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

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Mercy Of God - And The Purpose Of God

Exodus 2:23-25
The mercy of God, revealed in the Exodus, is connected with the ongoing purpose of God – “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24).
From Exodus 1:13 to Exodus 2:23-25, there were 80 years (Acts 7:23,30). These 80 years are referred to as “the course of those many days” (Exodus 2:23). Egypt is “the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6). The people of God were in bondage for many years. Year after year passed, and the people remained in bondage. Where in the world was God in all this? Was He absent? Has He left His people? Had God forgotten His promises? No! Not at all! God was there all the time. In mercy, He was waiting patiently for His people to call upon Him, to cry to Him for mercy.
Is there not here a lesson for our Church and our community? Don’t give up. God hasn’t given up on us. He is still waiting for us to call upon Him. In mercy, He is waiting for us to cry to Him for mercy.
In Exodus 2:23-25, we read about the time when the people of God are brought to an end of themselves, the time when they cry out to the Lord for mercy, the time when God’s plan of salvation is set in motion.
Notice that, if the Lord’s blessing is to come to us, we must be brought to an end of ourselves, and we must learn to cry to the Lord for mercy.
We must note the contrast between Israel’s past in “the house of bondage” and the future that was opened up for them by God’s mighty act of redemption, the Exodus. Is there not here a picture of the future could be for our congregation and community? Before start thinking about what the future may hold, we must think about the past from which we need to be delivered. Have we, like the people of Israel, lived in “the house of bondage”? Have we been in bondage to a self-centred and godless lack of spiritual priorities? Have we been in bondage to prayerlessness? Has this bondage, like the people of Israel’s bondage, continued for many years? Have we been in bondage to fear which holds us back from being faithful and loyal witnesses to Jesus Christ? Our future can be very different. We can leave “the house of bondage.” We can leave it in the past. We can follow the Lord into the future He has planned for us. We can set out on a new journey of faith, a journey that will lead us to a new, bright, Christ-centred future – a future which will be blessed by the Lord.
What will our future be? Will it be a life of continuing in “the house of bondage”? or Will it be a new life – a life that has Christ at its very centre? Will we rise to the challenge of being the people of God – people who are serious about living for the Lord, even when it would be so easy to settle for something less than God’s very best?
What will your choice be? Will you stop saying ‘No’ to God, and start saying ‘Yes’ to Him? Will you dare to start being honest with God and with yourself? If you and I dare to be honest with God and with ourselves, we will be deeply humbled before Him, we will acknowledge our need of God’s mercy, and we will make a new beginning with Him.
As we think about the future, we will be tempted to ask, “Have things gone too far?” This is the voice of the devil, speaking to us. God is saying something else to us. He’s speaking to us of His mercy. If we forget the mercy of God, we will be pessimistic about the future. If we look to the God of mercy, we will grow strong in the faith that things can be turned out – by God.
If things are turned around, we must make outr response to the God of mercy. We must receive His mercy, which brings to us the forgiveness of our sins. We must receive, from Him, the power that we need to rise up and live as His faithful servants, who learning day-by-day what it means to be set free from our self-centred way of life, set free for a life of serving the Lord and bringing glory to His Name, the Name of our salvation.
There is an alternative to being real with God. It’s the way of hypocrisy. We can ‘go through the motions’ of religion – but we must not forget what Jesus says about that way of life – “I never knew you, Away from Me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).
May God help us to open our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord – and we’ll see the difference that He makes, when we give Him life-service, and not just lip-service.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Thank God - for the Holy Spirit.

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

Praying Through God's Word: John's Gospel

John 1:1-34
We thank You, Lord, for Your Son, Jesus - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). What a wonderful thing this - it's the great exchange: Jesus has taken our sin, and we receive His salvation.

John 1:35-2:25
Help us, Lord, to look beyond what we are right now. Help us to catch a glimpse of what You want us to become. How are we to become what You want us to be? Your divine power is far more important than our human effort. We don't change ourselves. We are changed by You - changed by Your love, changed by Your power.

John 3:1-36
Where does our salvation come from? Does it come from ourselves? Does it begin with "I"? No! It comes from You. It begins with You - "God so loved the world ... " (John 3:16).

John 4:1-42
We thank You, Lord, for Your great love. You bring us out of our bondage to sin. You bring us into the joy of Your salvation. Your love reaches down to us. Your love brings us to Jesus. He's Your Son. He's our Saviour. Help us to put our trust in Him - to be set free from the guilt of our sinful past, to face the future with the strength that comes from Your joy (Nehemiah 8:10).

John 4:43-5:29
Lord, You love us with the best love of all. There is no love like Your love for us. Where would we be without Your love? Our lives would be a mess - a complete mess. You pick up the pieces. You put us together again. You send Your Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. He is Your guarantee to us that You are leading us on to eternal glory - with You.

John 5:30-6:21
We thank You, Lord, for Jesus - "the Bread of God ... which comes down from heaven" (John 6:33). We recall the words that He spoke to Satan in the wilderness: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). It's Jesus that we need. It's Jesus who satisfies our deepest longings. At the heart of our lives, there is emptiness - when Jesus isn't there. When He is there - in our hearts, everything changes. His love changes everything - and we say, "All that thrills my soul is Jesus. He is more than life to me."

John 6:22-59
Help us, Lord, never to be satisfied with anything less than Jesus. He's the very best, Your greatest gift, Your most wonderful blessing. What could be better than having Jesus as our Saviour? - Nothing! There's no-one like Jesus - Hallelujah!

John 6:60-7:36
We thank You, Lord, for Your Word of life. When we are tempted to draw back from following Jesus, He speaks to us "the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). This is what keeps us walking with You. It's not the strength of our faith. It's the power of Your grace. Our faith is weak. Your grace is strong. Help us, in our weakness, to hear Your Word of strength: "My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

John 7:37-8:20
We thank You, Lord, for Jesus, our holy Saviour, our loving Saviour. Jesus is perfectly holy, yet He keeps on loving us with a perfect love - "Neither do I condemn you" (John 8:11). Jesus' love for us is very wonderful, but He doesn't say to us, 'Go and do what you like.' He says, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). We have been "redeemed by His precious blood" (1 Peter 1:18-19). May we be renewed, day-by-day, by Your grace which never leaves us as we were, Your grace which changes - "Create in us a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us" (Psalm 51:10).

John 8:21-58  
Help us, Lord, to see ourselves as we really are: "everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Help us, also, to see that Your wonderful grace is greater than all our sin. Help us to see that Jesus sets us free (John 8:36). He forgives our sins. He gives us the strength that we need to keep on walking with You. He's leading us on to Your eternal glory. With Jesus as our Saviour, may we know that our sin will never have the last word: "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

John 9:1-41
Lord, we thank You that You bring us out of our darkness and into Your light: "One thing I know. I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). We only catch a glimpse of Your light. There is still so much darkness. It's not only the darkness around us. It's the darkness in us. Lord, may the glimpses of Your light keep us from being overwhelmed by the darkness.

John 10:1-42
Living for You, Lord, is not easy. Satan sees to that! Help us, Lord, when we're sorely tempted to turn from You, to remember that You are stronger than Satan: "Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

John 11:1-44
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, is "the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25). His promise is given to those who believe in Him: "he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). Help us, when we hear these words of hope, to say 'Yes' to Jesus when He puts to us His question, ""Do you believe this?" (John 11:26).

John 11:45-12:36
We thank You, Lord, for Jesus. He died on the Cross for us. Through His death, Satan is defeated. Through His death, we are saved. Thank You, Lord, for this mighty victory over Satan. Thank You for this great salvation for us.

