Charles’s quotes


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

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - May

1st May: Genesis 37:1-36
Here, we have human sin and divine grace. We see jealousy (11) and its effects: 'where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice' (James 3:16). There is God working out His purpose: 'you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good' (50:20). In his dreams, Joseph was given a glimpse of the 'new thing' (Isaiah 43:19) God was about to do. Joseph's situation seemed hopeless: 'cast...into a pit', 'sold' into slavery (24,28). God was in this situation. Each of us is in a 'pit', but we are not alone. Jesus has gone into the 'pit' for us, and He has come out of it victorious: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?'. Slaves of Satan, we have been set free by Christ (Romans 6:17-18; Hebrews 2:14-15). God was with Joseph. He is with us.
2nd May: Genesis 38:1-30
'Judah went down from his brothers, and turned in to a certain Adullamite...' (1-2). This is the sad story of so many people: Drawn away by an unbelieving man/woman from the fellowship of God's people. The story then goes from bad to worse. A whole catalogue of disasters follows. God is mentioned in only two verses (7,10). Both speak of human sin and divine judgment. God's Word is clear: Believers are not to be joined in marriage to unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Lower your spiritual defences at this point, and you are asking for big trouble! Satan is ready to sweep in and cause chaos. This sad story of sin and shame stands as a warning to us. Do not rush into sinful choices. Put God first, and let Him lead you in His perfect way: 'Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well' (Matthew 6:33).
3rd May: Genesis 39:1-23
In chapter 38, we read of unbridled lust. Here, we read of sexual restraint: 'how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' (9). Sin brings complications, and so does obedience! There is, in fact, only one complication - sin. We live in a sinful world, which has no real interest in obedience to God. We must be realistic: 'all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted' (2 Timothy 3:12). Obedience and persecution - we see both in the story of Joseph. He was tempted, but he did not sin (7-9). Temptation is not sin. God provides 'the way of escape' (1 Corinthians 10:13). Christ is 'the way' (John 14:6), God's way of escape. We go to Him when we are tempted (Hebrews 2:16; 4:15-16). Joseph was put into prison, 'but the Lord was with him, and showed him steadfast love' (20-21) - 'persecuted, but not forsaken'' (2 Corinthians 4:9).
4th May: Matthew 23:1-39
As you read Jesus' stinging words, remember this: there is a 'Pharisee'' in every one of us! Jesus disturbs the 'peace' of 'those who sit at ease in Zion' (Amos 6:1). He invites us to see ourselves as God sees us: 'before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do' (Hebrews 4:13). Why does Christ speak such disturbing words? - He loves us. He longs for us to return to Him and be forgiven. Many times He comes to us - 'How often would I have gathered you'. Many times we refuse His appeal of love: 'you would not' (37). You may have refused Him often, yet still He waits. Still, He perseveres in love. Still, He seeks to show you the emptiness of your life without Him - 'forsaken and desolate' (38). Still, He waits for you to say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord' (39).
5th May: Matthew 24:1-31
After the first two verses, concerned with the destruction of the temple, Jesus speaks of 'the sign of His coming and of the end of the age' (3). There will be times of testing (9,21). We must take care not to be drawn away from Him (4,23-24). Beyond the time of testing, there will be the return of the Lord (29-30). The events of our day are not without significance. They are signs of His coming. We are to prepare ourselves for His return. We must live as servants of the Gospel (14). This will not be easy. There will always be opposition. Current affairs may be confusing, but we must look beyond all this to 'the momentous event': 'the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory' (30). Awaiting the Lord's return, we say, 'If no-one joins me, still I will follow' (Mission Praise, 272).
6th May: Matthew 24:32-25:13
'The times they are-a-changing'. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, 'My words will not pass away' (35). In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: 'The Word of the Lord stands forever' (1 Peter 1:25). The scoffers will say, 'Where is the promise of His coming?' (2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that 'He is near' (33). Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). When He returns need not concern us: 'the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect' (44). We are to be ready at all times (13) - doing the Lord's will (46). We are to be 'faithful and wise' (45). As 'the bride of Christ' (Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him' (6).
7th May: Matthew 25:14-46
We are to be faithful to God (21). There is a reward for faithfulness (29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our 'reward' is not to get more glory for ourselves: 'what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord' (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, 'What am I going to get out of this?'. We are to be asking, 'What can I give to others?'. The 'righteous' are not full of boasting about their 'righteous' actions (37-38). The Lord's true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have 'talents'? Yes - you do! Use them! 'Serve the Lord with gladness' (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your 'reward': the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to 'enter the joy of our Lord' (21). In heaven, there will be 'fullness of joy' and 'pleasure for evermore' (Psalm 16:11).
8th May: Proverbs 3:5-18
'Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3:18). If we are to know the Lord, we must come to an end of ourselves: 'Be not wise in your own eyes' (7), 'do not rely on your own insight' (5). True knowledge of God comes through faith: 'Trust in the Lord...' (5). True knowledge of God is heart-knowledge: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart' (5). Knowing Christ involves growing in grace. We cannot get to know God apart from the grace of God working within us. Growth in grace is not always a smooth pathway (11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11). Never forget: 'the Lord's discipline' is an expression of the Lord's love. 'Lord, You are more precious than silver, Lord, You are more costly than gold, Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds, And nothing I desire compares with You' (13-15; Mission Praise,447).
9th May: Genesis 40:1-23
God gave Joseph power to overcome temptation (chapter 39). Now, He gives him power to interpret dreams. Here, Joseph the dreamer (37:5-11) becomes Joseph the interpreter of dreams. Joseph may be viewed as a prophet: 'Surely the Lord does nothing, without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets' (Amos 3:7). As a true prophet, he gives the glory to God alone: 'Do not interpretations belong to God?' (8). Joseph became the forgotten man (23). For Joseph, life had become very difficult. He had known prosperity (39:2-3). Now, he was suffering adversity. God is in both our prosperity and our adversity. He uses adversity to produce in us a heart of humility. What was Joseph doing while he was in prison? He was keeping close to God, waiting patiently for his 'time to speak' (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
10th May: Genesis 41:1-57
'After two whole years', Joseph was still the forgotten man. Then Pharaoh had a dream (1). This was the beginning of the next stage of God's plan for Joseph. In the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream, Joseph directs attention to God: 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer...God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do...God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do... the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass (16,25,28,32). Joseph spoke with divine authority because 'the Spirit of God' was living in him (38). God was at work in Joseph, enabling him to forget his hardship and to be fruitful in his affliction (51-52). This is the work of divine grace - a reversal of human expectations. By God's grace, hardship and affliction lead not to bitterness and resentment but to a deeper love for the Lord.
11th May: Genesis 42:1-38
'Joseph's brothers...bowed themselves before him' (6): Remember Joseph's dream (37:5-11)! God is fulfilling His purpose. This has nothing to do with the glory of Joseph. It has everything to do with the glory of God. Joseph was exalted to a place of honour because he was a man of God: 'I fear God' (18). All the glory belongs to God alone! Joseph\s treatment of his brothers seemed harsh. In verse 24, we see another side of him: 'he turned away from them and wept'. Joseph loved his brothers. Behind his 'harsh' words, there was love. He wanted them to recognize their sin (38:18-33). He was paving the way for his reunion with them in brotherly love. God loves us. Sometimes, His ways seem harsh, but they are always for our best (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-11). He shows us how much our sin hurts Him so that we might see how much He loves us.
12th May: Genesis 43:1-34
The roles have been reversed. At the beginning of Joseph's story, it seemed that the brothers had control over his destiny (37:19-20). Now, Joseph has the upper hand. Ultimately , it was the Lord who was in control. In all the events of Joseph's life, God had been leading him towards the re-uniting of the family through which He would work out His purpose of grace. Joseph, the man at the centre of God's purpose, knew the God of grace and desired that others might also know the blessing of the gracious God (29). Benjamin was Joseph's only full brother. The others were step-brothers (29:31-30:24; 35: 16-18). Joseph had a special affection for Benjamin (30). In the love of Joseph for Benjamin, we see God's love for us: 'My compassion grows warm and tender' (Hosea 11: 8); 'I have loved you with an everlasting love' (Jeremiah 31:3).
13th May: Genesis: 44:1-34
God is fulfilling His purpose: 'the brothers fell before Joseph to the ground' (14; 37:7, 10). God's purpose is moving towards its ultimate fulfilment: 'that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow' (Phillipians 2:10). As God's purpose moves forward, the brothers are being changed from men who sold their brother into slavery to men who will welcome him again as their long-lost brother (37:28; 45:15). God wants to change us - 'Jesus, You are changing me, By Your Spirit You're making me like You. Jesus, You're transforming me, That Your loveliness may be seen in all I do.You are the potter and I am the clay. Help me to be willing to let You have Your way. Jesus, You are changing me, as I let You reign supreme within my heart' (Mission Praise, 389). Bowing the knee to Jesus Christ begins here and now.
14th May: Genesis 45:1-28
In the reunion of Joseph with his brothers, there is a great testimony to the God of grace: 'Do not be distressed... because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life...God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God... God has made me lord of all Egypt' (5,7-9). Joseph was the pioneer. He went ahead of the others. He paved the way for them. Jesus is 'the Pioneer of our salvation'. He will 'bring many sons to glory'. He will welcome us as His 'brothers' (Hebrews 2:10-12). Jesus is also the 'Perfecter of our faith' (Hebrews 12:2). He is leading us to 'a better country - a heavenly one' (Hebrews 11:16). Let 'every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord' (Philipians 2:11). Let it begin here on earth.
15th May: Matthew 26:1-13
Jesus was on His way to the Cross (2). His death was the direct result of the hatred of men (3-4). It was also the supreme demonstration of the love of God (Romans 5:8). In verses 6-13, we read of a woman who loved Jesus very much. Jesus was deeply moved by her great love for Him. He wanted everyone to know about her deep devotion to Him: 'Truly, I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her' (13). We read in Acts of the advance of the Gospel (1: 8). Great crowds became believers (2:41; 4:4; 6:7). In all of this, Jesus says to us, 'Don't forget the woman. Don't forget her love'. Love for Jesus - simple, sincere, childlike love - this is the most important thing of all: 'O for grace to love Him more' (Church Hymnary, 676).
16th May: Matthew 26:14-35
