Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Gathered into Christ

"The Feast of Ingathering" (Exodus 23:16).
We are gathered into Christ. Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). This is Good News - but it's not to be kept to ourselves. Good News is for sharing. We're to gather others into Christ. As I thought about this phrase, "the feast of ingathering", my thoughts turned to the words of Psalm 126:5-6 - "Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy." We are to take the "precious seed" with us. We are to sow the "precious seed." We are to trust in the Lord's promise: We "will surely come back with shouts of joy, bringing our sheaves with" us. Our salvation is a tremendous privilege - and so is the service that we offer to our Lord. The Lord has saved us, and we say, "Glory to You, Lord." He has called us to be His servants, and, again, we say, "Glory to You, Lord." We look at our life in Christ - being gathered into Him and gathering others into Him, and we say, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). In the New Testament, we read about a man called Levi (Mark 2:13-14). He was to become Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13). Spiritually, it looked like his life was going nowhere - until Jesus came along, and everything changed. He was never the same again. What a big part Matthew has had in the ingathering of men and women for Christ. He was no longer Levi, a despised and forgotten tax collector. He was Matthew, the Gospel-writer. In Matthew's story, we learn about being gathered into Jesus and gathering in others for Jesus. His story is a story of both conversion and call. His life was turned around. It was turned outward towards others. He had a new purpose in life - winning people for his Saviour. * We see the opening of his eyes. Before Jesus spoke the two life-changing words, "Follow Me", was Levi watching Jesus? Was he seeing something different in Jesus? Was he beginning to see himself differently? Was the Spirit of the Lord working in him, preparing him for these life-transforming words, "Follow Me"? His immediate response - "he got up and followed Jesus" - suggests to us that the Lord was already working in his heart, preparing him for that moment when his new life, his life of discipleship, his life of mission would begin. On the day that Jesus came along, Levi saw himself as he really was - a sinner. He also saw Jesus as He really is - the Saviour of sinners, his Saviour. He was gathered in to Jesus - but this was just the beginning of gathering many others into Jesus. * We see the stirring of his heart. Had Levi noticed Jesus? Had he sensed something of the love of Jesus? Was he already beginning to hope that Jesus might do something special for him? Was the love of Jesus already reaching out to him before Jesus spoke the words, "Follow Me"? One thing we can say is this: Levi's conversion was a conversion of the heart. He gave his whole heart to the Lord Jesus - and, when he speaks to us in his Gospel, he speaks to us from his heart, and he speaks to our hearts. * We see the opening of his ears. As we read Matthew's account of his conversion, we are struck by the power of Jesus' words, "Follow Me." Whatever we may think about what could have been happening in Levi's life prior to that moment, we must say this: The moment that Jesus spoke the words, "Follow Me" was the moment that life began again for Levi. It was the moment that he was saved by the Lord - saved from a life of serving his own interests, saved for a life of serving his Saviour. * We see the changing of his life. Levi, the tax collector, became Matthew, the Gospel-writer - a new name and a new mission. He was not only gathered into Jesus. He began a new life of gathering others into Jesus. * We see the loosening of his tongue. We don't know a lot about Matthew. In Acts, we read of Peter and Paul. They were faithful and fruitful preachers of the Gospel. We don't read about Matthew being a preacher. We do know that, in his Gospel, he was speaking for his Lord. He was letting the world know how much Jesus meant to him. He was playing his part - a very important part - in gathering in men and women for the Saviour. * What about us? Will we play our part in the great "ingathering"? "Return to the Lord ... He will revive us ... He will raise us up ... He will come to us like the rain ... " (Hosea 6:1-3). * Return to the Lord. This is where it begins. A life of faithful and fruitful service to the Lord begins when we return to the Lord, when, like Levi, we say to Jesus, "Yes, Lord. I will follow You." * He will revive us. We pray for revival - a great ingathering of many people to our Saviour. Where does it begin? It begins with ourselves: "He will revive us." * He will raise us up. This is not just a little pick-me-up. This is resurrection. In ourselves, we are spiritually dead. In Christ, our risen Saviour, we are made alive. * He will come to us like the rain. "The spring showers water the land" - This is what we must pray for: a spiritual harvest which will bring many people to the Saviour and much glory to God.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Set Free

"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” (Exodus 21:2).
In the seventh year, the slave could choose to leave his master. The slave was no longer under a legal requirement to remain in the service of his master. In the service of Christ, we are bound to Him by His everlasting love. There is never a point at which we should ever choose to turn back from following Him. Jesus redeemed us by the shedding of His precious blood. Let us serve Him all the days of our life.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Our obedience to God ...

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.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

God's Mercy ...

"showing mercy to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:6).
In there, among the Ten Commandments, there's the word, "mercy" - what a wonderful word! What a wonderful thought - God is merciful. He does not look upon us in our sin. He looks upon us in His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He looks at Jesus - dying on the Cross. He sees Jesus, bearing our sin - and He sees us, receiving Jesus' salvation. "In my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" - This is mercy, and it's right here in the Ten Commandments. How wonderful is this!
God's Word speaks here of our love for the Lord and our obedience to His commandments. Where does this come from? It comes from the Lord - from the God of love, grace and mercy. Before we come to the Ten Commandments, we have the great declaration of God's salvation: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). Real love for the Lord and true obedience to his Word can never be reduced to legalism. It's always much more than that. His love for us inspires our love for Him. Our obedience to His Word is grounded in gratitude for His love.
Thousands came out of Egypt. They had been redeemed by the Lord. They weren't taken straight into the Promised Land. They had to spend many years in the wilderness. Is that not the story of our life? We want to love Him more truly and obey Him more fully - but our sin keeps on holding us back. We're not the finished article. We're a work in progress. Thousands - this is not just about the spiritual leaders, people like Moses and Joshua. This is about ordinary people, people with a story tell: "This is what the Lord has done for me." My story is not your story. Your story is not my story. Each one tells their own story - in their own way. All of us tell the same story - "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me ... " This is mercy - and it's reached so many different people: different names, different faces, different places, one Saviour - Jesus.
How does God's mercy lead us in the pathway of loving him more truly and obeying Him more fully?
"May your Spirit make us look at the commandments not as a set of observances. May they move us to serve you not in a slavish way but as your sons and daughters who love you and whom you have set free. May we thus fulfil more than the law and serve you as your sons and daughters, in whom you recognize Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord forever."
"As grateful children of God, let us put our hearts into seeking in the commandments not our will but the will of God, so that we do not ask what God orders us to do but simply how we can respond to his love and show that love to the people around us."
"Commandments are not just observances that guarantee our salvation. they are a response to all God has given us. We ask God not what we are obliged to do, but what He expects us to do to respond to his love."
"May we learn from Jesus that love is the heart of the law and that true love knows how to serve" (Camilo J. Marivoet, "Liturgy Alive - Models of Celebration: Weekdays", pp. 314-316)
We've read about "thousands", receiving God's mercy, "thousands", learning to love God and obey Him. God's Word describes, for us, the glory of heaven. It says that there will be "a great multitude, which no man could number" (Revelation 7:9). How amazing is this! We'll come from different nations, different languages, different cultures and different centuries. Each of us will come with a different story to tell - our own unique story of what the Lord has done for us. There will be so many differences, but they will mean nothing to us. We will all be singing the same song. We'll be singing, "Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb" (Revelation 7:10). As we think of where we have come from - the depths of sin - and where we have been brought to - the heights of glory, we will sing to the Lord: "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might be to our God for ever and ever" (Revelation 7:12).