John 12:37-13:20
Help us, Lord, not to be secret disciples. May we be unashamed to say that we belong to Jesus - to take our stand for Jesus. Help us not to think of Him only as our personal Saviour. Give us the strength that we need to confess Him before others - to confess Him as our Lord.

John 13:21-14:14
When, Lord, we face difficult times, help us to look beyond them - to Your glorious future. Jesus is "preparing a place for us in Your House" (John 14:2). When we feel low, may His precious promise of heavenly and eternal glory fill us wiyth Your joy and Your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

John 14:15-15:17
Lord, we come to You in our weakness. You give to us Your strength. Without Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). With Jesus as our Saviour - His Word abiding in us (John 15:7) and the Holy Spirit teaching us all things (John 15:26), we are led into a life of fruitfulness (John 15:12,16-17). May it be "the fruit of the Spirit" - "love, joy, peace ... " (Galatians 5:22-23).

John 15:18-16:33
Lord, we face many problems and difficulties. You are greater than all of them! This is Good News - and it fills our hearts with joy. "The world is trying to squeeze us into its mould" (Romans 12:2) - but You come to us with Your Word of victory: "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). You call us to trust in You, to be led in Your way of victory: "Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5).

John 17:1-26
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is praying for us. He is seated at Your right hand - and He has not forgotten us. Often, we forget Him. He never forgets us. He keeps on praying for us - "He ever lives to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). He prays that we "may be one" (John 17:11).When we are tempted to go the way of Judas Iscariot, "the one who chose to be lost" (John 17:12), help us to "take note of those who create dissensions", to "avoid them" and to "maintain the unity of the Spirit" (Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).

John 18:1-27
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, drank from the cup of our condemnation so that we might drink from the cup of His salvation. What a great thing Jesus has done for us. He has done all that needed to be done - for us to be forgiven by You. We thank You that Jesus, the risen Lord, gives us a new beginning - the new beginning that comes from Your Holy Spirit, the new beginning that turns sinful failures into faithful servants.

John 18:28-19:16
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus took our sin - and we receive His salvation. Is there anything better than this? No! This is the best. Jesus is the best. We look at Him - crucified for us, and we say, "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!"

John 19:17-20:10
We thank You, Lord, that, when Jesus died on the Cross, He did all that needed to be done for our salvation. From the Cross, He mad this great declaration: "It is finished" (John 19:30). These were not words of despair. They are words of triumph. Beyond the Cross, there was something elsethat needed to be done. It was something that only You could have done. You raised Jesus from the dead. No-one else could have done this. Resurrection is Your work. To You alone be all the glory - forever and ever!

John 20:11-31
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, is "our Lord and our God" (John 20:28). We thank You that, through Jesus, the risen Lord, we have received Your gift of eternal "life" (John 20:31). As we think of all that You have done for us and given to us, may we keep on trusting You, giving thanks to You and living to bring glory tp Your great Name - the Name of our salvation.

John 21:1-25
We thank You, Lord, for the words of Jesus - "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). This is the call of Your grace. It is our Saviour who calls us. He calls to receive His forgiveness - and to follow Him. It is the call to discipleship. We're not to keep our distance. We're to draw near to Jesus - and follow in His footsteps. It's the call to be fruitful. We're not to keep the Good News to ourselves. We're to share Jesus' love with others.We're to bring others to Him. Lord, help us to receive Your grace, to follow your Son, and to bring people to Him.

A Godly, Christlike And Spirit-Filled Life

What kind of people are we to be? What kind of life are we to live? Lord, You're calling us to live a life of "love" (Proverbs 17:9). How, Lord, do we learn what love is? - We learn from You. You show us what love is - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son ... " (John 3:16). In Jesus, we see perfect love - "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). The Holy Spirit fills our lives with Your love - "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22). Help us, Lord, to live a Godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled life - a life of love.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

“Give thanks to the Lord.”

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).

Take Your Problems To The Lord.

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).

Prayer and Testimony

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).

God's Wisdom? or Our Wisdom?

In Job 11, we hear from Zophar. So far, so good - That’s what we can say about the basic principles of his message: “God’s wisdom is higher than heaven” (Job 11:8); “If you want to set your heart right, then pray to Him. If you’re holding on to sin, put it far away” (Job 11:13). There’s a problem with Zophar’s message. He applies these basic principles to Job. He allows the idea that Job has sinned to dominate his thinking rather than allowing for the possibility that God, in His perfect wisdom, may have another reason, a very different reason, for permitting Job to suffer. When we have two important principles - God’s wisdom and God’s forgiveness, we must not assume that we know exactly how the two relate to each other. If we act on the basis of our own wisdom rather than God’s wisdom, we may end up showing ourselves to be fools.
In Job 12 - 14, Job speaks. He emphasizes that wisdom comes from God (Job 12:13). He charges his so-called ‘comforters’ with speaking foolishly, without the wisdom which comes from God: “Will you talk wickedly for God and talk deceitfully on His behalf? ... Doesn’t His Majesty terrify you? Doesn’t the fear of Him fall upon you?” (Job 13:7,11). Job is still unclear about what is happening to him. He is still wishing that he was dead: “I wish You would hide me in Sheol” (Job 14:13). He still insists on his innocence: “I know that I will be declared righteous” (Job 13:18).

The Glory Of The Lord

Exodus 24:1-27:21
“The glory of the Lord” (Exodus 24:16-17) – God is to be glorified in all that we do. Symbolic of God’s glory is the frequent reference to “gold” or “pure gold.” God’s glory is to shine brightly among God’s people. If God is to be glorified among us, if our lives are to be like “pure gold”, we must be like “pure virgin olive oil”, keeping our “lamps” burning for Him (Exodus 27:20-21). God will not be glorified if we are not looking to Him to keep our lamps burning for Him – “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning”, “Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze. Set our hearts on fire … ” The blessing we read about here is not simply for those who are already God’s people. It is also for those who will be reached for Christ and won for Him, as the Lord’s people rise to the challenge of carrying Christ to “this land” and to “the nations.”

