Thursday, 29 November 2018

Praying for preachers

Lord, we pray for those who have been called to bring Your Word to Your people. May their words help us to be “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). May their words be a living echo of the words of Jesus our Saviour: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel” (Luke 4:18). May their words help us to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7). May their words help us to “worship You in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). May their words help us to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). May their words help us to say, “The Lord has blessed us. Praise His holy Name.”

"Jurassic Park" - a modern "Tower of Babel"

Genesis 11
* "Scientists can become so fascinated by what they could do that they do not even stop to think about whether they should." (Dr Ian Malcolm). * "God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs" (Dr Ian Malcolm).
* "I was overwhelmed by the power of this place, but I did not have enough respect for that power" (Dr Ellie Sattler). Monsters are created and morality is forgotten (see Robin Cook's book, Mutation). "Can we do this?" is not the only question that needs to be asked. "Should we do this?" must also be asked. When is morality forgotten? - We forget morality when we forget God. We forget morality when we forget to ask. "What does God want us to do?" What happens when God is forgotten, when we forget about what God wants us to do? "Come, let us build ourselves a city (a 'Jurassic Park') and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves" (4). Man is exalted. God is dismissed (see Robin Cook's book, The God-Player). That's what happens when people forget that they have been created by God, when they become preoccupied with creating a reputation for themselves. What does God think of all this ? - Read verses 5-8. "This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing will now be impossible for them" (6). When man starts to 'play God', things go horribly wrong. 'Jurassic Park' is a timely reminder to us that power must not be abused. We need to distinguish between the use and the abuse of power (see Irving Wallace's book, The Pigeon Project). We are not to abuse the power given to us by God. We are to use it responsibly. More than that - we are to be used by the power of God, used to establish His Kingdom.

Less About The Preacher And More About The Lord!

1 Corinthians 14:13-40
‘Be eager to prophesy’ (39).
Preaching God’s Word to the people is important. It is not everything. It is to be accompanied by prayer and praise.
Many come to hear ‘the preacher.’ Few gather to pray that the whole service of worship will be filled with the presence of the Lord.
Some come to hear a ‘sermon.’ They show little real enthusiasm for worshipping the Lord. They want ‘the Word.’ There is no real heart for worship, witness, and work.
The preacher’s public performance becomes more important than the prayerful praise of God’s people.
‘All things’ are ‘done decently and in order’ yet the atmosphere is forbidding. The Spirit of God is not moving freely among the people of God (39-40).
Let there be less talking about the preacher and more concern with giving all the praise and glory to the Lord.

Worshipping the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!

Psalm 104:1-35
‘I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 104:33). Sometimes, Lord, we feel like giving up. Other things become more important to us. Worshipping You gets pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes creep in. It starts with the idea, ‘Worship’s just an hour on a Sunday’. Then, it becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I feel like it’. It soon becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I’ve nothing better to do’. Before long, all desire for worshipping You Lord has gone! Little-by-little, we drift away from the Lord. It’s time, for us, to start thinking about what’s happening. It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time for an ‘all my life’ commitment to worshipping You, Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!

The “Rock of our salvation”

Isaiah speaks words of prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the “Rock of our salvation”, the “precious Cornerstone”, the “solid Foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ gives us the blessings of God’s salvation – “the deaf will hear the words, written in the book. The blind will see out of their gloom and darkness. Humble people again will find joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 29:18-19). With the Gospel proclamation – in Christ, there is full salvation – comes an appeal to come to Him and receive the blessings, promised to us by the God of love: “This is what the Almighty Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, You can be saved by returning to Me. You can have rest. You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting Me” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord is looking for our response. He longs to pour out His blessing on those who put their trust in Him: “The Lord is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:18). To those who put their trust in Him,the Lord gives His promise. He will lead them in the pathway of obedience, which is the highway of holiness – “You will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way. Follow it” (Isaiah 30:21).

What are we to do when our love for God grows weak?

Psalms 116:1-117:2
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’(Psalm 116:1-2). Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life. What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’(117:2). When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us. When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us. He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak. In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me.’

From the Spirit, we receive new strength – God’s strength ...

In ourselves, we are weak. From the Spirit, we receive new strength – God’s strength, the strength that we need to live for the Lord, the strength that we need to be His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). This is the lesson that we’re learning from Acts. Remember what Peter was like at the time of the crucifixion. He denied the Lord three times (Matthew 26:69-75). Look at what he was like on the Day of Pentecost. Peter preached – and “three thousand” people received new life in Christ. Peter had changed – and lots of other people were changed with him. What was it that changed Peter? – It was the Spirit: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). In the Old Testament, God had given His promise: “I will pour out My Spirit” (Joel 2:28).  On the Day of Pentecost, He fulfilled His promise (Acts 2:14-17).
  Can we be changed? Yes. The Holy Spirit can do great things in us and through us – when we pray, “Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray –unreservedly – have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You” (Mission Praise, 241).

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Is there still hope of God's blessing?

Jeremiah speaks of God’s judgment - “I’m bringing disaster and widespread destruction ...” (Jeremiah 4:6). This message comes to us as a word of warning, a plea to the people to return to the Lord and find His mercy - “So put on sackcloth, mourn and cry because the Lord’s burning anger hasn’t turned away from us” (Jeremiah 4:8). This is the call to repentance. We read of God’s burning anger, and we wonder,”Is there still the hope of God’s blessing?” God is speaking of His judgment - “Nation of Israel, I’m going to bring a nation from far away to attack you,declares the Lord, I won’t destroy all of you” (Jeremiah 5:15,18). God’s Word  concerning the threat of judgment is a call to the people to honour Him as God: “Pay attention to My warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you. I will make your land desolate ...” (Jeremiah 6:8). The ministry of Jeremiah differs from the ministry of the false prophets. They say, “Everything is alright!” He says, “It’s not alright! (Jeremiah 6:14). Jeremiah calls upon the people to make a new beginning with God - “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask which paths are the old reliable paths. Ask which way leads to blessings. Live that way, and find a resting place for yourselves” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Is there a way out of the desert?

God speaks to His people about their sin - "The people of Jerusalem turned away from Me without ever returning ..." (Jeremiah 8:5). He is not pleased with them. He is calling them to return to Him - "Change the way you live ..." (Jeremiah 7:3). The life of Israel is “like the desert” (Jeremiah 9:12). This moral and spiritual desert is described in Jeremiah 9:13-14 - “The Lord answered, They’ve abandoned My teachings that I placed in front of them. They didn’t obey Me, and they didn’t follow them, They followed their own stubborn ways and other gods ...” This was a serious situation. These words are very relevant to today’s Church and world. God is not being taken seriously. His Word  is being ignored. The situation goes from bad to worse. God is speaking. Few people are listening. He speaks through His Word. Few people are reading His Word. We must listen to what God says and do what He tells us to do.

Faithful And Fearless Preaching

God’s Word speaks against us so that we might learn not to speak against God’s Word. God calls us to holiness – “Run away from Babylon! Run for your lives!” (Jeremiah 51:6). The final outcome is described in Jeremiah 51:8 – “Babylon will suddenly fall and be shattered.” God is warning us. It is folly to live the world’s way rather than the Lord’s way. In the light of the Lord’s Word, preached so faithfully by Jeremiah, we must learn to pray, “Your will be done, Lord.”