Friday, 23 September 2016

What God has done for His people ...

Exodus 18:1-20:26
The Word of God tells us what God has done for His people: "the Lord saved them" (Exodus 18:8). The Word of God teaches us that being saved by the Lord places us under responsibility to be obedient to Him (Exodus 19:4-5). the vital connection between salvation and obedience is brought out clearly in the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Before speaking to His people about what they must do if they are to live as His obedient people, God reminds them of what He has done for them: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt" (Exodus 20:2). We must never forget how much the Lord has done for us. If we lose sight of His love, His grace and His mercy, so wonderfully revealed to us in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, our 'obedience' will be nothing but legalism. Real obedience comes from real salvation. It comes to us from the God of our salvation.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Lord provides.

Exodus 16:1-17:16
The Lord provides. Through the provision of manna and water, the Lord sustains His people. Strong in Him, they press on to victory. This is a picture of the Christian life. Before we can be soldiers of Christ, we must receive our strength from the Lord. We come to Him, looking to Him for strength - His strength. Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water (John 6:51: John 4:14). Strengthened by Him, we will not be defeated. We will be victorious - "more than conquerors through Him who loved us." His love will give us the victory. "Nothing will be able to separate us from His love" (Romans 8:37-39). In the provision of manna and water, we see love. In the victory over the Amalekites, we see the victory of love: "Love has the victory forever." The God who loved His people - revealing His love in the Exodus, maintaining His love in the wilderness - gave them the victory.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

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.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

"God will surely visit you" (Exodus 13:19).

"God will surely visit you" (Exodus 13:19).
Sometimes, when we’re reading the Scriptures, there are some words that just jump out at us. We say to ourselves, “That was just what I needed to read.” We say to God, “Thank You, Lord for that Word. You’ve spoken Your Word to me. It was just the right Word – for me, for right now.” Here’s a great word of encouragement – “God will surely visit you” (Exodus 13:19). What a great privilege this is – God visits us! Are we ready for His visit? Do we pretend that we’re not in when He comes knocking on our door? or Are we so pleased to get a visit from Him? Often, we’re so busy with small things – things that don’t really matter that much in the light of eternity – that we fail to give the Lord an enthusiastic welcome.
As I thought about these words of encouragement – “God will surely visit you”, I looked at the rest of the verse and read these words, “the bones of Joseph”! Here, we see the realism of God’s Word. It lifts us up to the eternal God, but it also keeps our feet on the ground – with a reminder of our mortality! Do we need to hear about “the bones of Joseph”? – Of course, we do! We’re not going to go on forever. “The bones of Joseph” – there’s more than this. There are the heavenly “mansions” (John 14:2). Then, we’ll be going to “visit” the Lord. We’ll be more than visitors. We’ll “dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). That’s our glorious future. This is what we have to look forward to!
Here-and-now, we must settle for something less than that. We’re not quite ready for the fullness of His glory. He’s preparing us for glory. He’s giving us His visitations. He’s giving us ” a foretaste of glory divine.” How well prepared will be for the full revelation of God’s glory? We’ll never be fully prepared. We’ll always be sinners. We can, however, draw encouragement from God’s precious promise – “God will surely visit you.” Here-and-now, we must learn to appreciate God’s visitations. They’re preparing us for something better – “Eye has not seen. Ear has not heard. Neither has it entered into the heart what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Monday, 19 September 2016

The purpose of the Passover

Exodus 12:1-13:22
The purpose of the Passover was to build a bridge between the past, the present and the future: "Remember this day - the day when you left Egypt, the land of slavery. The Lord used His mighty hand to bring you out of there" (Exodus 13:3), "In the future, when your children ask you what this means, tell them, " 'The Lord used His mighty hand to bring us out of slavery in Egypt'" (Exodus 13:14). What must be remembered about these events is this: the Lord was in control. Once they had come out of Egypt, God continued to be in control of their journey. In Exodus 13:17-18, we read that God closed one door - "the shortest route" - and opened another door. God's perfect way may not always be "the shortest route" - but it is His way, and it's the best way.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

More plagues, more opportunities for repentance ...

Exodus 9:1-11:10
More plagues, more opportunities for repentance - God was appealing to Pharaoh to change his mind about God and the people of God. The call to repentance was ignored. Pharaoh put on a show of repentance (Exodus 9:27-28; Exodus 10:16-17). - but he didn't mean it: "Pharaoh was stubborn", "the Lord made him stubborn" (Exodus 9:35; Exodus 10:20). He was a man of unbelief. God confirmed him in his unbelief. the final plague - the death of the firstborn - represented the end of the road for Pharaoh - "the Lord made Pharaoh stubborn" (Exodus 11:10). God was saying, 'Enough is enough.' God was going to bring His people out of Egypt - with or without Pharaoh's permission. there were good things happening - "the Lord made the Egyptians kind to the people. And Moses was highly respected by Pharaoh's officials and all the Egyptians" (Exodus 11:3) - but this didn't change the fact that Pharaoh was resistant to God. This resistance did not hinder God in the outworking of His great purpose of salvation.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

In the bad times as well as the good times ...

“Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw” (Exodus 5:14).
When everything seems to be going from bad to worse, we must pray that God will give us the strength that we need to keep on loving Him, trusting Him and serving Him. Our circumstances may have changed. Nothing seems to be going right. We didn’t think it would turn out this way. Has our Saviour changed? Has He gone away and left us? No! He hasn’t. He’s still with us. Are we still with Him? or Do we opt out when the going gets tough? Lord, You are faithful to us. Keep us faithful to You.

Friday, 16 September 2016

It gets worse before it gets better ...

Exodus 5:1-8:31
It gets worse before it gets better. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse for God's people. They become "discouraged" (Exodus 6:9). They were unable to look beyond their present difficulties. They needed the Lord's Word of encouragement - "The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I use My power against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of there" (Exodus 7:5). Before there was salvation for Israel, there needed to be judgment for Egypt. The judgments on Egypt (the "plagues") were a call to repentance. If there had been a willingness to listen to God's Word at the beginning, these "plagues" would not have happened. Each "plague" was a call to repentance as well as a judgment on disobedience. Each "plague" could have been the last - if Pharaoh had said 'Yes' to the Lord. Pharaoh said 'No', and the "plagues" continued.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

In Moses, there is great weakness. In the Lord, there is great strength.

Exodus 4:1-31
In Moses, there is great weakness. In the Lord, there is great strength. By himself, Moses was completely out of his depth. With God, Moses would go from strength to strength. He had God's promise as well as God's command: "Now go, and I will help you speak and will teach you what to say" (Exodus 4:12). Moses was not to be left on his own. As well as having the help of the Lord, he would also have the help of Aaron, his brother: "I will help both of you speak, and I will teach you what to do" (Exodus 4:15). Moses and Aaron were not to work in isolation from the other "leaders of the people of Israel." They were to share with them "everything the Lord had said" (Exodus 4:29-30). God's Word to Israel was a Word of power - He "did miraculous signs for the people" (Exodus 4:30) - and love - "The Lord was concerned about the people of Israel" (Exodus 4:31).

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Moses was called to be a servant of God's people.

Exodus 3:1-22
Moses was called to be a servant of God's people. He was to be the leader who would play an important part in bringing the blessing of God to the people of Israel. He was not to be a 'lone ranger.' He was to "assemble the leaders of Israel" (Exodus 3:16). He was to share with them the Lord's vision for His people's future. God was taking them away from "misery." He was leading them on to blessing - " a land flowing with milk and honey." Moses was not to go to the Pharaoh as a 'lone ranger' - "you and the leaders must go to the King of Egypt" (Exodus 3:18). There are important lessons here for God's servants today. We move forward together - as "one body in Christ."

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The stage is set for a mighty work of God ...

Exodus 1:1-2:25
The stage is set for a mighty work of God. The Lord's people face a crisis situation. they are being oppressed by the Egyptians. God sees what is happening. He is making His plans - to give His people a better future. It may have seemed like God was doing nothing about Israel's problems - "a  long time passed " (Exodus 2:23). God was not standing back, paying no attention to what was going on. He was busy - preparing Moses to be the leader of His people. He was taking steps towards the great event of the deliverance from the oppressors. God was looking ahead to the Exodus and the movement from the land of bondage to the land of promise - "He remembered His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Exodus 2:24), and He was about to fulfil this promise with a mighty demonstration of His saving power.

Monday, 12 September 2016

"God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20).

"God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20).
Sometimes, when we're going through the mill, it can be difficult to see God in the things that are happening to us - but that doesn't mean that He isn't there. It just means that we can't see Him. We're looking for Him, but we can't find Him. Is He hiding from us? Is He trying to confuse us? No! He's waiting in the background - "From a distance, God is watching us." When we see nothing but clouds in our sky, we must keep on believing that the sun is waiting to shine. God is there. His Son is there. His Spirit is giving the strength that we need. There is light at the end of the tunnel. God is leading us out of our dark times. He's leading us to the place, where we will see that He never left us. He was there all the time, leading us to the place where we will say, "God meant it for good."

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Sent To Bring Life

Sent To Bring Life
"God sent me before you to preserve life" (Genesis 45:5).
We are to bring life. That's why God has sent us. We are to bring the Saviour. We are to bring the Scriptures. We are to bring the Spirit. People coming to the Saviour, people learning from the Scriptures, people walking in the Spirit - this is what we're praying for and working for.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Power Of God And The Blessing Of God

The Power Of God And The Blessing Of God
"It is not in me. God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace" (Genesis 41:16).
Can any of us speak the Word of God - and bring blessing to others? - "It is not in me." Our words will never bring blessing to anyone, unless God is in our words. The real power comes from God. The real blessing comes from Him.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Word Of The Lord And The Spirit Of The Lord

The Word Of The Lord And The Spirit Of The Lord
"Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8).
It's a great blessing to have the Word of the Lord. There's another great blessing. God has given to us the Holy Spirit. Through the working of the Holy Spirit in us, the Word of God comes alive. It is more than just a book. It is the Word of God to me. It is the Word of God to you. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes. He shows us Jesus. he leads us to Jesus. He gives us love for Jesus. Thank God for His written Word. Thank Him for the Holy Spirit. We read the Word, and the Holy Spirit says to us, "This is for you."

Thursday, 8 September 2016

God's Blessing Overflows.

God's Blessing Overflows.
"The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake" (Genesis 39:5).
God's blessing overflows. We go back to Genesis 39:2 - "the Lord was with Joseph." God was blessing Joseph - and His blessing overflowed to others

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Be Real!