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Praying Through God's Word: 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1:1-2:5
We thank You, Lord, that our faith is “not based on human wisdom.” Our faith comes from Your power at work in us (1 Corinthians 2:5). Our faith is nothing without Your power. Without Your wisdom, we are fools. How do we receive Your power and Your wisdom? – We receive Your power and Your wisdom when we receive Jesus Christ, the Saviour, who has been crucified for us. He is Your power and Your wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
1 Corinthians 2:6-3:23
Help us, Lord, never to forget that the Saviour is always much more important than the servant. We serve You. You save us. Save and serve – what a difference there is between the two! Your salvation comes first. First, You save us. Then, we serve You. Help us never to forget this. When we start thinking, “You save us, because we serve You”, take us back to the Cross of Christ. Teach us that we serve  You because You have saved us.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21
Lord, You’ve called us to be “servants of Christ.” May we be “found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-4). Pleasing You – may this be the big thing in our lives. Nothing else matters more than this. We can try to keep people happy. What will that achieve if we’ve forgotten that the most important thing is pleasing You? Lord, let there be less of self and more of You in our lives.
1 Corinthians 5:1-6:11
Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes on Jesus – “Christ, our Passover Lamb, who has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7). Help us never to forget that Your great blessings have come to us through Jesus, our great Saviour – “you were washed … sanctified … justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Help us, Lord, as we think of Jesus, our great Saviour, to say, from our hearts, “To God be the glory! Great things He has done.”
1 Corinthians 6:12-7:24
Lord, there is one love that is greater than any other love. It’s Your love for us. You gave Your Son for us. When we think of Your love, when we see Jesus, crucified for us, help us to open our hearts to Your love. Help us to receive Your love, to rejoice in Your love and be renewed by Your love.
1 Corinthians 7:25-8:13
Lord, there is no better life than the life that is centred on Christ. We may think that we’re doing all right when we’re living for ourselves – but we’re not! You call us out of a self-centred life and into a life of love, a life that is being shaped by Your love, a life that proclaims Your love – “The steadfast love of the Lord endures for ever” (Psalm 136).
1 Corinthians 9:1-27
Sometimes, Lord, we want to be the centre of attention. We forget that we’re not the centre. You’re the centre – the centre of our faith, our worship and our life. You’re the One who has done all that was needed for us to be saved. Our salvation does not come from ourselves. It comes from You. What can we say about this? – All we can say is this: “To God be the glory! Great things He has done.” Help us to stop trying to be the centre of attention – and to start making You the great focus of our attention.
1 Corinthians 10:1-33
We gather together at the Lord’s Table. We have been invited by Jesus. We are welcomed by Jesus. We remember Jesus. Help us, Lord, to appreciate, more deeply, the love of Jesus: “the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us.” Help us to leave the old life – “I have been crucified with Christ” – and live the new life – “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
1 Corinthians 11:1-34
What’s it all about? What are we doing when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Help us, Lord, to look beyond the bread and wine. Help us to see Jesus – in the glory of His love. His body was broken for us. This is not about what we do for Jesus. It’s about what He has done for us. It’s about thinking and thanking. As we think about Jesus, may we also thank Him for being such a wonderful Saviour.
1 Corinthians 12:1-31
Teach us, Lord, to walk with You, in love. May we be deeply appreciative of Your love for us. May we be radically transformed by Your love for us. Your love does not leave us where it finds us.Your love changes us. It makes us new men and women – people who are learning to love You with the love that You have poured into our hearts.
1 Corinthians 13:1-14:12
Help us, Lord, to look back with thanksgiving and to look forward with faith. Help us to remember the past and to prepare for the future.We’re to learn from the past. We’re not to live in the past. Learning from the past doesn’t mean getting locked in the past. There are things that belong to the past, things that should be left in the past. They’re not the most important things. They’re things that should be allowed to die. There are, however, things that must never be allowed to die – the love that comes to us from You, the faith that trusts in Jesus, our Saviour; and the hope that arises in our hearts when the Holy Spirit makes His home in us (1 Corinthians 13:13).
1 Corinthians 14:13-40
Help us, Lord, to practise what we preach, to practise what we pray, to practise what we praise. We speak about good preaching, good times of prayer, good songs of praise. What about good living? How much does it really matter, Lord, if our good preaching, praying and praising doesn’t lead to good living? teach us, Lord, to look for more than saying and singing the right things. Help us to live the right way – bringing glory to You all through the week, and not only when we’re gathered together for worship.
1 Corinthians 15:1-45
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus has risen from the dead. Help us to look forward to our resurrection from the dead. We will be “raised” – “imperishable … in glory … in power … a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Help us, here-and-now, to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection (Philippians 3:10). Believing the fact of His resurrection, living in the power of His resurrection, and rejoicing in the hope of our resurrection, may we be resurrection people, living the resurrection life. May we have faith in You, the resurrection God.
1 Corinthians 15:46-16:24
Teach us, Lord, to trust You, to love You and to serve You. Help us to think about our trust in You, our love for You and our service for You – Are they growing stronger or getting weaker? May there be less unbelief and more faith in You, less half-heartedness and more love for You, less laziness and more serving You with commitment that keeps on going when we feel like giving up.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Read - And Study.

We need to study Leviticus - not just read it.
Leviticus follows on from Genesis and Exodus. In Genesis, we see man ruined. In Exodus, we see man redeemed. In Leviticus, we see man worshipping. This is a book of worship. It is a book for redeemed people. It shows them how to worship God. What is true worship? We do not begin with the worshipper. We begin with the God who is worshipped: ‘The Lord called Moses’ (1:1). Before worship, there is revelation.
God reveals Himself to us. (a) He shows us who He is. (b) He speaks His Word to us.
(a) He says to us, ‘I am the Lord’ (22:2-3, 8-9, 16, 30-33). He says to us, ‘I am your God’ (23:14, 22, 28, 40, 43). We say to Him, ‘You are our God’ (23:14).
(b) ‘The Lord spoke.’
‘The Lord said.’ ‘The Lord commanded.’
Leviticus contains many direct messages from the Lord.
In Leviticus – the book of holiness and atonement – , God reveals Himself as the God of holiness and love.
(i) Leviticus speaks much about God’s holiness. It also speaks of our call to live a holy life (11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). In Leviticus, we are given instruction concerning approaching the holy God and maintaining fellowship with the holy God.
(ii) Leviticus speaks about atonement. The shedding of blood is emphasized. This points forward to salvation through the shed blood of Christ.
Holiness and atonement – these two themes belong together in a true understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
* The holy God cannot stand sin. He has said, ‘Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).
* The God of holiness is also the God of love. When we say, ‘God is holy’, we must never forget that ‘God is love.’ He is holy love. He is loving holiness. In Christ, God has provided a way for sin to be forgiven. In Christ, God Himself has become the Sacrifice for sin. He has taken upon Himself the punishment for sin. He has met the requirements of both His own holiness and our need for forgiveness.
Through the death of Christ for us, God has provided for our justification and our sanctification.
He imputes holiness to the believer. This is our justification. In Christ, we have received the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 3:24). He implants holiness in the believer’s heart. This is our
sanctification. In Christ, we have received new life (Romans 6:1-6).
The command – ‘Be holy’ – is also a promise
– ‘You shall be holy’ (11:45; 19:2). Why is the command also a promise? It is because the command is based on God’s gift to us. In Christ, God has given us a holy nature. Our holiness is not an inherent holiness. We are not holy by nature. Our own nature is sinful. Our holiness is a derived holiness. It is derived
from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
* Leviticus, the book of atonement, points us to Christ. Through Him, we are cleansed from all our sins. In Him, we are clean before the Lord (16:30).
* Leviticus, the book of holiness, calls us to live a holy life. The life is a life of redemption and glory.
Where does the glory of the Lord come from this? It comes from this – the Lord is working out in us His great plan of redemption.
Redemption
Every Sabbath day – in the context of worship – the people are reminded of God’s covenant (24:8). This is a continuing reminder of all that God has done (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob … redemption from Egypt). It speaks to us also of all that God will do. As well as salvation from Egypt, there is also the life of sanctification in Canaan (25:3; 20:24 – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ – and the life of service
(25:35). We are saved for sanctification. We are saved to serve. The Christian life is to be a life of holiness (sanctification) and love (service). Both arise form our experience of God’s salvation, an ongoing experience of the glory of God.
* In chapter 27, great emphasis is placed on holiness
(vs. 9-10, 14, 21, 23, 28, 30, 32-33). We are called to live a holy
life – ‘every devoted thing (person) is holy to the Lord’ (v.28). We are to surrender ourselves to the Lord – all our possessions are ‘holy to the Lord’ (v. 30). In giving ourselves to the Lord, we must seek to maintain the attitude of gratitude (Genesis 28:22).
* As well as holiness, there is to be love in our lives. We are to love our neighbour (19:18). We are to love the stranger (19:33-34). We are to be like the Good Samaritan. The stranger is our neighbour (Luke 10:25-37). What is our motive for loving the
stranger? It is redemption. God has redeemed us. We must not withhold His love from the stranger.
Glory
We must seek to be like Christ. Like Him, we are to live a life of holiness and love. This life of obedience is a life of entering into the glory of God (9:6; John 14:21). Sin robs us of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Salvation restores to us the glory of God
(2 Corinthians 3:18).
The contrast between the life of sin and the life of salvation is highlighted in chapter 26.
In vs. 1-13, we have God’s promises. He promises to give His
blessing to those who live in obedience to Him. In vs. 14-46, we have God’s warnings. There will be punishment for those who refuse to obey Him.
The essential character of the saved life is described in verses 1-13. We see this, especially, in verse 12 – ‘I will be your God and you shall be My people.’ In this relationship with God, we have His great promise – ‘I will make My abode among you, and my soul shall not abhor you’ (v. 11). When the Lord makes His abode in us, His glory is revealed through us (John 14:21). This glory is seen as we walk with the Lord in the ongoing experience of His salvation. We are ‘not … slaves.’ We ‘walk erect’ (v.13).
God’s purpose is for men and women to leave the life of sin and enter the life of salvation. He chastises the disobedient with a view to their returning to Him (26:18; 23). For those who return, there is the promise of grace (vs. 40-46).
The pathway to holiness begins at the gateway of grace. We travel from grace to glory. The words, ‘by grace through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8), are written over the whole course of the Christian life. At the beginning, it is ‘by grace through faith.’ At every point of the journey to glory, the message remains the same – ‘by grace through faith.’ In glory – ‘in the coming ages’ when God reveals ‘the immeasurable riches of His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:7) – our joyful confession remains the same for all eternity: ‘by grace through faith.’

