Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Learning from children and caring for children

Learning from children and caring for children: This is what Jesus speaks about in Matthew 18:1-10. We should never act like we know it all, and have nothing more to learn. We should never act like we're a law unto ourselves. We must do all that we can to protect little children in a world that has so many dangers. We need little children. They have something to teach us. Little children need us. they need the protection that we, adults, can give to them.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - November

1st November: Deuteronomy 1:1-46
With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, the older generation - including Moses - was not to enter the land (34-38). For the new generation, there was a challenge. There must be no more failures. One wasted generation was enough. This was the time for real commitment to the Lord. He loved them - He had 'set the land before' them. They were to rise up in faith and ' take possession of the land' (8). We are called to go on with the Lord. 'You have stayed long enough' at a low level of Christian living. God is calling us on to maturity: 'go in and take possession of the land; (6,8; Philippians 3:13-14). Do not hesitate to move forward with God: 'do not fear...It is a good land which the Lord gives us' (21,25). Will we be the new generation, 'a new creation in Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:17) ?
2nd November: Deuteronomy 2:1-37
During their wilderness years, God's people had many problems. God is greater than all the problems! Israel's journey began in the land of 'bondage' (Exodus 2:23-25). From there, He led them to the land of promise, 'the land which the Lord our God gives to us' (29). This is 'amazing grace': 'Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; 'Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home' (Mission Praise, 31). In the giving and taking of the land, we see both grace and faith: I have begun to give...this land over to you; begin to take possession...' (31). We are not saved by grace apart from faith. We are 'saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by faith without grace. We are 'saved by grace through faith'. Saved by the Lord, let us press on to a life of 'good works' (Ephesians 2:8-10).
3rd November: Luke 23:26-24:12
'God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong' (1 Corinthians 1:27). In his weakness, the thief on the cross trusted Christ for salvation (42-43). Pilate, a man of power, rejected Christ, sending Him off to be crucified (23:23-25). Jesus was 'delivered into the hands of sinful men'. Jesus was 'crucified'. This was not, for Him, the end. He rose from the dead (7). At the Cross, 'the centurion' described Jesus as 'a righteous man' (47). In the resurrection, God declared Him to be much more than a righteous man - He is 'the Son of God' (Romans 1:4). Don't be like those who do 'not believe', those who consider Christ's resurrection to be 'an idle tale' (11). Something has 'happened', something very wonderful - Jesus has risen from the dead:... 'believe...be saved' (12; Romans 10:9).
4th November: Deuteronomy 3:1-29
The promised land was near. For Moses, it was 'so near and yet so far'. He was excluded. Together with the sadness of Moses' exclusion, there was the joy of the people's entrance (27-28). When we consider Moses' sadness and the people's joy, we must remember this: Nobody deserved to go into the land! The land was God's gift. Without His strength, the people of Israel would fail. With Him, they would be victorious: 'You shall not fear them; for it is the Lord your God who fights for you' (22). There is here a basic principle of Christian living: 'not by might , nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts' (Zechariah 4:6). 'In heavenly armour we'll enter the land. The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that's fashioned against us will stand, The battle belongs to the Lord' (Mission Praise, 639).
5th November: Deuteronomy 4:1-43
The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God - not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would 'not go over the Jordan'. As God's man. he was to prepare the people for their task: 'you shall go over and take possession of that good land' (22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage 'by a mighty hand and outstretched arm' (34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: 'Obey His laws and commands' (40). The Lord our God is 'a merciful God' (31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be 'no other besides Him' (35). Flee to Christ for refuge (42-43), and live each day with 'the attitude of gratitude'.
6th November: Luke 24:13-53
'In all the Scriptures', Jesus teaches 'the things concerning Himself' (27). Do 'our hearts burn within us...while He opens to us the Scriptures?' (32). He calls us to be His 'witnesses', to preach His message of salvation 'to all nations' (47-48). Before we can preach, we must listen to Him. Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: 'See my hands and my feet' (39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear 'the mark of the nails' (John 20:25). Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be 'clothed with power from on high. Let the Lord 'bless' you, strengthening your worship and filling you 'with great joy'. With all this going on in your lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His 'witnesses' (48-53)!

7th November: Deuteronomy 4: 44-5:33
Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: 'I am the Lord your God' who brought you...out of the house of bondage' (6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him - more!
8th November: Deuteronomy 6:1-25
'Hear' and 'do' (1-3; James 1:22-25). In our obedience to God, there is to be the fear of the Lord and love for the Lord (2,5). Fear and love: the two belong together. God is holy - fear Him. God is love - love Him. This is for every generation: 'you and your son and your son's son'(2). 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' (5). Teach the children well so that the blessing of God may be 'prolonged' among us(7,2). Our promised land - heaven (John 14:1-3) - is far better than Israel's promised land. Through faith in Christ, we have received 'eternal life' (John 5:24; 6:40). Never take the Lord's blessing for granted. Always remember to thank Him for all that He has done for you (10-12). Teach the children what the Lord has done for them (20-23). Then, and only then, tell them what they must 'do' for Him (24-25).
9th November: Deuteronomy 7:1-26
Enter, Destroy, Possess (1-2). Don't try to jump straight from entering to possessing. Don't forget to destroy. We enter the Christian life through faith in Christ. We will not 'take possession of' a fuller enjoyment of His salvation if we refuse to 'destroy' the obstacles to His blessing in our lives. Sin is like a 'cancer'. It will 'kill' us if we let it (Romans 6:23). This is why we must fight it - with 'the whole armour of God' (Ephesians 6:10-17). From beginning to end, our salvation is the work of God: '...it is because the Lord loves you...that He has...redeemed you...' (6-8). The Lord's love speaks of His keeping power. He will complete the work He has begun (17-19; Philippians 1:6). Saved and kept by the power of God, we travel from Christ's Cross to our Crown (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2:24-25; 5:4).
10th November: John 1:1-34
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (1-3; Revelation 21:6). He is 'the Word...made flesh'. 'We have seen His glory' (14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - 'we shall see Him as He is' (1 John 3:2). From Him, there is creation (1-3). From Him, there is salvation (12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (29,32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (1,29,34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - 'the 'Word was God' (1), 'No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known' (18). Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (29).
11th November: Deuteronomy 8:1-9:21
The 'wilderness' was a place of 'testing'. God was 'disciplining' His people. He was teaching them to 'walk in His ways' (2,5-6). In the 'wilderness', we must remember this: 'man does not live by bread alone...man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord' (3). Everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord - His warnings as well as His promises! He speaks to us in warnings: 'Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God...' (11). He speaks to us in promises: 'the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land' (7). 'God forbid that I should glory...' (8:17-18; 9:4-6; Galatians 6:14). God gave Israel the land. He gives us 'the Kingdom' (Luke 12:32). As earthly kingdoms rise and fall, 'the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed' (Daniel 2:44).
12th November: Deuteronomy 9:22-10:22
'We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4). Moses was an intercessor (25-29). The ministry of the Word needs to be grounded in prayer. Prayerfully seeking the Lord's help, we are to place His Word at the centre of the life of His people (5). God shows His mercy by providing His servants to carry His Word in a ministry of blessing to the people, a ministry which helps the people to 'go in and possess the land' (8,10-11). In gratitude to God, our Creator-Redeemer, we are to give ourselves to Him in obedience (12-15). Let your heart and life be changed by the Lord, never forgetting this: 'He is your praise; He is your God, who has done for you...great... things' (16-21). 'God...gives the growth' (22; Corinthians 3:7). Read Psalm 126:6 and pray!
13th November: John 1:35-2:25
Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (40-42). 'You are...You shall be...' (42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The 'water' became 'wine' (9). This was the Lord's doing. In Christ, we have been 'made alive'. This is the work of God. He is 'rich in mercy'. He loves us with a 'great love' (Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice (1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (13-17). There was 'death' in the temple. Those who were spiritually 'dead' acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God's House - 'My House shall be called a house of prayer' (Matthew 21:13). 'Raised from the dead', we receive 'new life' (22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (23-25).
14th November: Deuteronomy 11:1-32
God is at work among His people, teaching them many lessons. Through His precious promises and strong warnings, He leads us in the way of obedience and blessing (31-32). If we are to enjoy the Lord's blessing, we need the whole Word of God - the warnings as well as the promises. Obedience to God - This is the most important thing in the life of faith. Obedience demonstrates the reality of faith. By our obedience, we show our 'love' for the Lord. We rejoice in 'all the great work of the Lord'. By 'His mighty hand', He has provided for us a great salvation. Our enjoyment of His salvation increases as we live in obedience to Him (8-15). Without obedience, there can be no blessing (16-17). Teach others to obey God - especially the 'children' (18-21). God is good. He loves us (22-25). Obey Him. Choose blessing (26-28).
15th November: Deuteronomy 12: 1-32
In our hearts, nothing else must compete with the Lord. There is no room for idolatry. 'Destroy' everything that threatens to take the place of God in your life. (2-3). We are not to 'do what is right in our own eyes'. We are to worship as the Lord 'chooses' (5,8,13-14). Remove every distraction. Get rid of those things which keep you from crowning Christ as Lord of your life. When you are tempted to put other things before the Lord, 'be careful not to be ensnared' in the ways of the world (29-31). When we are tempted, we must take our stand on God's Word. 'Everything' He has given to us - This means more than our favourite passages! Don't 'add to it', making 'the traditions of men' more important than the Word of God. Don't 'take from it', ignoring the parts you don't like (32; Mark 7:8; Acts 20:27).
16th November: John 3:1-16
