Saturday, 3 February 2018

"Church Without Walls"

Jesus calls us to follow Him.

The Church Without Walls Report was presented to the General Assembly in 2001. The Report is an attempt to look for fresh ways of encouraging and supporting congregations in the twentieth-first century. The Report invites all of us in the Church to think about where we have come from, where we are and where we ought to be heading.
The Church Without Walls does not seek to impose a single, detailed pattern on every congregation. This point is emphasized in the opening summary of the Report's contents:
'We place into the hands of God's people the opportunity to live out our faith, each according to our own uniqueness, made in the image of God. It is our hope and prayer that the Report, together with the many initiatives within the Church at present, will stimulate the Church to face the future in faith and hope' (9).
The Report begins with the words of Jesus, 'Follow Me' (9). Christ calls us to follow Him. He invites us to be changed by Him. He calls us to move forward with HIm. Moving forward with Christ and being changed by Him will involve listening to His voice. Encouraging us to listen to Christ's voice, the Report recommends 'congregations' to 'study, reflect on and live by one Gospel for one year in the first instance, and let Jesus shape the life and structure of the congregation' (18).
The change which is being called for is spiritual change. This is the change Christ is looking for. The Report emphasizes this point: 'The heart of reform is the reform of the heart. The first proposal for reform is a call to prayer' (37).
In one of 'the many initiatives within the Church at present', the Board of National Mission has produced a thirty-four page booklet entitled 'Lord, Help us to Pray!'. With this booklet, as with the eighty pages of the Church Without Walls Report, it is possible to feel overwhelmed - 'This is all too much for us!'. Like the Church Without Walls Report, the booklet on prayer recognizes the uniqueness of each congregation:
'Go at your own pace. You should not imagine that you are expected to  implement all, or even most, of the ideas in this booklet. What you will find contained here are simply guidelines and suggestions' ('Lord, Help us to Pray!', 16).
Beginning with the Kirk Session emphasizes the important part elders play within the life of the congregation. We are to follow Christ. We are to help others to follow Christ.
The booklet, 'The Eldership: A Training Manual' lays the foundations for following Christ and helping others to follow Him. By emphasizing 'The Biblical Basis for the Eldership' (9), it strikes a similar note to the Church Without Walls Report with its emphasis on listening carefully to what God is saying to us in His Word. Its emphasis on 'Spiritual Leadership' (34) is strikingly similar to the Church Without Walls Report's statement: 'The heart of reform is the reform of the heart. The first proposal for reform is a call to prayer' (9).
When we lay the right foundations - 'We will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4) - we can move forward with God, confident that He will lead us in His perfect way.
We may be very uncertain about how God will lead us forward. If, however, we are serious about following Jesus Christ, we will know the truth of these words from Susan Brown's booklet, 'Church Without Walls: Working it out Together' - 'People at prayer learn to live within the purposes of God with patient hope' (27).
We have thought about important matters. Now, we must pray about them. We have spoken about important matters. Now, we must speak to God about them. This is not only a conversation among ourselves. We must bring God into the conversation. We must listen to what He is saying to us. We must speak to Him, seeking His help.
Let's join together in a final prayer taken from Susan Brown's booklet, 'Church Without Walls: Working it out Together':
'Lord Jesus Christ, you call us to follow You into the familiar and into the  unknown, to places we find easy, and others we find difficult, to follow You tirelessly to the ends of the earth. We need Your strength, Your courage. We need the help of Your Holy Spirit to fill and inspire us, drawing us closer to You, and to one another in You, for Your sake. Father God, You have always gone before Your people, and You go before us. Grant us the courage to follow closely, to walk where You walk and do what You do. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord' (7,28).


"When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus."


It is entirely appropriate that we should lay a strong emphasis on the important role that elders must play in the life of the Church. We must, however, stress that, as elders, we are called to be servants. Our work as elders is concerned with the growth of faith within our congregation and community. The question, 'What kind of elders does God want us to be - as individuals and as a group who are called to serve God?' is vitally connected with the further questions, 'What kind of Church is God calling us to be?' and 'How can we serve Him best in our community?'.
We must focus on Jesus by studying, reflecting on and living by one of the Gospels. What will it mean 'to be shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ'? It means this - 'the lives of individuals and congregations being shaped by the "mind of Christ"'. We are encouraged to look beyond our own local situation, to see the broader picture of what God is doing as He calls His Church to live in obedience to the words of Christ - 'Follow Me': 'The shape of the Church in each village, town and city of Scotland will emerge as we take time to "follow Jesus" through a saturation in the Gospel stories'.
A recent 'Church Without Walls' video and accompanying booklet deals with five of the Report's major themes. The first theme - 'The Spiritual Journey' - provides an apt description of what we are seeking to do in our Sunday morning studies of the Gospel of Luke. We are travelling with Jesus, going where Jesus goes, observing what He says and does as He travels from place to place, learning from Him as we accompany Him on His journey. It is also an apt description of what we are seeking to do with the distribution of 'Daily Bible Readings' . This is the point that is made in the 'Introduction' to these notes:
'Welcome to an exciting three-year journey of discovery. On this journey, you will visit places you know well. You will also travel to places you hardly know at all. They will be places of blessing - places where you will meet with God and be blessed by Him ... May God bless you richly as you journey with Him to the many places of blessing found in His Word'.
The Daily Bible Readings refer to 'a three-year journey'. The Church Without Walls recommendation speaks about spending 'one year in the first instance.' The time-scale is not the important thing. It is the journey. It is travelling with the Lord. This is a life-long journey. We will never reach a point where we can say, 'I've reached the end of my journey. I've travelled far enough'. In this journey, there will be times of joy and times of disappointment, times when we are aware that the Lord is very near to us and times when, it seems to us, that the Lord is very far away (the truth is that He is near to us even though we have wandered away from Him). On this journey, we must keep our eyes on the Lord. If we take our eyes off Him, we will stumble and fall. When you are tempted to take your eyes off Jesus, remember these words of encouragement:
'When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus.
He alone has power to keep. fix your eyes upon Him.
Jesus is a gracious Friend, One on whom you can depend.
He is faithful to the end, fix your eyes upon Him'.
I close by reading words from the part of Luke's Gospel which we have reached - the parable of the sower (8:1-15). They are words of realism. The seed of God's Word does not always fall on good soil. They are words of hope. Sometimes, the seed of God's Word will fall on good soil. Sometimes, the seed of God's Word will bear much good fruit. They are words of challenge. We must keep on sowing the seed of God's Word into the hearts and lives of the people of this community. There will be no spiritual harvest if we do not keep on sowing the seed of God's Word. Without the faithful sowing of His seed, there will be no fruitful gathering in of His harvest. May God help us to be faithful to Him. May God give us the privilege of being fruitful for Him.


Be a friend to others - and lead them to the greatest Friend of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.