"The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau" (Genesis 27:22).
Be real! What we are and what we appear to be can be two very different things. God is calling us out of hypocrisy and into holiness. There can be no real holiness if we're only trying to keep up appearances. God is looking for holiness of heart. This is so different from the "holiness" of the Pharisees. That wasn't holiness. It was hypocrisy. Lord, deliver us from hypocrisy, and lead us into holiness.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Open Doors And Closed Doors

"The Lord appeared to Isaac and said,'Do not go down to Egypt, settle in the land that I shall show you" (Genesis 26:2).
Sometimes, God says, "No" - "This is not the way you are to go." Sometimes, He says, "Yes" - "This is the way you are to go." The Lord "opens and no one shuts." He "shuts and no one opens." At the crossroads of life, where we must make decisions concerning the direction our life is going to take, it is good to have the Lord's promise: "I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut" (Revelation 3:7-8). "Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies and walk in it and find rest for your souls" Help us, Lord, not to be like those who looked at the good way, and said, "We will not walk in it" (Jeremiah 6:16). Help us to choose the good way - and not the bad way.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Gathered To His People

“Gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8,17)
This phrase caught my attention. It brought to mind the words of Jesus – ” … they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect … from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31). What a great and glorious future the Lord is preparing for His people! We thank the Lord for what He done. We look forward, and we say, “The best is yet to be” – “if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Let The Living Water Flow.

“And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away” (Genesis 21:25, King James Version).
As I read this verse, I found myself thinking about God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Through God’s written Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to us His Word of “reproof” and “correction” (2 Timothy 3:16). In His ministry of reproof, He says to us, “This is not the way you are to go.” In His ministry of correction, He says to us, “This is the way you are to go.” Leading us out of the wrong way and into the right way – this is the Spirit’s ministry of reproof and correction. Jesus speaks of this ministry of the Spirit – He leads us out of “sin” and into “righteousness” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit calls us to look at ourselves honestly. He shows us that we “have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus calls us to “come to Him and drink.” He says to us that, when we believe in Him, “rivers of living water will flow from our hearts” (John 7:37-38).

Saturday, 3 September 2016

God's Blessing - Given, Accepted And Enjoyed (Genesis 12 & 13)

The “land” was given to Abraham by God. It was to be the land of His “blessing” (Genesis 12:1-3).  God’s gift of grace calls forth our response – “Abraham went, as the Lord had spoken to him” (Genesis 12:4). God had spoken. Abraham had acted upon God’s Word. Was it all plain sailing after that? No! There were trying times ahead of Abraham, times when he had to keep his eyes on the Lord. Receiving God’s gift of salvation does not guarantee that we will always walk with the Lord. We fall into sin – when we take our eyes off the Lord. “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land” (Genesis 12:10). What are we make of this? What was going on here? Here are two different ways of looking at this situation – “Even when we are where God wants us to be, all will not necessarily go well for us materially – no matter what the prosperity gospel teaches. Abram was in the land God had sent him to, but that land was afflicted by famine (Genesis 12:10). The Lord does, however, guarantee to provide a way out. While there was famine in Canaan, there was enough food in Egypt and so Abram went there to wait till the famine in Canaan was over (Genesis 12:11)” (Africa Bible Commentary); “During a time of serious famine, Abram left the place of God’s choosing and fled to Egypt, a symbol of the world. This move bred trouble” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). Was Abram led by the Lord to go to Egypt? or Did he take a wrong turning? One thing we can say is this: When Abraham arrived in Egypt, he needed to be very careful. There’s a lesson for us here: We are not to rest content with receiving God’s gift of salvation. We are to press on from the beginnings of our faith. We are to press on to a greater enjoyment of our salvation. This growing joy in the Lord is more than looking back and saying, “There was a day in my life when I accepted Jesus as my Saviour.” We look back with thanksgiving. We say, “O happy day that fixed my choice on You, my Saviour and my God” – but we must not remain in the past. The life of faith is for here-and-now. The vow that we made to the Lord when we first came is to be renews day-by-day: “So God, who heard my solemn vow, in daily prayer shall hear my voice till in my final breath I bow and bless the day that fixed my choice” (P. Doddridge, this version - Jubilate Hymns). Abraham let the Lord down. He had accepted the Lord’s will for his life, and then he had lost his way. Did he lose his way by going to Egypt? or Did he lose his way once he had arrived in Egypt? Whatever may be said about Abraham losing his way, there is something we must not overlook: Abraham found his way back to the Lord. He learned from his mistakes.If his time in Egypt taught him anything, it taught him this: Be careful. Abram saw that “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” – and Abraham made sure that he kept well away from that place (Genesis 13:8-13, “Lot got grass for his cattle. Abram got grace for his children”, Believer’s Bible Commentary – Lot plunged into worldliness. Abraham progressed into holiness). We are not saved by our great holiness. We are saved by the grace of God – the God who gives to us His salvation. We receive this salvation through faith in Christ – “it is not our own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). We need, however, to be reminded, again and again, that our joy in the Lord will only grow strong when we are learning to walk with Him on the pathway of holiness – “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works … ” (Ephesians 2:10).

Friday, 2 September 2016

Great Sin And Even Greater Grace

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth" (Genesis 6: 5) - This is great sin. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8) - This is even greater grace. God could have looked on the whole human race , and said, "Enough is enough. That's us finished." He didn't do this. He didn't give up on us. He kept on going - with His purpose of grace, His plan of salvation. Beyond the flood, there was the new beginning. God was doing a new thing. This was the work of His grace. It had nothing to do with human righteousness. It had everything to do with divine mercy - the saving grace of God. When you read about the flood, look beyond the destruction - and see the salvation of God.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Beginning Of Conflict And The Promise Of Victory

“Created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) - “God saw everything that He had created … it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). At the end of Genesis 1, things couldn’t get any better. It looked so promising. The future looked bright with hope. It was bright with the light of God’s love. Everything looked so good. Could things get any better than this? Sometimes when we feel like this, there can be trouble just around the next corner! That’s what we have in Genesis 3. It begins with the question, “Did God say?” (Genesis 3:1). This is asking for trouble – big trouble! Before long, questioning becomes contradiction – “the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God says one thing. The serpent (Satan – see Revelation 12:9) says something else. He says the exact opposite! From that moment, there was conflict – but there was also the promise of victory. In Genesis 3:15, there’s a great prophecy. It points forward to the death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. The serpent – Satan – bruises our Saviour’s heel. Jesus was crucified. This is the bruising of His heel. Beyond the pain of crucifixion, there was, for Jesus, the mighty triumph of resurrection. Jesus triumphed over Satan. It was not Satan’s heel that was bruised. It was his head! The heel and the head – what a difference there is between the two! Jesus has the upper hand! The victory belongs to Jesus. The conflict is “fierce.” The victory is “secure.” While we are on this earth, we can never escape the conflict. Satan will keep on badgering us. He will keep on sowing his seeds of doubt – “Did God say?” We are not alone in this battle. God keeps on coming to us. He comes with His grace – and He comes with His question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” He’s inviting us to walk with Him on the pathway of salvation, sanctification and service. He does not lift us above the conflict – but He does give us the victory: His victory. When Satan comes to us, may God give us strength to say, “No.” When Jesus comes to us, may we receive His strength, the strength to say “Yes”, the strength to say, “By Thy call of mercy … By Thy grand redemption, By Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side; Saviour, we are Thine… Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine.”