We say, 'I'll turn over a new leaf'. Christ says, 'You must be born again' (3,7). Our way of thinking begins with 'I'. Christ's way of salvation begins with 'God': 'God so loved the world...' (16). Begin with 'I' and you have sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:10-11). Begin with God and you have Good News for sinners: 'God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us' (Romans 5:8). Through faith in Christ, we are 'born of the Spirit' (6-8; 1:12). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, love and truth. Those who are 'born of the Spirit' are to live a life of holiness, love and truth (1 John 4:2-3,6-7,12-13; 5:2-3). 'Come to the light'. 'Do what is true'. 'Obey the Son'. Let Christ increase. This is the work of the Spirit in us (20-21,36,29,34).
17th November: Proverbs 6:1-15
'Save yourself ...like a bird from the hand of the fowler' (5). 'He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler'(Psalm 91:3). In scripture, we have both the promise of grace and the call to faith: 'By grace you have been saved' (Ephesians 2:5), 'Your faith has saved you' (Luke 7:50), 'Keep yourselves in the love of God', 'To Him who is able to keep you from falling (Jude 21,24). Laugh at 'the sluggard' (6-11), but do not laugh too quickly or too long: You may be laughing at yourself! Looking at the sluggard is like looking into a mirror. We see so much of ourselves in him! 'A worthless man, a wicked man' - He 'fancies himself' - He's 'a chancer'. He better watch out: God doesn't share this man's opinion of himself - 'calamity will come...he will be broken beyond healing' (15).
18th November: Deuteronomy 13:1-14:21
Obedience to God involves an uncompromising attitude toward those who would lead people away from God. Those who say 'Let us go and serve other gods' (13:2,6,13) must not be permitted to exert their evil influence on God's people. God says, 'You must not listen to them (13:3,8). Temptations to 'idolatry' can come under the guise of 'spirituality' - 'a prophet...a dreamer of dreams...a sign or a wonder' (13:1; 1 John 4:1). 'Idolatry' can come from within one's own family. The Lord must come first (13:6-11; Luke 14:26). God's judgment is upon 'idolaters' so that others may see their folly, turn from 'idolatry' and receive God's mercy (13:12-18). Remember God's purpose of love (John 3:17). In our worship and in the whole of life, we are to be 'a people holy to the Lord our God' (14:2,21).
19th November: John 4:1-42
Here, we see Jesus' ministry of love. He brings the Samaritan woman out of her bondage to sin and into the joy of His salvation. Jesus comes to the woman in love. His love overcomes cultural divisions. His love breaks down cultural barriers (9). This is not simply the story of one woman. It is the story of 'many Samaritans' coming to faith in Christ (39). There are two 'stages' in their coming to faith. First, they 'believed in Him because of the woman's testimony' (39). Second, 'they believed because of His Word' (41). The Samaritans came to trust Jesus as 'the Saviour of the world' (42). The woman said that 'salvation is of the Jews' (22). It is also 'to the Greek' (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is for all. Pray that the human word will be empowered by the divine Word (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13).
20th November: John 4:43-5:29
In Jesus' healings, we see the love of God. He 'went about doing good'. In His healings, we see the Source of His spiritual strength: 'God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power' (Acts 10:38). We look beyond Jesus to God the Father: 'mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through Him' (Acts 2:22). Jesus speaks of His unique relationship with the Father (19,26). Jesus is no mere servant. He is 'the Son'. We are to 'honour the Son' as well as the Father (23). Through Christ, we receive 'eternal life' (24). The gift of eternal life is the gift of God's love. In love, God 'gave His only Son'. 'In His Son', there is eternal life. 'This life' is given to everyone who 'believes in the Son of God' (3:16; 1 John 5:10-12). Listen to 'the voice of the Son of God', believe and 'live' (25).
21st November: Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23
'Tithing' (Giving the tenth to God) emerges out of holiness: 'You are a people holy to the Lord your God...You shall tithe' (14:21-22). It is more than giving things to God. It is giving ourselves to Him. It also involves caring for others (7-11; Isaiah 58:6-7). We have been 'earmarked' as servants of the Lord (17). Being 'earmarked' for God involves listening to God (Isaiah 55:2-3). Bring 'the firstling' to God (19). 'We are here to bring You the best that we can bring. And it is our love rising from our hearts' (Mission Praise, 717). 'Just as I am...to be the best that I can be for truth, and righteousness, and Thee, Lord of my life, I come' (Church Hymnary, 448). No second bests - Only the best will do for God.
22nd November: John 5:30-6:21
'Search the Scriptures' - and make sure you 'come to Christ and receive life' (39-40). From Jesus' miracles - the feeding of the five thousand (1-13) and His walking on water (16-21) - we learn about faith in Christ. Jesus is more than a 'prophet'. He is 'the Bread of God...which comes down from heaven' (14,33). He is not merely a human 'king'. He is the divine King - 'Lord of lords and King of kings' (15; Revelation 17:14). When the storms of life are raging, Jesus says, 'It is I; do not be afraid' (20). He assures us of His final victory - 'they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them' (Revelation 17:14). 'Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?...We have an anchor that keeps the soul...Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love' (Church Hymnary, 412).
23rd November: John 6: 22-59
Jesus said, 'I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst' (35). Jesus had enemies - 'The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, 'I am the bread which comes down from heaven' (41). Christ's enemies are still with us. They 'murmur among themselves' (43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, 'the Living Bread' (51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies' (Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: 'O taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: 'We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still' (Church Hymnary, 571).
24th November: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:13
Blessed by God, the people of Israel had much to celebrate. They had been brought out of the land of bondage. They were about to enter the land of promise. The keeping of the feasts (16:1-17) was a response to God's love, a way of celebrating His love. Why did God bring Israel to the promised land? It was because He 'loved them' (Psalm 44:3). The Passover was a continuing reminder of God's mighty work of redemption. The Lord's Supper is a memorial of what God has done for us in Christ. In remembering His dying love for us, we remember what we were without Him and we give thanks for all that He has done for us. As well as 'joy' (45), there is to be justice (16:18-17:13; Micah 6:8). Note the effect of justice: 'And all the people shall hear, and fear, and not act presumptuously again' (17:13).
25th November: John 6:60-7:36
Jesus' words are 'spirit and life'. They are 'the words of eternal life' (63,68). While others - including Judas Iscariot - were drawing back from following Jesus, Peter confessed his faith in Jesus: 'You are the Holy One of God' (66-71). It was only a matter of time before Judas Iscariot (71) and 'the Jews'(1) formed an unholy alliance. The 'time' was 'not yet' (6,8). Even the plans of evil men could only be fully developed in the Lord's time. When God permitted their evil plans to proceed, then it would be His time for Jesus' crucifixion and our salvation (Acts 2:23). 'The Jews' were amazed at Jesus' teaching - 'How is it that this man has learning when he has never studied? (15). They did not understand that God's wisdom is different from man's wisdom. Obey God. Receive wisdom (17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
26th November: John 7:37-8:20
'Rivers of living water' were flowing out of Jesus' heart. 'No man ever spoke like this man'! 'The Spirit' was speaking through Him with power. Still, there were those who 'wanted to arrest Him' (37-39,44,46). Stop 'throwing stones' (1-11)! Only Jesus had the right to point the finger at this woman. He refused to do so. He bore her sins and our sins on the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus spoke to the woman of both forgiveness and holiness (11). Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world' (12). This brought an immediate reaction from the 'Pharisees': 'Your testimony is not true' (13). They were 'disguised as angels of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14). They 'loved darkness rather than light' (3:19). Their 'darkness' was exposed by 'the Light of the world'. These evil men could do nothing until God's time (19-20).
27th November: Deuteronomy 17:14-18:22
Even the king is subject to God's 'law'. His supreme responsibility is this: Pay careful attention to God's Word (17:18-20). Politically, he may be in an elevated position - a 'king over' others (17:14-15). Spiritually, he must not allow 'his heart' to be 'lifted up above his brethren' (17:20). There must be humble obedience to God's Word. Priests speak to God for us. Prophets speak to us for God. We need both - 'prayer and the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4). In our worship, we must keep the Lord at the very centre. Anything or anyone who distracts our attention from the Lord is no help to true worship (9-14). 'A prophet like Moses' (18:15): Jesus is the ultimate prophet - to see and hear Him is to see and hear God (John 5:19; 12:49; 14:9). He preaches God's Word. He is 'the Word of God' (John 1:1).
28th November: John 8:21-58
In the face of evil unbelief and persistent opposition, Jesus spoke with tremendous assurance: 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world...you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He' (23-24). 'As He spoke thus, many believed in Him (30) - Jesus spoke with power and love. Responding to Him in faith, we are set 'free' (32,36; Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1). To receive His freedom, we must recognize our need: 'everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin' (34). To grow in His freedom, we must 'continue in His Word' (31). To religion without Christ (39,41), Jesus' answer is emphatic: 'You are of your father the devil...you do not hear God's words because you are not of God' (44,47). 'I am' (58; Exodus 3:14). God is in control - not men (59,20).
29th November: John 9:1-41
Empowered by God, Jesus gives sight to the blind man (3,6-7). 'The Pharisees' hear the man's testimony (15). 'Some of' them reject the Lord (16,24). There will always be those who refuse to believe in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will pour scorn on those who have come to know the Lord. The man gives his testimony: 'One thing I know...I was blind, now I see' (25). The Pharisees continue to fire questions at him (26). He puts the most challenging question to them: 'Do you too want to become His disciples?' (27). They hurl insults at him (28). Fools attack what they don't understand. The more they rage, the more they show their folly. We say, 'Lord, I believe', and our spiritual 'eyes' are opened (38; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Don't be 'blind', despising the believer and the Saviour (39-40; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
30th November: Psalm 17:1-15
Here is the prayer of a man whose earnest desire is to walk with God, to have a close walk with God in the centre of His will (5). His prayer is sincere. It 'does not rise from deceitful lips' (1). He is painfully aware of 'the onslaughts of the wicked'. His 'enemies cluster round him, breathing hostility' (9). Whatever troubles we may encounter, we must learn to pray with the Psalmist: 'Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer' (1). As we call upon the Lord, He gives the assurance of His protection. Through His Word and Spirit, He assures us that He will 'keep us as the apple of His eye' (8). We are precious in His sight. He looks upon us in love. He does not see our sin. He sees us 'in Christ' - 'accepted in the Beloved', 'no condemnation' (Psalm 32:1; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:1).