Peter and Judas Iscariot had something in common. They both failed their Lord (14-16, 34). Things turned out very differently for them (27:3-5; Acts 2:38-42). When we fail the Lord , we find ourselves at a cross-roads. We can turn to Him. We can turn away from Him. In view of His great love for us - His 'blood' has been 'poured out for the forgiveness of sins' (28) - how can we turn our backs on Him? How can you and I say 'No' to such love? There is no reason why we should say 'No' to Him - yet we do! Do we doubt that He is there for us? Do we wonder if He really loves us? What about you? Do you think that He cannot or will not forgive your sins? He can and He will. That's why He died - 'for the forgiveness of sins' (28).
17th May: Matthew 26:36-56
Jesus' suffering is increasing. What pain His disciples caused Him. Three times, He 'found them sleeping' (40-45), 'My betrayer is at hand' (46), 'all the disciples forsook Him and fled' (56)! Was this the end of the road for His disciples? No! With one exception - Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus still called 'friend' (50), the others became men of prayer (Acts 1:13-14). They stood with Peter as he preached the Gospel, as he led many sinners to the Saviour (Acts 2:14,37-38). Jesus loved His disciples. He died for them. Then - after Jesus was 'glorified' - the Spirit was 'given' to them (John 7:39). The fleeing disciples became men 'on fire' (Acts 2:3). No more 'fleeing'. Now it was 'flowing' - 'rivers of living water' (John 7:38). 'Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy' (Mission Praise, 445).
18th May: Matthew 26:57-75
'Peter followed Him at a distance' (58). He didn't want to get too close! Keeping your distance from Jesus leads to trouble! Trouble was not the end of Peter's story. Three times Peter denied the Lord (69-75). Three times Jesus asked him, 'Do you love me?', three times Peter answered Jesus, 'I love You' (John 21:15-17) - For each denial, an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Jesus. Three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41) - For each denial, one 'thousand souls' brought to Christ. The contrast between the 'Peter' of the Gospels and the 'Peter' of Acts is striking. When Jesus first met Peter, He said, 'You are Simon...You shall be called Peter' (John 1:42). 'Peter' means 'rock'. Peter's confession of faith - 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (16:16) - is the Rock on which our faith is built. With Peter, let us confess Christ.
19th May: Psalm 7:1-17
Scripture speaks to us of both judgment and salvation (6,10; Hebrews 9:27-28). The Gospel brings salvation, - 'God sent the Son... that the world might be saved...'. There is also a warning - 'he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God' (John 3:17-18). The Lord does not wish 'that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance'. Nevertheless, there will be 'the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men' (2 Peter 3:9,7). What is happening here on earth? - 'the wicked man...makes a pit...and falls into the hole which he has made' (14-15). What does God say about this? - 'If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword...' (12), 'God... commands all men everywhere to repent' (Acts 17:30). God calls for 'repentance' and 'faith in our Lord Jesus Christ' - 'Repent and believe the Gospel' (Acts 20:21; Mark 1:15).
20th May: Genesis 46:1-34
Jacob goes to Egypt. There were three factors in Jacob's guidance: Inner desire - He wanted to see Joseph; Circumstances - Joseph wanted to see him and his sons were going to take him; God's Word - God told him to go. With God's command there was also His promise - 'I will there make of you a great nation'. There was no need for fear because God would be with him (3-4). Life would not be easy in Egypt - 'every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians' (34). We live in a world which does not honour Christ as 'the Good Shepherd' (John 10:11,14), 'the Great Shepherd' (Hebrews 13:20-21), 'the Chief Shepherd' (1 Peter 5:4). In Christ, we are 'a holy nation'. Why has God made us His 'own people'? - 'that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him..' (1 Peter 2:9). 'The nations are waiting for us, waiting for the gospel we will bring' (Songs of Fellowship, 539).
21st May: Genesis 47:1-26
Jacob and Joseph - the two stories are one. Christ and the Christian - our story is bound up with His story. Jacob reflects on his life - 'What has it all amounted to?'. He does not sing his own praises (8-9). Let the glory be given to God and not kept for ourselves. Joseph provided food for his family (12). Jesus has provided for us something better than food (Matthew 4:4) - 'an eternal redemption' (Hebrews 9:12). Grateful to Joseph for what he had done for them, the people said, 'You have saved our lives...we will be slaves' (25). Saved by Christ we are to be 'slaves' of Christ (Romans 6:17-18). We belong to Christ. We are to serve Him. We look to Him to 'give us seed (His Word)...that the land may not be desolate' (19; Mark 4:14; Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 126:5-6). We 'sow'. We 'reap'. 'God gives the growth' (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) !
22nd May: Matthew 27:1-26
Jesus went to the Cross for us. Refusing to protest His own innocence, He took our guilt upon Himself. Observing this, 'the governor wondered greatly' (14). We also should wonder greatly at this - Christ took our place, receiving the punishment that should have been ours. Barabbas was released, Christ was crucified (26). This is the great exchange - the sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21). As well as its divine aspect - 'God so loved...' (John 3:16) - the Cross has a human dimension - the people, Jews and Gentiles (the whole sinful world), sent Jesus to the Cross. For Jews and Gentiles ('the whole world'), Christ has provided salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 John 2:2). In the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ, we are invited to ask ourselves, 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (22).
23rd May: Matthew 27:27-54
The 'King of the Jews' wore 'a crown of thorns' (29). In the Cross, we see the King. The way of crucifixion - this is the way of the Kingdom. The prayer, 'Thy Kingdom come' (6: 10), could only be answered by way of the Cross. From the Cross, we hear the call for decision. It is the call of love. The love of Christ calls for our answer: 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (22). Here, we see different responses to Christ - derision, mocking, reviling (39-44); misunderstanding (47-49); believing worship (54). How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6). Salvation comes from above, from God - 'The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom' (51).
24th May: Matthew 27:55-66
'Mary the mother of James and Joseph' was also the mother of Jesus (56; 13:55). She began by receiving Jesus, not only as her son but also as her Saviour (Luke 1:38). She was still following Jesus - 'kept by the power of God' (1 Peter 1:5). None of us - not even the mother of Jesus - can walk with the Lord without His grace keeping us in the way of faith. The unbelieving world still denies Christ - 'that imposter' (63) - and His resurrection - 'fraud' (64). As believers, we must maintain our testimony: 'He has risen from the dead' (64). The unbelievers expected a 'fraud'. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them! Unbelief says, 'Resurrection? - Impossible!'. Faith says, 'it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him' (Acts 2:24). He has risen (28:6) - Hallelujah!
25th May: Proverbs 3:19-35
'You will walk on your way securely...for the Lord will be your confidence' (23,26). Trusting in the Lord, we are to say, 'He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold' (Job 23:10). Our faith is under threat. There is the danger of 'sudden panic' (25). We are faced with the 'man of violence...the perverse man...the wicked...the scorners...fools' (31-35). What are we to do? Even in the most testing and trying times, we must hold on to this: God is at work for our holiness - 'Refiner's fire, my heart's one desire is to be holy. Set apart for You, Lord, I choose to be holy, set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will' (Songs of Fellowship, 475). Submitted to God's holy purpose, we rejoice in this: Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39).
26th May: Genesis 47:27- 48:22
No more fear (46:3). No more pride (47:9). Now, no more doubt - God will bless (15-16, 19-21). Let it be confidence (Philippians 1:6), humility (John 15:5) and faith (Hebrews 11:1; Philippians 3:14). Man's way is set aside - 'his younger brother shall be greater than he' (19). We are 'saved by grace' (Ephesians 2:8). There is one way of salvation - God's way (John 14:6). Israel was promised a 'land' (21). In Christ, we are being led on to 'a better country...a heavenly one' (Hebrews 11:16). Jacob said, 'I am about to die' (21). Jesus says, 'I died and...I am alive for evermore' (Revelation 1:18). He says, 'I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also' (John 14:3). No more fear, pride, doubt - Christ saves 'to the uttermost' (Hebrews 7:25).
27th May: Genesis 49:1-27
Jacob blesses his sons, 'blessing each with the blessing suitable to him' (28). The most significant blessings are reserved for Joseph (22-26). This is not simply the blessing of Jacob. This is the blessing of 'the Mighty One of Jacob...the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel...the God of your father...God Almighty' (24-25). God blesses us 'with blessings of heaven above, blessings which are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills' (25-26). He does this for us in Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of the divine purpose within which Joseph was privileged to take his part. 'God... has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 1:3). What blessings He has given to us - the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, eternal life (Ephesians 1:7,13-14)! 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits' (Psalm 103:2).
28th May: Genesis 49:28- 50:26
It was a time of 'very great and sorrowful lamentation' (10). Jacob had died (33). Soon, Joseph would be gone (26). God was still there. He had been there in the past (20). He would be there in the future (24-25). Times are hard. We rejoice: 'The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases'. An earthly life has ended. We say, 'His mercies never come to an end'. We cannot cope. We discover that 'His mercies are new every morning'. Everything seems to be changing. We trust in God's unchanging love: 'Great is Thy faithfulness'. It seems hopeless. We say, 'I will hope in the Lord' (Lamentations 3:22-24). 'Bad' things are happening to you. Do you need to be 'reassured... and comforted'? - 'God meant it for good...Do not fear'. The Lord 'will provide for you' (20-21). Whatever happens, remember this - God is in control, and He loves you (Romans 8:28)!
29th May: Matthew 28:1-10
The resurrection declares Christ's victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: 'He has risen' - His 'perfect love casts out fear' (5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning 'in fact - Christ has been raised from the dead' (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ's resurrection - , there is worship (9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. 'He has risen' (6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where 'they will see' Jesus (10). We are to 'make disciples' (19). Run and tell - with great joy (8)!
30th May: Matthew 28:11-20
Why is it so important that we 'make disciples' (19)? There is a devil, and he is doing his utmost to hinder the progress of God's truth. He spreads lies about Christ - 'to this day' he is still sowing seeds of unbelief (11-15). We must combat the enemy of Christ - with words of truth, with the believing declaration, 'He has risen' (6-7). Satan failed to halt the progress of the Gospel. Christ's disciples rose to the challenge, and so must we: 'Rise up, you champions of God...We'll reach this generation...Go forth! Jesus loves them. Go forth! Take the Gospel. Go forth! The time is now. The harvest is ripening; Go forth! Feel now the burden of the Lord. Feel how He longs to save them. Feel now for those who never heard...Now is the time' (Songs of Fellowship, 486). 'All authority...has been given to Me...I am with you always' (18-20).
31st May: Psalm 8:1-9
The Lord is 'majestic' (1,9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He show us His greatness, the greatness of His love. We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (4). We are tempted. He will 'still the enemy' (2). We look beyond our creation (5-8) to our salvation - 'we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone...that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil' (Hebrews 2:8-9,14). This is 'Majesty' - 'Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings'. The Name of the Lord is majestic 'in all the earth' (1, 9). To God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we pray, 'Glorify Your Name in all the earth' (Mission Praise. 454,142).