Saturday, 14 May 2016

""Great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22).

Day by day, we learn more about our own human failure. Day by day, we learn also of God's divine faithfulness. "We are faithless. He remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). Day by day, let's praise God for His wonderful love, His amazing grace and His superabundant marvellous mercy. "The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant ... Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ... I obtained mercy ... Now to the King eternal ... be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Timothy 1:14-17).

Lamentations

The title―Lamentations ― suggests human sadness. There is, however, something else here ― divine faithfulness. At the heart of this short book, we find this great declaration ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ (3:23). Knowing God as the God of great faithfulness involves looking beyond our circumstances and our feelings.
Israel’s circumstances were depressing. Jerusalem had fallen. The Temple had been destroyed. Depression seemed to be the mood of the moment. Humanly speaking, things did not look good. Israel had known better times. The Lord’s people had wandered from the Lord. The people of God knew little of the power of God. This was not, however, the whole story. The faithful God had not given up on his wayward people. He assured them that they would again have good reason to say ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. We could easily miss the five chapters of Lamentations. Hidden away between the fifty two chapters of Jeremiah and the forty eight chapters of Ezekiel, they hardly catch the eye. The title ― Lamentations ― hardly grabs our attention. It would be a great pity ― for us ― if we overlooked this testimony to God’s faithfulness. Here, we have a message of great contemporary relevance. Lamentations was written at a time, strikingly similar to our own day. God’s people had been taken captive. They lived in an alien environment. This is the story of our own nation in the twenty-first century. We live in a secularized society, a society in which there is little sense of God’s presence. Our society is a materialistic society, a society which has made money its ‘god’. The people of God are a people under pressure. We are tempted to become prisoners of our circumstances, prisoners of our feelings. We look at our circumstances, and we feel ‘desolate’ (1:4) and ‘despised’ (1:11). In our discouragement, we cry to God: ‘O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!’ (1:9). What did God say to Israel in their time of distress? He spoke to them of his great faithfulness, his readiness to revive his work. This is the message which we must hear in our day. It is a message which will draw out from our hearts that great confession of faith ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. How are we to live for Christ in the twenty-first century? We must live with realism, and we must live by faith. We need realism if we are to look honestly at our present circumstances. Looking beyond those circumstances calls for faith ― faith in the God of great faithfulness. The Church’s present situation is aptly yet sadly described in the words ― ‘How the gold has grown dim’ (4:1). We can come to God only in confession of sin ― ‘O Lord ... see our disgrace’ (5:1). We look at our secularized society, and we acknowledge that ‘our inheritance has been turned over to strangers’ (5:2). We look at the secularization of the Church, and we acknowledge that ‘our homes (have been turned over) to aliens’ (5:2).
We look into our own hearts and lives, and we acknowledge that ‘the joy of our hearts has ceased; (and) our dancing has been turned to mourning’ (5:15). In the world of today and the Church of today, it is not easy to rejoice in our hearts. It is even more difficult to be joyful in testifying for the Lord. We must seek a positive answer to the question, ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:4).
Israel’s difficulty in singing the Lord’s song is emphasized by the sad fact that ‘Mount Zion ... lies desolate’ (5:8). This is the situation, which is described in Psalm 137:1 ― ‘By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion’. In this situation, the ‘tormentors’ of God’s people mockingly say, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ (Psalm 137:3). When we are faced with similar circumstances, we are forced to ask, ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ How are we to do this? Are we to hide our heads in the sand, run away from our difficult circumstances and escape into pious emotion? This is what we must not do. We must face our circumstances honestly. This is realism.
We dare not ignore the reality of our situation. There is, however, another reality of which we must take account ― the reality of God, the God concerning whom we say, with faith, ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. By faith, we look beyond our circumstances to our God: ‘But thou, O Lord, dost reign for ever; thy throne endures to all generations’ (5:19). To believe in God’s faithfulness is to believe that his ‘throne endures to all generations’. God is still on the throne. There is no question of ‘God used to be on the throne, but now he is no lnger on the throne’. We have heard what the so-called ‘Death of God’ theologians have had to say for themselves.
We have also heard what the book of Lamentations says for God: ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. Having heard the voice of God, in the midst of the voices of unbelief, we affirm our faith in the living God. God is still on the throne. For ever, he reigns. His throne endures to all generations. This is the faith which inspired Israel in their captivity. This is the faith with which we move forward in the twenty-first century. It is the faith which transforms our feelings. By faith, we bring our feelings to God. Like Israel, we may feel forgotten and forsaken (5:20). In God’s presence, we exchange our feelings ― forgotten and forsaken ― for his blessings ― restoration and renewal: ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord ... Renew our days as of old!’ (5:21).
In the Lord’s presence, we become convinced of God’s faithfulness. He has not forgotten us, and he will not forget us. He has not forsaken us, and he will not forsake us. In our prayer for restoration and renewal, we bring our circumstances and feelings to God, refusing to be overwhelmed by them.
We pray with urgency, conscious of our great need of restoration and renewal. Prisoners of circumstances and feelings, we pray ― with faith ― that the chains will start falling and the changes will start happening. In prayer, we look back ― with thanksgiving ― to past blessings, and we look forward ― in hope ― to future blessing. We remember what God has done in ‘days ... of old’, and our faith grows ― God reigns for ever and his throne endures to all generations. Strengthened in faith, we pray, ‘Renew our days as of old!’ The restoration and renewal for which we must pray is the restoration of our walk with God ― 'He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake’ (Psalm 23:3) ― and the renewal of our witness for God ― ‘Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?’ (Psalm 85:6). Walking with God and witnessing for God, we are sustained by the joy of the Lord. In this Book with such an unpromising name ― ‘Lamentations’ ― the joy of the Lord comes shining through. Looking beyond our circumstances to the Lord, we are able, with joy, to affirm our faith: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end’ (3:22). The steadfast love of the Lord may also be described as his faithful love. His love is love, unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Rejoicing in such love, we praise God’s faithfulness: ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ (3:23).
Through the faithful love of God, we are given a testimony: ‘The Lord is my portion’. With this testimony, we face the future with the courage of faith: ‘I will hope in him’ (3:24). In our walk with God, this testimony ― ‘The Lord is my portion’ ― is an expression of the joyful faith which finds its true satisfaction in the Lord. We speak of  'a good portion’ and ‘a satisfying meal’. Those who have found that ‘none but Christ can satisfy’ have this testimony: ‘The Lord is my portion’. Assured of God’s faithful love ― a love which is completely trustworthy, utterly reliable and entirely dependable, we confidently affirm, ‘The Lord is my portion’. This faith is no secondhand faith. It may be a faith which reflects on the Lord’s dealing with the whole body of his people but it is, nevertheless, a personal faith ―‘The Lord is my portion’. In Christ, we have received the full portion of God’s blessing. As ‘his sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ’, we have received ‘every spiritual blessing’ (Ephesians 1:4-5). For once, the ‘child’s portion’ is the ‘full portion!’ Knowing Christ as ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:35) and ‘the living water’ (John 4:10, 13-14 and John 7:37-38), we gladly say ‘The Lord is my portion’. Those who have begun to walk with God are also to witness for him. Those who have the personal testimony ‘The Lord is my portion’ ― are to say to others, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34:8). We have found Christ. We are to share him with others. We have come to know Christ. We are to make him known Surprising though it may seem, the Book of Lamentations can be of some value in the preaching of the gospel. A book bearing the unlikely title ― ‘Lamentations’ ― hardly creates the impression that it will be