We are to 'let Jesus shape the life and structure of the congregation.' By embarking on a major study of the Gospel of Luke - 'one year in the first instance', we recognize that bringing Christ into the centre of the congregation and keeping Him at the centre of the congregation is long-term work. Normally, 'one year' is a long time for a series of sermons. When, however, we are trying to take the Gospel of Luke seriously, it becomes clear that the phrase 'in the first instance' is a very important phrase. There is so much to learn. Soon, a year seems a short time. Our study of the Gospel of Luke - however long it may take - is just a part of a much longer project. We are learning to follow Jesus. This is a lifelong project.
Bringing Christ into the centre, keeping Christ at the centre - What will this mean for us? This is the question that concerns us now. We are to serve our local community for the sake of Jesus. We are not here just for those who are regular worshippers. Our worship is to strengthen us for the task of being Chris's witnesses in our own community. We must never lose sight of God's purpose for the local congregation: 'The local congregation is the space where Christian life is nurtured in practical discipleship, earthed in the concrete realities of local life. The congregation shows the way by serving alongside the community and inviting others to become followers of Christ'. Alongside this 'challenge of becoming a missionary congregation', the Paper issues a warning: 'We must take care that we do not 'develop a fortress mentality of isolation'. If we allow ourselves to slip into this kind of attitude, we will be 'no longer a servant of the Kingdom of God'. We are to be 'a worshipping, witnessing community', 'a real community of faith', 'a Gospel community'. Without the deepening of our faith in Christ as we build upon His Gospel, there can be 'no communication of the Gospel' to others. When we worship God, we must always seek His strength so that we can more effectively fulfill our calling to be His witnesses in our local community. At the heart of the ministry of the local congregation, there is to be the ministry of friendship. We are to pray that, through our friendship, others will find the greatest Friend of all, our Lord Jesus Christ. People will come to Christ as they catch a glimpse of Him shining through our friendship. In Christ, there is 'faith, hope and love'. If these things are real in 'the Bible of our lives, the only 'Bible' many people ever read, we will be Christ's witnesses with the power of a changed life, a life that is centred on Christ, a life that is seeking His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom. When people begin to see Christ in us, 'the Word made flesh' in our lives, they will sit up and take notice. They will be drawn to us and - more importantly - they will be drawn to the Saviour.

If we are to help others to love God, we ourselves must love Him.

The pattern for Christ's first disciples is still the same for us. First, they became disciples. Later on, they became apostles. They were lifelong learners in the school of discipleship. They became the messengers of Christ, carrying His message of love to many people and places. We become disciples - followers of Christ - and, as part of our discipleship, our lifelong commitment to following Christ, we are called, by His wonderful grace, to the privileged responsibility of leadership.
In his 'Preface' to The Eldership: A Training Manual, David Searle emphasizes the important part to be played in the life of the Church by the particular type of leadership which we call 'the eldership': 'this office in the Church is of the utmost importance and could well hold the key to the Church's future growth and fruitfulness' (5). The first chapter of this booklet is entitled 'The Biblical Basis for the Church and the Eldership'. By beginning with the Church - 'What is the Church?' - before moving on to the next question - the role of the eldership within the Church - , this opening chapter underlines its answer to its initial question: 'Which is more important - the eldership or the Church?'. To each of us, the answer is clearly given: 'The Church is more important than you are' (9). The role of the eldership is summed up in a single sentence: 'Their aim is to produce a fellowship of people who love God' (15). If we are to help others to love God, we ourselves must love Him. 'Love the Lord your God...' (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30) - This is our first calling as followers of Christ and elders within His Church. Those who truly love the Lord will do all that they can to encourage others to love Him also.
The second chapter - 'Qualifications' - begins by emphasizing that the work of the eldership is 'high and holy work' (17). In this work, we must always remember that 'our competence comes from God' (2 Corinthians 3:5). We must not try to do God's work in our own strength. We must look to the Lord to give us the strength that we need to do His work. It is emphasized that the 'Biblical Qualifications for Elders' focus our attention on the quality of our godly living rather than our capacity for efficient administration. We are to be enthusiastic - 'eager to serve' (1 Peter 5:2). This enthusiasm is much more than just being an outgoing personality who is good at organizing other people. The enthusiasm which is appropriate to the work of the eldership is a spiritual commitment to serving the Lord. This commitment comes from our faith in Christ and His Gospel - 'hold firmly to the trustworthy message' (Titus 1:9). We are to serve the Lord because we have committed ourselves to living a life that is pleasing to the Lord - 'Keep watch over yourselves' (Acts 20:28). When we are committed to Christ, living a life of faith and obedience, our enthusiasm will come from the Lord and it will bring blessing to the people we are called to serve.


Before we become leaders, we must become disciples.



We need leadership. Can we revitalize true discipleship? It is very important that we understand the relationship between leadership and discipleship. Before we can become leaders, we must first become disciples. We cannot lead others to Christ unless we ourselves are following Him.
Section I of the 'Church Without Walls' Report is entitled 'The Primary Purposes of the Church'. It begins with words of Jesus - 'Follow Me' (9). Section II - 'The Shape of the Church' - also begins with Jesus' call to discipleship - 'Follow Me' (15). Section III - 'Proposals for Continuing Reform' begins in exactly the same way - 'Jesus said, "Follow Me"' (37).
There's a great difference between 'the cycle of grace' and 'the cycle of works'.
The cycle of grace begins with acceptance - We hear the Gospel message that 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15), and, trusting in Christ as our Saviour, we receive the forgiveness of our sins. It ends with achievement - Submitting ourselves to Christ our Lord, we serve Him as good and faithful servants who rejoice in the great salvation which He has so freely given to us: 'The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly' (1 Timothy 1:14).
The cycle of works is the exact opposite of the cycle of grace. It is a vain attempt to begin with achievement - trying to do all 'the right things' - and end up with acceptance - Surely God will accept me now: I've done all 'the right things'. Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector) highlights the difference between the cycle of works (the Pharisee) and the cycle of grace (the publican). In pride, the Pharisee boasts, 'God, I thank you that I am not like all other men...' (Luke 18:11-12): There can be no forgiveness for those who refuse to confess their sin to the Lord and seek forgiveness from Him. In humility, the publican confesses his sin and seeks God's forgiveness, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner' (Luke 18:13): To those who confess their sin to God and seek forgiveness from Him, God speaks His precious promise, 'If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness' (1 John 1:9).
The great difference between grace and works is emphasized in Ephesians 2:8-9 - 'It is by grace you have been saved... not by works...'. Using the language of the two cycles, the cycle of grace and the cycle of works, we may describe Christ's salvation like this: He brings us out of the vicious circle of our own sinful works - 'all our righteous acts are like filthy rags' (Isaiah 64:6) - and into the glorious circle of His saving grace - 'From the fullness of His grace we have received one blessing after another' (John 1:16).
This contrast between the cycle of grace and the cycle of works helps us to understand the call to discipleship issued to us by Christ in His words, 'Follow Me' (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17; Luke 5:27). These words are spoken to us by our loving Saviour. He loves us very much. He loves us with a perfect love. Behind His words which call us to follow Him, there is His love for every one of us. Before we think of discipleship as a challenging responsibility, we must think of it as a tremendous privilege. What a wonderful thing it is that Jesus Christ - God's Son and our Saviour - should call us to follow Him! Following Jesus will never be a burdensome thing when we keep our eyes fixed on the love which lies behind His call to discipleship.