A Word That Reaches The Heart

“O Lord … Say to my soul, I am your Saviour”  (Psalm 35:1,3).
Assurance of our salvation comes to us from the Lord Himself. He speaks to us. His Word is a deep Word. It reaches the heart.

The Lord never lets us down. He lifts us up.

 * "O Lord, I cry to You for help!" (Joel 1:19).
We look to some people for help - and they're no help to us, God is never like that. He is our Helper. He's always there for us. We call upon Him - and He helps us. He's "the help of the helpless" (from the hymn, "Abide with me"). We may not always feel 'helped' - but we have been helped, much more than we'll ever realize! Praise God! Thank Him for His help - even when you're only very vaguely aware of just how much He has helped you.  
 * "Even now, declares the Lord, return to Me with all your heart" (Joel 2:12).
"Now" - returning to the Lord is not to be left until later on. With all your heart" - a real return to the Lord must never be a half-hearted thing.
 
* "The Lord will be a refuge for His people" (Joel 3:1).
People let us down. The Lord never lets us down. He lifts us up.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Kept!

 * “His feet do not slip … They will be kept safe forever” (Psalm 37:31,28).
Our  feet are slipping. Things are getting out of control. Out of whose control? – Out of our control. Not out of God’s control. He keeps us safe. He keeps our feet from slipping.
 * “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way” (Psalm 37:34).
How do we keep on walking in the way of the Lord? It is the Lord who keeps us walking in His way. Before we can “keep His way”, we must “wait on Him.” If we are to keep on walking with the Lord, we must keep on waiting on Him. “Wait on the Lord” – This is faith. It is looking away from ourselves to the Lord. Left to our own devices, we will wander away from the way of the Lord. We are not left to our own devices. We can “wait on the Lord and renew our strength” (Isaiah 40:31). As we keep our eyes on Him, looking beyond our present situation to His eternal salvation, He will keep us walking in His way -“kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
What an encouragement it is to know that we do not stand against our enemies on our own. The Lord is standing with us. We do not stand in our own weakness. We stand in the strength of the Lord. He is with us. Many times, we will fail Him. He will never fail us. Often, we will let Him down. He will never let us down. What does God say to us, in our weakness? – He assures us that He holds on to us with a love which is much stronger than our weak love for Him – “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). When, in our battle against strong a nd determined enemies, we like giving up, let’s remember this: God is faithful – and He is much stronger than Satan. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Better Than Just Hoping For The Best!

"My hope is in You" (Psalm 39:7).
Hope - what does this mean? We speak about hoping for the best' when we fear the words. We say, 'I hope so', when we're not too sure about saying, 'I think so.' What kind of hope is this. It's human optimism. It's wishful thinking. There is another hope, a better hope. This hope begins when we see that our human situation is hopeless. It begins when we look away from ourselves to the Lord, when we look to Him, and say, "My hope is in You."

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Praying Through God’s Word: Joel

JOEL 

1:1-2:17
‘Joel’ means ‘the Lord is God.’ We thank You, Lord, that You are our God. You are ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…’. Teach us to ‘return to You, the Lord our God.’ Help us to ‘return to You with all our heart.’ May we always look to You for Your ‘blessing’ (Joel 2:12-14). Alongside Your promise of blessing for those who return to You, there is Your Word of warning for those who take no notice of You and pay no attention to Your Word: ‘The Day of the Lord is near. It will come like destruction from the Almighty… Let all who live in the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand – a Day of darkness and gloom…’ (Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1-2). We thank You, Lord, that You want to bless us. Help us to ‘cry out’ to You for Your blessing: ‘To You, O Lord, I call’ (Joel 1:14,19).
2:19-3:21
Show us, Lord, that each of us is ‘in the valley of decision.’ Help us to make sure that we are prepared for ‘the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord.’ We thank You, Lord, that You have given us Your promise: ‘Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved’ (Joel 2:31-32; Joel 3:14). You promise great blessing to those who call upon You. You ‘will pour out His Spirit’ upon us. You will do ‘great things’ for us. You will be our ‘Refuge’ and ‘Stronghold.’ You will fill us with ‘joy and gladness.’ You will fill our hearts with ‘praise’ (Joel 2:20-21,23,26,28-29; Joel 3:16). You’re calling on us to make sure that we ‘call on the Name of the Lord.’ May we make sure that we do not miss out on the great blessings that You, Lord, give to those who call on Your Name. Help us to make your decision now – ‘I will call on the Name of the Lord’ (1 Kings 18:24).

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Heartfelt Worship

“O God, my whole being desires you” (Psalm 63:1). 
May God help us to worship Him like that!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Some things are worth repeating!

There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again – ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’(Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again – ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’(Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord.’ Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43, 1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free… It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’ (Daniel Thambyrajah Niles).

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Faraway God?

“O my God, do not be so distant from me. Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my Saviour” (Psalm 38:22).
Is God a faraway God? If we think of God in this way, we’ve missed the point. We don’t just ask Him to come to us. We thank Him that He has come to us. Jesus is our Saviour (Matthew 1:21). Emmanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23).

Friday, 22 April 2016

Thanksgiving And Hope

"This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23).
When we think of all that the Lord has done for us, let us think also of what He will do for us.
Let us look back with thanksgiving. Let us look forward with hope.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

My Strength, My Song, My Saviour

Psalm 118:1-29 
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’(Psalm 118:14). We thank You, Lord, that Jesus Christ is our Saviour. We thank You that He gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’. Help us, Lord, to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. May we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him.

The Holy One of Israel, ’ The God of the whole earth

Isaiah 54:1-17

‘The Lord’ is not only ‘the Holy One of Israel’. He is ‘the God of the whole earth’ (Isaiah 54:5). The Gospel is for ‘all nations’. The ministry of Christ’s apostles began in ‘Jerusalem’, but it did not end there. The Gospel was to be taken ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). Taking the Gospel out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth was not easy. The apostles faced much opposition. They stood upon God’s promise: ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper’ (Isaiah 54:17). When we face opposition, we must take our stand on the Word of God: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31). Even when our words seem to fall on stony ground, we must keep on speaking the Word of God’s love: ‘With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer’ (Isaiah 54:8).

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Lord, Your power is greater than the power of Satan.

Job 1:1-2:13
Lord, Your power is greater than the power of Satan. Help us never to forget this. Satan is “roaming through the earth”, “prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking for someone to devour” (Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8) – but he can only do what You allow him to do (Job 1:12; Job 2:6). When Satan seems to be getting the upper hand, remind us that You’re the One who’s in control – not him!

Begin ... Build ... Be Blessed ...

Begin with God.
The first verse of the Bible gives us the best starting-place for our life: "In the beginning, God" (Genesis 1:1). Let us "seek first God's Kingdom and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). "In the beginning, God" - This is what gives our life its true meaning, purpose and direction.
Build on God's Word.
We don't speak God's Word to ourselves. God's Word is spoken to us. In His written Word, He has given us a firm foundation for living to His glory (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Learning from the Scriptures, let us build our life on our Saviour.
Be Blessed in God's Spirit.
Being "in the Spirit" is not just having a "happy" feeling. It's learning to "walk with the Lord in the light of His Word." How are we to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)? God's Word tells us - "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16).

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Before the creation, there is the Creator.

Genesis 1:1-2:3
Before the creation, there is the Creator.
 * He is the chief focus of attention in the Bible’s first chapter. Wherever we look in Genesis 1, we see the word, God. This is about Him. Genesis 1 speaks about us. It tells us where we have come from. We have come from God. He is our Creator. Take away God, and our life has no meaning, no purpose, no direction.
 * Move on from the Bible’s first chapter. Read the rest of Genesis, the rest of the Old Testament,the rest of the Bible. What do you find? The Bible is a Book about God. It’s not only a Book about God. It’s a Book that has been given to us by God. It’s His Word.
 * What about our faith and our life? Our faith comes to us from God. Our life has been given to us by God. We are to put our faith in God. We are to live our life for God.
 * “God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). The light of God’s love and holiness. “He created us in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). Created by God - love. Created for God - called to holiness. The light of His love - a sure foundation for our faith. The light of His holiness - The Lord is calling us to walk with him in the light of His holy Word.
 * “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This was before our sin spoiled the world. We must not blame God for our sin. We are the ones who have spoiled His good creation.
 * “God completed His work”  (Genesis 2:2). This was the end of the beginning. When we come to Genesis 3, it seems like we’re reading about the beginning of the end. It’s not. It’s the start of a new beginning - God’s rescue plan (Genesis 3:15). 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Where, Lord, does true comfort come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit – the Comforter.

Job 15:1-16:5
Lord, we feel the pain of Job. He’s been listening to Eliphaz. Now, Job says, “how often have I heard all this before! What sorry comforters you are!” (Job 16:1). Job needed “words of encouragement” (Job 16:5) – but he didn’t get them from Eliphaz. Where, Lord, does true comfort come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit – “the comforter” (John 14:26). Help us, Lord, to listen to the voice of the Spirit – and to speak with His voice, the voice of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do what God tells us to do ...