of any real use in the proclamation of ‘good news’. The desolation of God’s people in the twenty first century is so reminiscent of the desolation of which we read in Lamentations. Many watch what is going on in our generation, and they wonder, ‘Where is the Word of the Lord’ in all this? (Jeremiah 17:15) The sadness which pervades so much of Lamentations reflects the mood of many of the Lord’s people in our day ― longing for better times, for the ‘days ... of old’ (5:21). Ours is an age of many questions and, so it seems, few answers. Lamentations is a book which ends with questions, ‘Why dost thou forget us for ever, why dost thou so long forsake us? ... Or hast thou utterly rjected us? Art thou exceedingly angry with us?’ (5:20, 22). So often, modern man expects no answer to his questions. In Lamentations, these questions are set in the context of believing affirmation ― ‘But thou, O Lord, dost reign for ever; thy throne endures to all generations’ (5:19) ― and earnest prayer ― ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old!’ (5:21). How are we to bring good news to a world that is living with questions, a world that shows little inclination to believe the confession of faith ― ‘Thou, O Lord, doest reign for ever’ ― and little interest in praying the fervent prayer ― ‘Restore us to thyself, O Lord’? This is a question which calls for a practical response. It demands a response which will take into account the questions which men and women are asking in this generation. To speak of questions ― some spoken in the context of prayer and faith, and others asked with little expectation of an answer ― is to acknowledge that there are many different types of questions.
This may be brought out clearly through a brief review of the questions asked in the Book of Lamentations. In 1:12, we have a question put to those who despise the Lord’s people, ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’. In 2:12, there is the question asked by ‘infants and babes faint(ing) in the streets of the city’(2:11) -  ‘Where is bread and wine?’ In 2:13, there are questions which raise the question of the comfort and restoration of a fallen people: ‘What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you that may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?’ The question of the cynics who ‘hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem’ is found in 2:15 ― ‘Is this the city which was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?’ In 2:20, we have questions asked in the mood of prayerful moral indignation: ‘Look, O Lord, and see! With whom hast thou dealt thus? Should women eat their offspring, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?’
Moving into the third chapter, we find this triology of questions at vs. 37-39: ‘Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?’ There are so many different questions being asked today.
They are being asked by different people. They are being asked in different ways and with different expectations. What do the question of  Lamentations have to say to our day, a day of many questions? They may prompt the modern questioner to think about the question he’s not asking as well as the questions he is asking ― ‘Perhaps, there is a God who has his own questions to put to me.’ Lamentations asks its questions within the context of the great declaration of faith : ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ (3:23). This combination of intense questioning and confident faith might well increase the questioner’s expectation of an answer ― an answer which while it may leave some questions unresolved, opens the doors to faith. As we face modern man’s questions, we must ‘be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks us to give a reason for our hope’ (1 Peter 3:15). In giving an answer, we dare not imagine that we can ever hope to give a complete answer to every question. We must always remember that ‘the secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us’ (Deuteronomy 29:29). The answer which we give is not our answer. It is God’s answer.
Man’s question has been answered by God. He has answered it in person. The God of faithfulness ― the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14) ― is God’s answer to mans question. The answer which we give must always be a Christ-centred answer. We may now focus special attention on two of the questions asked in Lamentations ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’ (1:12), and ‘Where is bread and wine?’ (2:12). We read these questions in connection with two other questions, the first two questions asked in the Bible: ‘the serpent ... said to the woman, “Did God say ... ?” ’ (Genesis 3:1), and ‘the Lord God called to the man..., “Where are you?” ‘ (Genesis 3:9). Taking these four questions together, we may find a helpful pattern for thinking about Christian witness in today’s world. The Bible’s first question was asked by neither God nor man. It was asked by ‘the serpent’ ― ‘that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan’ (Revelation 20:2). We do not introduce the devil here in order to provide ourselves with an excuse for our unbelief. After all, Scripture tells us that ‘each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire’ (James 1:14). Rather, we speak of Satan’s question ― ‘Did God say?’ in order to emphasize that many of today’s questions arise from unbelief, and not from faith seeking understanding. We speak of the Satanic origin of the Bible’s first question in order to stress that, in today’s world, we are involved in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12), when we seek to bring the modern questioner from one form of questioning ― the questioning of unbelief ― to another very different form of questioning ― faith seeking understanding. We must  eckon with the activity of Satan when we encounter the questioning which arises from unbelief‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4;4). How is the problem of unbelief to be overcome? Unbelief gives way to faith, only when God is at work in the human heart: ‘it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). The emergence of faith in the human heart is the work of ‘the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:2). If we are to combat unbelief effectively, our evangelism must be God―centred. We proclaim the God of love, the God who sent his Son ‘to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10). God has not changed. He is still the God of love. He still calls out to the lost, ‘Where are you?’. In love, he still invites the sinner to return to him. His love is a yearning love, a passionate love, a love which says to the indifferent: ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’. His love for us is a love which draws out from our hearts a returning love ― ’Loving him who first loved me’. Touched by the love of God, the modern questioner finds that the character of his questioning begins to change. The question of the unbeliever gives way to the question of the seeker: ‘Where is bread and wine?’. There is a hunger and thirst which the world cannot satisfy, a hunger and thirst which can be satisfied only by the One whose body was broken for us and whose blood was shed for us. ‘Where is bread and wine?’ It is not the ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ of this world, which satisfies the deepest need of the human heart. It is Jesus Christ ‘the bread of Life’ (John 6:48), ‘the true vine’ (John 15:1). ‘Where is bread and wine?’ This is the question of the seeking heart. To those who are truly seeking, Jesus says, ‘You will find’ (Matthew 7:7). Why do we start asking the seeker’s question? His love lays hold on us. What do we find when we truly seek? His love. The love which prompted us to seek is the love which we find in Jesus Christ. Evangelism, when it is truly God-centred, will also be Christ-centred. Evangelism, which is both God―centred and Christ-centred, becomes effective through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is witness for Christ, which is grounded in walking in the Spirit. True evangelism is grounded in care and prayer. If we truly desire to see the mighty blessing of God in our day, we must care for those who are living without Christ, and we must pray for them. Caring and praying ― both are vital if we are to be really used by the Lord to bring his blessing into the lives of others. Caring for those who have yet to find the Saviour, we invite them to consider the question of 1:12 ― ‘Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?’. Praying for them, we pray that they will ask the seeker’s question ― ‘Where is bread and wine?’ (2:12). Caring and praying, we are ― by our lives and our words ― to invite men and women to consider Jesus Christ and to discover for themselves what w e can do in their lives. As we seek to be faithful to God in our Christian walk and witness, we will discover ― despite all the difficulties facing the Christian Faith and the Christian Church ― the great truth which lies at the heart of Lamentations ― ‘Great is thy faithfulness’.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Praying Through God’s Word: Lamentations