A life made up of praise in every part

Circles within circles, with Christ at the centre - this phrase sums up our approach to the Church Without Walls Report. We began with a small circle by looking at ourselves as elders. As we explored this theme, we saw that this smaller circle - eldership - is enclosed within a larger circle - the congregation. Beyond the local congregation, there is another larger circle - the parish.
We look now at two even larger circles - the created world and the worldwide mission of the Church. As we look at the various circles of the Christian life, we must never forget to keep Christ at the centre. The Church Without Walls Report emphasizes this point when it speaks about being 'shaped by the Gospel', 'living out the story of Jesus' and 'living out the spirituality of grace'. Christ is to be at the centre of our work as elders in this congregation and parish. As we look out to the created world and the Church's worldwide mission, we are to look out with the eyes of Christ. The change which Christ makes in those who love Him is a far-reaching change. It begins with our personal response to His love, but it does not end there. Personal experence of Christ's love leads to a deep appreciation of the world that God has created for us. The hymn, 'Loved with everlasting love', makes this point very well. It begins with our personal experience of Christ's love:
'Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know ...
... In a love, which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine'.
It goes on to emphasize that knowing Christ's love changes our view of God's creation:
'Heaven above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green;
something lies in every hue, Christless eyes have never seen:
birds with gladder songs o'erflow. flowers with deeper beauty shine,
since I know as now I know, I am His, and He is mine' (Mission Praise, 452).
The same principle also applies to our commitment to the support of the Church's worldwide mission. The more we rejoice in Christ's love for ourselves, the more we will appreciate His love for all people everywhere: 'Christ died not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world' (1 John 2:2). The Church Without Walls Report emphasizes that our concern for the created world and the Church's worldwide mission is to be an act of friendship. All of our relationships are to be 'Shaped by Friendship'. The Report develops this theme under the following headings - Friendship with fellow members; Friendship with the next generation; Friendship with the searcher; Friendship with the community; Friendship with fellow leaders; Friendship with other Churches; Friendship with rich and poor; Friendship with the World Church; Friendship with God's creation. Where are we to learn such friendship? If we are to be 'Shaped by Friendship', we need to be 'Shaped by the Gospel'. When we think of friendship, we think of Jesus:
'What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! ...
Can we find a Friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?' (Mission Praise, 746).
This is the Friendship which is to shape all of our life. Getting to know Jesus, the greatest Friend of all, our life is 'shaped by His Friendship'. This will happen as we learn to pray:
'Fill Thou our life, O Lord my 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).

Building on God's Word and walking with God's Spirit

We have begun to look together at the Church Without Walls Report. This is an ongoing process of thinking about where we have come from, where we are and where we ought to be heading. I hope that these introductions to our Kirk Session meetings will help us to become more devoted followers of Christ. I hope they will help us to grow in our commitment to providing spiritual leadership within this congregation and community.
If we are to be devoted followers of Christ, we must ask Hin to teach us to pray. Here's a short quotation which emphasizes the vital importance of prayer: 'There must be a revival of praying before there can be a reaping of the harvest' (Sammy Tippet). This call to prayer is an important reminder to us that 'Without Christ we can do nothing' (John 15:5). If the Church's worship and mission is to be blessed by God, we must bring it before Him in prayer.
Looking at the Church Without Walls Report together with the booklet, The Eldership: A Training Manual, we have noted the important part which must be played by the elders if there is to be a revival of God's work in our congregation and community. The third and fourth chapters of this training manual focus on 'Biblical Teaching on Ordination' and 'Spiritual Leadership'. The first of these chapters makes reference to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has produced a study manual on the Westminster Confession of Faith - Firm Foundations: A Faith for Today's Church. We are to be today's Church without losing contact with the firm foundations upon which our faith is built.
Being today's Church will not mean change for change's sake. It will mean being changed by the God who has given us firm foundations for our faith. It will mean rediscovering the biblical and spiritual priorities which have too often been forgotten. We must build on God's Word. We must learn to walk with God's Spirit. This is the kind of change we must seek. We must not search for superficial novelty when God is looking for real change, a change in our attitude towards Him. The Church Without Walls Report invites us to think about what it will mean for us to follow Christ in today's world. The Report invites us to do this through a careful and attentive study of one of the Gospels. In our study of Luke's Gospel, we have noted that Jesus 'calls sinners to repentance' (5:32). If we are to be changed by Jesus, we must learn to see ourselves as 'sinners' who have fallen short of God's perfect plan for us. We must pray for real change. We must ask God to give us a spirit of repentace. We must pray that God will give us the strength to turn to Him with our whole heart.
Seeking the right kind of change will mean recognizing where truly spiritual change comes from. It comes from God. It comes from listening to God's Word. It comes when we are obedient to the voice of God's Spirit. The fourth chapter of Eldership: A Training Manual emphasizes the importance of 'Spiritual Leadership'. It begins by pointing out that 'the Church is a spiritual fellowship'. It is different from any other organization. When we begin our meetings with the reading of God's Word and prayer, we are not simply going through the motions of religious ritual. We are recognizing our need of God's help. We need to hear what God is saying to us through His Word. We need to receive God's strength as we call upon Him in prayer. We are acknowledging that our meeting is much more than a conversation among ourselves.We are bringing God into the conversation. We are letting Him be the most important Voice in the conversation. Before we listen to any other voice, we are listening to the Voice of God. Before we speak to one another, we are speaking to God. If there is to be a real input from God into our meetings, into our congregation and community, our worship and mission, our reading from God's Word and our speaking to Him in prayer must lie at the very heart of our life. We are to follow Jesus. In our study of Luke's Gospel, we have seen that Jesus' whole life was steeped in God's Word and prayer. We do not live by bread alone but by every Word of God (4:4; Matthew 4:4). Like Jesus, we are to find 'a solitary place' (4:42) - a place where we can be alone with God.
Our meetings have begun with a much more definite concentration on what God is saying to us concerning His Church and our place within it as elders. This is beginning to be a very special time. It shapes our thinking, giving us a real concentration on our true purpose as God's people and God's servants. I hope that these times will be times when the love of God reaches us and the glory of God becomes our great aim. When this happens, we will receive strength from the Lord. We will be equipped by Him for the privilgeged responsibility of providing true spiritual leadership within our congregation and community.
Our desire to see people of all ages brought into the fellowship of God's people will grow as we ourselves are learning to love the Lord more. Our commitment to this work of bringing people into the fellowship of God's people will increase as our own commitment to serving the Lord grows in strength. In Jeremiah 24:7, we read,  'I will give them a heart to know Me that I am the Lord'. Let us pray that this promise of God will be fulfilled in our own lives. Let us pray that it will be fulfilled in the lives of more and more of the people of our community.

Looking beyond the place where we worship to the God whom we worship

My wife and I spent a few days “south of the border”. No! We weren’t “down Mexico way”! We were much nearer home. We were in England. We were based in Southport. We enjoyed our time there. We also visited Chester. What an interesting place Chester is! There are plenty of modern shops. There’s nothing unique about that! We didn’t go straight to the shops. We took a walk around the city walls. These walls have an interesting history. The walls were there long before the shops. The story of the walls is told on a series of plaques. We read the history of Chester as we walked around its walls. The walls are now a tourist attraction. At one time, however, they were very important for a different reason. They protected the people of the city from their enemies.
In the Old Testament, we read about the walls of Jerusalem. There was a time when the walls had been “broken down”. It was a time of “great trouble and shame” (Nehemiah 1:3). Under the leadership of Nehemiah, the walls were rebuilt. The work of rebuilding was completed. It was a time of great celebration. “The dedication of the wall of Jerusalem” was a memorable occasion. There was much “rejoicing”. The people sang praise to the Lord. They gave thanks to Him (Nehemiah 12:27).
After our walk along the walls, we visited the shops. We were struck by the attractive combination of the old and the new. If we are wise, we will continue to “ask for the ancient paths” (Jeremiah 6:16). We are to learn from the past without being locked in the past. As well as asking for the ancient paths, we must pray that God will do His “new thing” among us (Isaiah 43:19).
In recent years, we have heard about a “Church Without Walls”. We sing, “We love the place, O God …” We need, however, to be reminded that the place isn’t everything. Beyond the place where we worship, there is the God whom we worship – “I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You …” Beyond the walls of the place where we worship, there are the walls of God’s salvation (MissionPraise, 731, 287; Isaiah 26:1). Coming to the place where we worship is only a first step. Our lives are to be shaped by God’s salvation. This will mean more than being in the place where He is worshipped. It will mean being changed as we worship Him. “Following Jesus today”, “Worship that changes lives”, “Transforming the local congregation”, “Building church round the gifts of the people” – these are titles in a series of “Church Without Walls” booklets. They challenge us to welcome God’s “new thing”. We do this when we follow the “ancient paths”: looking to Christ, learning from Christ and loving Christ.
Chester still has its walls. Today’s Chester is, however, very different from the Chester of a few centuries ago. The old and the new – we need both. We look back to Jesus Christ. He comes to us from the distant past. We move forward with Jesus Christ. He is the living Lord. He leads us on to His future. I began by telling you about Chester. I end by speaking to you about Christ. You may never go to Chester. Make sure that you come to Christ. Chester has changed. The world has changed. We wonder, “Is it a better world than it used to be?” It will be a better world – and we will be better people! – if, “with salvation’s walls surrounded”, we continue to confess our faith in Christ: “Grace which, like the Lord, the giver, never fails from age to age”. We had a good look around Chester – the old and the new. Look to Christ and “see the streams of living waters, springing from eternal love”. He comes to us from eternal love. Let Him lead you on to eternal life (Mission Praise, 173).
Let us look to Christ for a better and brighter future.