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - December

1st December: John 10:1-42
The Christian life is not easy. The devil 'comes only to steal and kill and destroy' (10). Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying 'to stone' Jesus (31). 'Again', they failed (39). They could not take Jesus' life. 'His hour had not yet come' (18; 7:30; 8:20). When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (28-29). Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: 'He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build His home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down'. Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).
2nd December: Deuteronomy 19:1-20:9
Justice is concerned with (a) the protection of the innocent - 'innocent blood will not be shed in your land' (10); (b) the punishment of the guilty - 'you must purge the evil from among you' (19). Through justice, God is to be glorified among His people. We are to fight for the Lord without fear, confident of His glorious presence (20:1-4). In the service of the Lord, we must not be 'fearful and fainthearted' (20:8). We are to be 'good soldiers of Jesus Christ' (2 Timothy 2:3). We need to give careful attention to the Word of God: 'When you draw near to the battle, the priest will come forward and speak to the people, and say to them, 'Hear, O Israel...' (20:2-3). God's Word is not concerned only with 'Church work'. It sends us 'back to our house' - 'dedicated' to the Lord (20:5-9).
3rd December: Deuteronomy 20:10-21:23
The offer of 'peace' is made (20:10; Romans 5:1). Some refuse to 'make peace'.They choose to 'make war' (20:12). When the enemies of Christ and the Gospel are raging, we must be resolute in our commitment to living 'as the Lord our God has commanded' (20:16-18). We are to 'do what is right in the sight of the Lord'. This will involve 'going forth to war against our enemies'. It will involve 'purging the evil from our midst' (21:9-10,21; Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-2,11). Our life of holiness is grounded in the death of Christ who, on the Cross, was 'accursed by God' so that we might be saved by God (21:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24). Through faith in Him, we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1,3-5,9-10).
4th December: John 11:1-44
Everything is moving on towards Christ's death and resurrection. On His way to the Cross, Jesus performs a mighty miracle - the raising of Lazarus (43-44) - which points unmistakably to an even greater miracle - His own resurrection (Acts 2:24). Accompanying this miracle - the raising of Lazarus - , we have Jesus' great declaration concerning Himself: 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' (25). His words are immediately followed by the question: 'Do you believe this?' (26). This question is put to each of us. Jesus waits for the answer of faith: 'Yes, Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...'(27). This is 'for the glory of God' - receiving new life from 'the Son of God...' (4).
5th December: Deuteronomy 22:1-30
Care for 'your brother' (1-4). Our caring is not to be selective - 'If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is' (2). When Jesus says, 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Luke 10:27), He means much more than loving the people who live near us, the people that we know. The 'Samaritan' didn't know 'the man who fell into the hands of robbers' (Luke 10:30,33). 'Jews did not associate with Samaritans (John 4:9). Jesus says, 'Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love your enemies with the love of the Lord - 'when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son' (Romans 5:8,10). Don't love the ways of those who 'live as enemies of the Cross of Christ' (Philippians 3:18). 'Purge the evil from the midst of you' (21-22,24).
6th December: Deuteronomy 23:1-25
God sees us as we really are. He 'looks on the heart' as well as 'the outward appearance'. We must live to please Him, praying, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!' (14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139: 23-24). God calls us to be holy: 'you shall keep yourself from every evil thing' (9). This 'holiness' is not to be a proud, arrogant thing. It is to be filled with compassionate caring. Don't write anyone off, saying, 'They're not our kind of people' (7). Don't be all out for all you can get for yourself without any thought of how your actions affect other people (24-25). Let your holiness be real. Don't say one thing and do another. Don't pretend to be more 'holy' than you really are. Choose to be holy - every day (21-23).
7th December: John 11:45-12:36
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (49-53). The voice of 'common sense' is not always the voice of the Lord (4-6). There is a higher wisdom than 'common sense'. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him. If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (8). The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, 'The world has gone after Him' (19). They are going after Him too - in a different way! The crucifixion draws near. God is to be 'glorified' in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (28,31-32). Jesus had 'come' for this 'hour' (27).
8th December: Deuteronomy 24:1-25:29
Justice for the vulnerable is grounded in God's redemption (24:17-18). This is an important principle for us. God loves us. He has done great things for us. He cares. We are to care. Let His love be the guiding light in every part of your life. Scripture speaks of both salvation and judgment. Israel was given 'the land' as 'an inheritance to possess'. The Amalekites were blotted out (25:19). The Christian life is a spiritual warfare. When we are 'faint and weary', we will be 'attacked on the way'. If we 'lag behind' in our walk with God, those who 'do not fear God' will try to 'cut us off' from the Lord and His people. This is the work of Satan. We must not be 'ignorant of his devices'. God is with us in the battle. He is leading us on to our eternal 'inheritance' (25:17-19; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
9th December: Deuteronomy 26:1-27:10
The people of Israel had a testimony. They had been redeemed by the God of love. Thankful for His love and salvation, they brought their offerings to the Lord (26:5-9). The call to obedience is grounded in the gift of salvation. Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be 'a people holy to the Lord our God' (26:16-19). There is no privilege without responsibility. Israel was privileged: God was giving them 'a land flowing with milk and honey'. Israel was responsible: God was saying to them, 'Keep all the commandments which I command you this day' (27:1-3). God blesses us. We obey Him. We enjoy more of His blessing. This leads us to obey Him more. Break the 'vicious circle'. Get on to God's 'victorious circle': He shows us His love. We love Him. He shows us more of His love. We love Him more... (John 14:21).
10th December: John 12:37-13:20
The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. 'For fear of the Pharisees', many remained silent, 'loving the praise of men more than the praise of God' (42-43). Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (46). If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ. Do not only read God's Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (50). he 'hour' of Jesus' suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (1-3). It is the 'hour' of His love. We are 'washed' in His precious blood (8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14). What God has done for us comes before what we 'ought to 'do for others. Jesus is our Saviour before He is our 'Example' (14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (17).
11th December: Deuteronomy 27:11-28:24
Through His strongly worded warnings, God calls us back from the way of disobedience (27:15-26;28:15-24). Through His promises of blessing, He calls us to the way of obedience, the only way to true happiness (28:1-14). God's blessing cannot be taken for granted. Where there is disobedience, there is no blessing. Our 'enemies' will triumph over us (28:25). We need not be defeated. God has shown us His way of blessing. It is the way of obedience (1-2). We are not blessed because we deserve to be blessed. We can never earn the Lord's blessing. The blessing comes from Him (8). He blesses us because He loves us - not because we are worthy of His blessing. You can be in 'the promised land' without enjoying the promised blessing. Don't 'suffer loss' - 'saved, but only as through fire' (1 Corinthians 3:15).
12th December: Deuteronomy 28:25-68
There is nothing inevitable about the chain of events described in these verses. These are the consequences of disobedience. God is warning His people: 'If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God...' (28:15). Why does God warn His people of the consequences of disobedience? He wants them to draw back from the way of disobedience and follow the pathway of obedience and blessing. These 'curses' were avoidable. They would only happen if Israel persisted in rebelling against the Lord. We can bring 'curses' upon ourselves. Don't imagine that God doesn't care how you live. He does. That is why He calls us back from the pathway of disobedience. That is why He exhorts us to choose holiness. Read Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25-29. Pray for God's mercy (Luke 18:13). Ask Him to make you more holy (Hebrews 12:14).
13th December: John 13:21-14:14
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (21-30). He would be denied by Peter (36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to 'love one another': 'By this all men shall know that they are His disciples' (34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His 'Father's House' for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (9). Now, He is working in and through us (12-14). He is preparing us for His place: 'Lord Jesus...fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there' (Church Hymnary, 195).
14th December: Deuteronomy 29:1-29
God has done great things for His people - 'in the land of Egypt...in the wilderness' (2,5). Acknowledging Him to be the Lord their God, they were to live in obedience to Him (6,9). The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of obedience (16-28). Turning away from the Lord leads to judgment - 'anger and fury and great wrath' (24-28). There are 'secret things'. There are 'things that are revealed'. Some 'things' we will never understand. These 'things belong to the Lord our God'. There are many 'things' we have learned and have firmly believed. 'The things that are revealed' are found in 'the Holy Scriptures'. Through God's written Word, we are brought to 'salvation' and we are 'thoroughly equipped' for Christian living (29; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).
15th December: Deuteronomy 30:1-31;13
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with 'all the heart and soul' involved obedience to 'His commandments...written in this book of the law' (30:10). We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - '...the Word is very near you...'(11-14). Through His Word, God 'sets before' us a choice. He calls us to 'choose life' (15-20). Joshua was to succeed Moses (31:1-2,7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God's people needed His Word of encouragement: 'Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them'. Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: 'It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you' (31:6). Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (31:12-13).
16th December: John 14:15-15:17
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His 'commandments', keeping His 'Word' (21,23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (23). Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (4). Jesus says to us, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. 'The Holy Spirit teaches us all things' (26). Christ's 'words' abide in us (7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (15:5,15) - 'the fruit of the Spirit': 'love, joy, peace...' (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (21). He gives us His peace (27). He gives us His joy (11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this 'fruit' be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. 'Love one another...Go and bear fruit...love one another' (15:12,16-17).
17th December: Proverbs 6:16-35
God's Word is our 'lamp' and 'light' (23; Psalm 119:105). It leads us in the way we are to go (22). It exposes the darkness of the ways we are to avoid. It shows us the 'things that the Lord hates', the things which are 'an abomination to Him' (16). Why does God list the 'things' which are not pleasing to Him? He wants us to watch how we live. He wants us to keep on choosing His way. We must not allow things to drift. Keep God's Word in 'your heart always' (21). Let 'the reproofs of discipline' keep you from straying (23). The world tells us, 'Anything goes. Do what you like. It doesn't matter how you live'. God's Word speaks about sin: There is 'no sense' in it. It is the way of self destruction. It will not 'go unpunished' (32,29). Be careful to obey God in everything.
18th December: John 15:18-16:33
Jesus was 'persecuted'. We will be 'persecuted' - 'all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted' (15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, 'the Spirit of truth' directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (15:26; 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus' words: 'In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world' (16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? 'Who is it that overcomes the world buy he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' - This is our faith' (1 John 5:4-5).
19th December: John 17:1-26
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (20). The story of the Cross (1-5), the story of the first disciples (6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ's death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today's world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - 'that they may be one' (11). He prays the same prayer for us (20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, 'the one who chose to be lost' (12). If we are to 'maintain the unity of the Spirit', we must take account of 'the Judas factor' - 'take notice of those who create dissensions...avoid them' (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
20th December: Deuteronomy 31:14-32:18
'Write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel' (19,22). Moses did not delay his obedience to God. 'Write...Teach...': God is speaking to us about the renewal of our worship. Don't say, 'It's never been done that way before' - 'the seven last words of the church'! Moses' song was 'a witness for God against the people of Israel' (19). It can still help us, in this generation, to confess our sin - We 'have dealt corruptly with Him' (5) - and glorify our God - 'I will proclaim the Name of the Lord' (3). Modern music can help us to hear afresh the ancient message: 'Ascribe greatness to our God...' (3-4; Mission Praise, 40). Let us praise God 'in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' (Ephesians 5:18-20).
21st December: Deuteronomy 32:19-33:17
Here, we have both the warning of judgment and the promise of salvation. Rebuking 'a perverse generation' - 'They are devious people, children who can't be trusted' - God says, 'I will hide My face from them' (20). When, in our need, we look to Him for mercy, we have His promise: 'The Lord will...have compassion on His servants, when He sees their power is gone' (36). 'This is the blessing...'(1). For each tribe - Reuben (6), Judah (7), Levi (8-11), Benjamin (12), Joseph (13-17) - , there is a different Word from the Lord. Each of us is different. Our circumstances are different. God knows what we need to hear. He speaks the Word which is just right for each one. He 'loves' every one of us. We are 'in His hands'. Let us 'follow in His steps, receiving direction from Him' (3).
22nd December: John 18:1-27
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (12-14,19-24). Jesus is 'drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him' - He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus' death was not only 'expedient'. It was 'necessary' - for our salvation (14; Luke 24:26). Alongside the story of Jesus was the story of Peter (15-18,25-27). Jesus' death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38,41).
23rd December: John 18:28-19:16
'Barabbas was a robber'. He was released (39-40). There was 'no crime' in Jesus. He was 'crucified' (38,4,6,16). Was Jesus not more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die. Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, 'For this I was born...' (36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross. As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, 'He took my place and died for me'. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - 'He took the place of many sinners'. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - 'The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved' (Isaiah 53:12,6).
24th December: Matthew 1:18-25
'Immanuel...God with us' (23). Think of what this means! Here are some words to help you. 'He walked where I walked, He stood where I stand, He felt what I feel, He understands. He know my frailty, shared my humanity, tempted in every way, yet without sin. God with us, so close to us. God with us, 'Immanuel!'. Let your thoughts move on to the Cross - 'He died in my place that I might live'. Let your heart be filled with worship: 'Immanuel, O Immanuel, Bowed in awe I worship at your feet, and sing Immanuel, God is with us; Sharing my humanness, my shame, feeling my weakness, my pain, taking my punishment, my blame, Immanuel. And now my words cannot explain, all that my heart cannot contain, how great are the glories of Your Name, Immanuel' (Mission Praise, 221,326).
25th December: Luke 2:1-20
'A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord' (11). The Name, 'Jesus', means 'Saviour' (Matthew 1:21). Focus your thoughts on Him: The Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer to help you make your response to Him: 'Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, You are one with us, Mary's Son. Cleansing our souls from all their sin, pouring your love and goodness in; Jesus, our love for You we sing, Living Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, born as one of us, Mary's Son. Led out to die on Calvary, risen from death to set us free, Living Lord Jesus, help us see You are Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, we would come to You, live our lives for You, Son of God. All Your commands we know are true, Your many gifts will make us new, into our lives Your power breaks through, Living Lord' (Mission Praise, 435).
26th December: Matthew 2:1-12
'King of the Jews' (2). Jesus came from the Jews. He came for 'all nations' (28:19). He is the 'King of kings' (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Here on earth, we are learning 'to worship Him' (2). We are being prepared for heavenly worship (Revelation 7:9-12): 'Kings and queens and beggarmen, presidents and servants, the people of all nations, will gather on that day. We will kneel before the King. None will be observers. We will lift our voices. Together, we will say, "He is the King and He will reign forever. He is the King and we will sing His praise. The King of kings and Lord of lords forever, Jesus, He is the King. Hallelujah to the King, He is our salvation. Master of the universe, King of all creation"!' Let 'Jesus...take the highest honour'. Let us 'glorify the King of kings' (Songs of Fellowship, 302, 590).
27th December: John 19:17-20:10
'It is finished' (30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph. At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work' (4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption. In one sense, 'it is finished' - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - 'God raised Him from the dead' (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9). To come to the words, 'It is finished' is not to reach the end of the story. Jesus was laid in the tomb (42). Still, this was not the end of the story. Something else had to happen - 'Jesus had to rise from the dead' (11). For our salvation, Jesus died 'and was raised to life' (Romans 4:25).
28th December: John 20:11-31
Christ is 'the Lord' (2,18,20,25). Christ is 'my Lord' (13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was 'weeping' (13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - 'I have seen the Lord!' (18). (b) The disciples were filled with 'fear'. Jesus came to them. He gave them His 'peace' and 'joy' (19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - 'My Lord and my God!' (28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: 'These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name' (31).
29th December: Deuteronomy 33:18-34:12
'The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms' (27): This is no guarantee of peaceful tranquillity. For Israel, there was conflict. 'Saved by the Lord', Israel had found true happiness. Still, there were 'enemies' to be 'thrust out' and 'trampled down' (27,29). Knowing the blessing of God's salvation is no guarantee that life will be easy. When the enemies of the Gospel see a believer intent on glorifying the Lord, they do all they can to create problems. We have 'enemies' in 'high places' (29; Ephesians 6:12). Their argument is not with us. It is with God. If God's work is to do well, there needs to be spiritual leadership. Moses had led God's people in his day. Joshua was to take his place (9). Moses was important. Joshua was important. The Lord is more important - 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' (Romans 8:31).
30th December: John 21:1-25
'Fishers of men' (Matthew 4:19) - Set your goals lower than this, and you will take others with you. Together, you will discover the emptiness of life without Christ at its centre - 'they caught nothing' (3). Note the contrast between the self-centered life (5) and the Christ centered life (6,8,11). Loving, serving and following Jesus - These are the most important things in life (15-17,22). Don't look over your shoulder at someone else - 'Lord, what about this man?' (21). Let it be personal - Jesus says, 'Do you love Me?' (15-17). He asked Peter, 'Do you love me more than these?' (15) - more than you love these other disciples, more than these other disciples love Me, more than your boats, nets and fishes? Look back and ask yourself, 'Do I love Jesus more than I did a year ago?'.
31st December: Psalm 18:1-24
The first three verses set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: 'my strength...my rock, my fortress and my deliverer...my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold' (1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - 'I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies' - did not come easily (4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (13-14). 'The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...' (4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the 'victory' over 'the last enemy...death' (1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into 'a broad place' (19). Step into the future with Him. Don't hold back! 'Let go and let God have His wonderful way'.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Our Rock And Our Salvation