Lamentations 1:1-22
Jerusalem had fallen into hard times – ‘she who once was great among the nations… has now become a slave’ (Lamentations 1:1). Lord, we wonder why this happened. The explanation for this sad situation was not hard to find – ‘Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean…’ (Lamentations 8-9). We wonder, “Could things be turned around? Could there once again be blessing?” We thank You, Lord, that there was a way back to You – the way of being honest before You. They needed to look seriously at their way of life and think seriously about their attitude towards You, Lord. They were not to adopt an arrogant attitude – ‘There’s really nothing wrong with us. We’re doing all right.’ They were to come to You with a real confession of sin: ‘The Lord is righteous, yet I rebelled against His command… O Lord,… I have been most rebellious’ (Lamentations 1:18,20). We thank You, Lord, that Your blessing will begin again when we confess our sin.
Lamentations 2:1-22
We think, Lord, about Jerusalem’s fall into hard times. This was n’t ‘just one of those things that happens.’ Your people brought it on themselves. They didn’t take You seriously – but You continued to take them seriously. They ignored You, Lord, but You didn’t ignore their disobedience to You. They sinned against You – and You were angry with them: ‘How the Lord in His anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!’ (Lamentations 2:1). This was not just a case of glibly saying, ‘The good times will come again.’ They needed to recognize why the bad times had come: ‘The Lord has… carried out His threat’ (Lamentations 2:17). Lord, You had warned Your sinful people. Judgment was on its way – if they refused to listen to You. Now, in the time of You judgment, You are still calling us back to Yourself: ‘Cry aloud to the Lord!…’ (Lamentations 2:18-19). Help us, Lor, to return to You?
Lamentations 3:1-24
Lord, there are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction…’ (Lamentations 3:1-3). In such times, Help us to remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.’ When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, may we learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us. Teach us, Lord, to look You, and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness.’ We don’t find it easy to see You at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong. Teach us to be patient, as we wait for Your blessing return to our lives. May we put all our hope in You, Lord. Teach us to trust in Your precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:22-26).
Lamentations 3:25-42
Teach us, Lord, In our ‘grief’, not to forget Your ‘compassion’ (Lamentations 3:32). You understand us. You care for us. How, Lord, do we know that You love us? ‘Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). This is the greatest demonstration of Your love for us. How can we doubt Your love for us when we think of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross for us as our Saviour? When we think of Your love for us, may we remember that You call us to love You. Teach us not to take Your love for granted – ‘God loves me. I can do what I like.’ Help us to appreciate Your love – ‘God loves me. I will love Him.’ You love us. Christ died for us. How can we say, ‘I’ll do what I like’? How can we refuse to be changed by Your love?‘ Teach us, Lord, to examine our ways and turn back to You. Teach us to open our hearts to You’ (Lamentations 3:40-41).
Lamentations 3:43-66
‘You came near when I called You… O Lord… You redeemed my life’ (Lamentations 3:57-58). We wonder, Lord, ‘Will You answer our prayer for salvation?’ Yes! At the Cross of Christ, we learn that You love us and answers our prayer. ‘You did not wait for me to draw near to You, but You clothed yourself in frail humanity. You did not wait for me to cry out to You, but You let me hear Your voice calling me. And I’m forever grateful to You, I’m forever grateful for the Cross; I’m forever grateful to You that You came to seek and save the lost.’ ‘Thank You for the Cross, the price You paid for us, how You gave Yourself so completely, precious Lord, precious Lord. Now our sins are gone, all forgiven, covered by Your blood, all forgotten, thank You Lord, thank You Lord’ (Songs of Fellowship, 631; Mission Praise, 632).
Lamentations 4:1-22
We thank You, Lord, that no human king can even begin to compare with our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the King of kings’ (Revelation 19:16). The people of Jerusalem were full of confidence. They ‘trusted their king to protect them from every invader.’ They thought Jerusalem was invincible: ‘No one anywhere, not even rulers of foreign nations, believed that any invader could enter Jerusalem’s gates.’ They were wrong. They thought it would never happen – but it did! The unthinkable happened! ‘They captured the source of our life, the king the Lord had chosen.’ Why, Lord, did it happen? Your Word gives us the reason: ‘It happened because of the sins of her prophets and… priests’. The king – ‘the Lord’s anointed’ – was unable to prevent Jerusalem’s defeat (Lamentations 4:12-13,20). We praise You, Lord – We have a greater King: our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Lamentations 5:1-22
‘You, O Lord, reign for ever; Your throne endures from generation to generation’. Help us to remember this when we feel like You have ‘forgotten’ us. When we feel like You have ‘abandoned’ us, may we remember this: ‘You, O Lord, are King for ever, and will rule to the end of time’ (Lamentations 5:19-20). Teach us not only to pay lip-service to You, our Lord and our King. May we crown You as King of our hearts and our lives. How, Lord, are we to do this? Teach us to pray, ‘Bring us back to You, Lord!’ (Lamentations 5:21). Lord, You’re looking for a real return to You and a real difference in our lives. ‘In your hearts enthrone Him. There let Him subdue all that is not holy, all that is not true…’; ‘So let us learn how to serve and in our lives enthrone Him, each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ we’re serving’ (Church Hymnary, 300; Mission Praise, 162).

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Hopeless Situation?

For Jerusalem, the situation seemed to be hopeless. Humanly speaking, everything looked very gloomy. This was the situation into which the word of the Lord came. Often, our feelings may tell us, “My enemies have triumphed” (Lamentations 1:9). These are the times when we must learn to look beyond our feelings, believing that God has His Word for us, and it is a Word of victory.
There is so much, in Lamentations 2, about God’s judgment. It is, however, encouraging to read the words of Lamentations 2:13 – God’s people are described as the “beloved people of Zion.” Beloved – This is a great word. God used this word to describe Jesus – His Beloved Son. We are in Christ. We are in the Beloved. We are God’s Beloved. We are loved with an everlasting love.
At the heart of this book, in which there is much lamentation, we find words of great encouragement – “Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). The Lord is assuring us that, whatever may happen to us, here is something that never changes: the faithfulness of God.
We hear what Lamentations says to us about God’s judgment. We also hear what it says about His faithfulness. Through our sin, we have brought God’s judgment upon ourselves – This is the bad news concerning ourselves. Through His faithful love, we receive the forgiveness of our sins – This is the Good News of God’s love for sinners.
In Lamentations 5, we have a prayer of the prophet. As he prays for a return to the Lord – “O Lord, bring us back to You …” (Lamentations 5:21), he affirms that the Lord is King – “You, O Lord, sit enthroned for ever” (Lamentations 5:19).