We become what God wants us to be as we build on the Gospel.


‘The Church “works” where people join together, building relationships with each other and the community to which they belong. It is through these relationships that the Gospel is spread. In each place the Church is different. There is no one model that  fits all. We rejoice in the diversity within the Church. We celebrate and encourage it’ (Church Without Walls Report, p.8). People joining together, building relationships with each other, building relationships with their local community - these are the ways in which the Gospel is spread. People joining together, building relationships with each other, building relationships with their local community - this is to be more than a social thing. It is to be a matter of spiritual growth - people joining together on the basis of the Gospel, building relationships which reflect our common desire to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18), building relationships which will help the people of our own community ‘to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:4).
We recognize that ‘in each place the Church is different’. We acknowledge that ‘there is no one model that fits all. We rejoice in ‘the diversity within the Church’. We serve Christ in the local Church. This is our privilege - ‘The local congregation stands as a sign of God’s commitment to that place’ - and our responsibility - ‘It is vital that congregations look at and listen to their locality’ (Church Without Walls Report, p.19). Serving Christ in the local Church, we echo the words of Paul to the Church at Corinth - we are ‘your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Corinthians  4:5). We are ‘servants of Christ’, ‘servants of God’ (2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:23). While we recognize the local aspect in our life of serving Christ, we must never forget that we are to be in the world but ‘not of the world’ (John 17:15-16). We must always remember the words of Paul: ‘Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mould’. God is calling us on to ‘the goal of true maturity’. He is calling us to ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind’, to ‘prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect ‘ (Romans 12:2).
We become what God wants us to be as we build on the common feature in every true Church - ‘the Gospel’. We build on the Gospel when we ‘believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15). We build on the Gospel as we ‘preach the Gospel’ (Mark 16:15). The Church Without Walls Report focuses our attention on the important principles which must guide us as we seek to build on the Gospel.
‘The Church exists by the grace of God and for the glory of God’ (p.10). We rejoice in ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’ - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’, ‘God showed His love towards us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us’ (2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8). As we consider the ‘amazing grace’, let us say, from our hearts, ‘To God the glory!’ (Mission Praise, 31,708). The Church is to ‘be shaped by worship and mission’ (p.31). We are to say, ‘To God be the glory!’ (Worship). We are also to say, ‘Let the earth hear His voice’ (Mission). As well as singing ‘the songs of God’s people’, we must also call upon the people of our community to ‘come to the Father through Jesus the Son and give Him the glory’ for ‘the great things He has done’ (Mission Praise, 708). If the earth is to hear the Lord’s voice, it must hear the Word of the Lord from those who have begun ‘to listen for the still, small voice of the Spirit’. If we are to hear the Lord’s voice and speak His Word to others, we must follow the pathway of ‘obedience’, travelling ‘the humble way of the Cross’. When we do this, our voice will be ‘the prophetic voice’, ‘that authentic voice of wisdom’ which will be God’s Word to our town (p.35).    

Let us serve the Lord with gladness.



The Church Without Walls Report emphasizes that 'Each person is a gift from God to the Church to be celebrated and nurtured.' 'The word 'celebrated' is used deliberately because it emphasizes the joyful generosity which is needed to give freedom to people, so that they can grow and became fruitful.'  The use of the word 'celebration' emphasizes the fact that we are to 'serve the Lord with gladness' (Psalm 100:2). The call to 'serve the Lord with gladness' is addressed to everyone - 'All people that on earth do dwell'. We, who have accepted God's call to become leaders within His Church, are to give a lead to others. By serving the Lord with gladness, we are to set an example which will encourage others to join us in serving the Lord with gladness. At a special service for elders, entitled, 'A Celebration of Eldership', the letters of the word 'elders' were used to highlight key features of the work of the eldership - Eldership, Listening, Disciples, Educators, Responsive, Support. These words set the eldership within both our relationship with God - we are to listen to God's Word, we are to live as disciples of Christ, we are to be responsive to God's Spirit - and our responsibility to the people of God whom we are called to serve in Christ's Name - as Christ's disciples, we are to listen to people with a view to responding in a way that will give support to them as they seek to live in obedience to God's Word as followers of Jesus. The two sides of our life as God's servants - listening to what God has to say to us through His Word and speaking His Word to those to whom we are called to give support in the way of faith and obedience - are highlighted in Isaiah 50:4.
'The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught'.
'Knowing the word that sustains the weary' - This is a very important phrase which provides an apt description of the heart of the work of the eldership. We are to exercise a ministry of encouragement. Chapter 5 of The Eldership: A Training Manual is concerned with 'Relationships with Others' - the Minister, other Elders, the Congregational Board, the Organizations, the Congregation and the Higher Courts of the Church. In each of these areas of our work, we are to be encouragers. The ministry of District Visitation is a particularly important part of the elder's work. Its importance is emphasized in the booklet on the eldership where a full chapter (Chapter 6) is devoted to this subject.

Christ at the Centre



We are to ‘let Jesus shape the life and structure of the congregation’ (Church Without Walls Report).
Bringing Christ into the centre of the congregation and keeping Learning to follow Jesus is a lifelong project.
Bringing Christ into the centre, keeping Christ at the centre - What will this mean for us? We are to serve our local community for the sake of Jesus. We are not here just for those who are regular worshippers. Our worship is to strengthen us for the task of being Chris’s witnesses to the people of our community.
‘The local congregation is the space where Christian life is nurtured in practical discipleship, earthed in the concrete realities of local life. The congregation shows the way by serving alongside the community and inviting others to become followers of Christ’.
We are called to be 'a missionary congregation.' ‘We must take care that we do not ‘develop a fortress mentality of isolation’. If we allow ourselves to slip into this kind of attitude, we will be ‘no longer a servant of the Kingdom of God’. We are to be ‘a worshipping, witnessing community’, ‘a real community of faith’, ‘a Gospel community’.
Without the deepening of our faith in Christ as we build upon His Gospel, there can be ‘no communication of the Gospel’ to others. When we worship God, we must always seek His strength so that we can more effectively fulfill our calling to be His witnesses in our community.
At the heart of the ministry of the local congregation, there is to be the ministry of friendship. Jesus is our ‘Friend’. We are to pray that, through our friendship, others will find the greatest Friend of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.
People will come to Christ as they catch a glimpse of Him shining through our friendship. In Christ, there is ‘faith, hope and love’. If these things are real in ‘the Bible of our lives, the only ‘Bible’ many people ever read, we will be Christ’s witnesses with the power of a changed life, a life that is centred on Christ, a life that is seeking His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom.
When people begin to see Christ in us, ‘the Word made flesh’ in our lives, they will sit up and take notice. They will be drawn to us and - more importantly - they will be drawn to the Saviour.

