 8-10). He calls us to 'obey' Him, to 'hold fast' to Him, to 'love' Him (6,8,11). The pattern of Joshua's teaching - 'This is what the Lord has done' (3-5) 'Therefore' 'This is what you must do' (6-8) - is similar to Paul's approach in Romans and Ephesians. In Romans 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3, Paul grounds his readers in the truth of the Gospel. In Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1, he says, 'Therefore'. Here are the practical implications. In the light of all that the Lord has done for you, this is how you must live for Him. Be strong in the Lord. In Him, we have the victory (10; Psalm 3:6). Maintain your love for God. Don't presume on God's blessing. There is no guarantee of blessing for those who 'turn back' from following the Lord (11-13,15-16). He has not failed us (14). We must not fail Him!
29th January: Joshua 24:1-33
Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (15,29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (16-18,21, 24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision - a definite, public commitment to the Lord (24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua's preaching. What God has done for Israel (2-13) is followed by 'Therefore...' (14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, 'Do I really mean it' (19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: 'Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness' (14). Make your own commitment to the Lord. Give your testimony - 'as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'. Pray that others will also say 'We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him (15,24). Let us 'serve the Lord all the days' of our life (31).
30th January: Acts 11:19-12:25
Barnabas 'was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord' (11:24). Let's be like Barnabas, giving ourselves to the Lord and asking Him to make us more useful in His service. Great things can happen when 'earnest prayer' is 'made to God by the church' - God 'is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think' (5-7; Ephesians 3:20). Give all the glory to the Lord. Herod 'did not give God the glory'. He accepted the praise of the people - 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man'. Herod's sudden death - 'an angel of the Lord struck him down' - is a warning (12:22-23; Proverbs 29:1). 'Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap'. 'Walk humbly with your God' (Galatians 6:7; Micah 6:8).
31st January: Psalm 18:25-50
'This God' is 'our God'. He is 'the Rock'. He is 'my Rock'. No one can compare with the Lord our God. He is the living God, the God of our salvation (30-31,46). In the Lord, we have salvation: 'You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty'. In our God, we have victory: 'You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet' (27,39). Do you want to enjoy God's blessing - His salvation and His victory? God says, 'Clothe yourselves with humility'. Together with His command, we have God's warning - 'God opposes the proud' - and God's promise - He 'gives grace to the humble' (1 Peter 5:5). There is a question which each of us must answer: 'Who is on the Lord's side? There is an answer which of us must give: 'We are on the Lord's side' (Church Hymnary, 479).

Keep On Worshipping The Lord.

" And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good works, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the ...