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Beginning a New Year with God

Psalm 119:105-112
We begin the year with the words of verse 105: ‘Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’. This a great text with which to begin the year. It is a great starting-point for these studies in God’s Word. As we journey through life with God and His Word, we discover that there is a Word from the Lord for every part of life’s journey. There is never a time when God has nothing to say to His people. Sometimes, He speaks to us from places which seem rather unlikely. As we explore His Word, we learn that He is the true and living God, ever ready to bring to us something new, something fresh, something that will send us on our way rejoicing, something that will strengthen our faith, something to deepen our commitment to Christ, something to increase our love for the Saviour. As we receive God’s Word - ‘a lamp to our feet and a light to our path’ - we are to pray, ‘renew my life, O Lord, according to Your Word’ (107).

Christmas Message

Let’s think about the meaning of Christmas. What does it mean in the countdown to Christmas Day? What will it mean for us when we’re in the middle of January? What will it mean six months from now? Christmas is coming. Jesus is coming. Christmas comes. Christmas goes. Jesus comes. Jesus stays. When Christmas comes to an end, Jesus doesn’t leave us. When Boxing Day begins, Jesus is still with us.

Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus is more than Christmas. If Christmas was all that we had, would we really be saying, “I wish it could be Christmas every day”? Wouldn’t we be asking, “When does everything get back to normal”? Normal? What is normal? Normal seems so unexciting. Normal is this – Jesus is with us. He’s with us every day. Our ordinary days are very different from Christmas Day. Can we ever say, “This is just an ordinary day” – when Jesus is with us every day?

Soon, Christmas 2016 will be behind us. The old year will come to an end. We’ll be into the New Year. The years come. The years go. Jesus remains the same. He’s our ‘Forever Friend’ – our faithful Saviour. He’s “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). When Christmas 2016 has been forgotten, Jesus will still remember us. When New Year Resolutions have been abandoned, He will still be our Friend and our Saviour. We forget. Jesus remembers. There’s never any problem with His memory. There is, however, one thing that He does forget. He forgets our sins! - “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 10:17).

How does Jesus forget our sins? - He could remember them. There’s no problem with His memory. He chooses to forget them. There’s no problem with His love! “I will remember their sins no more.” – That’s not a bad memory. That’s love. It’s great love. It’s the greatest love of all. It’s the love of Jesus - our great Saviour.

When Christmas comes, let Jesus come to you. He won’t come and go. He comes to stay. Here’s a prayer you can pray. It’s not just a prayer for Christmas Day. It’s a prayer you can pray right now. “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.” This is the true meaning of Christmas. It’s more than that. It’s what life is all about. “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart.”

We wish you happiness - at Christmas and in the New Year. We wish you more than that. We wish you a happy life. “Happiness is to know the Saviour, Living a life within His favour, Having a change in my behaviour, Happiness is the Lord.” When Christmas is over and the New Year has begun, may each of us join, with Paul, in saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). 

May God bless each of you – at Christmas, in the New Year and every day: “May God’s blessing surround you each day, as you trust Him and walk in His way. May His presence within guard and keep you from sin, go in peace, go in joy, go in love.”                                                                                                                          