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Keeping Things Simple - Big Thoughts In Short Sentences

Genesis

When I was writing these words, I was thinking of some of the stories in the book of Genesis (the book of beginnings). I was thinking about Adam, Abraham and Joseph - and I was thinking about Jesus!
___________________________________________
It was the genesis of my life.
Things were looking so good.
Then, it all went badly wrong.
What could be done about this?
Could things be turned around?
The devil was running the show.
Where was God in all of this?
Was He there? or Had He gone?
The more I thought about this,
The more I came to see,
The Lord was watching me,
Waiting for me to come home.
It was the genesis of my faith.
What must I do to be saved?
Look away from myself.
Put my trust in Jesus Christ.
Things are looking so good.
They're on the up and up.
The sun  is shining in the sky.
It's not just the sun that's in the sky.
It's the Son who's shining on me.
It's the Saviour. He loves me.
It's the Saviour. He changes me.
It's Jesus. All praise to His Name.
It was the genesis of my calling.
The Lord loves every one.
He calls me to show His love,
To show them His love is real
It's not a love for some of us.
It's love for every one.
Let His love show. Let His love flow.
Let it reach out to every one.
Life is never easy.
Egypt's never far away.
In fact, it's all around us.
It rises in our hearts.
Is there something better?
We may never escape.
We're stuck in the place where we are,
But God is there beside us.
He's with us all the way.
_____
Exodus
What an exodus it was!
Was it really a deliverance?
Was it more than a departure?
Departure? - Yes. it was.
It involved the peoples' choice.
They had to follow God's direction.
Deliverance? - That's what it was.
It required the power of God.
The people made their choice.
The power came from God.
God said, "I will do this."
God said, "Will you follow?"
It came from the people.
It came from the Lord.
They called on Him.
He answered them.
"This is what we want."
"This is what I'll give to you."
___

Leviticus

Leviticus - it's such a strange book.
Is it really worth another look?
It speaks of the God who's holy.
It tells us that He loves us.
It points us to the Lamb of God.
He takes away our sin.
___

Numbers

Walking around in the desert,
It seems such a waste of time,
Or, was there someting more than that?
Is there a way out of the wasteland?
Yes! There is the promised land.
The Lord is with us in the desert.
He will not leave us there.
___

Deuteronomy

These thoughts are based on Deuteronomy 8:3.

Feed us, Lord.
Feed us with Your Word.
Give us hunger,
Real hunger - for Your Word.

Satisfy us, Lord.
Speak to us - Your Word.
Fill our hearts with joy,
The joy of knowing You.
___

Jeremiah

These thoughts are based on Jeremiah 1:6-8 and Jeremiah 6:16.

He was just a young boy.
Jeremiah was his name.
He had something to say to the people,
Something that they would not forget.
This was more than the word of man.
This was the Word of the Lord.
They may not respond to the Word of the Lord.
They would never forget that they heard it.
What did Jeremiah say to them?
Did he say something new?
No! He said, "Go back to the beginning.
Get back to the Word of the Lord."
___

Amos

These thoughts are based on Amos 7:14.

Amos was a herdsman,
Looking after sheep.
Do we catch a glimpse of Someone else,
the Shepherd of our souls?
Jesus is there, just behind the scenes.
He loves us with the best love -
It's better than all the rest.

Two Sides Of Jesus

We're going to look at the Lord Jesus in two very different situations. We will see two sides of Him - two sides which belong together.
In John 2:1-11, we see him at a wedding, celebrating with the newly-weds, sharing with them in their happiness.
In John 2:12-16, we see Him as the religious reformer, strenuously defending the purity of worship in God's House.
These two sides of the Lord Jesus show us something about the purpose of life.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with question, "What is man's chief end (purpose)?"
The answer is given, "Man's chief end (purpose) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
Glorifying God and enjoying God - the two belong together.
In the Christian life, there is both privilege and responsibility - the privilege of being a Christian and the responsibility of being a Christian.
In John 2, we learn about the joy of being a Christian and the seriousness of being a Christian. We learn that the joy of being a Christian and the seriousness of being a Christian are grounded in Christ's joy and Christ's seriousness.
In Christ, joy and seriousness went hand-in-hand. They are to go hand-in-hand in the Christian.
* First, let's look at Christ's joy and our joy. He does not call His followers to be kill-joys. He wants to make us happy, to give us true happiness.
C. H. Spurgeon, the nineteenth-century preacher who was known as "The Prince of Preachers", had some rather caustic yet very wise words of advice for his students. He was critical of the severe, austere kill-joy, the kind of person who spreads gloom everywhere. He was critical of the religion of the black clothes, the kind of religion which is suspicious of all joy and happiness.
Spurgeon said, "I know men who, from head to feet, are so ministerial in their dress that no particle of manhood is visible." Then he says, "An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living." He continues, "I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls; not levity and frothiness, but a genial, happy spirit."
Jesus was no monk in a monastery, no hermit hiding from the world of ordinary men and women. Jesus was to be found where people are.
Here, we see Him at a wedding.
On another occasion, we see Him at the home of Martha and Mary. We also see Him sharing a meal with Zacchaeus, a tax-collector.
We see Him, washing His disciples' feet.
If we think that being a Christian means being aloof, displaying a holier-than-thou attitude, then we haven't learned it from Jesus.
Let's look more closely at what Jesus did at the wedding. What we have here is a miracle - a miracle with a message.
The message is contemporary. This miracle teaches us that the Lord Jesus Christ is still at work today, seeking to transform human life.
Whenever Jesus comes into someone's life, he brings a new quality of life. Without Him, life is dull, stale, flat, drab and uninteresting. With Him, life is thrilling, wonderful and exhilarating.
Do you think that this is an exaggerated contrast?
This miracle shows us that there can be a transformation in life, like water being turned into wine.
Will we let Jesus give us this true joy, which is deep and permanent?
* Second, let's look at the seriousness of Christ's anger, as He clears the Temple.
Jesus is no sentimentalist. He's someone who needs to be taken seriously.
His joy and His seriousness belong together. Like Him, we are to have both joy and seriousness - not joy without seriousness, not seriousness without joy, joy and seriousness together.
Let's think of this in terms of our worship, but we must never worship Him without reverence,
It is only as we realize something of the holiness of God that we will truly be filled with the joy that comes from knowing that the holy God loves us.
Never come to the House of God completely unprepared. Prepare yourself by prayer. Remember that you are coming to God's House of prayer.
Never come to God's House, as if you were "pally with the Deity." we can come to God with confidence in Him, but we must come with true respect, always remembering who we are speaking to - God.
Jesus' clearing of the Temple (John 2:7-22) produced two different reactions
- The disciples were surer than ever that Jesus was the Messiah;
- The Jews demanded what right Jesus had to act like this.
Jesus' response to His critics was remarkable. He spoke of His resurrection. Temple worship would pass away. Jesus would rise again.
The Jews put all the emphasis on the place of worship. Jesus put the emphasis on the spirit of worship (John 2:23-25);
Jesus was remarkable - His unusual actions and His words of wisdom. This had an effect on people - "many believed."
What did Jesus do?
He refused to cash in on a moment's popularity. He knew human nature - our fickleness, our instability.
Jesus wanted disciples, not decisions.
Will you be His disciple - one who will be His true follower all the days of your life?

Saturday, 7 May 2016

God Doesn't Give Up On Us!

Jonah tried to run away from the Lord. The Lord protected Jonah (Jonah 1:17). The Lord hadn’t given up on Jonah. God had a purpose for Jonah. What a great purpose it was! The call of God (Jonah 1:1-2) wasn’t obeyed by Jonah – but the call of God remained. God was still planning to use Jonah to bring great blessing to the people of Nineveh. Jonah’s attempt to go to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3) was a detour – but God had not forgotten His plan for Jonah. The “big fish” was the beginning of God’s way of getting Jonah to the place where He wanted him to be. The “three days and three nights” were God’s way of getting Jonah ready for being His faithful and fruitful servant. In this time of preparation for service, there is prayer (Jonah 2:1-10). Jonah’s prayer was preparing the way for revival in Nineveh.
“From inside the fish…” – Not a great place to be; Jonah prayed to the Lord our God” – Can prayer change things? – Yes! “I called to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me” (Jonah 2:1-2). Humanly speaking, Jonah’s situation was hopeless: “The deep sea covered me completely… I sank to the bottom, where bars held me forever…” Humanly speaking – Is this all that there is? – No! There is more than this. There is God: “But You brought me back from the pit, O Lord my God” (Jonah 2:5-6).
"Then the Lord spoke His Word to Jonah a second time" (Jonah 3:1). "A second time" - This is so wonderful. This is the grace of God. He doesn't give up on us. He comes to us "a second time." Jonah was to give to the people of Nineveh the message that had been given to him by the Lord (Jonah 3:2). We don't make up the message as we're going along. We speak the message that has been given to us by the Lord.
"Jonah was very upset about this, and He became angry" (Jonah 4:1). After the high points of prayer (Jonah 2 and revival (Jonah 3), we come to this! This is pathetic. It's more than being upset and angry. Jonah became suicidal (Jonah 4:8-9). Why? - There's no good reason for him to feel like this. There are good reasons for him to rejoice in the Lord and give thanks to the Lord. What are we to say about this? "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). There's something else we must never forget - God knows the heart, and He can change it!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Praying Through God’s Word: Jonah