Visions From God ... Speaking His Word In The Power Of The Spirit

“Visions from God” (Ezekiel 1:1); “The power of the Lord came over Ezekiel” (Ezekiel 1:3); “A bright light” (Ezekiel 1:27); “A rainbow in the clouds” , “The Lord’s glory”, “Bowed down”, “I heard someone speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28). In these phrases, we have some suggestion of the kind of lines we must follow, as we think about the various elements of divine revelation.
In true ministry, there is both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. God’s Word is spoken to us in the power of the Spirit, so that we might speak His Word in the power of the Spirit (Ezekiel 2:1-4). Ezekiel is described as “a watchman over the people of Israel.” He was to speak the word of warning (Ezekiel 3:17). This is the kind of preaching which calls its hearers back from the wages of sin - death. The hearers are called to “change their wicked ways in order to save their lives” (Ezekiel 3:18).

The Kingdom of the Lord endures forever.

In Ezekiel 29, we read about God's judgment upon Egypt, that proud nation, which caused so much distress to His people, Israel. Egypt's time of power had come to an end. Their position of power had been taken by Babylon. The Lord is looking beyond the day of Babylon's power. He is doing a work that is eternal. His work centres upon His people, Israel - "On that day, I will make the people of Israel strong again ..." (Ezekiel 29:21).
In Ezekiel 30, we read about the fall of Egypt and the rise of Babylon. The history of our world is the history of the rise and fall of nations. Whatever happens, the Lord remains the Lord of history. Kingdoms rise. Kingdoms fall. The Kingdom of the Lord endures forever. This is a great encouragement to God's people. The knowledge that God is in control assures us that there is, in history, more than just the ever-changing flow of events. There is the God whose love remains forever.
Egypt will be conquered. This message, from Ezekiel 29-30, continues in Ezekiel 31. The time of Egypt's power will come to an end. The power of God is very different. He is the eternal God. His power is a very special power. It is the power of love. His love is as great as His power. When we sing, "How great Thou art", we do not sing only of His great power. We sing also of His great love. In the events of history, we must learn to see God at work - in power and love. The power of God's love is so different from Egypt's love of power.
Again, in Ezekiel 32, we read about God's judgment on Egypt. God's Word of judgment is awesome. There is a real sense of the holiness of God. Men cannot do what they like, and expect that God will not punish them. When we read of such things, it becomes clear to us that it is better to listen to God and obey His Word than to ignore him and invite Him to send His judgment into our lives.

We stand in the strength of the Lord.

The Psalmist speaks of his enemies – “my foes” (Psalm 3:1). They are not only his enemies. They are the Lord’s enemies (Psalm 2:2).
What an encouragement it is to know that we do not stand against our enemies on our own. The Lord is standing with us. We do not stand in our own weakness. We stand in the strength of the Lord. He is with us. Many times, we will fail Him. He will never fail us. Often, we will let Him down. He will never let us down. What does God say to us, in our weakness? – He assures us that He holds on to us with a love which is much stronger than our weak love for Him – “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). When, in our battle against strong a nd determined enemies, we like giving up, let’s remember this: God is faithful – and He is much stronger than Satan. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

In The House Of The Lord

“One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…”(Psalm 27:4).
Why do we come to the House of the Lord? – We come to offer to Him our heartfelt worship.

Living In The Light Of God's Unfailing Love

“I see Your mercy in front of me. I walk in the light of Your truth” (Psalm 26:3).
In Your mercy, Lord, open up for us a new way of living – a way of living that is shaped by Your truth, a way of living that is filled with Your light.
“I have always been mindful of Your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3).
Have we always been mindful of God’s unfailing love? Have we always trusted in His faithfulness? We know the answer as soon as we ask the question. Often, we have failed the Lord – but He has never failed us. Many times, we have let Him down – but He has never let us down. It’s His love for us that’s unfailing – not our love for Him.

New Life

New life for Levi (Mark 3:1-4)
* His name was LEVI.
* He was EVIL.
He was a tax collector, making a fortune for himself at the expense of other people.
* He began to LIVE when he followed Jesus.
What a wonderful message there is in the conversion of Levi.
Our Saviour still calls sinners to make a new beginning with Him (Mark 3:17).
Let’s be like the new Levi – “He arose and followed Jesus” (Mark 3:15).

The Lord - My Rock

“To You, Lord, I call; You are my Rock” (Psalm 28:1).
“I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave.
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath power to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages” (Lewi­s E. Jones).

God's Purpose, God's Spirit, God's Glory, God's People, God's Blessing

In Ezekiel 38:23, we read about God's purpose in history - "I will show My greatness and My holiness. I will reveal Myself to many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord." It is important that we see the divine dimension in the events which take place here on earth. There are political events, but politics isn't everything. There's more than politics. There's the work of God. He is working out His plan,
"I will pour out My Spirit on the nation of Israel" (Ezekiel 39:29). True blessing comes when God pours out His Spirit. This is something for which we must always - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In Ezekiel 40-43, we have a description of the temple. We can measure the physical dimensions of the temple, but there is something that we cannot measure: "I saw the glory of the Lord fill the temple" (Ezekiel 43:5). This is the spiritual dimension. This is the presence of the Spirit of the  Lord. We look beyond the temple. We catch a glimpse of the glory of God. The glory of the temple fades. The glory of the Lord remains forevermore.
In Ezekiel 44-46, we read about the worship of God. The emphasis is on holiness. The place of worship is described as "the holy place" (Ezekiel 44:1). When we move into the New Testament, the emphasis is on the people. We are to be the holy people of God - "You are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God." Why does God call us to be His holy people? - "You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." As we do this, there's something we must never forget - "Once you were not God's people, but now you are. Once you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).
In Ezekiel 47:1-11, we have a wonderful picture and an encouraging message - the river of God's blessing. In Ezekiel 48:35, we have a wonderful presence and an inspiring message - "The Lord is there."

The Watchman, The Shepherd, New Birth And Revival

In Ezekiel 33, we read about the ministry of "the watchman." He listens to God's Word and speaks the Word of warning  to the people (Ezekiel 33:7). He declares the love of God - "I don't want wicked people to die ... I want them to turn from their ways and live" (Ezekiel 33:10). The warning is spoken as the voice of love, calling sinners to draw back from the way that leads to death, to turn to the Lord and live.
In Ezekiel 34, there is the promise of a new Shepherd for the lost sheep. This is Good News. We are more than lost sheep. We are the Lord's sheep. Without the Lord, we are  lost. In Him, we are found. God says, "I will search for My sheep Myself and I will look after them" (Ezekiel 34:11). We read this, and our thoughts turn to Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us. He is the Great Shepherd, who rose from the dead for us. He is the Chief Shepherd, who is coming again for us. The Lord says to us, "You, My sheep, are the sheep of My pasture." He says to us, "I am your God" (Ezekiel 34:31).
In Ezekiel 35, we learn that it is through His judgment as well as His salvation that we learn that the Lord is God. It is important that we remember two things - (i) God's purpose is salvation (John 3:17); (ii) His judgment comes upon us as a result of our sin (John 3:18). The light of God's love shines brightly. It is sin which brings darkness into our world. The darkness of our sin is great. The bright shining light of God's love is greater. This is the great love of God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
The great miracle of the new birth is described in Ezekiel 36:26 - "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you." We cannot change ourselves. We must be changed by the Lord. He forgives our sin. He gives us His Holy Spirit. He enables us to put the past behind us and live the new life in the Spirit.
To the valley of dry bones, the Word of God is spoken: "I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live" (Ezekiel 37:14). It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that there can be blessing among God's people. It is only through the Spirit's power that God's work is carried forward in the blessing of many who are dead in their sins without God's saving grace. When the Lord comes in power, everything changes. The dead are brought to life.

God's Eternal Purpose, Our Earthly Journey

"You, Bethlehem ..." (Micah 5:2-4) - a great prophecy of the birth of Christ. As we read the Old Testament, and come across passages like this, we see the hand of the Lord at work in human history. We see God, fulfilling His plan, carrying out His eternal purpose - salvation.
"Remember your journey ... so that you may know the victories of the Lord" (Micah 6:5). It is a good thing to recall what the Lord has done for us. This gives us strength to face the future with confidence in the Lord. "The voice of the Lord calls out to the city" (Micah 6:9). God is calling us to be His voice, speaking His Word to the people of our community.