Revised Common Lectionary - Year B

This post is not well formatted. I need to work on it. It will take time. 
I have already improved the format of Year A, and have still to do this for Years B and C. I hope you can find what you're looking for without too much difficulty.
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YEAR B
First Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to our prayer.
We confess our sins to God - ‘We sinned... All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. We look to God for forgiveness - ‘Do not remember our sins for ever’ (Isaiah 64:5-6, 9). We know that God hears and answers our prayer. Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to our prayer. He has ‘come down’ from heaven to earth. ‘The Son of the Most High’ has been ‘born’ into our world. Jesus Christ is God’s way of saying ‘Here am I! Here am I!’ He is ‘God with us’ (Isaiah 64:1; 65:1; Luke 1:32, 35; Matthew 1:23). ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’. Let us ‘confess our sins’. ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’- Let us come to God with faith, believing that He ‘will forgive our sins’. (1 John 1:7, 9). Let us rejoice in Jesus, our Saviour!
We pray for salvation. God gives His Answer – Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
‘Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved’ (Psalm 80:3). This prayer for salvation is repeated with a growing sense of God’s greatness - ‘O God Almighty’ (Psalm 80:7), ‘O Lord God Almighty’ (Psalm 80:19). To those who are asking the question of salvation - ‘What must I do to be saved?’ - , God gives His answer - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:30-31). What does the Lord say to those who look to Christ for salvation? - ‘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). Let us worship Him: ‘Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer’ (Ephesians 1:3).
Christ is our full salvation. Let us rejoice and be glad in Him.
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4). He preached ‘Christ crucified’with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’(2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).
With Christ as our Saviour, we are a people of hope.
We are not to be a people whose ‘faith’ is locked in the past! We are to be a people of hope. We look to the future. We ‘see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory’ (Mark 13:26). There may be ‘wars and rumours of wars’ (Mark 13:7). When Christ returns, only one thing will matter: ‘he who endures to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:13). ‘This day - the noise of battle’: Look beyond all that to ‘the victor’s song’(Church Hymnary, 481). In human conflict, there is so much of self - ‘We are the people’. When Christ returns, nothing will matter but this: ‘When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there’ (Mission Praise,759). We hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars’. Do we say, ‘This is part of our history. It’s always been this way’?. We must remember: Preaching Christ's Gospel is far more important than ‘defending’our ways (10)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Second Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
‘The Lord is the everlasting God... He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak... those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength...’ (Isaiah 40:28-31). Far too often, we say, ‘I can’t’when we really mean ‘I won’t’. ‘I can’t’- This is an insult to the power of God. The Lord calls us to do something special for Him. We say, ‘I can’t’. What are we really saying? This is what we are saying - ‘Lord, I don’t believe Your promise - “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength”’. Don’t say, ‘I can’t’. Don’t get so busy with other things that you fail to wait upon the Lord and renew your strength. When the Lord calls you to serve Him, say, ‘Yes, Lord, I will wait upon You. I will renew my strength. I will do Your will’.
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me.
We are to pray for revival - ‘Restore us again, O God our Saviour... Will You not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4, 6). We are to pray that God will ‘grant us His salvation’. We are to pray that ‘His saving presence will remain in our land’. We must pray that ‘His glory may dwell in our land’ (Psalm 85:7, 9). We are to pray for real listening - ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord - ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing - ‘He will speak peace to His people’ (Psalm 85:8). Prayer for revival does not begin as a prayer for others. It begins with ourselves: ‘O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival - start the work in me’. It begins with this prayer: “Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine’ (Mission Praise, 587).
Centred on Christ, our life is filled with grace and glory,
‘Grow’ in Christ and give ‘glory’ to Him. Centred on ‘our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, our life is filled with ‘grace’and ‘glory’. From Him, we receive ‘grace’ - ‘From the fulness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another’. From Him, we receive ‘glory’ - ‘I have given them the glory that You gave Me’ (2 Peter 3:18; John 1:16; 17:22). Where does this life of grace and glory begin? It begins with God. In ourselves, there is sin. In Him, there is salvation. ‘He is patient with us.’ He waits for us to ‘come to repentance.’ He shows us our sin so that we might learn to look to our Saviour - ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation’ (2 Peter 3:9; 2 Corinthians 7:10). Turn to the Lord. Let it be real. Let Him lead you in His pathway - the pathway of grace and glory.
In Christ, we become a new creation.
This is a new ‘beginning’. The prophets had spoken. Now, the Saviour has come. This is Good News. John has prepared the way. Now, he stands aside to make way for Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mark 1:1, 11). Following Jesus’baptism, there was temptation. This was Kingdom against kingdom. Satan’s kingdom was under threat. The Kingdom of God had come. Christ triumphed over Satan. In Him, we triumph when, hearing the Gospel declaration - ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’- , we obey the Gospel command - ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:15). With the command, ‘Follow Me’, there is the promise, ‘I will make you...’ (Mark 1:17). Christ’s call is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). It is truth - a call to discipleship. It is grace - a call from Jesus. In Christ, we become ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become ‘fishers of men’ (Mark 1:17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Third Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126 (or Luke 1:47-55); 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
God has given us the Good News of salvation: Jesus Christ.
‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me... to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus has fulfilled these words (Luke 4:18-21). Jesus has come, ‘proclaiming the Good News of God’. He tells us that ‘the time has come’. This is the time of opportunity, the time for making our response to Jesus Christ. He calls for our response - ‘Repent and believe the Good News!’ He calls us to make our response now - ‘now is the acceptable time... now is the day of salvation’ (Mark 1:14-15; 2 Corinthians 6:2). There will come a time when the time of opportunity comes to an end. When Christ returns ‘with power and great glory’, it will be ‘the Day of vengeance of our God’. We do not know when Christ will return. Get ‘ready’for His Return. Put your ‘faith’in Him (Isaiah 61:2; Matthew 24:30, 36, 44; 25:13; Luke 18:8).
God has given us a solid Rock for our faith: Jesus Christ.
‘Those who trust in the Lord... cannot be moved...’ When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash.’ ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’ (Psalms 125:1; 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’ (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10, 411). ‘Christ died for our sins... He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’ (Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
God has given us a Song of praise: Jesus Christ has come to our world.
There are two great ‘songs of praise’ here (Luke 1:46-55, 67-79). God was doing ‘a new thing.’ His people were rejoicing in Him. Great things were happening. Greater things were going to happen. Soon, the Saviour would be born. The birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-66) - This was great. The birth of our Saviour - This would be even greater. Mary and Zechariah felt the touch of God upon their lives, and their hearts were filled with praise to God: ‘When I feel the touch of Your hand upon my life, it causes me to sing a song that I love You, Lord. So from deep within my spirit singeth unto Thee, You are my King, You are my God, and I love You Lord’ (Mission Praise, 753). John was ‘in the wilderness.’ He ‘became strong in spirit’ (Luke 1:80). May God help us to grow spiritually, even when life is not very easy!
God has given us a glorious Hope: Jesus Christ is coming again.