Genesis 2:4-25
Do what God tells us to do. This leads to blessing. Do what God tells us not to do. This leads to trouble. It’s been trouble ever since.
Here, on earth, things can be turned around. We can be set in the right direction. We are not yet at our final destination, but we’re travelling towards it.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they “died” spiritually. Immediately, we see conflict. The devil has won a battle. He has won many more battles. He will win many more battles. He will not win the war.
In Genesis 3:15, we catch a glimpse of God’s eternal Kingdom, in which “there will no longer be any curse” (Revelation 22:3).

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Lead us, Lord, in holiness and victory.

Without You, Lord, we are weak. With You, we are strong. Lead us, Lord, out of our failure and into Your victory, out of our sin and into Your holiness. How are we to walk with You in holiness and victory? - We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our Saviour (Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 4:120. When we fail You, Lord, help us to learn from the testimony of Peter - he failed (Matthew 29:69-75), and he was filled (Acts 4:8). Help us to join, with Peter, in saying, "Lord, You know that we love You" (John 21:15-17).

Saturday, 16 April 2016

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Here are some great words from Jim Elliot, an American missionary who died at the hands of Auca Indians in Ecuador in the 1950s – “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
 * "To gain what he cannot lose" - Eternal life has lasting value.
 * "what he cannot keep" - The things of this world don’t have lasting value.
After Jim Elliot and four other American missionaries were killed, there was great blessing among the Aucas.
 * Think of these faithful martyrs. Think of the blessing which followed. 
In 2 Corinthians 4:15, we have a great comment on the wonderful blessing which followed the killing of the American missionaries by the Aucas - “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” The American missionaries laid down their lives. The Aucas found eternal life. It was for their benefit. Grace reached more and more people. There was an overflow of giving glory to God.
* Think of own times of suffering.
We must remember this  - we’re not alone. God is there with us. We see this in the sufferings of Job. What suffering Job endured. He knew that he was not alone. He knew that God was with him. In the middle of the most intense suffering, Job gives us a great testimony of faith: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25).
 * Think of the eternal glory towards which the Lord is calling us.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

We look back to the past. We say, “That was then. That’s old.” We live in the present. We say, “This is now. This is new.” We shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the past. Jesus Christ belongs to the past. He also speaks to us in the present. He is preparing us for God’s eternal future.   
We read the Story of Jesus. We rejoice in His love. We say, “The old, old story – It is ever new. The old, old story – Praise the Lord! It’s true!” It’s true! That’s why it’s still God’s “new song.”
There will always be people who refuse to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Will they silence us? Will we fail our Lord because we’re afraid of what people will say about us? Let’s be like Paul. Let’s defy our critics. Let’s keep on saying, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). 
Jesus is calling us on to His future. He's not merely a figure from the past. He is “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour, the living Lord, stands at the centre of our future. He does not only speak to us from the past. He also speaks to us from the future. What is He saying to us? How will He affect our present way of living? Jesus speaks to us from the future. He calls us on to heaven, but He does not turn us into dreamers who are so “heavenly-minded” that we’re not learning to serve the Lord right now. We sing of our heavenly hope: “On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share; when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.” What is to be our present response to this glorious hope? - “Let us labour for the Master from the dawn till setting sun. Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care. Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”

Tragedy ... And Triumph

Genesis 3:1-7
The tragedy of Adam and Eve: their fall into sin. We compare this with the triumph of Jesus - His victory over Satan.
What made the difference?- standing on the Word of God.
Adam and Eve believed the lie of the devil.
Jesus took His stand on the Word of God.
What about us? Do we stand? or Do we fall? Will we listen to Satan? or Will we listen to God?
We cannot be facing in two directions at the same time. We must make our choice.
Will our life be self-centred? or Will it be God-centred?
God is calling us out of the old life (the Adam life). He’s calling us into the new life (the Jesus life). When we choose to walk with Jesus, He walks with us.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Past grace is no guarantee of present growth.

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

Our love for God - a response to His love for us

Song of Solomon can be read at two different levels. At the human level, it’s a celebration of the love between a man and a woman. At the spiritual level, it inspires us to appreciate, more truly and more fully, the great love which Christ has for us. As we grow in our awareness of Christ’s amazing love for us, we are called to love Him more. His love comes first. We must never forget this. His love is an everlasting love. Our love for Him can never be any more than a response to His love for us.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

“The days are coming.”

“The days are coming”: These words introduce a prophecy concerning the land (Jeremiah 30:3). The greatest blessing is not being in the land. It is belonging to the Lord. This is the blessing, spoken of by Jeremiah. When, speaking God’s Word, he writes, “You will be My people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22).

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

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

More Than A Departure ...

Exodus 2:23-25

Exodus: It's more than a departure. It's a deliverance. It's more than a protest against Egypt. It's an answer to prayer. It's more than a social revolution. It's a spiritual revelation of God's love.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Search The Scriptures: Psalms

PSALMS

God calls us to follow “the way of righteous people” (Psalm 1:6). He directs our attention to His “Son”, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:7). He promises blessing to those who “take refuge ... In Him” (Psalm 2:12). There is much opposition: “O Lord, look how my enemies have increased! Many are attacking me. Many are saying about me, ‘Even with God on his side, he won’t be victorious’” (Psalm 3:1-2). We need not be afraid of these enemies - “Victory belongs to the Lord! ... You, O Lord, are a shield that surrounds me” (Psalm 3:8,3).

The Psalmist is experiencing great pain. His honour is being insulted; his enemies are spying on him; he is being harassed by troublemakers (Psalm 4:2; Psalm 5:8; Psalm 6:8). As well as pain, there is prayer, protection and peace. He prays with confidence in God - “The Lord has heard my plea for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9). He stands upon God’s promise - “The Lord protects those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 5:11). He rests in the peace of God (Psalm 4:8).

In Psalms 7 - 10, there is a real sense of the greatness of God. He is “majestic” (Psalm 8:1). He is “enthroned forever” (Psalm 9:7,11). He is “King forever and ever” (Psalm 10:16). He is our “Judge” (Psalm 7:8). The Psalmist teaches us to see our life in the light of God. His light shines brightly upon us. His light exposes our darkness. He’s calling us to walk in His light. He calls us to take refuge in Him: “O Lord my God, I have taken refuge in You” (Psalm 7:1). He calls us to rejoice in Him: “I will be glad and rejoice in You” (Psalm 9:2). He calls us to seek His help: “Those who know Your Name trust You, O Lord, because You have never deserted those who seek your help” (Psalm 9:10). If we are to answer God’s call - take refuge in Him, rejoice in Him and seek His help, we must leave behind the way of the wicked: “In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all His thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4). When we answer God’s call, He starts changing us - our way of thinking and our way of living. He is the caring and sharing God: “You have heard the desire of oppressed people, O Lord. You encourage them. You pay close attention to them in order to provide justice for orphans, and oppressed people, so that no mere mortal terrify them again” (Psalm 10:17-18). He’s calling us to be like Him. Let’s not keep His love and His blessing to ourselves. Let’s show His love. Let’s share His love.

The Lord is the sovereign God - “The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). The Lord is the God of salvation - “But I trust Your mercy. My heart finds joy in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6). The sovereign God, the God of salvation is our Helper - when we feel alone, forgotten and oppressed (Psalm 12:1; Psalm 13:1; Psalm 14:3-4). His salvation is not to be kept to ourselves. His joy is not only for ourselves. We are to pray that others will receive His salvation and His joy: “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (Psalm 14:7). In the face of all that opposes God, exalting itself against Him, God is calling us to keep close to Him and to walk with Him: “O Lord, who may stay in Your tent? Who may live on Your holy mountain? The one who walks with integrity, does what is righteous, and speaks the truth within his heart, the one who does not slander with his tongue, do evil to friend, or bring disgrace on his neighbour ... He who does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15).

Our complete joy, pleasure and satisfaction is found in the Lord. We say, with the Psalmist, “Complete joy is in Your presence. Pleasures are by Your side forever ... I will be satisfied with seeing You” (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:15). We join, with the hymnwriter, in singing praise to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: “O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found, And found in Thee alone, The peace, the joy I sought so long, the bliss till now unknown. Now none but Christ can satisfy, None other Name for me. There’s love and life, and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

In Psalm 18, the Psalmist praises God, who delivered him from his enemies. It begins and ends with the thought of God as the Rock upon which our faith is built. He is the rock of our salvation: “I love you, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Saviour, my God in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Strength of my Salvation, my Stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2). “The Lord lives! Thanks be to my Rock! May God, my Saviour, be honoured!” (Psalm 18:46).

“The heavens declare the glory of God ...” (Psalm 19:1). In God’s creation, we see His glory. “The teachings of the Lord are perfect. They renew the soul” (Psalm 19:7). He reveals Himself to us through His Word. We make our response to Him, as we worship Him - “We will joyfully sing about Your victory ... The Lord will give victory to His anointed king ...We will boast in the Name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:5-7). “Arise, O Lord, in Your strength. We will sing and make music to praise Your power” (Psalm 21:13). “Through the mercy of the Most High, we will not be moved” (Psalm 22:7).

“The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). He is “my Saviour”(Psalm 25:5). He is also “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:8-10). He has promised to “lead us in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name” (Psalm 23:3). This promise is fulfilled, as we open our  hearts to Him - “Be lifted,you ancient doors, so that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:9), when we pray for His leading in our lives: “Make Your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me Your paths.Lead me in Your truth, and teach me because You are God, my Saviour” (Psalm 25:5). The Lord fulfils His promise to us: “The Lord advises those who fear Him. He reveals to them the intent of His promise” (Psalm 25:14). 