King Jesus

“For a full 180 days, King Xerxes displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendour and glory of his majesty” (Esther 1:4).
As I was reading these words about King Xerxes, I thought about another king, a very different king, a much better king – King Jesus. What did Jesus say about His Kingdom?  This is what He said – “My Kingdom is not of this world… My Kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). We read about Xerxes. We read about Jesus. We must make our choice. What is most important to us – this world or the world towards which God is calling us, the world of His glory?

If I Perish ...

“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’ … I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’” (Esther 4:14,16).
God has a plan for us. Are we willing to pay the price?

Monday, 26 November 2018

What happens, Lord.,when Your people “gather together”?

Nehemiah 8:1-9:5
What happens when Your people “gather together” (Nehemiah 8:1)? We hear Your Word (Nehemiah 8:2-3,8). We thank You for Your Son (Nehemiah 8:13-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). We dedicate our lives to You (Nehemiah 9:2). We worship You (Nehemiah 9:5). Lord, help us to enter in, with all our hearts, to all that You promise to bring into our lives when we respond to Your gracious call: “Let us worship God.”

Our lives lay in ruins until You, Lord, put us together again.

Nehemiah 11:1-12:30
Our lives lay in ruins until You put us together again. You call us to build our lives on Christ (Matthew 7:24-27). Help us, Lord, to come to You, again and again – confessing our sin, receiving Your forgiveness, building on Christ, our Saviour. When we feel ourselves being pulled away from You, help us to choose Christ. May we choose to be holy. May we choose the way of blessing, the way that brings glory to You.

Help us, Lord, to listen to Your Word.

2 Kings 19:1-37
“Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard” (2 Kings 19:6). Help us, Lord, to listen to Your Word. When the world’s voice seems to be so loud, help us to hear Your voice. Help us to hear Your Word of encouragement: "The zeal of the Lord will do this” (2 Kings 19:31). When fear threatens to overwhelm us, help us to remember that You are “able” (Daniel 3:17) – “able to help those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18), “able to provide us with every blessing in abundance” (2 Corinthians 9:8), “able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

What happens to us, Lord, when we turn away from You?

2 Kings 17:1-41
What happens to us, Lord, when we turn away from You? Everything starts falling apart. It may seem like we’re getting on well – but there’s an “emptiness” (2 Kings 17:14) at the heart of everything that we do. Having Jesus as our Saviour – this is all that really matters. there’s nothing more important than this. Help us to keep on coming to Jesus, to keep on enjoying “the fullness of life” that He gives to us (John 10:10),

What are we to do when everything seems to be hopeless?

1 Kings 14:1-15:8
What are we to do when everything seems to be hopeless? – We turn to You, Lord. You are the God of hope. Our hope is in You. You can turn things around. Your love changes everything. Your love changes us. Thank You, Lord, for Your love. It’s Your love that gives us hope for the future. We look to the future – and we look to You. We say, “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”

Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service.

1 Kings 7:13-8:13
Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service – “gold, silver, precious stones”. You’re calling us to leave behind the unfruitful life – “wood, hay, straw” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Help us to hear and answer Your call: “Rise up, O Church of God. Have done with lesser things. Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings.”

Sunday, 25 November 2018

God speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.

Samaria and Jerusalem behaved like prostitutes. In graphic language, the sin of turning from the Lord is compared to sexual immorality. Why does God expose their sin with such plainness of speech? He wants to show them the full extent of their rebellion, so that they may see the folly of continuing in sin and may be moved to return to the Lord - “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 23:49).
In Ezekiel 24, we learn about God’s holiness and His love. If we are to appreciate the wonderful love God has for sinners, we need to become more deeply aware of the awesome holiness of God’s hatred of sin. We look at our sin. We look at God’s holiness. We learn about ourselves. We see how far we have fallen short of God’s glory. We learn about God. We come to know that He is the Lord. Deeply aware of God’s holiness and our own sin, we are led, by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, to see Jesus, crucified for us. We hear about God’s holiness. This is the Word of His judgment upon our sin. This is not, however, the final Word that He speaks to us. He speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.
“Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:4,7,11). “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:17). God is in control. This is the message of the prophet. The events on earth express the purpose of God. It is so important that we do not lose sight of this spiritual dimension. People say, ‘Everything is politics.’ God’s Word tells us, ‘Politics isn’t everything.’ We must not imagine that we can leave God out of the reckoning. He will remind us of His presence - “That you may know that I am the Lord.”

Called into the service of the eternal God

Jeremiah was called into the service of the eternal God - “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for My holy purpose. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah called the people back to the Lord, “the fountain of living (life-giving) water” (Jeremiah 2:13). He called them to be converted - to turn around. They were turning their backs on the Lord. They were replacing Him with something else, something useless, something that would never bring them real satisfaction (Jeremiah 2:13). Now, they were to turn their faces to Him (Jeremiah 2:27). To a returning people, God promises his mercy - “Come back, unfaithful Israel. It is the Lord speaking. I will no longer frown on you because I’m merciful, declares the Lord, I will no longer be angry with you.” returning to the Lord means confessing our sins - “Admit that you’ve done wrong! You have rebelled against the Lord your God ...” The message of Jeremiah is summed up in the words, “Come back, you rebellious people” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).

Can Things Be Turned Around?

In Ezekiel 26, we find an awesome Word of judgment, spoken against the city of Tyre. The Word, spoken by God through His prophet, is uncompromising - “Tyre, you famous city, you have been destroyed” (Ezekiel 26:17). The effect of Tyre’s fall is described: “Your defeat will make the people, who live by the coast, tremble. Your end will terrify the islands in the sea” (Ezekiel 26:18). This is the fear of the Lord. We become aware that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Gospel tells us about the hands that were nailed to the Cross for us, so that we might pass from judgment to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is a continuation of the Word of judgment, which began in Ezekiel 26. How final are the words at the end of Ezekiel 27: “You have come to a terrible end, and you will never exist again” (Ezekiel 27:36). This is the bad news concerning all of us. We are sinners. We are under God’s judgment. Our only hope is the God of grace and mercy. He has made Himself known to us as the One, who can turn everything around for us. He does through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s judgment on Tyre - This theme continues on from Ezekiel 26 - 27. The emphasis is on His judgment on the king - “the ruler of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1). Here, we look beyond “the ruler of Tyre.” We may look on from him to Satan. Like the king of Tyre, Satan will also “come to a terrible end” (Ezekiel 28:19). In Ezekiel 28:20-24, we have a prophecy of judgment on Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, we have a message of hope for God’s people, Israel - “they will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 28:26).

Leading sinners to the Saviour of sinners

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).

It is a great thing to rejoice in God's salvation. We give thanks for the truth upon which our salvation rests. As well as rejoicing in God's salvation and standing upon His truth, we must also speak directly to those who have wandered from the truth, calling upon them to turn from the error of their ways.
Turning "a sinner from the error of his way" - we don't hear much of this kind of talk nowadays. People like to hear the Good News of salvation. They like to be assured of the truth of God's Word. If, however, our teaching regarding the Good News of salvation and the truth of God's Word are to have real depth, we must speak forthrightly about turning "a sinner from the error of his way."
 * Speaking about our "multitude of sins" - this is not to be dismissed as a purely negative reaction against the easy-going outlook of so many people in today's world. There is something much more positive than that - we speak about our sin so that we might learn to glory in God's salvation.
 * Speaking about "the error of our way" - this is not be dismissed as a 'know-it-all' attitude by which we 'look down our noses' at the 'anything goes' approach that is so common in today's world. There's something much more positive here - following our Saviour, we warn against the folly of building on a foundation of shifting sand so that we might learn to build our life upon the Solid Rock: Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24-27;  1 Corinthians 3:11).
 * Speaking about "death" - this is not be dismissed as out-of-touch with the positive outlook of today's world. Once again, there is something very positive here. We emphasize that "the wages of sin is death" so that there might be a greater appreciation of "the gift of God" which is "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
--
Why do we speak of sin, error and death? 
 - We speak of sin so that people may be called back from the way of sin to a much better way  - the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our Saviour: "He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25).
 - We speak of error so that people may be called back from the way of error to a much more reliable way than the way of error - the way of truth, trusting in Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6). 
 - We speak of death so that people may be called back from the way of death to the much more wonderful way that God has planned for all who put their faith in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ - the way of eternal life: "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:11-12).