Do you feel like giving up? God is not about to give up on you: ‘He who calls you is utterly faithful and He will finish what He set out to do’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He has a great future for us: ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We look forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘The Lord Himself will descend from heaven’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16). We look forward to heavenly and eternal glory: ‘We shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the kind of encouragement we need. We are to remind one another of these things: ‘Comfort one another with these words’ (1 Thessalonians 4:18). We are ‘to encourage one another’ to go on with the Lord. Let’s ‘build one another up’, encouraging each other to build on ‘the Rock’ which is ‘Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Matthew 7:24-27).
God has given us Himself: Jesus Christ is God.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (John 1:1-3; Revelation 21:6). He is ‘the Word... made flesh.’ ‘We have seen His glory’ (John 1:14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2). From Him, there is creation (John 1:1-3). From Him, there is salvation (John 1:12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:1, 29, 34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’ (John 1:1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’ (John 1:18). Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (John 14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fourth Sunday of Advent: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (or Luke 1:47-55); Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
Look beyond David. Look beyond Solomon. Jesus Christ is the King of kings.
David was king. God was looking on to the next king, Solomon. Knowing the kind of man Solomon would become, God speaks of chastening: ‘When he does wrong, I will chasten him.’ This chastening is an expression of God’s ‘steadfast love’: ‘Those whom I love, I rebuke and chasten’. How do we respond to God’s chastening? Don’t be like ‘Saul.’ He was ‘put away from’ being king because of his continual disobedience. ‘Be zealous and repent.’ When you are being chastened, don’t forget the love of God: ‘The Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.’ Why does God chasten His children? - ‘He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.’ Beyond the ‘pain’ of ‘discipline’, there is ‘the peaceful fruit of righteousness’ (2 Samuel 7:14-15; Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-11).
Come to Jesus Christ and say, “I will sing of the Lord’s Great love for ever.”
‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’ (Psalm 89:1). Many years have passed since these words were written by the Psalmist. Many generations have come and gone since Jesus Christ came to our world. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time. There is something which must never change. The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever.’ He is to be praised ‘through all generations.’ We must look back and remember. Jesus Christ was crucified for us. Jesus Christ has risen for us. This is the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever...’
Come to Jesus Christ and say from your heart, “I love You, Lord.”
There are two great ‘songs of praise’ here (Luke 1:46-55, 67-79). God was doing ‘a new thing.’ His people were rejoicing in Him. Great things were happening. Greater things were going to happen. Soon, the Saviour would be born. The birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-66) - This was great. The birth of our Saviour - This would be even greater. Mary and Zechariah felt the touch of God upon their lives, and their hearts were filled with praise to God: ‘When I feel the touch of Your hand upon my life, it causes me to sing a song that I love You, Lord. So from deep within my spirit singeth unto Thee, You are my King, You are my God, and I love You, Lord’ (Mission Praise, 753). John was ‘in the wilderness.’ He ‘became strong in spirit’ (Luke 1:80). May God help us to grow spiritually, even when life is not very easy!
Come to Jesus Christ and let Him make you strong for God.
Paul was writing to a Church with big problems (Romans 16:17-18). Deeply influenced by the wrong kind of people, the Church gets bogged down in ‘dissensions and difficulties.’ Critical, fault-finding people exert an extremely divisive influence. They look after their own interests. They only think about themselves. Nothing else matters to them. They manipulate other people - to get their own way. They go out of their way to get their own way! The problem may be great - but the power of God is greater (Romans 16:19-20)! Strengthened by ‘the God of peace’ and ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’, let us press on in ‘obedience’ to God, claiming His victory over ‘Satan.’ Let ‘the preaching of Jesus Christ’ make you strong for God (Romans 16:25-27).
Come to Jesus Christ and let the Holy Spirit come upon you.
God was about to do ‘a new thing’(Isaiah 43:19). It was centred on Christ, though John also played his part (Luke 1:31-33, 16-17). There were obstacles - Zechariah and Elizabeth were ‘old’ (Luke 1:18), and Mary had ‘no man’ (Luke 1:34). What were these obstacles to God? - Nothing: ‘with God nothing will be impossible’ (Luke 1:37). How are we to respond to God’s ‘new thing’? - ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38). How will God’s ‘new thing’make progress among us? - Through the power of the Holy Spirit: ‘he will be filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 1:15), ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you...’ (Luke 1:34). ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome you... Move among us with holy fire... Let the breeze of your presence flow... Please accomplish in me today, some new work of loving grace, I pray; Unreservedly have Your way...’ (Mission Praise, 241).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) I – Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14, (15-20) (same for all three years)
Glory to God in the highest – our Saviour has come.
The prophecy has been spoken - ‘To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given...’. The prophecy has been fulfilled - ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord’.
Jesus Christ is our great Saviour. He is our ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6: Luke 2:11).
Jesus Christ has brought to us a great salvation. Through faith in Him, we enter God’s heavenly and eternal ‘Kingdom’ (Isaiah 9:7: Luke 1:30-33).
This is ‘Good News of great joy’- for ‘all the people’, for ‘all generations’.
Let us rejoice in the Lord, as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did - ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for the Mighty One has done great things for me...’
Let us join with the angels in saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest...’ (Luke 2:10; 1:46-50; 2:14).
Christ: King of glory, King of love - may the glory of His love shine in us.
‘The Lord reigns’ (Psalms 96:10; 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’
He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’
He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’ (Church Hymnary, 35, 36, 388, 360, 86).
His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life.
He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life.
Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do.
We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’ and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).
Christ is coming in glory. Christ is preparing us for glory.
We read in Titus 2:11,13 of Christ’s coming in grace- ‘the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people’- and His coming in glory- ‘we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’. From grace to glory - This is the journey from Christ’s first coming to His Second Coming.
It is also the journey of our life of faith. We begin with the forgiveness of our sins. our final destination is glory, heavenly and eternal glory, the glory of God. We live by the grace of God. We look forward to the glory of God.
God wants us to live as ‘a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds’(Titus 2:14). If we are to be ‘zealous for good deeds’, we must first be zealous for Jesus Christ. Do good - but never forget, ‘He saved us - not because of deeds done by us...’(Titus 3:8, 4-6).
The full revelation of Christ’s glory is still to come. Let it begin in us now.
God is in control! Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Long before it happened, God had it planned (Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2-3).
As we approach Christ's Return, God still has His plan. He is still in control.
The birth of Christ is not merely an event from the past. It is also a message for the future.
We look back so that we can move forward.
We are fearful about many things. ‘What's the world coming to?’, we ask. God turns our question on its head: ‘Christ is coming to the world’.
From His first coming, we look on to His Second Coming - He ‘will come to all the people’(Luke 2:10): ‘every eye will see Him’(Revelation 1:7).
His Return invites us to ask another question: ‘when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?’(Luke 18:8).
For you, is it still ‘before Christ’? Let the ‘new age’ begin: Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11) - in your heart!