You, Lord, are "our rock and our salvation" (Psalm 62:2,6). We think of Your Son, Jesus Christ - the "Rock of our salvation" (1 Corinthians 10:1-4,16), and we say, "Your steadfast love is better than life ... I will praise You as long as I live" (Psalm 63:3-4). We look at Jesus, our great Saviour, and we say, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - October

1st October: Numbers 19:1-22
The sacrifice was to be 'without defect'. There was to be 'no blemish' (2). Here, we have a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ - 'without sin', He offered Himself 'for the sins of the people' (Hebrews 4:15; 2:17). The gathering of 'the ashes' (9-10) speaks of the completeness of Christ's work for us - 'for all time a single sacrifice for sins' (Hebrews 10:12). The danger of becoming unclean through touching a 'dead body' (11) - there is a warning for us here. 'Dead in trespasses and sins', we have been 'made alive' in Christ (Ephesians 2:1). We dare not look back (Luke 17:32; Genesis 19:26; Luke 9:62; 2 Peter 2:20-22). We have been purified 'from dead works to serve the living God' (Hebrews 9:14). Christ 'saves to the uttermost'. How dare we 'shrink back' from Him? 'Have faith. Be saved' (Hebrews 7:25; 10:39).
2nd October: Numbers 20:1-29
No man or woman is indispensable. God's work goes on, with or without us! (a) Miriam (Moses' sister) served and worshipped the Lord (Exodus 2:7-8; 15:20-21). Now, her time had come. She was not to enter the land. She 'died' (1). (b) Moses had been the leader of God's people. He sinned, and he was excluded from the promised land (12). Do not rest on your laurels. Yesterday's grace is not sufficient for today's challenges. A day-by-day walk with the Lord is called for. (c) Aaron (Moses' brother) had stood alongside Moses in leadership. He 'died' (28) without entering the promised land. In the leadership of God's people, the names and the faces change - but the Lord never changes. He remains unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable in His love. When Moses, Aaron and Miriam had gone, God was still there!
3rd October: Luke 13:1-35
Jesus stresses the need for both repentance (1-5) and the fruits of repentance (6-9). God's Word, planted in our hearts at conversion, is to bear fruit. This requires continual repentance and faith (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 3:1-5). Don't put it off till tomorrow! Today is 'the day of salvation'. Don't 'neglect' God's 'great salvation' (15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:3). Let there be spiritual growth, affecting the whole of your life (18-21). Jesus was 'journeying toward Jerusalem' - to 'finish His course' at the Cross (22, 32-33). He came from the Lord (35). Through Him, we come to the Lord (24; John 10:9). There is no salvation in ourselves (25-27). Apart from Him, there is 'no peace' (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Jesus loves you (34). Make 'sure' that your trust is in Him. He will never fail you (2 Peter 1:10-11).
4th October: Numbers 21:1-35
In verses 5-9, there is an illustration of God's salvation (John 3:14-15). There is sin and death (Romans 5-6; 3:23, 6:23). Christ prays for our forgiveness (7; Luke 23:34). Lifted up on the Cross, He dies that we might have eternal life. In love, He appeals to us, 'Look to me and be saved' (John 12:32; Isaiah 45:22). Enter, Destroy Possess (21-24, 33-35): Let Christ enter your heart, destroying Satan's strongholds and taking possession of your life (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5). If we are to be victorious to the 'praise and glory and honour...of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:6-8), we must 'go by the King's Highway, not turning aside to the right hand or the left'(22; 20:17). For the Christian, 'the King's Highway is 'the Way of Holiness': 'This is the way, walk in it' (Isaiah 35:8; 30:21).
5th October: Numbers 22:1-41
Learn from the past. In 2 Peter 2:15-16, Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14, we are encouraged to learn from the events of this chapter. Each passage contains a warning. (a) 2 Peter 2:15-16 - Don't leave 'the straight way' and follow the crooked way! (b) Jude 11 - Don't let making a profit become more important than being a prophet! (c) Revelation 2:14 - Make sure you don't get drawn away from God into sin! What is God saying to us here? - 'these things happened... as a warning... they were written down for our instruction...let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall'. With the warning, there is also the promise: '...God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape...' (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).
6th October: Luke 14:1-35:
Let God's love flow freely in your own heart. Let it flow, from there, into the lives of others. Receive Christ and share Him with others. When the Gospel says, 'Come; for all is ready', there must be no excuses (17-20). When you share Christ, let there be no barriers (1-6, 12-14, 21-24). Let God's love flow freely - Make it your firm resolve to live as Christ's 'disciple' (27,33). Some will be critical of you - preoccupied with finding fault, they will miss the love of God(1-6). This is part of the 'cost' of being a disciple - the 'cross' (27-28). Others will respond positively: Keep your 'saltiness' - Be salty enough to make others thirsty, and be ready to lead them to Christ when they are thirsty 'for the living God' (34-35; Psalm 42:2). Remember to give all the glory to God (11).
7th October: Luke 15:1-32
People were coming to Christ (1). Still, the critics were murmuring among themselves (2). What did Jesus do ? - He kept on preaching the Gospel (3-32). The lost sheep (3-7) the lost coin (8-10), the lost son (11-32) - These are the parables of the Gospel. They teach us two lessons - By ourselves we are lost; In Christ, there is salvation. Read about the prodigal son, and think of the perfect Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we see God's perfect love. Through Him, we receive God's perfect salvation - (a) 'the best robe' - forgiveness (Revelation 7:13-14); (b) the 'ring' - membership of God's family (John 1:12); (c) the 'shoes' - empowered to bring 'the Gospel' to others (Ephesians 6:15). 'God...has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing' (Ephesians 1:3). Don't be like the 'elder son' (28-30)!
8th October: Numbers 23:1-30
Our words are to be an echo of God's Word. We are to speak only what God says (8,12). Before we can speak for God, He must speak to us. 'God's Word is truth' (John 17:17). God does not lie. He does not change His mind. What He says, He does. He fulfils His purpose (19). How does God carry forward His purpose of blessing? We receive His blessing. We share His blessing with others. We can only bring blessing to others when we ourselves seek blessing from the Lord. His blessing comes to us. His blessing reaches out through us. We speak His Word, yet - through our words - He speaks (20). This is the work of the Holy Spirit. 'God's Word is the sword of the Spirit' (Ephesians 6:17). The Spirit uses the Word to convict us of our sin and lead us to our Saviour (Hebrews 4:12-16).
9th October: Numbers 24:1-25
When 'the Spirit of God came upon him', Balaam's 'oracle' was described as 'the message of the man who sees clearly'. His 'eyes are opened'. He sees 'with far-seeing eyes'. He 'hears the words of God'. He 'sees the vision of the Almighty' (2-4,15-16). Balaam looks beyond his own time. 'With far-seeing eyes', he prophesies concerning our Lord Jesus Christ: 'I see Him, but not now' (17). Balaam catches a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the 'King of kings' (Revelation 19:16). This is what we must pray for: 'the revelation of Jesus Christ'. Pray that you will be 'in the Spirit', ready to 'hear what the Spirit says'(Revelation 1:1,10; 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). God is the unchanging God - Nothing changes Him (23:19). He is also the changing God. He changed Balaam. He will change us!
10th October: Luke 16:1-31
How do we use our money? This is an important question for all who want to live a practical Christian life. The worldly person is quick to see ways of making a profit. For the Christian, there is a higher priority. Beyond personal profit, there is eternal profit. Look for opportunities to support the work of the Gospel. By our giving, we help the Church to be Christ's prophet in to-day's world. 'Make friends': Win others for Christ so that, together with them, we may be welcomed to our eternal home (9). Jesus said, 'You cannot serve God and money'. The 'lovers of money' did not like His teaching (13-14)! Don't let money squeeze Christ out of your life. Life without Christ leads to eternity without Christ (19-31).
11th October: Numbers 25:1-26:22
Read of Israel's adultery and idolatry and remember God's Word of warning: 'Don't let the world squeeze you into its mould' (25:1-5; Romans 12:2). God is looking for people who have the 'same zeal' as He has (25:11). Those who are zealous for God may be few in number, but we must not be discouraged. Glorying in Christ our Saviour, we must continue to be zealous for Him. In Christ we have 'peace', 'atonement' and a 'perpetual' salvation (25:12-13; Romans 5:1-2,9-10). We are saved to serve - This is the thought contained in the phrase, 'all in Israel who are able to go forth to war' (26:2). The wilderness wanderings were over. God was doing a new thing. He was looking for a new people, determined, by grace, to carry His work forward into the future. He is still looking!
12th October: Numbers 26:23-65
There is real sadness in the final words of this chapter: 'There was not left a man of them, except Caleb and Joshua' (65). There is also a sense of expectation. So many had died in the wilderness. This was now a new generation. We're living in changing times. God is equipping His people for new challenges. We must not stand still. We dare not say, 'It's never been done that way before'! A new generation has to be won for Christ. Will we rise to the challenge? Or, will we 'die in the wilderness (65)? Taking possession of 'the promised land' would not be easy. Making advances for Christ will not be easy. We must lay aside those things which need to 'die in the wilderness'. We take hold of all that God has done for us - if there is to be 'Good News for the next generation'!
13th October: Luke 17:1-37
In verses 1-10, Jesus speaks about temptation, forgiveness, faith and service. (a) Temptation - 'watch yourselves', always remembering that we can only win victory through the strength of the Lord (3; 1 Corinthians 10:13). (b) Forgiveness - This is practical teaching. We not only receive forgiveness for ourselves. We are to forgive others (3-4; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 4:32). (c) Faith - There will never come a time when we no longer need to pray, 'Increase our faith'. What great things can be achieved for God, when our faith in Him is strong (5-6; 1 John 5:4-5, 14-15). (d) Service - We are always 'unworthy servants'. We never outgrow our need of 'God's mercy' (10; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1). We need 'the attitude of gratitude' (17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Jesus is coming again (24). Be ready for Him!
14th October: Proverbs 5:15-23
There is teaching here concerning faithfulness in marriage: 'may you rejoice in the wife of your youth...may you ever be captivated by her love (18-19). We may apply this teaching to our relationship with the Saviour. You loved Him so much in 'your youth'. You were 'rejoicing in Him'. You were 'captivated by His love'. 'You were doing so well', but something happened - you have gone off course (Galatians 5:7-8). Is this the story of your life? Return to 'your first love' (Revelation 2:4-5). There is also a warning against unfaithfulness (20). This can also be applied to our relationship with Christ. He 'loved us and gave Himself for us'. He calls us to be 'holy...a radiant church' (Ephesians 5:25-27). We belong to Him. Why settle for anything less than the Best, anything less than our Lord Jesus Christ.
15th October: Numbers 27:1-23
The daughters of Zelophehad were concerned about the continuation of their father's name (1-11). Our first concern must be the glory of God, our Heavenly Father. We are to honour our parents, loving them deeply. We must not allow such love to compete with our love for Christ. He must come first. We are called to a life of single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ. Joshua is chosen to succeed Moses as the leader of God's people (12-23). Soon, Moses would be gone. The Lord was preparing His people for the future. God had His man - Joshua - waiting to continue the work which Moses had begun. For each place and time, God has His 'Joshua'. The work of God will go on. His work requires more than a 'Joshua'. What part will you play in God's ongoing work? Will you take up the challenge?
16th October: Numbers 28:1-31
The sacrifices, offered to God, were to be 'a pleasing odour' to Him (2,6,8,13,24,27). These sacrifices are no longer required. A greater Sacrifice has been offered and accepted. Jesus Christ, God's Son, has offered Himself as a Sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:23-26). This Sacrifice is 'a pleasing odour' to God. It is 'good news' for us. This is 'good news' - the Gospel of our salvation: 'Christ died for our sins' (1 Corinthians 15:3). How do we know that Christ's Sacrifice is 'a pleasing odour' to God? - God 'raised' Him from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4). The 'feast of weeks' (Pentecost) turns our thoughts towards the Holy Spirit (26-31; Acts 2:1-4). It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the 'good news' of Christ becomes real in our lives. He brings us to Christ and leads us on with Him (Acts 2:37-47).