God's Word Of Love - For The Preacher And The People

"The Lord spoke the Word to Micah" (Micah 1:1).  The Word is given to the prophet. This is where true prophecy begins. It begins with God. It does not come from the mind of the prophet. It is given to him by the Lord. In this revelation, given by God to the prophet, there is "the Word" and "the vision." God speaks to us. He draws near to us. Jesus is God's "Word" to us. He is more than the words spoken to us. He is "the Word made flesh" (John 1:1,14). To "all" people, God says, "Listen ... Pay attention" (Micah 1:2). What does God say to us? He speaks "against" us (Micah 1:2). Do we need to hear this? Yes! We do. The Word that is spoken against us prepares us for the Good News of God's love. The more seriously we take the Word that is spoken against us, the more we will give thanks to God for His love. We will rejoice in this - His love reaches us in our sin and triumphs over our sin.
"The Lord will lead the people" (Micah 2:13). These are precious words. Whatever happens in our life, we must hold on to this: "The Lord will lead the people." Whatever happens to us - good things or bad things, we must not lose sight of the Lord. In the good times, let us trust Him to keep us, walking in His way, praising Him, even when we don't understand what's going on in our lives. He is there with us, every step of the way. He loves us - always and forever.

"He will swallow up death in victory.”

“The Lord will save us” (Isaiah 25:9). This is our hope, as we await the “Day” of the Lord. This our cause for joy and gladness. Death shall not triumph over us. Our hope is in the Lord – “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isaiah 25:8). The message of the Gospel comes to us as a declaration of God’s saving power – “The Lord, the Lord alone, is an everlasting Rock.” It comes to us as a call to put our faith in the Lord – “Trust in the Lord always.” In the Lord, there is “everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4). In our “pain”, we receive strength from the Lord. It is the strength which comes from knowing that, beyond our present suffering, there is eternal life (Isaiah 26:18-19). As we consider how great our God is and how much He has loved us and done for us, we “will come and worship” Him, giving all the praise and glory to Him (Isaiah 27:13).

Friday, 23 November 2018

When You're Down ...

When you’re down, look to the Lord. He loves You. He will lift you up.
Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’(1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’(1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’- ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.

Lord, we can, so often, get preoccupied with the things that matter most to us ...

Genesis 29:31-30:24
Lord, we can, so often, get preoccupied with the things that matter most to us - and we forget about the things that matter most to You. We start to get comfortable, sorting things out to suit ourselves - and then You come to us with a very challenging question, "What matters most to you?" Help us, Lord, to see that pleasing You is more important than pleasing ourselves.

Lord, give us Your wisdom.

Genesis 25:19-34
Lord, give us Your wisdom. Help us to see that walking in Your way is better than getting our own way. When we are being drawn away from Your way, bring us back again - back to the way of obedience, back to the way of blessing.

Light!

Genesis 1:14 - “lights”
We think of the sun and the moon. There is a greater Son – our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. When the sun and the moon are no more, there will be Jesus, the King of creation, the Lord of glory. His reign shall never come to an end. It will be the reign of His everlasting love. When the light of the sun and moon are no longer shining, the light of Christ’s love will be shining brightly (Revelation 22:5) – shining “not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”
Genesis 1:15 - “light upon the earth”
As we read these words, we rejoice in this – Jesus is the Light of the world” (John 8:12).
Genesis 1:16 - “the stars”
As we read about the stars, our thoughts turn to the star which led the wise men to Bethlehem. As we think of that star, we are led to Christ. May we join with the wise men in saying, “We have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2).
Genesis 1:17 - “light upon the earth”
Where does light come from? Do we look inside our own minds? No! We look to Him who “came down from heaven to earth – Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
Genesis 1:18 - “rule over the day and the night”
Beyond the “rule” of “the two great lights”, there is the “rule” of the Lord. He is the King of creation. He is the King of salvation. He is “the King of kings” (Revelation 19:16).
Genesis 1:19 - “the evening and the morning”
The morning is bright with new beginnings. In the evening, we feel weary. In all life’s changing circumstances, let us look to the Lord. When we feel strong, let us say, “My strength comes from the Lord.” When we feel weak, let us pray, “Lord, I am weak. You are strong. I bring my weakness to You. Give me your strength.”

My Heart Is Overflowing With Good News.

"My heart is overflowing with Good News ... Grace is poured on your lips ... O warrior, strap your sword to your side ... Ride on victoriously in your majesty for the cause of truth, humility, and righteousness" (Psalm 45:1-4).
As we read this Psalm, we catch a glimpse of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - "You are the most handsome of Adam's descendants" (Psalm 45:2). The Good News comes to us from Jesus. Grace comes to us from Jesus. We hear the Gospel. we believe in Jesus. He forgives our sins. He leads us in the way of victory. He teaches us truth, humility and righteousness. His truth sets us free - to become less self-centred and more Christ-centred. He teaches us the truth about ourselves. This keeps us humble. We're never any more than sinners who've been saved by His grace. He teaches us the truth about Himself. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord. As we learn of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, He creates in us a desire to become more like Him - to be "led in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3).

Out From The Background ...

Exodus 3:1-22

Moses may have been content to remain in the background. God was calling him to step into the foreground - for God’s people.
This is more than the story of Moses. It’s the story of Israel. It points forward to God’s purpose for all nations. When we read the Old Testament story, we find that God is saying to us, ‘This is just the beginning. There is more than this.’ From Exodus to the Gospels, to Acts, to the book of Revelation: We’re not at the final triumph yet. Like those who have come before us - Moses, the Psalmist, the prophets, Jesus, Peter, Paul, we must face conflict. There will be glimpses of glory, but the full glory is still to come.
In Exodus, we see God’s people on a journey. It’s a journey with God. It’s a journey of faith. We see the same thing in Acts.In the work of God, there are people who are very significant - Moses and Peter. The work of God is always bigger than such individuals. Let us never forget the people who remain in the background. They’re not just making up the numbers. They’re important - loved by God and valued by God.
 * What does God have to say to each and every one of us concerning His purpose for our lives?
Exodus 3 and Acts 2 - God’s holiness (burning bush, holy ground, Holy Spirit); God’s love (the redemption of Israel, the salvation of three thousand sinners.)
His holiness and His love: This is what God wants to reproduce in our lives. This is not only for big names, like Moses and Peter. From the Father, the Son and the Spirit - new life, abundant life, eternal life.

The Lord is always greater than all our words about Him.

"Who can speak about all the mighty things the Lord has done? Who can announce all the things for which He is worthy of praise?" (Psalm 106:2).
There is always more to be said about the Lord than we can ever say. When we have said all that we can say, we have not said enough. The Lord is always greater than all our words about Him. How great is our God! How great is His mighty work of salvation! Praise be to His Name - the Name of our salvation.

I Will Sing ...