The Psalmist loved to worship God in the company of God’s people: “O Lord, I love the House where You live, the place where Your glory dwells... I will praise the Lord with the choirs in worship” (Psalm 26:8,12). “I have asked one thing from the Lord. This I will seek - to remain in the Lord’s House all the days of my life in order to gaze at the Lord’s beauty and to search for an answer in His Temple” (Psalm 27:4).”Hear my prayer for mercy when i call to You for help, when I lift my hands towards Your most holy place... Thank the Lord! He has heard my prayer for mercy! The Lord is the strength of His people and a fortress for the victory of His Messiah. Save Your people, and bless those who belong to You. Be their Shepherd and carry them forever” (Psalm 28:6-9).

“Give to the Lord glory and power” (Psalm 29:1) - God is calling us to worship Him.
“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:12) - We respond to His call. “Thank the Lord!... Love the Lord, all you godly ones!... Be strong, all who wait with hope for the Lord, and let your heart be courageous!” (Psalm 31:21,23-24). We, who have heard God’s call to worship and are learning to worship Him, are to call upon others to join with us in worshipping the Lord. Worship is to lead to witness, which will bring others to worship.

“Be glad and find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 32:11). “Joyfully sing to the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 33:1). Our joy is in the Lord. It is from Him that our “joyous songs of salvation” come (Psalm 32:7). It is “in Him” that “our hearts find joy” (Psalm 33:21). We “look to Him”, and we are “radiant” (Psalm 34:5). Even thought there are many obstacles to our spiritual growth, we are able to face all who oppose us in our walk with God. We are able to say, with confidence in the God who helps us to be strong in Him and victorious through His power, “My soul will find joy in the Lord and be joyful about His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).

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

In Psalms 38-40, we have the Psalmist’s prayer and his testimony that God had heard and answered his prayer. “Do not abandon me, O Lord. O my God, do not be so distant from me. Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my Saviour... Listen to my prayer, O Lord. Open Your ear to my cry for help... I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure” (Psalm 38:21-22; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 40:1-2).

In Psalms 41-43, we see the Psalmist encountering great difficulties. He is not, however, overwhelmed by his problems. Each of these Psalms ends on the triumphant note of praise: “Thank the Lord God of Israel through all eternity!” (Psalm 41:13); “Put your hope in God, because I will still praise Him. He is my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5).

The people of God faced many obstacles, but the Lord gave them His victory and they praised Him - “All day long we praise our God. We give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 44:8). The words of Psalm 45 point forward to Jesus Christ, who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). Concerning Him, the Word of God says to us, “He is your Lord. Worship Him” (Psalm 45:11). Let our response be, “I will cause Your Name to be remembered throughout every generation. That is why the nations will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 45:17).

The Lord, our God, is “King of the whole earth. He rules the nations” (Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:7-9). The Lord is great. He is “the great King” (Psalm 48:14). The Lord does not remain detached from us in isolated heavenly glory. He comes to us as the God of our salvation - “God will buy me back from the power of hell” (Psalm 49:15). By His Word, spoken to us and acted out on our behalf, God involves Himself with us as our Saviour. He is not a God who keeps His distance from us - “Our God will come.” He is not a God who keeps His silence - “and will not be silent” (Psalm 50:3). This God comes to us with His promise of salvation - “Call on Me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honour Me” (Psalm 50:15). Along with this promise of salvation comes God’s call to live in faith and obedience: “Bring your thanks to God as a sacrifice, and keep your vows to the Most High” (Psalm 50:15). To those who walk in His way, the Lord promises His blessing: “Whoever offers thanks as a sacrifice honours Me. I will let everyone, who continues in My way, see the salvation that comes from God” (Psalm 50:23).

We must trust in God’s “mercy”, which “lasts all day long” (Psalm 51:1; Psalm 52:1). We need God’s mercy, because we are sinners - “Everyone has fallen away. Together, they have become rotten to the core. No one, not even one person, does good things” (Psalm 53:3). When we come, as sinners, to the Lord, we find that He is our Saviour. We pray to Him, “O God, save me by Your Name” (Psalm 54:1). He hears ans answers this prayer for salvation. We say, “God is my helper! The Lord is the provider for my life... Your Name rescues me from trouble” (Psalm 54:4,7). Knowing the Lord as our Saviour, we are filled with a spirit of praise to Him. We say, from the heart, “I will give thanks to Your good Name, O Lord” (Psalm 54:6).          

“I call on God, and the Lord saves me” (Psalm 55:16) - This is the Psalmist’s testimony. It is followed by his call to others to turn to the Lord and discover how good He is: “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and He will take care of you” (Psalm 55:22). “I praise the Word of God, I trust God, I am not afraid. What can mere flesh and blood (mortals) do to me?” (Psalm 56:4,10-11). “My heart is confident, O God, I want to sing and make music... I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord, I want to make music to praise You among the nations because Your mercy is as high as the heavens. Our truth reaches the skies. May You be honoured above the heavens, O God. Let Your glory extend over the whole earth” (Psalm 57:7,9-11). As we praise God, He leads us forward in His triumph.