Links to "Bible Study Resources"

Calvin’s Complete Commentaries




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Bible Gateway
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Rev James Philip's Daily Bible Reading Notes

"Preaching and Teaching" by James Philip

Praying Through God’s Word: Amos

AMOS

1:1-2:16
‘The Lord roars.’ ‘The Lord thunders’ (Amos 1:2). We thank You, Lord, that Your Word comes to us from above – ‘The Lord will roar from on high.’ You speak to us from heaven – ‘He will thunder from His holy dwelling.’ We dare not ignore Your Word. Your Word comes to us as a Word of warning – ‘He will shout against all who live on the earth’ – and a Word of judgment – ‘He will bring judgment on all mankind.’ You’re calling for our attention: ‘Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.’ You’re speaking to us about Your ‘fierce anger.’ You’re calling us to turn from our sin. Help us, Lord, to return to You and hear Your Word of salvation: ‘I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 25:30-32,37; 31:34).
3:1-5:5
‘You only have I chosen… therefore I will punish you for all your sins’ (Amos 3:2). Along with the privilege of being ‘chosen’ to belong to You, Lord comes the responsibility of living as Your servants. Teach us not to take Your Word lightly – ‘The lion has roared – who will not fear?’ (Amos 3:8). You speak to us very directly about the way we are living – ‘You have not returned to Me’ (Amos 4:6,8-11). Help us to take You seriously: ‘Prepare to meet your God’ (Amos 4:12). You’re calling us to ‘seek You and live’: ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake His way and the evil man his thoughts, Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon’ (Amos 5:4; Isaiah 55:6-7).
5:6-6:14
‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil…’ (Amos 5:6,14). Those who truly seek You, Lord, are to live a godly life. You see right through hypocritical religion. You are is not pleased with it: ‘I hate your show and pretence – your hypocrisy of ‘honouring’ Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies… Away with your hymns of praise – they are mere noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is’ (Amos 5:21,23). You’re looking for true obedience: ‘a mighty flood of justice – a torrent of doing good’ – ‘Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (Amos 5:24). You speak to us, Lord, about our sins – ‘Many and great are your sins. I know them so well’ – so that we might learn to ‘hate evil’ and ‘love good’ (Amos 5:5:12,15).
7:1-9:15
‘That’s enough, prophet! Go back to Judah and do your preaching there… Don’t prophesy here at Bethel any more’ (Amos 7:12-13). We thank You, Lord, that Amos was a faithful preacher of Your Word. How sad, sinful and shameful it was that his hearers wanted to get rid of him! This was the beginning of a time of great darkness: ‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it’ (Amos 8:11-12). There were dark times ahead – but You, Lord, were looking beyond them to a brighter future: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel’ (Amos 9:14). ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation…’ (Psalm 85:4-7).

Praying Through God’s Word: Acts

Acts 1:1-26
We thank You, Lord, for Your gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to serve You in our own strength. We come to You in our weakness. You give to us Your strength. This is the strength that we need – the strength that comes from You.
Acts 2:1-47
We thank You, Lord, that the Holy Spirit directs our attention to Jesus (John 16:14). He leads us to make our confession of faith: “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3). He leads us into a new life – a life that is centred on Jesus, a life that brings glory to You and blessing to us.
Acts 3:1-26
What we cannot do for ourselves, You do for us. Thank You, Lord. You forgive our sins. You give us new life. You’re leading us on to Your eternal glory. Thank You, Lord.
Acts 4:1-5:11
Without You, Lord, we are weak. With You, we are strong. Lead us, Lord, out of our failure and into Your victory, out of our sin and into Your holiness. How are we to walk with You in holiness and victory? – We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our Saviour (Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 4:120. When we fail You, Lord, help us to learn from the testimony of Peter – he failed (Matthew 29:69-75), and he was filled (Acts 4:8). Help us to join, with Peter, in saying, “Lord, You know that we love You” (John 21:15-17).
Acts 5:12-6:7
We thank You, Lord, for Your Word and Your Spirit (Acts 6:3-4). Help us, Lord, to “be filled with the Spirit” as we “let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with Your Spirit and obedient to Your Word, may we look to You for Your blessing (Acts 6:7).
Acts 6:8-8:3
You call us, Lord, to be Your faithful servants. Help us to follow our Saviour. Give to us His forgiving spirit. May our lives be marked by loyalty and love – loyalty to Jesus, love for people who need Him.
Acts 8:4-40
Help us, Lord, not to be content with empty religion when we can have full salvation. We want ‘the real thing.’ We want Jesus. We want more than ‘going through the motions of religion.’ We want to have the Holy Spirit, living in us and working through us. Jesus, the Holy Spirit – This is not only about what we want. It’s about You want us to have. It’s about what You give to us – a real Saviour and a life-changing Spirit.
Acts 9:1-34
Help us, Lord, never to forget what we were before Jesus saved us. Where would we be without Jesus? Life with Jesus is so much better than life without Him. Help us never to forget this. When we’re tempted to go back to our life without Jesus, help us to say,”No, Lord. No turning back. It’s Jesus for me – Jesus, today: Jesus, all the way.
Acts 10:1-11:18
We thank You, Lord, for Your love – “You loved the world so much that You gave Your Son, Jesus” (John 3:16); Your Son – He died for “the sins of the whole world” (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); Your command – “the Good News” of Christ’s love is to be preached to “every person” (Mark 16:15); and Your purpose – You’re looking for disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19).
Acts 11:19-12:25
Lord, we read about Barnabas – he “was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). Help us to pray, “Make us like Barnabas.” Help us to give ourselves to You, to be changed by You, and to become more useful in Your service.
Acts 13:1-43
We thank You, Lord, for Your Word – and we thank You that it is more than words. It is the Word that comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13:44-14:28
We thank You, Lord, for Your Good News – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). We are sinners. Christ is our Saviour. For this, we give You our heartfelt thanks.
Acts 15:1-35
We thank You, Lord, that we are “saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11). we receive His grace when we put our faith in Him: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Putting our faith in the Lord Jesus – This is just the beginning of a life-long commitment to Him: “saved by grace through faith for good works” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Acts 15:36-16:40
Lord, teach us to pray. This is where the power comes from. It comes from You. Sometimes, it seems like, “Lord, here we are again.” You never say, “Oh, it’s you again.” Help us to keep on praying – even when we feel like giving up. Sometimes, we’re not sure what we should be praying for. When we feel like this, help us to pray, “Your will be done.” Help us to hear Your Word of grace: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Acts 17:1-34
Help us, Lord, to make time for reading Your Word – not just on Sundays, when we’re in church. Help us to read Your Word every day. When we stop speaking to You, help us to remember that You haven’t stopped speaking to us. Your Word continues to speak to us – even when we’re not really listening. Help us, Lord, to listen to what You’re saying to us: “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
Acts 18:1-21
When, Lord, we feel like giving up, help us to keep on going. Many people are turning away from You. Help us, Lord, not to follow them. Help us to keep on following Jesus.
Acts 18:22-19:22
Help us, Lord, never to adopt a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. there is always so much more for us to learn. There is so much more blessing for us – when we’re listening to You, when we’re ready to receive from You.
Acts 19:23-20:16
“King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory.” Help us, Lord, to give You first place in our lives. Help us to say, “Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son.” Help us to walk with you in the power of Christ’s “endless victory.” May much blessing flow into our lives, overflowing out from us into the lives of other people.
Acts 20:17-21:14
Often, Lord, we’re out for what we can get when we should be thinking about how we can give. Change us, Lord. Change us from the inside. May the story of our life become “Not I but Christ” (Galatians 2:20), “I must decrease. Christ must increase” (John 3:30).
Acts 21:15-22:16
Lord, You call us to be Your witnesses: “You shall be My witnesses.” Help us, always, to remember that the power comes from You: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
Acts 22:17-23:35 
Help us, Lord, to have the upward look – looking up to You, to receive Your power – and the outward look – looking out to the world, to bring to them the Good News of Your love.
Acts 24:1-27
We thank You, Lord, for the Old Testament Scriptures. They tell us that the Saviour will come. We thank You for the New Testament Scriptures. They tell us that the Saviour has come. Speak to us, Lord, from every part of Your Word. Lead us to Jesus. Help us to welcome Him – our great Saviour.
Acts 25:1-27
Often, Lord, we can’t make up our mind. We are indecisive. Jesus speaks to us. He calls us to make our decision for Him – but we sit on the fence. We’re neither one thing nor the other. We try to keep on the right side of Jesus – but we’re not out-and-out for Him. Help us, Lord, to nail our colours to the mast – to say, “I belong to Jesus – and I’m proud to belong to Him.”
Acts 26:1-32
Lord, help us to remember – and to forget. Help us to remember what You have done for us – and to say, “Thank You, Lord.” Help us, Lord, to forget what we once were – so that we don’t keep on wanting to go back to the world’s way of living.
Acts 27:1-44
Without You, Lord, we are without hope. Where does hope come from? It comes from You, Lord. You are “the God of hope” [Romans 15:13]. You give us more than the hope of a better life – a life that is filled with Your blessing. You give us the glorious hope of eternal life [1 John 3:2].
Acts 28:1-31
We thank You, Lord, that You are greater than Satan. When Satan comes to us, help us to remind him of this. Help us to tell Satan that Jesus is Lord. Help us to tell Satan that Jesus has triumphed over him. Help us to say to him, “In the name of Jesus, we have the victory. With Christ within, the fight we’ll win. On the victory side.”