Jonah 1:1-2:10
‘Salvation comes from the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9). We can never save ourselves. We can only be saved – by You, Lord. Left to our own devices, we ‘flee from Your presence.’ We ‘run away from You’ (Jonah 1:3). Sin – This is the story of our life. Salvation – This is the story of what You have done for us. We are sinners. We need to be saved. How can our life be turned around? How can we turn from the way of sin and seek the way of salvation? We cannot change ourselves. We need to be changed by You, Lord. We cannot forgive our own sins. We need to be forgiven by You. Where does the desire for forgiveness and change come from? Does it come from ourselves? No! It comes from You, Lord: ‘He drew me, and I followed on…’ (Mission Praise, 499).
Jonah 3:1-4:11
The people of Nineveh ‘believed God’ and ‘turned from their evil ways.’ You, Lord, had shown Yourself to be ‘a gracious and compassionate God…’ How did Jonah react? Was he rejoicing in You? No! He was complaining – ‘Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.’ Jonah was a proud Jew. He despised the Ninevites. He didn’t want them to be saved. That’s why he was ‘so quick to flee to Tarshish’ (Jonah 3:5,10; Jonah 4:1-2). What does Your Word say about Jonah’s attitude? – ‘You have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else.’ Teach us never to ‘show contempt for the riches of His kindness.’ May we never say, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men.’ May we always pray, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Romans 2:1,4; Luke 18:11-14).

Thursday, 5 May 2016

From Disaster To Revival

 * "In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and You listened to my cry" (Jonah 2:2).
What are we to do when the going gets tough? We've heard the saying, When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We wonder if this really helps. What if we find that we're not really so tough? What happens when we can't get going? There are times when we know that this is too much for us. We can't raise ourselves up. We need to be lifted. We need You, Lord. You are "the lifter of my head." (Psalm 3:3). It's Your love that lifts us: "Love lifted me. When no-one but Christ could help, love lifted me" (James Rowe).
 * “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, to Your holy temple" (Jonah 2:7).
Where does this remembering come from? It comes from the Lord. He puts the prayer into our hearts. Jonah was running away from God. God was drawing Jonah back to Himself. Like Jonah, we lose our way in life. That's when we need to hear the wonderful words of Jesus, our Saviour. He tells us that He "came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
 * "Salvation is of the Lord. Victory belongs to the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).
Without the Lord, there is no salvation. Without Him, there is no victory. Jonah's story was a disaster story - until God stepped in. It was God who changed everything. That's the way it was with Jonah. That's the way it is with us.
 * "Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth" (Jonah 3:3-5).
What a revival! What power there is in the Word of God!

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Preaching Of John Wesley

"John Wesley’s Forty-Four Sermons" (published by the Epworth Press in 1944:  reprinted in 1977) - These sermons were first published, as four volumes, in 1746, 1748, 1750 and 1760. The language will seem, to the modern reader, to be very old-fashioned. There is, however, a great deal, in what Wesley says, that we need to hear today. My basic observations in reading theses sermons is this: Here is preaching which is centred on Jesus Christ, who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). When Wesley speaks of our sin, he speaks with great directness. When he speaks of God’s grace, he speaks with great warmth. This is preaching which is centred on our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Wesley shows us that we are sinners who need the Saviour. He shows us that the Saviour is always ready to receive sinners.

John Wesley on "The Righteousness of Faith"

Righteousness of Faith, The
This sermon is based on Romans 10:5-8. It is found in John Wesley’s Forty-Four Sermons, (Epworth Press, 1977 edition).
—–
Commenting on the words, “The word is nigh thee”, Wesley writes, “the first covenant required what is now afar off from all the children of men; namely, unsinning obedience, which is far from those who are ‘conceived and born in sin.’ Whereas, the second requires what is nigh at hand; as though it should say, Thou art sin! God is love! Thou by sin art fallen short of the glory of God, yet there is mercy with Him. Bring then all thy sins to the pardoning God, and they shall vanish away as a cloud” (p. 67).
Concerning ourselves, there is bad news – We cannot save ourselves.
From Christ, our Saviour, there is Good News – “He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).
Sin takes us far from God. Grace brings us near to God.
—–
To those who are far from God, Wesley says this, “Do not say, ‘But I am not contrite enough; I am not sensible enough of my sins.’ I know it. I would to God thou wert more sensible of them, more contrite a thousand fold than thou art. But do not stay for this. It may be, God will make thee so, not before thou believest, but by believing. It may be, thou wilt not weep much, till thou lovest much because thou hast had much forgiven. In the meantime look unto Jesus. Behold, how much He loveth thee!” (p. 72).
Sin holds us captive. Grace sets us free.
—–
Wesley continues, “And to what end wouldest thou wait for more sincerity before thy sins are blotted out? To make thee more worthy of the grace of God? Alas, thou art still ‘establishing thy own righteousness.’ He will have mercy, not because thou art worthy of it, but because His compassions fail not; not because thou art righteous, but because Jesus Christ hath atoned for thy sins” (pp. 72-73).
* The way of salvation does not begin with “I”: This is what I have done – my religion, my morality.
* Salvation comes from God:- “God so loved the world …”
This is the the Gospel: What we could never do for ourselves, God has done for us – “He gave His only Son”, Jesus Christ, “the atoning sacrifice … for the sins of the whole world”, “the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 1:7).

John Wesley on "The Witness of the Spirit"

This quotation The sermon - Witness of the Spirit, 1, The - can be found in John Wesley’s Forty-Four Sermons, (Epworth Press, 1977).  It is based on Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”This sermon is followed by a sermon on  Witness of the Spirit, 2, The  - 2 Corinthians 1:12.
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  “The manner how the divine testimony is manifested to the heart, I do not take upon me to explain. Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me: I cannot attain unto it. The wind bloweth, and I hear the sound thereof; but I cannot tell how it cometh, or whither it goeth. as no one knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man that is in him; so the manner of the things of God knoweth no one, save the Spirit of God. But the fact we know; namely, that the Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption” (p. 117).
Here, we have a fine combination of the humility and boldness of faith.
* With boldness, Wesley speaks of the reality of the Spirit’s working in the heart of the believer – “the Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption”.
* With humility, he speaks of the manner of the Spirit’s working in our hearts.
This combination of humility and boldness is well expressed in the words of the hymn:
“I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him. But I know whom I have believed; and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”
We dare not claim to understand more than we really do. We must not, however, hesitate to affirm our faith in the reality of the Spirit’s working in us. The Word of God has come to us “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Through faith in Christ, “we have received the Spirit who is from God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
In 1 Corinthians 2:10, we see that our faith in Christ includes both boldness and humility.
* With the boldness of faith, we join, with Paul, in affirming the reality of the Spirit’s working in us: “Through His Spirit, God has revealed Himself to us.”
* With the humility of faith, we join, with Paul, in affirming that we can never claim to have gained a full understanding of “the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

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 ...