17th October: Luke 18:1-43
Here, we learn some important lessons about faith. (a) Our faith is precious. We must not lose it! The question is asked, 'When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?' (8). 'Don't lose heart' (1). (b) We are to have a humble faith (14). Pray, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner' (13). 'Receive the Kingdom of God like a child' (17). (c) We are to have a committed faith (22), always remembering that salvation comes from the Lord and not from ourselves (26-27). Our commitment can never be a way of earning God's salvation. He always gives us so much more than we could ever give to Him (29-30). (d) We are to have a Christ-centred faith, centred on His death and resurrection (31-33). (e) Our faith is to be full of worship. Our eyes opened by Christ and to Him, we are to glorify God and give praise to Him (43).
18th October: Numbers 29:1-40
Between the feast of weeks (Pentecost) and the feast of trumpets (28:26-29:6), there was the harvest. Pentecost - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - has ushered in the time of Harvest - the saved are being gathered in as men and women are being won for Christ. During this time of harvest, we 'blow the trumpets' of worship, rejoicing in the Lord (1), and 'alarm', calling on men and women to pay attention to the Word of the Lord (Joel 2:1). By blowing the trumpets for God, we prepare the way for the final trumpet, 'the trumpet of God' (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). We must get ready, and we must encourage others to get ready, for Christ's Return. Atonement (7-11), Tabernacles (12-40): Christ has 'tabernacled' among us (John 1:14). He has made 'atonement' for us (Romans 5:11). Share the Good News!
19th October: Numbers 30:1-31:20
Vows (30:1-16): Be careful what you say - You may live to regret it (Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-6; Matthew 12:36-37; James 3:6-11). Learn from Balaam. Full of good intentions about speaking God's Word (22:18; 23:12). He hoped to 'die the death of the righteous' (23:10). He did not live up to his good intentions. He sinned and he led others into sin (31:16). He ended up being slain among God's enemies (31:8). Why were the Midianites destroyed (31:7-8)? They opposed the Lord, exerting an evil influence on His people. We must take care that we do not cause God's people 'to act treacherously against' Him (31:16). Sin needs to be removed if we are to press on to a greater enjoyment of God's blessing. 'Put to death what is earthly in you...put off the old nature...put on the new nature' (Colossians 3:5-11). This is what we must do.
20th October: Luke 19:1-48
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem (9:51; 13:22; 17:11), the place where He would be crucified for the world's salvation. 'Passing through' Jericho, He brought 'salvation' to Zacchaeus (1, 9). 'Near to Jerusalem', He spoke about service (11-27). Jesus is our Saviour - He came 'to save us' (10). He is also our Lord - He wants to 'reign over' us (27). 'Salvation has come to us (9). As 'good servants', let us be 'faithful' to our Lord (17). Jesus was 'going up to Jerusalem' (28). The Cross was the high point, the place of His triumph (Colossians 2:15). Seeing 'the city', Jesus 'wept over it' (41). He taught the Word of God in the House of God. Some were 'eager to hear Him'. Others were 'seeking to destroy Him' (47-48). What about you ? Does Jesus weep over you? He wants to rejoice over you (15:7,10).
21st October: Luke 20:1-47
Think before you speak. Jesus' critics had plenty to say for themselves. Jesus challenged them. They needed to say less and think more - about Jesus (8,17-18,41-44). Jesus' words reduced them to silence (26,40). They didn't know what to say next. Perhaps, some were beginning to ask the right questions and find the right answers (39). There were others who didn't want to know. They weren't interested in listening to Jesus. All that mattered to them was themselves: 'Beware of the scribes...' (46-47). 'The scribes' were so taken up with themselves that they failed to take the slightest notice of what the Lord was saying to them. The way of 'the scribes' ended in 'condemnation'. There is a warning for us here: Make sure you don't miss the most important thing - 'Jesus Christ is in you' (2 Corinthians 13:5).
22nd October: Numbers 31:21-54
If we are to be 'soldiers of Christ', we need to be 'purified', made 'clean'. There is purification by 'fire' and 'water'. Purification may be painful, but we have the promise of God's protective presence. He says, 'I will be with you'. He assures us, 'the waters...shall not overwhelm you...and the flame shall not shall not consume you' (22-24; Isaiah 43:2). From the Old Testament wars, we learn important spiritual principles: Enter the war, Destroy the sins, Possess the land. This is what we must do throughout life. Looking beyond Israel's triumphs to Christ's victory over Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8), we thank God for His victory and we claim this victory by faith (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4-5). The battle may be 'fierce'. The 'victory is secure' (Church Hymnary, 479). Praise God!
23rd October: Numbers 32:1-42
Some look for an easy life. They know that there will be conflict on the other side of the Jordan. They opt out - 'do not take us across the Jordan' (5). They think they've travelled far enough. God says, 'Let us go on to maturity' (Hebrews 6:1). 'My happiness' - This is what concerns the self-centred person. Spiritual maturity is not about happiness. It's about holiness. We find happiness when we aim at holiness. What is holiness? - 'It's the life apart from the world's excess. It's the Lord's command, not the Lord's request. It's the only life that the Lord can bless'. Pretend to be more holy than you really are, and 'be sure your sin will find you out' (23). A small minority - Caleb and Joshua - 'wholly followed the Lord' (12): Better a minority with God than a majority without Him.
24th October: Luke 21:1-38
The 'poor widow' gave her 'all' to the Lord (1-4). True giving is a response to 'the grace of God'. Learning to appreciate 'the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ', we will learn to give with 'abundance of joy' and 'wealth of liberality' (2 Corinthians 8:1-2, 9). Let us give ourselves to our Lord. True Christian living will not be easy (12; 2 Timothy 3:12). The Lord will be with us in all our difficulties (15, 18-19). Christ will return 'with power and great glory' (27). For some this will be a time of 'distress...perplexity...fear...foreboding' (25-26). For others, it will be the Day of 'redemption' (28). To all, there is the warning: 'Take heed to yourselves...watch at all times' (34-36). Let us restore Him to His rightful place in our lives - '...all the people came to Him...' (38).
25th October: Numbers 33:1-49
In the history of Israel - Set free by the power of God, failure to learn, wandering, the promised land - , there is a picture of the Christian life - conversion and growth to spiritual maturity by way of learning from our mistakes. We are not to remain in the past. That would be nostalgia. It is, however, a good thing for us to remember, with gratitude, all the way the Lord has led us. This will increase our appreciation of the goodness of God. It will deepen our sense of indebtedness to Him. Israel's redemption was a mighty work of God. Our salvation is a mighty work of God. Think back over your life - 'stage by stage' (2) - and thank God for all that He has done. 'These are the stages of' what the Lord has done (1): You may see the Lord in places where you hadn't noticed Him before!
26th October: Numbers 33: 50-34:29
'Drive out all the inhabitants of the land' (52): We must drive out the enemy (Satan) if we are to enter more fully into our salvation in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:3-14). Idolatry is to be banished (52). It has no place among God's people. God wants us to 'possess the land' (53): a fuller enjoyment of Him. Idolatry is settling for 'second best' - letting something or someone else become more important to you than the Lord. Don't let it happen! The setting of the boundaries of the land of Canaan (34:1-29) is a reminder that there are boundaries in the Christian life, boundaries set by God Himself, the boundaries of Holy Scripture. When we move beyond the boundaries of God's holy Word, we move outside the sphere of God's blessing. Live in the will of God - within the boundaries set by His Word.
27th October: Luke 22:1-38
Jesus' enemies were 'religious' men but they were not God's men (2). Behind the scenes, there was the activity of 'Satan' (3). He 'disguises himself as an angel of light' - Judas Iscariot was 'one of the twelve'! (3; 2 Corinthians 11:14). In reality, Satan is 'a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour' (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus was in complete control of the situation. He allowed Satan to carry out the plot which would lead to his own defeat - at the Cross. As the whole situation gets darker, never forget the purpose of Christ's death (19-20). Jesus was suffering - the pain inflicted by His enemies (2) and the agony brought on by his 'friends' (21,31-34). His suffering was for us: 'Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us' (7; 1 Corinthians 5:7). In His suffering is our salvation.
28th October: Luke 22: 39-71
Jesus was 'greatly distressed... troubled... very sorrowful... ' (Mark 14:33-34). 'Nevertheless, in obedience to His Father's will, He chose the way of the Cross (42; John 10:17-18). Satan - 'the power of darkness' - would have his 'hour', but Jesus was to be 'seated at the right hand of the power of God' (53,69). Jesus suffered much persecution (63-71). He endured it 'for the joy that was set before Him', the joy of 'bringing many son to glory' (Hebrews 12:2; 2:10). The way of the Cross is never easy. It involves death to self (2 Corinthians 4:10-12). Do not 'sleep'. Pray (45-46). Don't 'follow at a distance' and deny your Lord (54, 57-58, 60). Keep close to Jesus. Let the 'rivers of living water flow' (John 7:37-39; Acts 1:8). When you sin, let His 'Word' lead you to repentance (61-62; Psalm 119:11).
29th October: Numbers 35:1-36:13
Cities of refuge were provided for those who had killed someone accidentally. This is a good illustration of fleeing to Christ for refuge. He is our 'strong tower'. We 'run' to Him and we are 'safe' (Hebrews 6:18; Proverbs 18:10). God gave Israel a 'land'. They were not to 'defile the land' (34). God has given us a Saviour. We are not to dishonour Him. Christ is our 'inheritance'. Our full enjoyment of Him is still to come (36:2-4, 7-9,12; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 3:24; 1 Peter 1:4). How can we enjoy our Saviour more fully ? - 'These are the commandments...' (36:13). The names change. The places change. The principle remains the same: Obedience to God. We have been redeemed by God. Let us live in obedience to Him. There is nothing more important than this - if we really want to enjoy His blessing
30th October: Luke 23:1-25
In Jesus' trial, we see unity in evil (12). Politically, Pilate and Herod were at odds with each other. Spiritually, they were united in their opposition to Christ. Jesus was found guilty by neither Pilate nor Herod (13-16). They were Very Important People. Jesus was a threat to them. They held positions of great power. They could not allow Jesus to 'upset the apple cart'. Three times, Pilate declared Jesus' innocence (4,14,22). 'Public opinion' said, 'Crucify Him!' (21). Pilate had a problem. He would be 'crucifying' himself - politically - if he ignored public opinion. Pilate made his choice. Jesus had to go. Jesus went - but He came back again! There is real human drama here, but there is much more than that: There is God! Crucified by men, Raised by God (Acts 2:23-24): This is divine drama, the drama of redemption!
31st October: Psalm 16:1-11
'Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore' (11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God's people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ's resurrection. David's words (8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with 'the resurrection of the Christ' (Acts 2:24-33). 'Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable' (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). 'The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad' (5,9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Links to my work on Scripture and theology

Daily Readings

Theological Articles

Notes: 1 Thessalonians to Revelation

1 THESSALONIANS

1:1-2:20  -  If God is to be glorified through the preaching of His Word, there needs to be more than the ‘words’ of the preacher. There needs to be ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ (1:5). Good preaching is not a matter of ‘plausible words of wisdom’. We must look for ‘a demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the Spirit is at work, there is effective communication, leading to a life-changing encounter with God. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’ (13). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’. The ‘message’ will do you no good if you don’t hear it ‘with faith’ - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:2; 3:15).