When the Lord’s people face hostile persecution, their only hope is in the Lord: “God is my Stronghold, my merciful God” (Psalm 59:9,17). Looking to the Lord, we pray, “Give us help against the enemy because human assistance is worthless” (Psalm 60:11). Trusting in the Lord, we have this confidence: “With God, we will display great strength. He will trample our enemies” (Psalm 60:12). Knowing that god is with us as the God of our salvation, we can say, with glad assurance of faith, “I will triumph!” (Psalm 60:6). We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Whatever Satan does, he will not succeed. We have the victory in Christ.
"Listen to my cry for help, O Lord" (Psalm 61:1). God is the God of power and mercy: "Power belongs to God. Mercy belongs to You, O Lord" (Psalm 62:11-12), "I look to You in the holy place to see Your power and Your glory. My lips will praise You because Your mercy is better than life itself" (Psalm 63:3). When we consider how great God is - great in power, great in mercy, we are filled with thanksgiving, praise and joy - "I will thank You as long as I live ... My mouth will sing Your praise with joyful lips" (Psalm 63:4-5).
"Righteous people will find joy in the Lord and take refuge in Him" (Psalm 64:10). "You are the One who hears prayers ... You are the One who forgives our rebellious acts ... You answer us with awe-inspiring acts done in righteousness" (Psalm 65:2-3,5). In the Lord, there is true happiness. This blessing comes to us as we bring our sins to Him and receive His forgiveness. The blessing of forgiveness is a wonderful work of divine grace for which we give thanks to God - "All of them shout triumphantly. Indeed they sing" (Psalm 65:13).
The Psalmist calls upon all of us to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God - "Shout happily to God, all the earth! Make music to praise the glory of His Name. Make His praise glorious" (Psalm 66:1-2). "Let everyone give thanks to You. Let the nations be glad and sing joyfully ... Let the people give thanks to You, O God. Let all the people give thanks to You" (Psalm 67:3,5). 
“Our God is a God of victories. The Almighty Lord is our escape from death ... He gives strength and power to His people. Thanks be to God!” (Psalm 68:20,35). These words turn our thoughts to the great words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:57 - “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This victory is the triumph of Christ, risen from the dead. The risen Christ - our Saviour and Lord - gives us victory over our greatest enemy - “death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is Christ’s triumph over the devil - “Jesus took on flesh and blood. He did this so that, by dying, He would destroy the one who had power over death (that is, the devil)”; “The reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy what the devil does” (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).
Out of a situation of great distress, the Psalmist prays to the Lord: “O God, out of the greatness of Your mercy, answer me with the truth of Your salvation” (Psalm 69:13). “Answer me, O Lord, because Your mercy is good. Out of your unlimited compassion, turn to me” (Psalm 69:16). “Let Your saving power protect me, O God” (Psalm 69:29). When God answers our  prayer for salvation, this is cause for much praise and thanksgiving: “I want to praise the Name of God with a song. I want to praise its greatness with a song of thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). “Let heaven and earth, the seas and everything that moves in them, praise Him” (Psalm 69:34).
The Psalmist is calling upon the Lord to be his “help and Saviour.” He is looking to the Lord for an immediate response - “Come quickly to rescue me, O God! Come quickly to help me, O Lord! ... O God, come quickly to me ... O Lord, do not delay” (Psalm 70:1,5). The Psalmist continues to pray for the Lord’s help: “”O God, do not be so distant from me, O my God, come quickly to me” (Psalm 71:12). In these prayers, we become aware of the Psalmist’s great pain. He speaks of “those who seek his life” and “want his downfall” (Psalm 70:2), his “enemies” who “talk about him” as “they watch him and plot to take his life” (Psalm 71:10). Through all his suffering, we see the light of faith shining brightly - “Because of Your faithfulness, O my God, even I will give thanks to You, as I play on a lyre. I will make music with a harp to praise You, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will sing with joy when I make music to praise You. My lips, which you have rescued, also will sing joyfully. My tongue will tell about Your righteousness all day long” (Psalm 71:22-24).
“May His Name endure forever. May His Name continue as long as the sun shines” (Psalm 72:17); “May He rule from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8) - These words inspired the hymn, “Jesus shall reign ... “ The words of this Psalm find a glorious echo in the triumphant words of Philippians 2:9-11 - “At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.”
In Psalms 73 - 75, there is inner turmoil, as the Psalmist wonders what to make of the success of the wicked who oppose the Lord and His people. There are times of great confusion - “But when I tried to understand this, it was too difficult for me” (Psalm 73:16). There are times when the Psalmist is on the edge of despair - “Why, O God, have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoulder against the sheep in Your care? ... How long, O God, will the enemy insult us? Will the enemy despise You forever?” (Psalm 74:1,10). Despite all that runs counter to God, the Psalmist remains strong in faith. He triumphs over all that opposes the purpose of God in his life - “God remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever ... From long ago, God has been my King, the One who has been victorious throughout the earth ... We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks. You are present, and Your miracles confirm that ... I will speak about Your miracles forever. I will make music to praise the God of Jacob” (Psalm 73:26; Psalm 74:12; Psalm 75:1,9).
“God is known in Judah. His name is great in Israel ... What god is as great as our God” (Psalm 76:1; Psalm 77:13). God is great. He’s greater than we can put into words, or even imagine. As we think of the greatness of God, we worship Him, singing, “How great Thou art”, “Great is Thy faithfulness.” To the Lord be all glory for all that He is, all that He has done for us, and all that He says to us.
Divine grace - “But He is compassionate. He forgave their sin. He did not destroy them. He restrained His anger many times. He did not display all of His fury” (Psalm 78:38) - and human sin - “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness! How often they caused Him grief in the desert! Again and again, they tested God and they pushed the Holy One of Israel to the limit. They did not remember His power ... “ (Psalm 78:40-43): This is the story of human history. When God’s love is thrown back at Him by persistently rebellious sinners, there will be divine judgment - “They tested God Most High and rebelled against Him ... When God heard, He became furious ... “ (Psalm 78:56-64). Where God is angry, it can lead to restoration - “ ... He struck His enemies from behind He built His holy place to be like the high heavens ... He chose His servant David ... ” (Psalm 78:65-72).
Blessed by the God of love, called to be “His people, the flock of His pasture”we “praise” Him and “give thanks” to Him (Psalm 79:13). He is our “Shepherd” (Psalm 80:1). He restores our soul. He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake (Psalm 23). He is “our Strength.” In Him, we rejoice with true happiness (Psalm 81:1). “All the nations” belong to the Lord (Psalm 82:8). He is “the Most High God of the whole earth” (Psalm 83:18). Those who know the Lord as their Shepherd and their Strength, the One who “saves” (Psalm 80:19) and “satisfies” (Psalm 81:16), are to pray and work, with the goal of bringing others to the knowledge of Him.
The way of blessing is the way of praising God and finding strength in Him (Psalm 84:4-5). As we worship God, our strength is restored. He answers our prayer - “Restore us, O God, our Saviour” (Psalm 85:4). As we worship God, our joy is restored - “Give me joy, O Lord, because I lift my soul to You” (Psalm 86:4). What a joy it is to know the Lord. He’s the Source of all our blessings (Psalm 87:7). Knowing that it is God’s desire to bless us, we come to Him, earnestly seeking His blessing: “I cry out to You for help, O Lord, and, in the morning, my prayer will come into Your presence” (Psalm 88:13).
Psalm 89 begins and ends with the faithfulness of God (Psalm 89:1,49). As we think of God, we say, concerning Him, “Your faithfulness stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 89:2). “O Lord, the heavens praise your miracles and Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones” (Psalm 89:5). “Mighty Lord, even Your faithfulness surrounds You” (Psalm 89:8).
“You are God, from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). “You are my Refuge and my Fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). “You, O Lord, are highly honoured forever” (Psalm 92:8). As we read the Psalms, we learn of God - how great He is, how much He is worthy of praise, trust and obedience. As we centre our life on Him, we will be blessed by Him.
The Lord comes to us as our Saviour - “When I said, ‘My feet are slipping’, Your mercy, O Lord, continued to hold me up. When I worried about many things, Your assuring words soothed my soul... The Lord has become my Stronghold. My God has become my Rock of refuge” (Psalm 94:18-19,22). We are to come to him as His worshippers - “Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord. Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation.Let’s come into His presence with a song of thanksgiving. Let’s come, let’s worship and bow down. Let’s kneel before the Lord, our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). “Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord! Praise His Name!” (Psalm 96:1).
As well as the joy of the Lord, there is also to be the fear of the Lord in our worship. Psalms 97, 98 and 100 speak of the joy of the Lord: “Find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 97:12). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Break into joyful singing” (Psalm 98:4). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord cheerfully. Come into His presence with a joyful song” (Psalm 100:1-2). Psalm 99 emphasizes the importance of the fear of the Lord: “The Lord rules as King. Let the people tremble. He is enthroned over the angels. Let the earth quake” (Psalm 99:1).
The Psalmist faced many difficulties. There were the problems caused by “unfaithful people” (Psalm 101:3-5). He had health problems (Psalm 102:3-5). He takes his problems to the Lord, convinced that “from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s mercy is on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:17).
God is the God of providence. He is the God of redemption. He provides food - “All of them look to You to give them their food at the right time” (Psalm 104:27). He has provided salvation for His people - “... He brought His people out with joy...” (Psalm 105:42-45). We think of all that the Lord has done for us, and we say, from the heart, “Thanks be to the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, Amen. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 106:48).
Psalm 107 calls us to “give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 107:1,8,15,21,31). When we hear the call to “give thanks to the Lord”, our response is to be ‘I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord” (Psalm 108:3). “With my mouth I will give many thanks to the Lord, I will praise Him among many people” (Psalm 109:30).
The opening words of Psalm 110 are applied, in Hebrews, to our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the highest position in heaven until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” As we consider the mighty triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts are filled with worship - “Hallelujah!” (Psalm 11:1; Psalm 112:1; Psalm 113:1,9).
The Lord “turns a rock into a pool, filled with water, and turns flint into a spring flowing with water” (Psalm 114:8). The “Hallelujah” arises from the hearts of God’s people (Psalm 115:18; Psalm 116:19; Psalm 117:2), “The Lord is responsible for this, and it is amazing for us to see” (Psalm 118:23).
Psalm 119 is a personal prayer of devotion to the Lord. It is clear, throughout this Psalm, that our relationship with God is maintained as we build our lives upon his written Word. What blessing the Word of God has brought into the life of the Psalmist! This is still the way of blessing today - “Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my faith” (Psalm 119:105). It is with the Word of God at the heart of our life that we face the future with confidence: “My hope is based on Your Word” (Psalm 119:147).
We call upon the Lord, and He answers us - “When I was in trouble, I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me” (Psalm 120:1). The Lord is our Helper - “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). We worship the Lord - “I was glad when they said to me, Let’s go to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). We put our trust in the Lord - “we depend on the Lord our God” (Psalm 123:2).
“Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). This is something we must never forget. When we are conscious of being helped by the Lord, we can say with confidence in Him: “Those who trust the Lord are like Mount Zion, which can never be shaken” (Psalm 125:1). Knowing the blessing of God in our lives, we have this joyful testimony: “The Lord has done spectacular things for us. We are overjoyed” (Psalm 126:3). The Lord “builds the house” of our life (Psalm 127:1) - This is the blessing which He promises to those who walk with Him: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord and live his way” (Psalm 128:1).
“Praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:1). “Praise the Name of the Lord” (Psalm 136:1). “Give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 136:1). God is calling us to worship Him. In a world where worshipping the Lord has been abandoned by so many people, it isn’t easy to keep on worshipping Him - “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). Even though many people have stopped worshipping God, we must renew our commitment to Him: “I will give thanks to you with all my heart” (Psalm 138:1). “If no one joins, still I will worship. No turning back.”
“Examine me, O God, and know my mind. Test me, and know my thoughts. See whether I am on an evil path. Then, lead on the everlasting path.” (Psalm 139:23-24). The Lord leads us away from the “evil path”, and on to the “everlasting path.” He “hears our plea for pity.” He hears our cry to Him,”Come quickly.” He comes to us as “the strong One who saves us” (Psalm 140:6-7; Psalm 141:1).
God is our “Refuge” (Psalm 142:5). In His “mercy”, He leads us in His way. He protects us and rescues us from our enemies (Psalm 143:8-9). The Lord, “the One in whom we take refuge”, is described by the Psalmist as “my Rock... My merciful One, my Fortress, my Stronghold, my Saviour, my Shield” (Psalm 144:1-2). The Lord is “great.” He is to be praised “every day.” He is to be praised “forever and ever” (Psalm 145:1-3).
Hallelujah! Each of the final five Psalms begins and ends with the word, “Hallelujah!” Again and again, in these Psalms, we hear the call to praise God: “Praise the Lord, my soul!” (Psalm 146:1), “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem! Praise your God, Zion!” (Psalm 147:12). “Praise the Lord from the heavens,Praise Him in the heights above” (Psalm 148:1). “Sing a new song to the Lord. Sing His praise in the assembly of godly people” (Psalm 149:1). “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). This outburst of triumphant and glorious praise, in these final five Psalms, is a fitting conclusion to the book of Psalms. Hallelujah!