“I will sing for the one I love” (Isaiah 5:1).
Isaiah speaks here of our love for God. When we speak of our love for God, we must always remember this: God’s love for us comes before our love for Him. We sing to the One who has loved us. The song we sing to Him is the song of love: “Loving Him who first loved me.”
Lord, we sing a song of love. We sing about the best love of all – Your love for us. There is no love like Your love. It’s the greatest love of all. It’s Your love for us that inspires our love for You. Our love for You grows strong when we think less about our love for You – and more about Your love for us.

Where does the best education come from?

Psalm 25:1-22
Knowing You, Lord, is more important than knowing a lot about this, that and the other subject. Where does the best education come from? It comes from You. You teach us about the things that really matter. you teach us about eternal things. You teach us what life is really all about. You are “the God of our salvation.” You “lead us in Your truth” – the truth that changes us, the truth which inspires us to become all that You want us to be (Psalm 25:5).

Save me, O God ...

"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help;   my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God" (Psalm 69:1-3).
Sometimes, we get ourselves into deep water. We're sinking. We're looking to You, Lord. The world is pulling us down, pulling us away from You. We're looking to You, Lord. It's not easy. Life is difficult. There are many problems. We're looking to You, Lord. Help us to keep on looking to You - when we feel like giving up and giving in. Help us to keep on believing that there is the light at the end of our tunnel. We're looking to You, Lord - and we will keep on looking to You, whatever happens. "Let heaven and earth praise Him… For God will save" (Psalm 69:34-35).

God does not save us because we praise Him. We praise God because He saves us.


More Than A Prophet?

“A great prophet … Are you the one who is coming?” (Luke 7:16,19-20).
“A great prophet” – This may be the beginning of our faith, but it’s not the end of our faith.
“A great prophet” – This is the first stage of our faith. We sense that there’s something different about Jesus. Then, we begin to ask the question, “How different is Jesus?” We start to wonder, “Is Jesus more than a prophet?”
“Are you the one who is  coming?” Where does this question come from? It comes to us, when we start thinking, “There’s something different about Jesus.”
We ask the question. God gives His answer. It is an answer that arises in our hearts, as we think about Jesus, as we think, “This is more than a prophet. This is my Saviour.”

Sometimes, we nibble at our food ...

Psalm 23:1-6
Sometimes, we nibble at our food. We don’t feel like eating. We’re off-colour. Often, Lord, we’re like that with Your Word. We could be enjoying a feast – but we’re not! We’re too easily satisfied. There’s no real hungering and thirsting for Your life-giving Word. Lord, give us more hunger for You. Fill us with a deeper desire for Your presence and Your blessing. Help us to feast on Your Word – the Word of life, the Word which we need so much, the Word which leads us into all the blessing that You want so much to give to us.

Help us, Lord, to trust and obey.

2 Kings 23:4-30
“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord” (2 Kings  18:5). Josiah did “according to the law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25). Help us, Lord, to trust and obey. Give us faith – faith that changes the way we live, faith that leads to obedience.

The Everlasting God

“You are God, from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). “You are my Refuge and my Fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). “You, O Lord, are highly honoured forever” (Psalm 92:8). As we read the Psalms, we learn of God - how great He is, how much He is worthy of praise, trust and obedience. We learn to worship the Lord - "The Lord rules as King!" (Psalm 93:1). As we learn to centre our lives on Him, we will be blessed by Him.

Often, Lord, we come to Your House with so little expectation of Your blessing.

Exodus 29:10-46
Often, Lord, we come to Your House with so little expectation of Your blessing. Where does this attitude come from? - It doesn't come from You. You are the great God. You fill our hearts with 'great expectations.' When Satan comes to us, filling our hearts with apathy - the 'couldn't-care-less' attitude, help us to tell him that You are the great God (Psalm 135:5) - great in holiness, power and love, the faithful God who comes to us with great promises of blessing. When, Lord, we are blessed by You, help us to give all the glory to You.

A Very Important Question

Matthew 25:1-13
Will we be ready, when the Lord returns? This is the question the Lord is putting to us here. It’s the most important question. It’s the question that we cannot evade. It’s the question that won’t go away. It’s the question of our life. What is our life all about? What is most important to us? Who is most important to us – Jesus or ourselves?

Bring Your Questions To The Lord.

In Psalms 73 - 75, there is inner turmoil, as the Psalmist wonders what to make of the success of the wicked who oppose the Lord and His people. There are times of great confusion - “But when I tried to understand this, it was too difficult for me” (Psalm 73:16). There are times when the Psalmist is on the edge of despair - “Why, O God, have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoulder against the sheep in Your care? ... How long, O God, will the enemy insult us? Will the enemy despise You forever?” (Psalm 74:1,10). Despite all that runs counter to God, the Psalmist remains strong in faith. He triumphs over all that opposes the purpose of God in his life - “God remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever ... From long ago, God has been my King, the One who has been victorious throughout the earth ... We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks. You are present, and Your miracles confirm that ... I will speak about Your miracles forever. I will make music to praise the God of Jacob” (Psalm 73:26; Psalm 74:12; Psalm 75:1,9).

There are times, Lord, when we need to start all over again.

2 Samuel 2:1-32
There are times, Lord, when we need to start all over again. We need to make a new beginning with You. We've wandered away from You - and we wonder if You'll have us back again. Help us, Lord, to know, in our hearts, that You never lose patience with us. Your love for us remains constant, even when we're "in the far country" of our sin (Luke 15:13). You're always waiting for us to return to You. Our returning to You is not insignificant. It is important. How can we enter into Your blessing if we refuse to return to You? When we think about our returning to You, help us never to forget that it is never any more than a response to Your coming to us - "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

Lord, You're calling us to make our choice - What kind of life will we live?

2 Chronicles 12:1-13:22 
Lord, You're calling us to make our choice - What kind of life will we live? Will it be "He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord" (2 Chronicles 12:14)? or Will it be "As for us, the Lord is our God and we have not forsaken Him" (2 Chronicles 13:10)? When, Lord, unbelief and disobedience are threatening to take over our lives, help us to hear Your Word of warning: "Do not fight against the Lord ... you will not succeed" - and help us to speak the words of faith: "God is with us; He is our Leader" (2 Chronicles 13:12).

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The search for wisdom

The search for wisdom may begin for us with the question, “What does the book of Proverbs teach us about wisdom?”, but it must not end there. While it is important to learn what the Old Testament has to say to us, we should not allow ourselves to get trapped in the Old Testament so that we fail to look beyond the first stage of God’s revelation and see the fullness of God’s revelation – our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
The book of Proverbs encourages us to search for wisdom. In our search for wisdom, we find that we are led beyond the book of Proverbs. We read what the New Testament says to us – “you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). We are to led to “Christ” who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Christ leads us beyond “man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Whatever else may be said about wisdom, there is one thing that we must always say, “Christ Jesus … has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
We do learn about wisdom as we read the book of Proverbs – but there is more to learn than the book of Proverbs, on its own, is able to teach us. In the book of Proverbs, we read of “Wisdom” calling out to us (Proverbs 1:20-21). In the Gospels, Jesus speaks to us. He tells us that He is “the Truth” (John 14:6). He tells us that He is “the Light” (John 8:12). We seek understanding. We seek enlightenment. We find these things in Jesus. We are truly wise when we build our life on Christ (Matthew 7:24-27).
When, in the book of Proverbs, we read the words, “Get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7), we must follow where our search for wisdom leads us. For us, “Get wisdom” means more than it meant for the writer of the book of Proverbs. It means, “Come to Christ and receive salvation.”
Whatever we may learn about wisdom from the book of Proverbs, this is only the beginning of our search. From there, we look to Jesus and we see that in Him are “‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) – all that we need for salvation, sanctification and service.

When, Lord, things are going badly, we start feeling sorry for ourselves ...