3:1-4:12  -  We need both ‘love’ and ‘holiness’ (3:12-13). Our love is to be holy. Our holiness is to be loving. Getting the right balance between love and holiness is like walking a tightrope. You can easily lose your balance and fall off. We can be too soft - all love and no holiness. We can be too hard - all holiness and no love. Love doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’ - ‘I don’t care how you live’. That’s not love. That’s indifference, a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. Holiness doesn’t mean looking down your nose at other people - ‘You’ve sinned and I will never let you forget it’. Don’t be like ‘the Pharisees’. They wanted to ‘stone the woman caught in adultery’. We must not ‘stone’ people with our ‘hot tongue and cold shoulder’! Be like Jesus. Show love - ‘I don’t condemn you’ - and  holiness - ‘Do not sin again’ (John 8:3-11).

4:13-5:28  -  Do you feel like giving up? God is not about to give up on you: ‘He who calls you is utterly faithful and He will finish what He set out to do’ (24). He has a great future for us: ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (9). We look forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘The Lord Himself will descend from heaven’ (4:16). We look forward to heavenly and eternal glory: ‘We shall always be with the Lord’ (4:17). This is the kind of encouragement we need. We are to remind one another of these things: ‘Comfort one another with these words’ (4:18). We are ‘to encourage one another’ to go on with the Lord. Let’s ‘build one another up’, encouraging each other to build on ‘the Rock’ which is ‘Christ’ (11; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Matthew 7:24-27).
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2 THESSALONIANS

1:1-2:12 -  For ‘all those who have believed’, ‘the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ will be a great Day, the Day of celebration, the Day of our salvation, the Day of ‘our being gathered to Him’ (2:1; 1:10). ‘When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven’, it will be a Day of judgment for ‘those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus’ (1:7-8). The Word of God is very clear about God’s purpose of salvation: ‘God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him’. ‘The Lord does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’. ‘God wants all people to be saved’ (John 3:17; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). You can say ‘No’ to Christ - and perish. Say “Yes’ to Him - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (2:10; John 3:18; Acts 16:31).

2:13-3:18  -  Paul prayed for the Thessalonians and he asked them to pray for him. He prayed that God would ‘comfort their hearts and establish them in every good work and word’ (2:16-17). He prayed that they would enjoy peace: ‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in all ways’  (3:16). He asked them to pray for his ministry - ‘pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed on and triumph among you’ (1). Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, ‘You keep on praying for us and we’ll keep on praying for you’. We must not forget each other. We must remember each other - in prayer. Far too often, we forget. It becomes a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. We’re not to live in the past. We are to keep on praying for those who belong to our past. Don’t forget to remember!
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1 TIMOTHY

1:1-2:15 -  ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’. Paul has something special to say about this statement. This is what he says – ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance’ (1:15). This is Paul’s message, the message of the Gospel: ‘Christ Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all’ (2:5-6). Paul speaks of ‘the glorious Gospel of the blessed God’ (1:11). He speaks as a man with a testimony: ‘I received mercy… the grace of our Lord overflowed for me’ (1:13-14). God is still looking for people who will say, with Paul, ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 1:16; Galatians 6:14). May God help us, in our generation, to be ‘eager to preach the Gospel’ (Romans 1:15).

3:1-4:16Belief and Behaviour - Both are important. We are ‘nourished in the words of the faith’ so that we ‘may know how one ought to behave in the household of God’ (4:6; 3:15). We are not only to believe the right things. We are to behave the right way. To each of us, God says, ‘Watch your life and doctrine closely’ (4:16). What we believe is important. How we live is also important. If our faith is real, it will lead to a change in our way of life. The whole of life is to be ‘consecrated by the Word of God and prayer’ (4:5). Our God is ‘the living God’ (3:15; 4:10). He wants to be real to us in every part of our life. ‘Fill Thou our life, O Lord our God, in every part with praise… Not for the lip of praise alone nor even the praising heart, we ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part’ (Church Hymnary, 457). 

5:1-6:21 -  There is a great battle going on – between God and Satan. There have been disappointments: ‘Some have already strayed after Satan’. Lives are being ruined. Many ‘have wandered away from the faith’. They have not found happiness. They ‘have pierced their hearts with many griefs’ (5:15; 6:9-10). There is a great deal at stake in this battle. We must ‘give the enemy no opportunity to slander us’. We must take care how we live – ‘so that God’s Name… may not be slandered’ (5:14; 6:1). We are to live a life of ‘godliness’, a life that is based on ‘the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ’. We are to ‘aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’. Let’s live for ‘the life to come, the life which is permanent’. This is ‘life indeed, the life that is truly life’ (6:3,11,19).
3:18-4:18  -  God calls us to pray - ‘Devote yourselves to prayer’. We are to pray with concern - ‘watchful’. We  are to pray with gratitude - ‘thankful’ (2). We are to pray for those who preach God’s Word. Thank God for the past. Trust Him for the future. Remember - the important thing is the ‘message’ (3). The messengers are just ‘jars of clay’. The message is the ‘treasure’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). The messengers must not draw attention to themselves. They must direct attention away from themselves to Jesus Christ - ‘We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). We are to pray that the message will be ‘clear’ (4). Pray for good preaching - preaching which does you good, giving you good cause to say in your heart, ‘For me it is good to be near God’ (Psalm 73:28). Pray for preaching which glorifies God.
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2 TIMOTHY 

1:1-2:7 -  God’s Word is not to be kept to ourselves. Paul was called by God to be a ‘preacher’ of the ‘Gospel’ (11). He passed God’s Word on to Timothy, encouraging him to share the message with ‘faithful’ people who would pass it on to others’ (13; 2:2). Everyone has their part to play. Things didn’t come to a standstill when Paul wasn’t around. Timothy was to make sure that everything didn’t revolve around himself. There were others who were to carry the work of God forward. We must not make too much of certain individuals. The work of the Lord is always much more than the work done by any one person. God is always looking for more people who will take up the challenge of seeing that His work is not left undone. Serve the Lord in the ‘power’ of ‘the Holy Spirit’. Trust Him – His work is ‘safe in His hands’ (1:7,14,12).

2:8-3:9 -  ‘Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2:8). God’s servants become part of our past. Christ remains the heart of our future. He is the risen Christ, the living Lord. When God’s servants become a distant memory, we must remember Him. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are to ‘avoid godless chatter’ and ‘stupid, senseless controversies’, we must keep Him at the very centre of our lives (16,23). If we are to be ‘lovers of God’ rather than ‘lovers of self’, we must keep on saying from the heart, ‘I must decrease. Christ must increase’ (3:4,2; John 3:30). We may face problems – from those who ‘oppose the truth’, people of ‘corrupt mind and counterfeit faith’. Don’t be afraid of such opposition – ‘they will not get very far… their folly will be plain to all’ (3:8-9). Keep your eyes on Jesus! 

3:10-4:22 -  What is the greatest thing that the Lord’s servants can pass on to the Lord’s people? – ‘The Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (3:15). They are to ‘preach the Word’ in the power of ‘the Holy Spirit’ (2; 1 Peter 1:12). When the preaching has ended, one thing remains – ‘the living and abiding Word of God’ (1 Peter 1:12). When all the words have been spoken, the ministry of the Spirit continues. Through the ongoing work of ‘the Spirit of the living God’, the Word of God is ‘written’ in the ‘hearts’ of those who have heard the Word preached (2 Corinthians 3:3). What kind of preaching do we need? Do we need ‘teachers who will tell us what we want to hear’ (3)? No! We need preachers who will say ‘what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation 2:7,11,17, 29; 3:6,13,22).
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TITUS

1:1-2:10  -  How are we to live? We are not to be ‘empty talkers’, people who ‘profess to know God’ and ‘deny Him by their deeds’ (1:10,16). We must give no one the opportunity to ‘speak evil of God’s Word’. We must be ‘a model of good deeds’, showing ‘the beauty of the teachings about God our Saviour in everything we do’ (2:5,7,10). When we live in a Christlike way, ‘those who oppose’ Christ and His Gospel will be ‘put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us’ (2:8). This is how we are to live. How do we live? This is a question for all of us. It is a question which will make us feel uncomfortable. We don’t find it easy to look closely at the way we live our lives. We won’t get away with glossing over things. God calls us to pray, ‘Search me, O God... Cleanse me from every sin...’ (Psalm 139:23-24; Mission Praise, 587).

2:11-3:15  -  We read in 2:11,13 of Christ’s coming in grace - ‘the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people’ - and His coming in glory - ‘we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’. From grace to glory - This is the journey from Christ’s first coming to His Second Coming. It is also the journey of our life of faith. We begin with the forgiveness of our sins. our final destination is glory, heavenly and eternal glory, the glory of God. We live by the grace of God. We look forward to the glory of God. God wants us to live as ‘a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds’ (2:14). If we are to be ‘zealous for good deeds’, we must first be zealous for Jesus Christ. Do good - but never forget, ‘He saved us - not because of deeds done by us...’ (3:8,4-6).
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PHILEMON

‘He was useless... now he has become useful’(11). This is the story of Onesimus (the name means ‘useful’). A runaway ‘slave’, he became ‘a beloved brother... in the Lord’(16). It appears that Onesimus had stolen from his master, Philemon (18-19). He landed up in prison - and there, he was converted! This is what Paul is telling us when he speaks of ‘Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment’(10). Why did God allow Paul, His faithful servant, to land up in prison - for the sake of the Gospel? Part of the reason was Onesimus. God wanted Paul to meet Onesimus. Paul was to lead Onesimus to Christ. Sometimes, our difficult circumstances may feel like a prison sentence. You want to get out, but you can’t - until God has fulfilled His purpose: the ‘useless’ becomes ‘useful’- in the service of God.
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HEBREWS

1:1-2:9 -  From the heights of heaven and the depths of suffering, ‘God… has spoken to us by His Son’ (1:1-2). Jesus Christ is God’s ‘Word’ to us. He is ‘the Word’ who came from heaven: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. He is ‘the Word’ who came to earth: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…’ (John 1:1-14). In heaven, He is worshipped by angels: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him’ (1:6). On earth, ‘He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone’ (2:9). We see the greatness of Christ in both His heavenly glory and His saving grace. None can compare with Him. He is our Lord. He is our Saviour. We consider all that He has done for us – ‘the nail marks in His hands…’ – and we worship Him – ‘my Lord and my God’ (John 20:19-20,24-28).

2:10-3:19 -  God invites each of us to receive a great blessing – the blessing of being His ‘children’ (2:13). We become God’s children through faith in Christ: ‘To all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God’ (John 1:12). What will you do with God’s great invitation, His invitation of love? Will you receive Christ and become a child of God? Will you miss out on the blessing ‘because of unbelief’ (19)? God is waiting for your answer – ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (3:7,15). Throughout life, we must guard against ‘an evil, unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God’. ‘Every day’, we must take care that we do not become ‘hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’ (3:12-13). As God’s children, let’s grow in Christ (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).

4:1-5:10 -  ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. These words from 3:7,15, are repeated here in 4:7. Make sure that you don’t miss the point! These are words that we need to keep on hearing – again and again. None of us ever reaches a stage where we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning. Reading God’s Word can be a very uncomfortable experience: ‘God’s Word is living and active… God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for Him to see. We must answer to Him’ (4:12-13). This may not be the kind of thing we like to hear. It’s what we need to hear. We will only pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ when we see how sinful we really are. Then – and only then – will we come to Christ for ‘eternal salvation’ (4:15-16; 5:9).