"Preaching and Teaching" by James Philip

Inspiration, authority, infallibility and inerrancy are the necessary prerequisites for preaching and teaching. If a true ministry is to be exercised, these theological foundations are indispensable. This is implied by Paul’s employment of the word ‘ambassador’ to describe the work of the ministry. The word ‘ambassador’ is used twice in the New Testament by Paul. In 2 Corinthians 5:19, he says, ‘Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God”. His second comment is found in Ephesians 6:20 - ‘That I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak..” The Greek word for ‘ambassador’ is presbutes.  This word is derived from the verb presbeuo.  The literal meaning of this verb is ‘to be older or oldest’, ‘to take precedence by right of seniority’. This idea of seniority; which includes authority and responsibility as its key elements, is particularly significant for our understanding of Paul use of the expression, ‘to be an ambassador’. Entrusted with God’s inspired, infallible and inerrant Word, the ‘ambassador for Christ’ is to carry out this ministry, with divine authority, as one whose chief responsibility is faithfulness to God.
In these New Testament passages, it is significant that the verb is used rather than the noun. The emphasis is on activity. We have a duty to fulfil. There can be no resting on laurels. We must get on with the job. There is work to be done. In seeking to understand the work to be done by 'the ambassador for Christ', we begin by noting that an ambassador is the authorized representative of a sovereign. It is his representative capacity that gives him his authority and position. He is nothing in himself. One thinks of the analogy of Lord High Commissioner at the General Assembly. For a brief spell in May, he represents the Sovereign. He is to be treated as the Sovereign. He takes precedence over all the dukes. He is next to the Lord Chancellor. In himself, he is nothing. In his office, he bears this position of great authority. He does not speak in his own name. He speaks on behalf of the ruler whose deputy he is. There is a ‘givenness’ about his message. The ambassador is not at liberty to change a dispatch from his government or Sovereign. He cannot tone it down in any way. He must hand it on as it has been given to him. We are Christ's ambassadors. We are not at liberty to change His message. When asked, 'Do you believe in hell?', the minister dare not answer, 'Yes, but I would never preach it'. This is a betrayal of  his commission. It is part of his responsibility, as an ambassador for Christ, to ‘warn every man’ (Colossians 1:28). In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul gives this description of his ministry: 'Christ sent me ... to preach the gospel'. In  1 Corinthians 15:3-4, he tells us how he carried out his divine calling: 'I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...'. As His ambassadors, we are to deliver His message. We are to preach His gospel. There are several things involved in the proper fulfillment of this work.
In the first place, the nature of the gospel has to be made clear. The gospel is the good news of the incarnation, atonement and kingdom of the Son of God. This message is massive in its scope. It needs to be learned before it can be lived. We need to give ourselves to the understanding of the gospel before we can play our part in communicating its message. Before Paul set out on his ministry as an 'ambassador for Christ', he sought earnestly for a deeper understanding of the gospel's truth. Between his conversion on the Damascus Road and his commissioning at Antioch, there were long years of training in the way of discipleship.  He was being equipped for the work of  teaching God's truth to it to others. In our ministry, we are to follow Jesus who said, 'we speak of what we know' (John 3:11). We get to know Him that we might make Him known. In our proclamation of the gospel, we are to exercise a teaching ministry. We preach 'the unsearchable riches of Christ' as we 'declare' to the  people 'the whole counsel of God' (Ephesians 3:8; Acts 20:27).
 A second feature of the ambassador's work concerns his responsibility to convey his Sovereign’s mind faithfully to those to whom he is sent. For Christ's ambassadors, a knowledge of the mind of Christ is necessary. This requires a relationship of fellowship with Christ. This relationship is much more important in the Christian ambassadorship than it is in the natural realm. How can we know the mind of Christ if we are not walking with Him? Walking with Him will involve us in close and continual study of His Word. Through His Word He reveals Himself to us, deepening and  enriching our fellowship with Him. We are to 'let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus ... '. We are to follow Christ who 'emptied Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross' (Philippians 2:5-8). Knowing the mind of Christ means having the mind of Christ ourselves. To have fellowship with the Son of God involves being like-minded with Him: 'Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?' (Amos 3:3). How can we 'beseech men in Christ’s stead' in any worthy way unless we think like him. We must be able to say, with Paul, “We have the mind of Christ' (1 Corinthians 2:16). In Paul's words, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20), there is a clear message. God is speaking through us. Christ is working in us and through us. How can this become real in us? It happens when we are one in mind and spirit with Him, identified with Him in His redemptive work in the world.
 A third aspect of ambassadorship, one which underlines what has just been said, is found in Ephesians 6:20 where Paul describes himself  as ‘an ambassador in bonds’. Literally, he was a prisoner in Rome at the time. Spiritually, he was also in bonds. He was the bondslave of Jesus Christ, captive to His love, captive to the Word of God. This is what we must be if we are to fulfil our stewardship in the gospel. This means - and here we come to the crux of what I want to say - that it is not merely a question of holding doctrinal orthodoxy. There is something much more important: having a life controlled by, and submissive to, the Word of God and the love of Christ. What say, in our preaching, is important. What we are when we say it is the most important thing of all. This point is emphasized in Scripture.                  We see this in Philippians 2:6 where we learn that Christ  'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped’. What do these words mean? What they mean is this. Equality with God might be regarded as a status to be grasped and held on to at all costs. This is not the way Jesus thought. Equality with God was something that was His by right. It was enjoyed by Him, as the Second Person of the Trinity, before the world was created. By right, He could have held on to it. He did not do this. He freely surrendered it for the sake of a mysterious and eternal purpose - the redemption of the world. In the incarnation of the Son of God, the attitude of voluntary self-surrender came into the world. Think of our world, our bent and broken world, self-seeking and grasping, in which values are so distorted and corrupt. Into it came this principle of voluntary self-surrender. This is what happened when Christ came among us. This is a principle of  incalculable potential. This is what Paul means when he says, 'let this mind be in you'. As Christ's ambassadors, this is the kind of people we are to be! Paul goes on to show how all this worked itself out in his own experience. “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss… I have suffered the loss of all things ... that I may win Christ…’ (Philippians 3:7-8). In the life of this man who has the mind of Christ, we see Christ's own self-surrender. For the sake of the world's redemption, Christ freely surrendered His equality with God. For the sake of the gospel, Paul freely surrendered all that was gain to him..
Paul’s words concerning Christ 'not regarding equality with God a thing to be grasped' (Philippians 2:6) can be understood in another way. We can read them in the light of the contrast between the first Adam and the second Adam. What happened with the first Adam? He was made 'in the image of God'. He was given dominion' over all the creation (Genesis 1:26-27). He was called 'the son of God' (Luke 3:38). Despite all this, Adam was tempted. What was the nature of his temptation. Satan said, 'Ye shall not surely die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil'. Note the phrase - 'as God'. Equality with God - this is what Satan offered him. Adam he snatched at it. He regarded it as something to be grasped. Even though he had no right to it, he reached out for it, claiming it for himself. The second Adam was very different. He had the right to equality with God. He could have reached out it. He could have claimed it as His own. He did not do this. He did not consider it a thing to be grasped. He emptied Himself. For Christ, the appropriation of divine honour and equality in that way constituted a temptation to be resisted. He refused to countenance it. One sees this recurring temptation throughout the story of Jesus. It is  particularly evident in the wilderness episode. The words, “all these things will I give thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship me” are nothing more than a thinly veiled suggestion of equality with God. Jesus regarded it as something that He was not prepared to grasp. The first Adam grasped at life - the tree in the midst of the garden - and laid hold upon death. The second Adam grasped death and laid hold on life. That is the heart of the gospel. Jesus did not think of equality with God as a thing not to be grasped at in the way Adam grasped at it. From the outset, the Incarnation becomes a substitution - not that but this, not that way but this way, not Adam’s way, but a new and living way. This is the mind that must be ours in the work of the gospel.
Another important passage is 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 - 'Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?' The picture Paul uses here is that of a Roman triumph, in which the conquering general rode into the capital, with his captives chained to his chariot wheels, watched by cheering crowds, while incense burned on every altar by the way, to celebrate the victory. What Paul is saying is, not that he wins the battle, or that he is made to triumph (although this is taught elsewhere in Scripture and is blessedly true), but that he is the captive led in the conqueror’s train, and men see in him the trophy of the Conqueror’s power. It is he, Paul, who is t:he captive of Christ’s chariot wheels. Christ triumphed over him on the Damascus Road and bound him forever to Himself, and wherever he went, his captivity to Christ made the knowledge of the Saviour available to everyone he met This is the message here. What a tremendous word it is! Let us consider its meaning. Let us think about its significance.