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.

Far too easily, Lord, we accept defeat - when You're leading us on into 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).

Loving You, Lord, is more important than anything else – but it’s not always the most important thing in our lives.

2 Kings 6:1-23
Loving You, Lord, is more important than anything else – but it’s not always the most important thing in our lives. Sometimes, other things get in the way of our love for You. Help us to love You more truly and more fully – and help us to show our love for You by sharing Your love with our neighbour.

Can You And I Become Giantkillers - For God?

1 Samuel 17
David faced a giant. We face giants. His giant was called Goliath. Our “Goliaths” are the giants of unbelief and disobedience. We’re told that it doesn’t matter what you believe. We’re told that it doesn’t matter how you live. Like David, we must rise up with faith in the Lord. Like David, we must move forward in obedience to the Lord. Let us challenge today’s “Goliaths” – “I come to you in the Name of the Lord … whom you have defied.”We do not face these “Goliaths” in our own weakness. We face them in the strength of the Lord. Knowing that “the battle is the Lord’s”, we take our stand upon the Word of God: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord” (1 Samuel 17:45-47; Isaiah 54:17).

The faithfulness of God

Psalm 89 begins and ends with the faithfulness of God (Psalm 89:1,49). As we think of God, we say, concerning Him, “Your faithfulness stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 89:2). “O Lord, the heavens praise your miracles and Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones” (Psalm 89:5). “Mighty Lord, even Your faithfulness surrounds You” (Psalm 89:8).

Monday, 19 November 2018

Everlasting Love

"I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).
God loves us. This isn’t for some perfect people who’ve never fallen into sin. There’s nobody who’s like that. All of us have made a mess of things – but God still says to us, “I love you.” He says, “My Son, Jesus, died for you.” This is what gives us the strength to choose His way rather than our own way. This is what keeps us from sin. This is what convinces us that there’s a better way than the way of sin. There’s a way of blessing. It comes to us when we’re learning how much God loves us. He doesn’t give up on us when we let Him down. He keeps on loving us. He keeps on lifting us up. He sets us on our feet. He changes the direction of our life. It becomes less about ourselves, and more about Him (Galatians 2:20).

So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’(Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us.
The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3).
As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’(Jeremiah 31:18).
Where do God’s peace and joy come from? They come from His love. It’s the greatest love of all (Ephesians 3:18). There’s nothing like the love of God. His peace is great. His joy is great. His love is even greater. This is where His blessing comes from. He loves us. He loves us with “an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). It’s a love that will not let us go. It’s a love that goes on forever. When we say, “May God’s blessing surround you each day”, what we’re saying is this: May you know that God loves you; may you know that He’s never going to stop loving you; may you know the blessing of His love.

Lord, what are we to do when we face determined opposition ...?

Exodus 5:1-6:13
Lord, what are we to do when we face determined opposition from people who refuse to listen to what Your Word is saying to them? Lord, teach us to pray. Teach us to take our problems to You - and help us to leave them with You. When troubles come our way, help us to "wait upon You and renew our strength" (Isaiah 40:31).

Lord, help us not to get bogged down in what’s happening to us right now.

Psalm 6:1-10
Lord, help us not to get bogged down in what’s happening to us right now. Help us to lift up our eyes and see Jesus. Help us not only to see Him as a figure from the past – a man who lived a long time ago. Help us to see Him as the Lord who is coming to us from the future, coming to us from the glory coming to us from heaven. coming with His salvation, coming to establish Your eternal Kingdom.

Lord, we rejoice in Your Word of forgiveness and eternal life.

1 Kings 21:1-22:14
Lord, we rejoice in Your Word of forgiveness and eternal life (1 John 1:9; 1 John 5:11-12). When our hearts grow cold and we start taking Your love and Your blessing for granted, help us to pay careful attention to the Gospel warning: “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). Help us, Lord, when we hear Your Word, not to keep it to ourselves: “What the Lord says to me, that I will speak” (1 Kings 22:14).

It’s better to ‘put a zip on it’ than to ‘put our foot in it.’

Proverbs 10:23-11:11
“With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbour” (Proverbs 11:9). Lord, this is straight talking – from Your holy Word. We need to hear this kind of thing. It keeps us on the right track. It keeps us from going off the rails. When, Lord, we’re tempted to speak words that will hurt other people, help us remember Your Word to us: “The tongue is a fire … With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men … this ought not to be so” (James 3:6-10). Help us, Lord, to keep quiet – or end up saying, I wish I had never said that – It’s better to ‘put a zip on it’ than to ‘put our foot in it’. When we have nothing good to say, help us to say nothing at all.

Praising God and finding strength in Him

The way of blessing is the way of praising God and finding strength in Him (Psalm 84:4-5). We worship the Lord - "Your Name is the LordYou alone are the Most High God of the whole earth" (Psalm 83:18). As we worship Him, our strength is restored. He answers our prayer - “Restore us, O God, our Saviour” (Psalm 85:4). As we worship God, our joy is restored - “Give me joy, O Lord, because I lift my soul to You” (Psalm 86:4). What a joy it is to know the Lord. He’s the Source of all our blessings (Psalm 87:7). Knowing that it is God’s desire to bless us, we come to Him, earnestly seeking His blessing: “I cry out to You for help, O Lord, and, in the morning, my prayer will come into Your presence” (Psalm 88:13).

Sometimes, Lord, we say, “I can’t”, when we really mean, “I won’t.”

1 Kings 20:1-43
Sometimes, Lord, we say, “I can’t”, when we really mean, “I won’t.” We decide what’s important to us. You look at our chosen way of life, and You say, “You yourself have decided it.” You see our self-centred life, and You say, “So shall your judgment be” (1 Kings 20:40). Can we change? Yes! You say to us, “Come, strengthen yourself, and consider well what You have to do” (1 Kings 20:12). You say to us, “Be strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10). Help us to “wait on You and renew our strength” (Isaiah 40:31).

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Singing with joy

Isaiah 54:1-17

Singing with joy (Isaiah 54:1) - Our song comes from the Lord. Our joy comes from the Lord. From ourselves, there is sin. From the Lord, there is salvation. “Through the love of God our Saviour, all will be well ... All is well ... All must be well.” So much blessing is ours, because Jesus is crucified, risen and exalted.
On the Cross, Jesus was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven by God. At the Cross, He was brought low so that we might be lifted up. From the Cross, Jesus calls out to us.
In love, He speaks to us. His love is the greatest love of all. His love is “everlasting love” (Isaiah 54:8).
This is where our song of joy comes from. It comes from His everlasting love.
In the Old Testament, we see the rainbow (Isaiah 54:9). It’s a reminder of God’s great love for us.
In the New Testament, we have bread and wine - God’s way of reminding us that He loves us so much that He gave his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us.
Through Jesus, we have “peace with God” (Isaiah 54:10), we are “taught by the Lord” (Isaiah 54:13), we will be given His victory over Satan - “No weapon formed against you will succeed” (Isaiah 54:17), we will be led on to His everlasting Kingdom - “poor Jerusalem” (Isaiah 54:11) will become “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2).

Lifted From The Guttermost, Saved To The Uttermost

"He pulled me out of a horrible pit" (Psalm 40:2).

There are two things that we need to hear about - our own situation and God's salvation..
* Our own situation is hopeless. We need to be saved by the Lord.
* The Lord is able to lift us up. He is able to lift from the guttermost - and save to the uttermost" (Hebrews 7:25).