5:11-6:20 -  ‘Let us… go on to maturity’ (6:1). There can be no question of ‘continuing in sin’ – ‘God forbid! How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ (Romans 6:1-2). We are to become ‘mature people, whose minds are trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’ (5:14). We are to move on to ‘the better things that belong to salvation’ (9). It cannot be taken for granted that every believer will ‘go on to maturity’. Some start so well and then they lose their way somewhere along the line. We should read the words of  6:4-8 as a warning. We can so easily become ‘sluggish’ (6:12). When this wrong attitude sets in, things go from bad to worse. Do you want to become ‘worthless and near to being cursed’ (8)? Take care. Pray for ‘earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end’ (6:11).

7:1-28 -  ‘See how great He is!’ (4). These words refer to Melchizedek (1-3; Genesis 14:18-20). Melchizedek has ‘neither beginning of days nor end of life’. He ‘continues a priest for ever’. He ‘resembles the Son of God’. He is ‘like the Son of God’ (3). Let your thoughts move from Melchizedek to the Lord Jesus Christ – ‘See how great He is’! Jesus Christ is ‘the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 21:6; 22:13). ‘Jesus lives for ever’ and ‘has a permanent priesthood’ (24). He is our great Saviour: ‘He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him’ (25). We look beyond Melchizedek. We look to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We look to Him and we say, ‘There’s no greater Name than Jesus, Name of Him who came to save us’ (Mission Praise, 684). Let Jesus be your great Saviour. Come to Him and receive His great salvation.

8:1-9:14 -  God gave His promise – ‘I will make a new covenant’ (8:8-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34). God has fulfilled His promise. There is now a ‘new covenant in Jesus’ blood’ (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). The old covenant cannot even begin to compare with the new covenant. It is only a ‘shadow’. The new covenant is the real thing. It is ‘much more excellent’. It is ‘a better covenant’ (8:5-6), The old covenant is ‘outdated’ (8:13). It’s seen its day. Now, it’s past its ‘sell by date’! We look at the old covenant and we say, ‘There must be more than this’. There is more – ‘much more’. Through ‘the blood of Christ’, ‘our hearts and lives’ have been ‘cleansed’. Now, we can begin ‘to serve the living God’ (9:14). ‘What a wonderful redemption!’ – ‘eternal redemption’ (Mission Praise, 765; 9:12)!

9:15-10:18 -  We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us. Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in 9:28 – ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’. We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20). We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us – His body broken for us and His blood shed for us. We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Remember – and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20).

10:19-11:16 -  Are you ‘looking for a better country – a heavenly one’ (16)? ‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there’s ‘a God-shaped blank’. Jesus came to give us ‘life’ – ‘abundant life’, ‘eternal life’ (John 10:10; 17:3; 1 John 5:11). Without Jesus, our lives are empty. The ‘longing for a better country’ can only be satisfied by Him. He is God’s ‘foretaste of glory divine’ (Mission Praise, 59). Jesus stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for our answer. He says, ‘Look, I’m standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to My voice and opens the door, I’ll come in…’ (Revelation 3:20). Don’t ‘shrink back’ (39). Invite Him into your heart now.

11:17-12:2 -  We read about many people who trusted the Lord. Their faith was real. It changed their lives. As you read of so many people who lived ‘by faith’, let God’s Word challenge you. Bring your own weak faith to Him and ask Him to give you a stronger faith: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). We learn from so many different people. We read about their faith. We are inspired by their faith. We do not, however, make too much of them. We must always be ‘looking to Jesus’ (2). We must learn the lesson of the transfiguration. We look at Moses. We look at Elijah. We learn from them. There comes a point where they – together with all God’s faithful people – must step aside, leaving us to look up and see ‘Jesus only’ (Mark 9:2-8).

12:3-29 -  We are to seek ‘the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (14). This is not the ‘holiness’ of the Pharisee: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men…’ (Luke 18:11-12). It is the holiness that grows in the hearts and lives of those who have received ‘the grace of God’, those who have prayed, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (15; Luke 18:13). We do not earn ‘the grace of God’ as a reward for our ‘holiness’. Salvation is ‘not our doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, so that no one can boast’. There is a call to holiness. We are saved ‘for good works’. Before we think about holiness, we must get first things first: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). We must answer the call to salvation before we can answer the call to holiness.

13:1-25 -  ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers’ (1). If the love of Christ is to flow freely among us, there can be no place for ‘us and them’ thinking – ‘He’s not one of us. They’re not our kind of people. They’re strangers – they don’t belong here’. This kind of attitude is a contradiction of the love of Christ. We must remember: ‘Strangers are only friends we’ve never met’. We sing, ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’ (Mission Praise, 746). Do we show His friendship to strangers? We must never underestimate the importance of a ‘friendly welcome’ (11:31). If there is no ‘friendly welcome’, word will soon get around – ‘They’re not very friendly’! This is not just a matter of saying the ‘right words’. It’s about being the right kind of people – people who care enough to be friendly!
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JAMES

1:1-27 -  Even the most difficult times can have a godly effect on us – when we ask God for wisdom: ‘Lord, what are You teaching me in this?’ (2-5). Humanly speaking, we may be ‘in humble circumstances’. Spiritually speaking, we are in a ‘high position’ (9). Our position is to become even higher – ‘the crown of life’ (12). Before that happens, there will be many temptations (13-15). We can face these temptations with confidence in the God of faithfulness and His ‘Word of truth’ (16-18). God’s ‘Word’ is ‘planted in us’ so that we may become ‘doers of the Word, and not hearers only’ (21-22). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’ – ‘like water off a duck’s back’. Let there be His controlling – ‘a tight rein on the tongue’, caring – looking after the needy, and cleansing – ‘unstained from the world’ (26-27).

2:1-26 -  The Gospel turns the world’s values upside down – the ‘poor in the world’ are ‘rich in faith’ (5). We are to live according to the Gospel. We are not to be controlled by the world’s way of thinking. If we ‘show favouritism’, we place ourselves in a dangerous position – ‘judgment without mercy’. Even where there is the threat of judgment, there is the promise of mercy – ‘mercy triumphs over judgment’ (9,13). God is calling us back from the brink. He is saying, ‘It’s not too late’. Even at ‘the eleventh hour’, God is calling us to receive His mercy (Matthew 20:6-9). He wants to change us. He wants us to put Him first. For Abraham and Rahab, God came first – not Abraham’s son, not Rahab’s country (20-26; Genesis 22:12; Joshua 2:9). Don’t let anyone or anything come before Him. He must come first – every time.

3:1-4:12 -  So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. so much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’ can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on (3:5; Mission Praise, 348). Use your words with wisdom – ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’ (17-18). Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way (4:2). Be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another…Who are you to judge your neighbour?’ (4:11-12). May God deliver us from hypocrisy – ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’ (3:10). May He give us ‘more grace’ – to be ‘humble’ and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (4:6-7).

4:13-5:20 -  Don’t worry about ‘what will happen tomorrow’. It’s in the Lord’s hands (4:14-15). We must not lose sight of ‘the purpose of the Lord’. We must remember that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’ (11). We look forward to ‘the Lord’s Coming’ as the great Day of our salvation (7-8). We must not, however, forget God’s words of warning: ‘The Judge is standing at the door’. God speaks to us concerning ‘the misery that is coming upon you’. What is He saying to us here? – He is warning us: Be careful how you live – Don’t trust in riches. ‘Don’t grumble against each other’ (1-3,9). The warning and the promise belong together. Those who are facing judgment can be brought to the Saviour. May God help us to speak His Word – the warning as well as the promise – , always praying that sinners will be saved (16,19-20).
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1 PETER

1:1-25 - On earth, we have ‘trials’. In ‘heaven’, we will have ‘salvation’ (3-9). In our journey from trials to salvation, from earth to heaven, we are to live a life of holiness and love. In this life of ‘obedience to the truth’, we must never forget that we have been ‘redeemed with the precious blood of Christ’ (15,22,18-19). We must never take pride in our obedience - ‘boasting is excluded’. All that can be said about ourselves is this: ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. What makes the difference? What is it that changes us? What is it that sets us on the pathway of holiness and love? We have received ‘the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’. Our ‘faith’ is in Him (Romans 3:27,23-25). He makes the difference. He changes us. He makes us holy. He fills us with His love.

2:1-25 - Being ‘God’s own people’ is a great privilege - ‘you have received mercy’. It is also a great responsibility - ‘declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (9-10). God’s people are described as ‘strangers in the world’ (11). We must not think of ourselves as ‘superior’ - ‘a cut above the rest’. We are not! In ourselves, we are ‘strangers’ - ‘without God in the world’. There’s nothing ‘special’ about us, There’s something very special about what God has done for us: ‘In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13). As those who ‘have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls’, let’s point others to Him who ‘bore our sins...that we might die to sin and live to righteousness’ (24-25).

3:1-4:6 - The world is preoccupied with outward appearances. As Christians, we should be more concerned with our inward attitude. ‘In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord’. Pray for His ‘attitude’ - ‘a tender heart and a humble mind’ (8,15; 4:1). We believe the Gospel - ‘Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’. Let’s share the Gospel - ‘Be always ready to give...a reason for the hope that is in you’. How are we to share the Gospel? - ‘with gentleness and respect’ (18,15). We must get the attitude right - ‘so that nothing will hinder our prayers’ (7). We need more than the ‘right’ prayers - words that sound good. We need the right attitude. The blessing will not come because our words sound good. It will only come when our attitude is right.

4:7-5:14 - In all the service we offer to God, there is to be the offering of worship: ‘To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever’ (4:11; 5:11). We will not learn to serve God unless we are learning to worship Him. There is a ‘form of religion’ which ‘denies the power’ of God - ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’ (2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 15:8). They go through the motions - but their hearts are not in it! We must pray that God will deliver us from this kind of thing: ‘O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin set free; A heart that always feels Thy blood, so freely shed for me’ (Church Hymnary, 85). ‘Religion’ is about respectability. Salvation is about renewal: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).
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2 PETER

1:1-2:10a - God ‘has given us His very great and precious promises’ (1:4). God has a great purpose for us. He is preparing for us ‘a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (11). The pathway to heavenly and eternal glory is not an easy one. Often, we will be tempted to settle for being ‘ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There will be many distractions, drawing our attention away from Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him if we are not to become ‘blind and short-sighted’. We can so easily forget the most important thing - we have been ‘cleansed from our old sins’. It is so important that we keep looking to Christ, remembering what He has done for us and giving thanks to Him (1:8-9). ‘The Lord’ will not fail us in our ‘trials’ (2:9). Let’s not fail Him!

2:10b-3:18 - ‘Grow’ in Christ and give ‘glory’ to Him. Centred on ‘our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, our life is filled with ‘grace’ and ‘glory’. From Him, we receive ‘grace’ - ‘From the fulness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another’. From Him, we receive ‘glory’ - ‘I have given them the glory that You gave Me’ (3:18; John 1:16; 17:22). Where does this life of grace and glory begin? It begins with God. In ourselves, there is sin. In Him, there is salvation. ‘He is patient with us’. He waits for us to ‘come to repentance’. He shows us our sin so that we might learn to look to our Saviour - ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation’ (3:9; 2 Corinthians 7:10). Turn to the Lord. Let it be real. Let Him lead you in His pathway - the pathway of grace and glory.
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1 JOHN 

1:1-2:17 - ‘Jesus Christ’ died ‘for our sins’. This is Good News. It is not to be kept to ourselves - He died ‘for the sins of the whole world’. We have ‘fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ’. ‘We have fellowship with one another’. These blessings are not to be kept to ourselves. We must share the Good News - ‘the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’. We must seek to bring others into ‘fellowship’ - not only ‘with us’ but, ‘with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ’ (2:1-2; 1:3,7). We are called to a life of obedience - ‘he who does the will of God lives for ever’. This obedience comes from our experience of God’s love. ‘The love of the Father’ leads to ‘love for the Father’: ‘We love’ God ‘because He first loved us’ (15-17; 4:19). Let’s love the Lord - and do His will.