Praying Through God's Word: 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12
Lord, we thank You that Your Son, Jesus, is coming again. 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 together in Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1 & 1:10). It will also be a Day of judgment for “those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). You speak to us about the future – about salvation and judgment. You’re inviting us to have a heart-to-heart talk with You. From Your heart, You speak to us of Your love for us – and “Your desire for us to be saved” (John 3:17 & 2 Peter 3:9). Help us to say, from our hearts, “Yes, Lord. I believe in the Lord Jesus. I trust in Your promise – ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved'” (Acts 16:31).
2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:18
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in all ways” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). Where does true peace come from? It comes from You, Lord. You are “the Lord of peace.” Peace doesn’t depend on good things happening to us. It doesn’t come to us because we have plenty of the good things of this world. Real peace is Your peace. Help us, Lord, to “be still and know that You are God” (Psalm 46:10).

‘Christ Died For Sins, Once For All, The Righteous For The Unrighteous, To Bring You To God.’

2 Samuel 18:1-33
Some die young. Others live to a ripe old age. None of us can predict what lies ahead of us. There are some things that are beyond our control. We look at what is happening and we say, ‘I wish things could be different’. Absalom had been killed. David wished he could have died instead of him. It was not to be. Each of us must die our own death: ‘No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on for ever and not see decay’(Psalm 49:7-9). There is, however, a ‘Man’ who has died for us - Jesus Christ, ‘our Lord and our God’. He ‘gave Himself as a ransom for all’. ‘Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’(John 20 28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Peter 3:18).

Be Filled With The Spirit, Addressing One Another In Psalms, Hymns And Spiritual Songs, Singing And Making Melody To The Lord With All Your Heart…’

2 Samuel 4:1-5:25
‘…They came into the house… and slew him…’(4:7). What are we to make of this kind of thing? - ‘What’s the world coming to?’. Where’s it all going to end?’. It is difficult to maintain real faith in the Lord when this kind of thing is going on. What are we to do? Don’t bury your head in the sand. Don’t pretend that such things are not happening. Don’t imagine that that they will just go away. ‘Inquire of the Lord’. ‘Do as the Lord commands’. Keep on believing that there will be a breakthrough - from the Lord(19,23,25,20). Can you ‘hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees’? - ‘The Spirit of the Lord has come down on the earth’. Let us ‘rise, a mighty array, at the bidding of the Lord - The Spirit won’t be hindered by division in the perfect work that Jesus has begun’(24; John 3:8; Mission Praise, 274).

2 Samuel 6:1-23
‘When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart’(16). Michal was a very angry young woman. Her husband had embarrassed her and she didn’t like it! What had David done to deserve this? - ‘I will celebrate before the Lord’(21). This is really quite pathetic. God’s children are learning to ‘worship Him in Spirit and in truth’(John 4:23-24). In comes ‘the stiff upper lip brigade’. They have no real heart for worship. They put a dampener on it - ‘This has to stop’. This is not only pathetic. It is sinful. ‘Do not quench the Spirit… Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God… Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart…’(1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30; 5:18-20).

Life isn't easy. Sometimes, it seems like there are nothing but hard times.

2 Samuel 7:1-29
Life isn't easy. Sometimes, it seems like there are nothing but hard times. There doesn't seem to be alight at the end of the tunnel. That's the way it feels - but it's not the way it is! Our feelings will lead us away from You - if we let them! Our feelings can run riot over us. They can wreck our lives. Help us, Lord, to look beyond the chaos. Help us to look to You. Sometimes, it feels like You're far away. That's the way it seems to us - but it's not the way it really is! You are with us - now and always (Matthew 1:23; Matthew 28:20).

What do we do when everything seems to go wrong?

2 Samuel 17:1-29
What do we do when everything seems to go wrong? Do we start complaining, blaming You for everything that's happening to us? or Do we start asking the question, 'Where is the Lord in all of this?' Help us to challenge our negative thinking - "Why are you discouraged, my soul?" (Psalm 43:5). Help us to rise above our negative thinking. Raise us up, Lord, for You alone can lift us out of our defeatism and into that special place with You where we know that we are truly blessed - because You love us, and will never stop loving us, even when our love for You is very weak.

'He's a great guy.' We like it when people say this kind of thing about us ...

2 Samuel 16:1-23
'He's a great guy.' We like it when people say this kind of thing about us. It makes us feel good about ourselves. What do You think of us, Lord? Yours is the one opinion that really matters. What does it mean to be truly 'great'? Do we want to be called 'great'? or Do we want to give all the glory to You? We know, Lord, that we'll never love You with a perfect love. Your love is the only perfect love. Help us, Lord, not to get discouraged, when we let You down. Lift us up, Lord. Make our love for You more real and more true, more life-changing and more pleasing to You.

Who are we trying to please?

2 Samuel 15:1-37
Who are we trying to please? Are we trying to please You, Lord? or Are we trying to please other people? Are we more interested in getting what we want or doing what You want? These, Lord, are searching questions. They call us to be honest with ourselves, to be honest with You. Help us, Lord, to see ourselves the way we really are. Help us to pray for change, real change, change in our hearts, change in our lives, change that brings blessing to us, change that brings glory to You.