God's Word Of Grace - And His Word Of Warning

Exodus 34:1-35
Moses received the Word from the Lord. He brought God’s Word to the people. With God’s Word of grace – “the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God …”, there is also His Word of warning – “He never lets the guilty go unpunished … ” (Exodus 34:6-7). Hearing God’s Word of warning, together with His Word of grace, Moses pleads with God for mercy – “Lord, please go with us … ” (Exodus 34:9). The Lord promises to give His blessing – “I’m making My promise again.” This promise of His blessing is accompanied by His call to obedience – “Do everything that I command today” (Exodus 34:11). When Moses came, from God’s presence, to the people, his “face was shining” (Exodus 34:30,35). This was a sign of the power of the Spirit – filling Him, giving Him strength, equipping Him for the work of ministry,

Compassion And Worship

Exodus 21:1-23:33
Our obedience to God is to take shape within the varied circumstances of everyday life. At the heart of our obedience, there is to be compassion, an expression of God’s compassion (Exodus 22:21,28; Exodus 23:9). At the heart of our obedience, there is to be worship (Exodus 23:14). taking compassion and worship together, we come to the very heart of our obedience to God. It is not compassion without worship. It is not worship without compassion. The spiritual and the social belong together. We need spiritual foundations, leading to social changes. The social does not stand on its own. There needs to be spiritual depth. The ‘spiritual’ does not stand on its own. It is empty formality, if it does not lead to a change in our way of living from day-to-day.

The Great Power Of The Lord

Exodus 14:1-15:27 
Here, we see “the great power of the Lord” (Exodus 14:31). This leads to worship – “I will sing to the Lord. He has won a glorious victory … The Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Saviour. This is my God and I will praise Him … ” (Exodus 15:1-2). In the work of God’s redemption, we see His love and power – “Lovingly You will lead the people You have saved. Powerfully, You will guide them to Your holy dwelling” (Exodus 15:13). This is the greatness of God’s power – it is power which serves the purpose of His love. The Lord is King – “The Lord will rule as King forever and ever” (Exodus 15:18). He is not a tyrant. He is not a dictator. He is the King of love. He loves us. we are to love Him, living for Him and looking to Him to fulfil His promises in our lives.

It's All So Strange!

Exodus 38:1-40:38
All of this may seem so strange to us. Among all the many details, there is one thing which we must not miss. They “made everything that the Lord commanded.” They “followed the Lord’s instructions” (Exodus 38:22; Exodus 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43). God’s people are called to be obedient to Him. We are not to do what we want We are to what He commands. We are to follow His instructions. There can be no “anointing” (Exodus 40:9-15), if there is no obedience. The two go together – obedience and anointing. We are to do everything the Lord commands us. We are to follow His instructions (Exodus 40:16,19). Such obedience to God will involve putting His Word at the centre of our lives. His Word is not so much a Word of demand as a Word of “promise.” It is not so much a Word of law as a Word of “mercy” (Exodus 40:20). Our obedience to God is grounded in our experience of God’s “promise” of “mercy.” Having received this “mercy” of God, promised to us in Jesus Christ, we follow the Lord’s instructions (Exodus 40:21,23,27,29,32). When we have “finished the work” God has given us to do, we must look to Him to send the blessing – “the glory of the Lord filled the tent” (Exodus 40:34-35). In all the strangeness of the world of Old Testament worship, there are deep spiritual lessons for us, lessons which enable us to go on with the Lord – receiving His mercy, obeying His Word, experiencing His glory. God is good to us. He shows His mercy to us. He puts a new Spirit within us – the Spirit of obedience. He sends His glory so that we might rejoice in His presence and be strengthened by His presence.

Knowing The Difference

Leviticus 10:1-11:47
It is vital that we know “the difference between what is holy and what is unholy” (Leviticus 10:10). God calls us to “be holy”, to “live holy lives” (Leviticus 11:44). This is the central point we must see in all the many unfamiliar details of ancient Jewish worship. This is the “permanent law” (Leviticus 10:9,15). This is the teaching which must be passed on to “generations to come.”

Our Sin? or God's Blessing?

Numbers  5:1-6:27
We must take sin seriously. It can lead to a withdrawal of God’s blessing. This is the important and challenging message of Numbers 5. We must not lose sight of God’s purpose for our lives. We are to be “dedicated to the Lord” (Numbers 6:6). It is God’s intention to bless. In His love for us, He continues to speak to us His Word. His promise of blessing is still His Word to us. It is a Word which never ceases to be relevant to His people: “The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Ready To Do The Lord's Work

Numbers 7:1-8:26 
From each tribe, the gifts came. The Levites had a special ministry. For this ministry, they needed to be made “clean” (Numbers 8:5). Through cleansing, they were made “ready to do the Lord’s work” (Numbers 8:11). In a very special sense, God said of them, “the Levites will be Mine” (Numbers 8:14). Between the gifts from the tribes (Numbers 7) and the preparation of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-26), there are the seven lamps on the lampstand, giving “light in front of the lampstand” (Numbers 8:1-4). The lamp stand was made of “gold.”  This is the precious light of God’s Word, shining like gold, which is greater than all the other metals. God’s Word is the light which inspires the giving of the tribes and the ministry of the Levites. Without God’s Word at the centre, everything else means nothing.

Trust in God's Mercy.

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

Come, Holy Spirit. Make Us New.

"We know ... " (John 3:2).
Nicodemus claimed to know a great deal about Jesus.
  • Jesus had done great miracles.
  • These miracles signified that God was with Jesus.
  • Jesus was a teacher, sent by God.
He acknowledged that Jesus was a teacher, sent by God, but did he receive Jesus' teaching? This is an important question for us!
Jesus was unimpressed by Nicodemus' claim to knowledge. Nicodemus could know nothing without a new birth (John 3:3).. The new birth was a "must" (John 3:7).
It is possible to know a great deal, and yet know nothing that really matters.
This is true of our society. We have more knowledge than at any other time in human history, yet there's a strange absence of the kind of knowledge which brings meaning to life.
From Nicodemus, we learn that reason can take us on a journey towards faith, but it will not take us all the way to faith (John 3:4:John 3:9).
We may be impressed by the arguments, used to support the Christian Faith, but there comes a point where we must make a decision. The arguments will not compel anyone to become a believer. They may point us in the direction of faith, but they they still leave us with a decision to make.
We may be influenced by the arguments, but the arguments will not make the decision for us. The arguments provide us with information concerning the Christian Faith. We must decide what we will do with this information.
Nicodemus regarded Jesus as "a teacher of Israel", yet he didn't understand Jesus' teaching. Such understanding comes by faith.
It is possible to know very little, and yet know all that you really need to know. Through faith in Christ, we know the true meaning of our life.
It was an emotional response which brought Nicodemus to Jesus. The real problem came when he was faced with Jesus' testimony (John 3:11). He was intrigued by Jesus, attracted to Him. Jesus was calling for more than that, but Nicodemus wasn't ready to take things on to the next stage. He remained an enquirer. Did he ever become a believer? We don't know. What we can say is this: there's a huge difference between being interested in Jesus and being committed to Him. Faith begins with interest, but it doesn't stop there.
How are we to move beyond an emotional pull towards Jesus? How are we to move on to a real faith? We need to use our minds. We need to read the Bible. We need to ask the big questions - Is Jesus more than a good man? Is He more than a great teacher? Is He the Son of God? Is He our Saviour? Our answers to such questions must be more than intellectual assent. There must be more than that. There must be commitment - the giving of our whole life to Jesus.
The new birth is more than being attracted to Jesus. It's more than paying lip-service to Him. It's turning around to face Him. It's making a new beginning with Him, This is no superficial change. It's a complete change in the direction of our life.
Jesus speaks of the wind of the Spirit (John 3:8). We are to stop going against the wind. We are to start going with the wind - moving in the direction of the love of God, moving in the direction of the Saviour, moving in the direction of faith in Christ, moving in the direction of eternal life (John 3:16).
If you go against the wind of the Spirit, you will be blown along by another wind - "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14).
It is the wind of the Spirit that will carry us beyond an emotional pull towards Jesus.
It is the wind of the Spirit that will lead us to "receive the testimony of Jesus" (John 3:11). It is the wind of the Spirit that will take us further than Nicodemus who "came to Jesus by night" (John 3:2). The Spirit does not create secret disciples, people who are ashamed of their Saviour. The Spirit leads us to say, with Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of every one who believes" (Romans 1:16).
Come, Holy Spirit. Make us new - new in our heart, new in every part of our life.