2:18-3:18 - Through faith in Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God’, we receive ‘eternal life’ (22-25; John 20:31). Our enjoyment of eternal life has already begun - ‘we are God’s children now’. Our full enjoyment of eternal life is still to come: ‘It does not yet appear what we shall be...’. We have begun to experience Christ’s victory: ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil’. We look forward to our full enjoyment of His victory: ‘When He appears, we shall be like Him...’ (2,8). Some will try to ‘deceive’ us. We must keep our eyes on Christ - ‘He laid down His life for us’. We have received His ‘love’. We must show His love - ‘Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth’ (7,16,18). Do you believe in Christ? Live the life. Be a believer - in deed’!

3:19-4:21 - ‘God is greater than our hearts’. When you are deeply aware of your sinfulness, remember - God loves you. God’s Word is brutally honest - about us: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ God’s Word is wonderfully encouraging - about His love for us. He ‘knows everything’ about us - and He still loves us: ‘God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (3:20; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 5:8). What a great Saviour we have. He is ‘without sin’ - yet He is the Friend of sinners. He ‘receives sinners’. He ‘came into the world to save sinners’ (Hebrews 4:15; Luke 15:2; 1 Timothy 1:15). Whenever we start getting too full of ourselves, too full of our own importance, we must remember: ‘He first loved us’ (4:19) - before we ever thought of loving Him!

5:1-21 - What a great blessing we receive through faith in Christ - ‘Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God’ (1). Our life as God’s children is not a life of tranquility. We face conflict, real conflict - a battle. In this spiritual warfare, we have God’s promise of victory. In verse 5, we have a question: ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?’. The answer is contained in the question. Our victory is in Christ. We are not victorious because our faith is so strong that we couldn’t possibly fail. Many times, we fail. We take our eyes off Christ - and we are defeated. What are we to do? - when temptations seem to be so many and so powerful. When you feel so weak, let Christ be your Strength. ‘With Christ within, the fight we’ll win’.
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2 JOHN

‘Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward’ (8). Don’t let things slip. Build on the work that has already been done. This will not be easy - ‘many deceivers have already gone out into the world’. Such people do nothing but harm. They are wreckers. They will destroy the work of God - and think nothing of it. They are ‘antichrist’. They are doing ‘wicked work’ (7,10). When God’s work and God’s glory are at stake, we dare not be too ‘easy-going’. The ‘anything goes’ attitude will undermine the work of God - if we’re not careful. ‘A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify...To serve the present age, my calling to fulfil...Arm me with jealous care, as in Thy sight to live; and O, Thy servant, Lord, prepare, a strict account to give’ (Revised Church Hymnary, 518).
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3 JOHN

Some people do a lot of good. Others do a great deal of harm. Diotrephes thought he was a big ‘star’. He ‘loves to be first’. He ‘likes to put himself first’. He wasn’t a star. He was a disaster! He took ‘nothing to do with’ God’s servants. He did ‘not acknowledge’ the authority’ of Christ’s apostle. He was ‘gossiping maliciously about’ God’s servants. He did not make people feel ‘welcome’. He drove people ‘out of the church’ (9-10). Demetrius was very different. He was ‘well spoken of by everyone - and even by the truth itself’. He wasn’t just popular. He was real, genuine, true. There was a ring of truth about him. These were no empty words of flattery. God’s ‘true’ servants said, ‘We also speak well of him’ (12). What kind of person are you?
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JUDE 

The wrong kind of people had come among God’s people: ‘certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you...godless men...’ (4). Such people do not like to hear the words, ‘The Lord rebuke you’. They ‘speak abusively against’ those who speak the Word of the Lord to them (9-10). God’s Word warns us against such people: ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit’ (18-19). With people like this around - life gets like a ‘minefield’. You never know where the next “explosion’ is going to come from! How can we ‘stand tall’ and not be dragged down by this kind of thing? ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God’ - He ‘is able to keep you from falling’ (21,24).
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REVELATION

1:1-20  -  This is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1). It comes from Him and it speaks of Him. Christ ‘loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood’ (5). We rejoice in Him. Christ is ‘coming with the clouds’ (7). We must get ready for Him. ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ calls for our response. It is not ‘for information only’. We are to ‘pay attention to what is written in it’. We are to ‘take it to heart’. We are to ‘do what it says’ (3). Christ reveals Himself to us. Is it for our benefit only? Is it just to make us ‘feel good’? No! We are to share with others what the Lord is teaching us. Christ said to John, ‘Write what you see’ (19). Don’t keep it to yourself. Share Christ. Tell others about Him. Tell them what the Lord has done for you. Speak His words of love: ‘Come...and learn from Me’ (Matthew 11:28-30).
2:1-29  -  Every church in every nation and every generation has so much to learn from ‘what the Spirit says to the churches’ (7,11,17,29). Christ is to be our ‘first love’. We are not to ‘abandon’ Him. We are to ‘keep right on to the end of the road’ - ‘faithful until death’ (4,10). We are to ‘remain true’ to Christ, pressing on with Him to a life of real spiritual growth (13,19). Living for Christ will not be easy. There are always those who make things difficult for God’s people (14-15,20). Let your commitment to Christ be very definite: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. The world behind me, the Cross before me. No turning back. Tho’ none go with me, I still will follow. No turning back’. ‘Will you decide now to follow Jesus?’: Say ‘Yes’ - and let there be ‘no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).
3:1-22  -  There are some doors which the Lord must open - ‘I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut’ (8). There is a door which we must open - ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come in...’ (20). Christ is waiting for you to open the door of your heart to Him. He waits with great patience. He keeps on knocking. He waits to hear your prayer: ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’. This must be your own prayer. No one else can pray this prayer for you. Open your heart to the Lord, and remember where your prayer really came from: ‘The Lord opened my heart...’ (Acts 16:14). Open your heart to the Lord. He will open new doors: ‘a great door for effective work has opened to me’ (1 Corinthians 16:19).
4:1-5:14  -  ‘In heaven’, there’s ‘an open door’ (4:1). Who has opened heaven’s door for us? - Jesus Christ: ‘He only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in’, ‘Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in’ (Church Hymnary, 241,418). From heaven’s open door, we hear the voice of love. Jesus calls us - ‘Come up here’ (4:2). What happens when we respond to Christ’s call? - ‘At once I was in the Spirit’: ‘God sends the Spirit into our hearts’ (4:2; Galatians 4:6). The Spirit fills our hearts with worship: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God...’. ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain...’ (4:11; 5:12). Jesus invites us   to catch a glimpse of heaven, to catch the Spirit of worship, to be filled with the ‘glory’ of God (4:8,11; 5:12-13).
6:1-7:17  -  Christ invites us to ‘come’ (6:1,3,5,7) - and look at things through His eyes. With Him, we look at earth. With Him, we look at heaven. Troubled world, tremendous worship - These are the things we see when we look through the eyes of our Lord jesus Christ. Our world is deeply troubled. Heaven’s worship is absolutely tremendous. Of all our many ‘troubles’, the greatest is this: We are sinners, and none of us ‘can stand’ before ‘the face of Him who sits on the throne’. Our earthly ‘troubles’ are nothing compared with this! There is hope. There is a way of ‘salvation’. We can be saved through ‘the blood of the Lamb’. If, however, we turn from Him - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ - there will be no hope. We will face ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ (4:16-17; 5:10,14; John 1:29). Will you be saved - or lost?
8:1-9:21  -  Real gold and fool’s gold - What a difference there is between the two! In 8:3, we read about real gold. In 9:7, we read about something which ‘looked like crowns of gold’. There is a difference between the real thing and the counterfeit. There is a challenge for us here - in connection with both salvation and service. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus warns us, ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven’. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul invites us to think seriously about the ‘quality’ of the ‘work’ we’re doing for Christ. Is it work which will prove to be of real, lasting value? - ‘gold, silver, costly stones’. Is our work superficial? Does it lack any real depth? - ‘wood, hay, straw’? Build on Christ: ‘Be careful how you build on Him’.
10:1-11:19  -  ‘Take the little scroll and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey’ (10:9). We are to feed on God’s Word - the difficult parts as well as those passages which make us feel good. God’s Word speaks about judgment as well as salvation. Before we can rejoice in ‘the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ’, we must hear about His ‘wrath’: ‘The time has come for judging the dead’ (15,18). ‘Sweet and sour’: We need both for a balanced diet of God’s Word. We need the ‘sour’ - ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ - as well as the ‘sweet’ - ‘God so loved the world...’ (Hebrews 10:31; John 3:16). The ‘sour’ - ‘Flee from the wrath to come’ - creates a hunger for the ‘sweet’ - ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (Matthew 3:7; John 1:29).
12:1-13:18  -  In Genesis 3:1, we read of ‘the serpent’. Here he is again - ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’. He is a powerful enemy. He ‘leads the whole world astray’. He is a determined enemy. ‘Day and night’, he is busy, accusing God’s children. He is a defeated enemy. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...’. This is not only Christ’s victory over Satan. This is our victory in Christ, the victory Christ has won for us. Why is Satan so busy? It’s because ‘he knows his time is short’ (12:9-12). How are we to take our stand against Satan? We must listen to the Word of God: ‘He who has an ear, let him hear’. We must obey the Word of God: ‘This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness...’ (13:9). Christ has won the victory for us. Let us claim His victory by faith.
14:1-15:8  -  With ‘patient endurance’, we are to ‘obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus’ (12), This will not be easy. Satan will do all that he can to defeat us. How can we be ‘victorious’ over him? We must rejoice in all that God has done for His people, Israel. He delivered them from their bondage in Egypt. We sing ‘the song of Moses’. Beyond the great event of the Exodus, there is something even more wonderful. We rejoice in what God has done for us - ‘In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself’. We sing ‘the song of the Lamb’ (15:2-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:19). we hear God’s call - ‘Fear God and give Him glory’. We consider His ‘great and marvellous deeds’. In our hearts, we say, ‘Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your Name’ (14:7; 15:3-4).
16:1-17:8  -  We live in an unbelieving and rebellious world - ‘they refused to repent and glorify Him’. In an increasingly hostile environment, we must seek to maintain our faithful’testimony’. There are many who take delight in sin. They rebel against God. They take pleasure in persecuting the people of God: ‘They will make war against the Lamb’. What are we to do when we face such determined opposition? - We must remind our enemies that they will be defeated by Christ: ‘the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings’. We must remind them that Christ has given us the victory: ‘with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers’. ‘We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Nothing will be able to separate us from’ His love (16:9,11; 17:5-6,14; Romans 8:37-39).
18:1-19:10  -  We read of the fall of Babylon (18:2,10,16-17,19,21). We live in a time of sinful rebellion against God. This will be followed by the time of God’s holy judgment. What is God saying to His own people at this time? - ‘Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues’ (18:4). God is calling us to be ‘holy’, ‘a people belonging to Him’. Why does He call us to be holy? Does He want us to go around, feeling ‘superior’ - better than the rest? No! - He wants us to ‘declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 1:15-16; 2:9-10). We look away from ourselves. We look to the Lord, and we say, ‘Hallelujah!’ (19:1,3,4,6). ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory’ (19:7).
19:11-21:8  -  Our Saviour is ‘Faithful and True’. He is ‘the Word of God’. He is our ‘Lord’ and ‘King’ (19:11,13,16). We are invited to ‘come’ to Him. The invitation - ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God’ - is a call to come to Christ (19:17). We come to Christ so that we might ‘reign with Him’ (20:6). Coming to Christ is only the beginning. God is preparing us for something even better - reigning with Him. This is a great future - ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (21:4). There is, however, a Word of warning for those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation - ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’; ‘Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur’ (20:15; 21:8). ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31).
21:9-22:21  -  God has given us a glimpse of a future which is heavenly, eternal and glorious: ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God’. Is this ‘eternal life’ for everyone? Will all people ‘dwell in the House of the Lord for ever’? Will everyone be saved? Is this what the Word of God teaches? ‘God wants everyone to be saved’. He wants everyone to ‘come to the knowledge of the truth’, to ‘come to repentance’. Sadly, there are many who ‘refuse to love the truth and so be saved’ (21:10-11; John 3:16; Psalm 23:6; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Who will be saved? - ‘only those, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life’. ‘Come’ to Christ - ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they...may go through the gates into the city’ (27; 22:17,14).













Keep On Worshipping The Lord.

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