"May the Lord do what seems good to Him."

2 Samuel 10:1-11:27 
"May the Lord do what seems good to Him" (2 Samuel 10:12). Lord, this is the way it should be. We should be saying, "Not my will but Yours be done" (Matthew 26:39). It's the way things should be - but it's not the way things are. Often, we make wrong choices. we choose our own way rather than Your way. Help us, Lord, to stop trying to get our own way. Help us to start walking in Your way. Help us to say, "As for God, His way is perfect" (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30).

So often, Lord, we start out well - and then something goes wrong.

2 Samuel 1:1-27
So often, Lord, we start out well - and then something goes wrong. Our heads go down. We lose our way. We fall away from You. Where does this spirit of defeat, this spirit of giving up, come from? - It comes from Satan. He sweeps in. He sweeps us off our feet. He sweeps us away from You. When Satan attacks us, help us, Lord, to remember Your promise: You are "able to keep us from falling" (Jude 24-25). Help us to hear Your Word: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Spiritual Growth

Seeking to grow in our understanding of God’s Word is important. We need to move from there to ask the question: Why are we seeking to increase our understanding of God’s Word? We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). An increase in knowledge is to be accompanied by growth in grace.
We can easily get ourselves confused when we’re reading the most difficult parts of God’s Word. That’s when we need the reminder: God calls us to obey His Word –– “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).
When we start thinking that we’ve made some progress in mastering the Bible’s difficult passages, we need to be reminded that God calls us to love Him and to love our neighbour – “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
We must never forget the words which follow the call to grow in Christ – “To Him be glory both now and for ever” (2 Peter 3:18). In all our study of God’s Word, may we always say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Be Faithful - In Hearing, Reading And Doing God's Word.

‘Go to meet the man of God and inquire of the Lord through him’ (2 Kings 8:8).
God’s servants, appointed by Him to serve the people in His Name, play a significant part in leading the people to a deeper knowledge of God. They bring the Word of God to the people. That is what they have been called to do. It is good to have faithful teaching from God’s Word. There needs also to be faithful hearing, reading and doing of God’s Word. God’s servants can take us so far – and no further. You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink! God’s servants say, ‘Here are ‘the wells of salvation’’. It is up to the people themselves to take the next step: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). God’s Word is provided for you. It is delivered to you. What are you doing with it?

What are we to do when our situation seems hopeless?

2 Kings 4:1-44
What are we to do when our situation seems hopeless? Help us, Lord, to do what Elisha did – He “prayed to the Lord” (2 Kings 4:33). Our prayer may not be eloquent – but it must come from the heart. Lord, look beyond our inadequate words. Look into our hearts. Hear the cry of our heart – and bring us out of hopelessness and into a new beginning with You, a new beginning filled with Your blessing.

Man Of God

"Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’”" (2 Kings 1:9)

Man of God - This is what the king called Elijah. What a great description of Elijah! He was known as a man of God. He was a man who belonged to God. He was a man who served God. He didn't keep his faith to himself. He lived for the Lord. With boldness, he spoke the Word of the Lord. Man of God - We need more people like Elijah!


Before We Ever Think Of Giving Ourselves To God, We Must Look At All He Has Given To Us.

2 Corinthians 7:2-8:7
We may face difficult circumstances. We may experience much suffering. In all of this there is one thing we must never forget: ‘God… comforts the downcast’(7:6). He lifts us up when we are down. He enables us to ‘excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, in love, in giving’(8:7). How are we to excel in everything? We must ‘give ourselves to the Lord’(8:5). Everything else flows from this. We are to ‘give ourselves in devoted service to others’(12; 8:4-5). Where does this spirit of ‘rich generosity’ come from? It comes from God, from ‘the grace that God has given’ to us (8:1-2). It comes to us as we give ourselves to Him. Before we can ‘excel in this grace of giving’, we must receive ‘from His fullness, grace upon grace’(8:7; John 1:16).

2 Corinthians 8:8-9:15
How are we to be ‘cheerful’ in giving ourselves to the Lord (9:7)? How are we to be confident that ‘God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance’(9:8)? Before we ever think of giving ourselves to God, we must look at all He has given to us. We look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…’(8:9). We look at Him and we say, in our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(9:15). Can our giving to Him even begin to compare with His giving to us? We give to Him as those who have first received from Him. In his giving, we see His love. Our giving expresses our love, our response to His love: ‘We love because He first loved us’(1 John 4:19). Rejoice in His love. Thank Him- for ‘every blessing in abundance’!

The Encouragement Of God's Word

How do we react when things don’t seem to be going very well? We all need the encouragement of God’s Word: ‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph’ (2 Corinthians 2:14).

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

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

The Mercy Of God And The Ministry Of His Word

In the work of ministry, we are often discouraged by the lack of response. May God help us to remember that “we have received this ministry by the mercy of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1). May He give us the wonderful privilege of seeing more people responding to the Word of God which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Lord, we're living in difficult times ...

2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21
Lord, we're living in difficult times. Many are choosing to do what is “evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 21:6). Help us to make another choice, a better choice. Help us to choose to “be the Lord’s people” (2 Chronicles 23:16) – “O happy day! that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God … ‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done! I am my Lord’s, and He is mine! … High heaven that heard the solemn vow, that vow renewed shall daily hear… “

Without Your blessing, Lord, our worship is empty.

2 Chronicles 5:2-6:42
Without Your blessing, Lord, our worship is empty. We need Your blessing. We pray for Your blessing. May “the glory of the Lord fill the House of God” (2 Chronicles 5:14). This is our prayer. We pray for the preachers. We pray for the people. May each and every one of us be blessed by You. May we be “clothed with Your salvation.” May we “rejoice in Your goodness” (2 Chronicles 6:41).