Dr. J. Denney has some very fine things to say on this. Let me quote: ‘When God wins a victory over man, and leads him captive in triumph, the captive too has an interest in what happens: it is the beginning of all triumphs, in any true sense, for him … (The Damascus Road) was the beginning of God’s triumph over him: for that is how God led him in triumph in Christ, But it was the beginning also of all that made the Apostle’s life itself a triumph, not a career of hopeless, internal strife, such as it had been, but of unbroken Christian victory. Furthermore, the true meaning of the word reminds us that the only true triumphs we can ever have, deserving the name, must begin with God’s triumph over us…’ It is not for nothing that Paul begins many of his epistles with the words, 'Paul, bond-slave of Jesus Christ'. Can we say that the way we live, the experiences through which we pass, are for the blessing and redemption of men? Paul speaks not only of God triumphing over him in Christ, but also making manifest through him the savour of this knowledge in every place. Why does he use this word, ‘savour’? This figure is suggested by the idea of the Roman triumph, with the incense, smoking on every altar, and its fragrance floating over the whole procession. What Paul means is that the knowledge of Christ communicated through the lives of believers is a fragrant thing. As Paul went from place to place, men saw in him not, only the power, but also the sweetness of God’s redeeming love. 'The Mighty Victor made manifest through him, not only His might. But His charm, not only His greatness but His grace'. Well! What a challenge! Is our communication of the gospel a 'savour', a 'fragrant' thing? The charm, the winsomeness, the attractivness of it - is this what comes over? Listen again to J. Denney: 'It. is not to preachers only that this word ‘savour’ speaks: it is of the widest application. Wherever Christ is leading a single soul in triumph, the fragrance of the gospel should go forth; rather, it does go forth, in proportion as His triumph is complete. There is sure to be that in the life which will reveal the graciousness as well as the omnipotence of the Saviour. And it is this virtue which God uses as His main witness, as His chief instrument to evangelise the world. In every relationship of life it shall tell. Nothing is so insuppressible, nothing so pervasive, as a fragrance. The lowliest life which Christ is really leading in triumph will speak infallibly and persuasively for Him … And if we are conscious that we fail in this matter, and that the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is something to which our life gives no testimony, let us be sure that the explanation of it is to be found in self-will. There is something in us which has not yet made complete surrender to Him, and not until He leads us unresistingly in triumph will the sweet savour go forth'. Who is sufficient for these things? There is only one Way: it is to be at Christ’s chariot wheels, manifestly a bond-slave of the Conqueror, manifestly conquered and mastered by the Master of men. Is that what we are?
From 2 Corinthians 2, we move to Paul’s mighty utterance in 2 Corinthians 4. There is so much here that, in trying not to miss out something valuable, one is almost tempted to say too much. I want to concentrate particularly on verses 7-13, which speak of ‘treasure in earthen vessels’. Paul is speaking of being ‘able ministers of the. New Testament’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). It is in this connection that he gives such important teaching on the stewardship of the gospel, our faithful communication of its message. What is it that makes us able ministers? What is it that makes us effective in the work of the gospel?
 First of all, an able minister is one who ‘does not lose heart’ (verse 1). This is because he has a sense of the mercy of God. A sense of what we owe to Christ should be the inspiration of. all our endeavours. This is to be the divine force that keeps us going on and on. Denney comments, 'It was a signal proof of God’s mercy that He had entrusted Paul with the ministry of the gospel; and it was only what we should expect, when one who had obtained such mercy turned out to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, able to endure hardship and not faint. Those to whom little is forgiven, Jesus Himself tells us, love little. It is not in them, for Jesus’ sake, to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. They faint easily, and are overborne by petty trials, because they have not in them that fountain of brave patience - a deep abiding sense of what they owe to Christ, and can never, by any length or ardour of service, repay. It accuses us, not so much of human weakness, as of ingratitude, and insensibility to the mercy of God, when we faint in the exercise of our ministry'.
The second thing that makes us able and effectual ministers or witnesses is that we should have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty (all that hinders the sweet savour from going forth). We see here, by implication, where weakness and discouragement can lead a man, betraying him into dishonesty and compromise in handling the things of God. The question then passes from the emotional realm to the moral. When a man loses heart he may also lose his testimony, yielding, for the sake of keeping the peace, to the temptation to accommodate or adapt his message to suit the spirit of the time, to manipulate the gospel dishonourably, to apply diplomacy in the preaching of it so as to avoid the reproach of the cross that straight preaching will certainly bring.
 Thirdly, an able minister manifests the truth. His task is to unveil and show forth what the Word of God says, to lay bare the truth, and allow it to come out and speak for itself. We see this in Nehemiah 8:8 - giving the sense, and causing the people to understand the meaning. Underlying this is a basic, central presupposition, namely, that the truth itself contains the virtue and dynamic of God, and has, within itself, a converting, regenerating power.
 A fourth  consideration arises from what was said earlier about renouncing the hidden things of dishonesty. One great hindrance to the manifestation of the truth can lie in the preacher himself. If he is not right, the manifestation will not take place. He may say the right words, but the truth will be hidden, not merely in the sense that the hearers will be put off by the speaking of someone whose life they know is not right, but also even when the wrongness is quite hidden and unknown to any but God. Only when the channel is clean does the living water flow. But when it is thus made manifest, the truth will appeal to a man’s conscience, making an irresistible impression upon it.
Paul used the word, ‘commend' (v.2). He does not mean that the message creates a pleasing impression on the hearers. This was certainly not what happened on the day of Pentecost, when Peter manifested the truth, expounding the Scriptures and causing the people cry out, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' They were pricked in their hearts as they listened to Peter’s manifestation of the truth (Acts 2:37). There is something very important here. Conscience is God’s monitor in the soul. It is the moral element in man’s nature. It is this that the Christian message has to address. Denney maintains that this is why the preacher’s task is not to prove but to proclaim the gospel - 'not to set out an unanswerable argument (although of course the gospel has a reasoned and reasonable case), but rather to make an irresistible impression (and to make that impression upon the conscience, the moral nature of man, in such a way that it will be futile for him to protest against it), an impression that subdues and holds him for ever, to manifest the truth, to hold up the truth before men until it tells on the conscience of those that hear it.'
In verse 6, Paul speaks of 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face Jesus Christ'. This is 'the treasure that we have in earthen vessels' (v.7). We must note the association of ideas: this light has shined in our hearts, and now, having been enlightened it is our responsibility to let the light shine before men. (Matthew 5:16). How are we to let the light shine? Through preaching, through witnessing? Yes - ‘we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord’ (v.5) - but there is another prerequisite. What I mean is this: look at the link between ‘earthen vessels’ (v.7) and being ‘troubled on every side’ (v.8). The ‘light’ has to be let out. How can the light shine out of an earthen vessel? Well, there is not much you can do with an earthen vessel except break it. If the vessel is broken, the light  gets out.  Matthew Henry has a remarkably fruitful interpretation of these words. He suggests that Paul may have in mind the well-known story of Gideon and his three hundred men (Judges 7:13-21). When the light shone through the shattered pitchers, there was such a display of light that the enemy thought they were surrounded by an army of thousands, and fled the field in disarray. This is how the victory was won! Whether Paul had this in mind or not, it: is an excellent illustration, and very pertinent for our point. How can light shine out of an earthen vessel? There is only one way this can happen. The earthen vessel needs to be shattered. Paul goes on to say, ‘We are troubled on every side yet not distressed, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might he made manifest in our body' 'The life also of Jesus' - what does this mean? It is ‘the light of the knowledge of His glory'. To speak of that light shining into us to transform us means nothing other than this - the risen Lord of glory comes, by His Spirit, into our hearts. Once He is in our hearts, He wants out from our hearts to bring  blessing to men. Paul expresses the same idea, in different imagery, when, in Galatians 3:1, he speaks of Christ crucified being ‘placarded’ for all to see. The phrase, ‘earthen vessels’ refers our whole human nature - 'man’s body in its weakness, and liability to death; his mind with its limitations and confusions, his moral nature with its distortions and misconceptions, and its insight not yet half restored.' It is to such 'earthen vessels' that the rnighty God commits the treasure of the light of the gospel. This idea is very deeply embedded in Paul’s theology. You might call it the theology of Christian experience. In 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, Paul describes what it means to have the knowledge of God's glory in an earthen vessel - ‘I was with you in weakness, and fear and much trembling that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us - and my speech was not with the enticing words man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power' The earthen vessel was shattered, and the light shined out all over Corinth! Accompanying the marks of the cross, there are the marks of the resurrection. The one produces the other, as an infallible law of spiritual harvest: 'Death worketh in us, but life in you' (2 Corinthians 4:12). Denney comments, 'Suffering, for the Christian, is not an accident; it is a divine appointment and a divine opportunity. To wear life out in the service of Jesus is to open it to the entrance of Jesus’ life: it is to receive, in all its alleviations, in all its renewals, in all its deliverances, a witness to His resurrection. Perhaps it is only by accepting this service, with the daily dying it demands, that the witness can be given to us; and “the life of Jesus” on His throne may become incomprehensible and unreal in proportion as we decline to bear about in our bodies His dying. The evangelist 'always carries around in his body the death of Jesus' so that those who receive his message partake of Jesus’ risen life and power - 'Death is at work in us, but life is at work in you' (verses 10-11). Our lives are to reflect the death of Christ in such a way that men are somehow reminded of Calvary. We are to be signposts to Calvary. Our lives must say to men, 'Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). They must say, positively and convincingly, 'I know a fount where sins are washed away.' In verses 13-15, Paul underlines this point. His message to us may summed up thus - 'I believe this to be the pattern of effective service for God. I believe this is what He promises to bless, and I am going forward on that assumption, that my sacrificial living, my bearing in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus, the shattering of the earthen pitcher, will be owned of God in revealing the risen and omnipotent Saviour to dying men and women.'
This is the real challenge of the minister’s inner life and preparation for his work. It is a costly way to live. We will often be tempted to take lower ground. Evangelical orthodoxy can become a substitute for living, fruitful faith. No doubt you, like me, will have attended theological conferences, at which intellectualism, though impeccably orthodox, has been lifeless. Evangelical brilliance has been a brilliance without a heart. It has come across as mere cleverness. After more than thirty years, I still remember, with pain, a paper on Dispensationalism. The speaker, a well-known scholar sneered at the naivety of those who hold such a view. Much more recently, I recall the clever points-scoring of a brash young intellectual taking part in a debate on the ‘separation’ issue. On both occasions, I was in substantial agreement with the theological positions taken by these men. Nevertheless, my heart was grieved by the empty cleverness of men who spoke without unction. Such cleverness is not far removed from the kind of cynicism which is frightening to behold. This kind of thing can be such a terrible blight on those affected by it. One fears that it conceals the sad truth that there is a death that men are refusing to die.
A man needs unction if his ministry is to do anything in this generation. Let me quote to you some words from E.M. Bounds’ remarkable booklet ‘Power through Prayer”, in which he speaks of unction as 'the indefinable in preaching which makes it preaching. It is that which distinguishes and separates preaching from all mere human addresses. It is the divine in preaching. This unction vitalizes God’s revealed truth, makes it living and life-giving, Even God’s truth spoken without this unction is light, dead and deadening. Though abounding in truth, though weighty with thought, though sparkling with rhetoric, though pointed by logic, though powerful by earnestness, without: this divine unction it issues in death and not in life. Unction is that indefinable, indescribable something which an old, renowned Scottish preacher describes thus: “There is sometimes somewhat in preaching that cannot be described either to matter or expression, and cannot be described what it is, or from whence it cometh, but: with a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes immediately from the Lord; but if there be any way to obtain such a thing it is by the heavenly disposition of the speaker.”  This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one who has it not. It supports and impregnates revealed truth with all the energy of God. Unction is simply putting God in His own Word and on His own preacher. By mighty and great prayerfulness and by continual prayerfulness, it is all potential and personal to the preacher; it inspires and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; which is greater than head power; and tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart of it. Enlargement, freedom, fulness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of this unction.'
That must be all - except to say this: this theme in Scripture is one that has held a fascination for me over the years. I have been preoccupied with it, and gripped by it for I have felt that here I was at the heart of all that is absolutely vital in Christian service.  I have felt that, if I was to be any use to God in the service of the gospel, this pattern must become a continuing reality in my life.  And I want to say that To the extent that this has been a reality, in that measure God has been pleased to bless the testimony.  Sometimes, I feel that I have only caught the merest glimpse of it and that only a pale, fitful reflection of it has been there in me. How deeply I wish it had been far more than it has been. I believe with all my heart that all that there has been of good in my ministry has been so because something of all this has touched my life. I know that I must be brought to this place again and again, day by day, as I continue to preach His Word..
When Peter was at a low point - 'death' - that he was raised by the Lord's commission, 'Feed My sheep', to the great privilege of bringing 'life' to others (John 21:15-17). Like Peter,  we need to be brought again and again to that place of 'death' to ourselves where we can begin to become useful to the Lord in bringing His 'life' to others. The earthen vessel must be broken for the light to show forth. We must become broken bread and poured out wine for the life of the world. The shapes taken by the ‘crucible’ may be various. The principle is always the same. Behind every life that has ever spoken for God, there is a continuing experience of the cross. Christ re-enacts a thousand Calvaries in us to bless the lives of men.  What we say is important, but what we are when we say it is also important. This is the message. It beckons us on, whispering in our hearts with monotonous insistence: 'The message of Christ crucified can be preached effectively only by a crucified man'.

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

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