Lord, when the service of worship comes to an end, may our service of living begin - and never end!

Psalm 132:1-18 
‘Let us go to the Lord’s House; let us worship before His throne’ (Psalm 132:7). Lord, You're calling us to worship You. We are to gather together as Your worshipping people. As we gather for worship, may we remember that You, Lord, are ‘King’. May we give You more than the praise of our lips. May we give You the praise of our lives. We do not only sing to You. We live for You. We come ‘before Your throne’ with this prayer, ‘Take my heart - it is Thine own; It shall be Thy royal throne’. You hear and answer our prayer. You give us Your strength. We rise to Your challenge: ‘Rise up, O Church of God! Have done with lesser things; Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings.’ Lord, when the service of worship comes to an end, may our service of living begin - and never end!

A Faithful Love, An Everlasting Love

Psalm 115:1-18
‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory because of Your love and faithfulness’(Psalm 115:1). We thank You, Lord, that You love us. You love us with a faithful love, ‘an everlasting love’, a ‘love that will not let us go’. Your love ‘never comes to an end’. Nothing can separate us from Your love (Jeremiah 31:3; Lamentations 3:22-23; Romans 8:38-39). What have we done to deserve such love? Absolutely nothing! We are ‘sinners’. We do not deserve to be loved by You. We have done nothing to earn Your love. Love begins with You, Lord. It comes from You. How do we know that You love us? Have we proved ourselves worthy of Your love? No! - ‘God shows His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8). ‘To God be the glory!’

Comforters? or Critics?

In Job 15, we have another speech from Eliphaz. He charges in with all the subtlety of an elephant on the rampage: “you destroy the fear of God, and diminish devotion to God” (Job 15:4). He continues in the same vein, getting bolder and brasher in his word of accusation: “Your sin teaches you what to say. You choose to talk with a sly tongue. Your own mouth condemns you, not I. Your lips testify against you” (Job 15:5-6). Eliphaz did not listen to Job, but he insisted on Job listening to him: “I’ll tell you; listen to me! I’ll relate what I’ve seen, I’ll tell you what wise people have declared” (Job 15:17-18). Eliphaz gives a vivid description of the tortured life of the wicked person (Job 15:20-35). He begins with the words, “The wicked person is tortured all his days” (Job 15:20). This part of his speech is in the third person. While he doesn’t explicitly say, “I’m describing you, Job”, it is perfectly clear that this is what Eliphaz is doing. “This is what you are like, Job” - This is the message that Eliphaz wants Job to take out of his description of “the wicked person.”
Job stands up to his ‘comforters’, who are really his critics: “You are all pathetic at comforting me” (Job 16:2). He is, however, at ‘the end of his tether’, as he tries to understand what is going on in his life: “now, God has worn me out” (Job 16:7). The extent to which Job has been overcome by despair becomes clear in the final verses of Job 17. Again, he stands up to his critics: “I won’t find one wise man among you” (Job 17:10). Again, he feels that his situation is hopeless (Job 17:14-16). As we read of Job’s deep distress, we should remember also the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he hung on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Christ suffered for us - but He also rose again for us. Job catches a glimpse of this when he says, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).

Faithful To God ...

Near to the end of his life on earth, Elijah remained faithful to God. He stands up for God against “Baalzebub, the god of Ekron” (2 Kings 1:6,16). He spoke the Word that had been given to him by God (2 Kings 1:3-4). When Elijah was taken by God “to heaven in a windstorm” (2 Kings 2:11), the question was asked by Elisha, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” (2 Kings 2:14). The answer to this question is given in 2 Kings 2:15: “Elijah’s spirit rests on Elisha.” The names of the prophets change from generation to the next. The Name of the Lord remains constant. It is in the Name of the Lord that God’s servants speak and act.
The power of God was upon Elisha. God was at work in mighty power. When we red about Elisha, we say, in our hearts, ‘This is not about Elisha. This is about God - - God working through Elisha.’ We must always remember to give all the glory to the Lord. The praise does not belong to the servant. It belongs to the Lord. He alone is worthy of praise.
The ministry of Elisha was filled with the power of God. Elisha was “the prophet”, “the man of God” (2 Kings 5:3,8). Before we can speak and work for God, we must belong to Him. We must be the people of God before we can be prophets for God. The power of God changes us. We become “a new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The power of God equips us for service - “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
“Don’t be afraid. We have more forces on our side than they have on theirs.” We need our eyes opened to see “the mountain ... Full of fiery horses and chariots” (2 Kings 6:16-17), The victory comes from “the Lord” (2 Kings 7:6). “This is a day of good news” (2 Kings 7:9). In the Lord, we have the victory, Strengthened by Him, we triumph over our enemies.
Reading about those who do what the Lord considers evil is not happy reading. Reading about God’s judgment upon such people is serious reading. It brings the challenge of God’s Word - “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. What a man sows, he shall also reap” (Galatians 6:7). This challenge is stated clearly in the words, “Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a destiny.”
Royalty and loyalty - The two things are different. Jehu was regarded as royalty, but he wasn’t fully loyal to the Lord. Jehu did some good things, with which the Lord was pleased - “Jehu got rid of Baal worship throughout Israel ... The Lord said to Jehu, ‘You did what I consider right’” (2 Kings 10:28,30). Jehu’s good actions were not the full story of his life. There was also much that was displeasing to the Lord - “Jehu did not turn away from the sins that Jeroboam led Israel to commit - the worship of the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan ... Jehu didn’t wholeheartedly obey the teachings of the Lord God of Israel” (2 Kings 10:29,31).
The history of God’s people, under their various kings, is like a rollercoaster. There are high-points - “They would be the Lord’s people” (2 Kings 11:17). These high-points are often followed by low-points - “Joash did what the Lord considered right ...but the illegal places of worship weren’t torn down” (2 Kings 12:2-3). The reign of Jehoahaz was one of decline - “He did what the Lord considered evil” (2 Kings 13:2). The decline continued under the reign of Jehoash - “He did what the Lord considered evil” (2 Kings 13:11). Despite all the sins of the kings, there was still hope. This hope did not come from the kings. It came from the Lord: “The Lord was kind and merciful to the Israelites because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (2 Kings 13:23).
There were so many kings, and so little submission to the real King, the Lord. Over many generations, the Lord’s purpose for His people seemed to be at a low ebb. Behind all the depressing details of so many disobedient kings, we must learn to see God’s determination to fulfil His promise of blessing. Even in the hard times, God is there. He is ready to revive His work. He waits for His people to call upon in his Name in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
The great decision is always the same. Who will you serve - God or the gods? God’s Word is clear - “Never  worship other gods. Instead, worship the Lord your God” (2 Kings 17:38-39). Our response is not always so clear - “The people of Israel had refused to listen and made up their own rules ... These other nations worshipped the Lord, but also served their own idols” (2 Kings 17:40-41).
“Hezekiah trusted the Lord God of Israel. No king among all the kings of Judah was like Hezekiah. He was loyal to the Lord and never turned away from Him. He obeyed the commands the Lord had given through Moses, so the Lord was with him. He succeeded in everything he tried” (2 Kings 18:5-7). This description of Hezekiah is so encouraging. It’s an oasis in the middle of a desert of so many godless kings.

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 ...