Praying Through God’s Word: 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 1:1-28
We come to You, Lord, with sadness. You give us gladness. How does this gladness come to us? It comes to us when we stand upon Your Word, when we believe Your promises. Our life is not controlled by our feelings – the feelings that drag us down, the feelings that pull us away from You. Your promises lift us out of these feelings. They lift us into Your presence. They assure us of Your love. They lead us into Your blessing. Thank You, Lord, for Your promises and Your presence, Your love and Your blessing.
1 Samuel 2:1-36
Lord, there are two ways of living. There’s the way of holiness and joy, the way of living in the strength of Your Spirit. There’s the way of living to please ourselves, living without the joy that comes from You, living in the weakness of the flesh. Help us, Lord, to keep on choosing Your way, and not to persist in going our own way and doing our own thing.
1 Samuel 3:1-4:22
“Here I am, Lord … I have heard You calling in the night. I will go, Lord … I will hold Your people in my heart” (Daniel L. Schutte). Lord, You come to us. You come with Your Word. It is a Word for ourselves. It is a Word for others. We receive Your Word. We share Your Word. Glorify Your Name, Lord – in us and through us.
1 Samuel 5:1-6:16
Lord, You are the true God, the living God, the everlasting God (Jeremiah 10:10). You are our Saviour (Isaiah 43:11). Speak to us Your truth. Breathe into us Your life. As Jesus draws near to us, help us to trust Him and be led by Him on the pathway to Your eternal glory.
1 Samuel 6:17-7:17
“Holiness, holiness, the only life that the Lord will bless” (Don Francisco). Lord, You are the holy God. You call us to be holy. The way of holiness is the way of blessing. Help us, Lord, to walk with You in Your way – the way of holiness, the way of blessing.
1 Samuel 8:1-9:10
Lord, You are the King. There is no king like You. No human king can even begin to compare with You – the divine King, the “King of kings” (Revelation 19:16). We lift to You our song of praise: “O worship the King, all glorious above. O gratefully sing, His power and His love.”
1 Samuel 9:11-10:16
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is they health and salvation!” When, Lord, we say that You are the great King, may we not think only of the greatness of Your power. May we think also of the greatness of Your love.
1 Samuel 10:17-11:15
“Praise, my soul, the King of heaven; To His feet thy tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like thee His praise should sing?” No earthly king could ever bless us the way You, Lord, have blessed us. What a great Saviour You have given to us! Jesus is greater than any earthly king. He does for us what no earthly king could ever do for us. He brings us into Your everlasting Kingdom.
1 Samuel 12:1-13:15a
We thank You, Lord, that You speak to us the right Word at the right time. Sometimes, we need to hear Your Word of promise. Sometimes, we need to hear Your Word of warning. Assure us, Lord, that, in all life’s changing circumstances, “Your grace is always sufficient for us” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
1 Samuel 13:15b-14:23
Is there any hope for us, Lord? Sometimes, we wonder. It seems like we’re in a dark hole – and we can’t get out! Then, Lord, You come to us. You say to us, “I am the God of hope, I will fill you with hope (Romans 15:13). In ourselves, there is no hope. With You, there is real hope. Our future is in safe hands – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
1 Samuel 14:24-52
“We all make mistakes. If any one makes no mistakes … he is a perfect man” (James 3:2). Lord, there is only one perfect Man – Jesus. When we get it wrong, help us to look to Him – to put it right, to make us right. Our difficulties may not disappear, but, with Jesus on our side, we will rise above them.
1 Samuel 15:1-35
Again and again, Lord, we take the easy way out. We avoid conflict. We side with evil, when we should be choosing good. Why are we like this? – We’ve always been like this. It’s the story of our life. It’s everybody’s story. Can we be changed? We’ll never be perfect, but we can begin to triumph over evil. Help us, Lord, to begin with You, to receive Your strength – strength to do good rather than evil.
1 Samuel 16:1-23
“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me” (Daniel Iverson). Lord, it’s Your Spirit who makes the difference. He changes us. We lose heart. He gives us new strength. We feel like giving up. He keeps us going on. Thank You, Lord, for Your Holy Spirit. Lead us out of our emptiness and into Your fullness.
1 Samuel 17:1-58
Often, Lord, we feel like David – facing Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Everything seems too much for us. Was Goliath too much for David? He wasn’t too much for You – and You were on David’s side. We’re not alone. Help us to remember this. When we feel weak, help us to remember that You are strong – and Your strength has been given to us. Thank You, Lord.
1 Samuel 18:1-20
What a difference there is between the love of power and the power of love. The world is all about the love of power. You, Lord, are all about the power of love. Your power is never power without love. Your love is powerful love. Fill us with Your power – and help us to give glory to You, the God of loving power and powerful love.
1 Samuel 19:1-24
What are the most important things in our lives? Why are they so important to us? Everything revolves around ourselves, Lord. We forget about You. Call us back, Lord – back from the brink, back from “the broad way that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). Call us into “safety, certainty and enjoyment” (George Cutting) – saved by You, assured of Your salvation, enjoying Your salvation.
1 Samuel 20:1-42
Where does true love come from? It comes from You, Lord. It comes from Your love. Give us real love. Give us Your love. When we know that we are loved by You, our love will grow strong – our love for You, our love for one another, our love for people who need You.
Samuel 21:1-22:23
Deliver us, O Lord, from religion without compassion. We don’t want to be Pharisees. we want to be followers of Jesus. Give us compassion – but may it always be compassion without compromise. Help us not to sacrifice truth and righteousness for the sake of relevance. Help us “to be the best that we can be for truth and righteousness and Thee.” Help us to see what relevance really is. Help us to see where relevance really comes from. It doesn’t just emerge out of our own minds, our own creativity. It’s based on truth. We didn’t create truth – and we don’t create relevance. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Your Word is relevant – because it is truth: truth unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Lord, help us to be faithful to Your truth – and help us to care for people who need to be set free by Your truth, set free by Your Son (John 8:32,36). 1 Samuel 23:1-29
Help us, Lord, to be honest with You – Do we want to get our own way or to do Your will? Set us free from the self-centred illusion that You will always support us  in everything that we decide to do. Help us to see that there’s a great difference between ‘what I want’ and ‘what You want.’ Teach us to choose Your will rather than our own will.
1 Samuel 24:1-22
Help us, Lord, never to imagine that we can ever hope to be fruitful for You if we are not committed to being faithful to You. Help us, Lord, to be more than people who serve You. Help us to be people who love You. May we serve You because we love You. May we love You because “You first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
1 Samuel 25:1-44
Life is full of surprises. Sometimes, Lord, these surprises come from You – blessings that fill our hearts with your joy. Sometimes, the surprises come from Satan. He’s trying to catch us off guard. He’s trying to trip us up. He’s trying to lead us away from You. Help us to turn Satan’s surprises into Your surprises. When Satan comes to tempt us, to draw us away from You, help us to face him in Your strength. Help us to tell him that You were there before he arrived on the scene. – You are the eternal God. Help us to tell Satan that You are still here – the God who is with us to bless us, the God who is living in us to give us Your victory over Satan.
1 Samuel 26:1-25
Lead us, Lord, in the way of true wisdom – “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). How foolish we are when we choose to go our own way rather than walking in Your way. Help us, Lord, to choose Christ every day – “O happy day, that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God … That vow renewed shall daily hear.”
1 Samuel 27:1-28:2
What a difference there is between fear – “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” – and faith – “The Lord will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine” (1 Samuel 27:1; 1 Samuel 17:37). Sometimes, fear, sometimes faith – this was the story of David’s life. It’s the story of our life. How, Lord, are we to overcome fear? How are we to grow strong in faith? It’s Your “perfect love that casts out fear.” It’s Your love that makes us strong in faith and gives us the victory (1 John 4:18-19; 1 John 5:4-5). Lord, fill our hearts with Your love. May there be, in us, more faith and less fear.
1 Samuel 28:3-25
Help us, Lord, to take sin seriously – “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Help us to take Your salvation even more seriously. Help us to believe that the story of our life is more than the story of our sin. It’s also the story of Your salvation. When we are deeply aware of our sin, may we become even more deeply appreciative of Your promise of salvation: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
1 Samuel 29:1-30:15
When, Lord, things are going badly, we start feeling sorry for ourselves – when we should be getting strengthened by You. You are “our strength and our shield.” You give us Your “strength” and Your “peace” (Psalm 28:7-8; Psalm 29:10-11). Give to us the peace that comes to us from knowing that we are not alone. May we not fall down in our weakness. May we stand up in Your victory.
1 Samuel 30:16-31:13
Far too easily, Lord, we accept defeat – when You’re leading us on into Your victory. What’s wrong with us? It’s sin. That’s our problem. It never goes away, this problem of ours – but we don’t have to fight against it in our own strength. Our sin may seem to be inevitable – “That’s the way I am. That’s the way I’ve always been. That’s the way I’ll always be.” Our sin isn’t invincible. Jesus triumphed over sin. That’s what He did when He died for us and rose again. Jesus won the victory for us. He gives His victory to us. Help us, Lord, to receive His strength, to walk in His victory, and to say. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).

Keep On Worshipping The Lord.

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