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The Bible Readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) II – Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2: (1-7), 8-20
God has given us ‘a new Name’. It is ‘the Name which is above every name’, the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 62:2; Philippians 2:9-11).
Christ loves us. He has given Himself for us. He calls us His ‘Bride’ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9).
Through faith in Christ, we have become ‘the Holy People’. Through Him, we are ‘the Redeemed of the Lord’. We have been ‘Sought After’ by the Lord. In Him, we are ‘the City No Longer Deserted’ (Isaiah 62:12; 1 Peter 2:9-9-10; 1:18-19; Luke 19:10; John 14:18).
‘There is a Name I love to hear... It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free. It tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea... Jesus, the Name I love so well, the Name I love to hear! ... O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth!’(Mission Praise, 672).
‘The Lord reigns’(Psalm 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’ As we worship the Lord our King, let us focus our attention on Christ, the newborn King :
“Come and worship Christ, the new-born King” (Church Hymnary, 182).
At the place of Christ’s birth, we learn that the reign of God is the reign of His love.
When we look away from ourselves to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we rejoice in this:
‘He saved us - not because of deeds done by us...’ (Titus 3:4-6).
This is the Good News of great joy. We hear this Good News – the birth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ – and we give glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:10-11, 14).
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The Bible Readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same Bible Readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) III – Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12); John 1:1-14
Good News
‘Good News’- Let us ‘shout for joy’. ‘Good News’- Let us sing ‘songs of joy’.
There is the Good News of God’s reign - ‘Your God reigns’.
There is the Good News of our redemption - ‘The Lord has redeemed’ us.
We are not to keep the Good News to ourselves. This ‘news of happiness’ is to be shared with everyone. We must let ‘all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God’.
‘Christ died for our sins’- This is Good News.
Christ was ‘raised on the third day’- This is Good News.
‘Jesus is Lord’- This is Good News.
This is the Good News we must ‘pass on’ to others. In our world, there is so much bad news. We must not let the Good News be drowned out by the bad news. We must make sure that the people hear the Good News - loud and clear (Isaiah 52:7-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Mission Praise, 249).
God loves us.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5,9; 98:4,6; 100:1).
We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him.
In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! ... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9).
In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(Psalms 100:5; 98:1).
The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).
Let us worship Christ – our Lord and our God.
From the heights of heaven and the depths of suffering, ‘God... has spoken to us by His Son’ (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus Christ is God’s ‘Word’ to us. He is ‘the Word’who came from heaven: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. He is ‘the Word’who came to earth: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...’ (John 1:1-14).
In heaven, He is worshipped by angels: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him’(Hebrews 1:6).
On earth, ‘He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9).
We see the greatness of Christ in both His heavenly glory and His saving grace. None can compare with Him. He is our Lord. He is our Saviour. We consider all that He has done for us - ‘the nail marks in His hands...’- and we worship Him - ‘my Lord and my God’(John 20:19-20,24-28).
Keep your eyes on Christ: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (John 1:1-3; Revelation 21:6).
He is ‘the Word... made flesh’. ‘We have seen His glory’(14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’(1 John 3:2).
From Him, there is creation (John 1:1-3).
From Him, there is salvation (John 1:12-13).
In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 32-34).
He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:1, 29, 34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’(John 1:1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’(John 1:18).
Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (John 14:9).
What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’(John 1:29).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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First Sunday after Christmas Day: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7 (or Philippians 2:5-11); Luke 2:22-40
The Name of Jesus is Good News. It tells us of the Saviour’s love.
‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me... to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus has fulfilled these words (Luke 4:18-21). Jesus has come, ‘proclaiming the Good News of God.’ He tells us that ‘the time has come.’ This is the time of opportunity, the time for making our response to Jesus Christ. He calls for our response - ‘Repent and believe the Good News!’ He calls us to make our response now - ‘now is the acceptable time... now is the day of salvation’ (Mark 1:14-15; 2 Corinthians 6:2). There will come a time when the time of opportunity comes to an end. When Christ returns ‘with power and great glory’, it will be ‘the Day of vengeance of our God.’ We do not know when Christ will return. Get ‘ready’ for His Return. Put your ‘faith’in Him (Isaiah 61:2; Matthew 24:30, 36, 44; 25:13; Luke 18:8).
God has given us ‘a new Name’. It is ‘the Name which is above every name’, the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 62:2; Philippians 2:9-11). Christ loves us. He has given Himself for us. He calls us His ‘Bride’ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9). Through faith in Christ, we have become ‘the Holy People.’ Through Him, we are ‘the Redeemed of the Lord.’ We have been ‘Sought After’ by the Lord. In Him, we are ‘the City No Longer Deserted’ (Isaiah 62:12; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 1:18-19; Luke 19:10; John 14:18). ‘There is a Name I love to hear... It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free. It tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea... Jesus, the Name I love so well, the Name I love to hear! ... O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth!’ (Mission Praise, 672).
We hear the Good News of the Saviour’s love, and we say, “Praise the Lord.”
‘Praise the Lord’. Psalms 146 and 147 began and ended with these words. Now, we find the same beginning and ending in each of these three Psalms - ‘Praise the Lord’. Our personal song of praise to God - ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock... I will sing a new song to You, O God... I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You... My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord... I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 144:1, 9; Psalm 145:1-2, 21; Psalm 146:2) - is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller - ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ (Psalm 150:6). May these great Psalms of praise inspire us to praise the Lord more truly and more fully.
We hear the Good News of our Saviour. God has given His Spirit to us.
‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ (Galatians 3:13-14). We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’ (Church Hymnary, 83). All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’ (Mission Praise, 613). God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
We hear the good News of our Saviour. God will complete His good work in us.
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6). God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’. In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’ (1 Peter 1:5). In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
We hear the Good News of our Saviour. Let us offer our worship to Him.
Jesus ‘fulfilled all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). His circumcision and presentation to the Lord was ‘according to the law of Moses’ (Luke 2:21-24; Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus’obedience was always more than mere conformity to ‘the written code.’ He was walking ‘in the Spirit.’ He was filled with ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3, 6). His obedience came ‘from the heart’and His ‘praise’came ‘not from men but from God’(Romans 6:17; 2:29). What joy there was for Simeon and Anna! This was ‘salvation’, ‘redemption’ (Luke 2:30, 38). As you journey through life, don’t ‘lose Jesus’ (Luke 2:43-45). Keep close to Him! If you do ‘lose Him’, where will you find Him again? - ‘In the temple’ (Luke 2:46). Have you lost your way? Find your way back to ‘the sanctuary of God’ - and things will start to fall into place again (Psalm 73:16-17)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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January 1: The Naming of Jesus – Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7 (or Philippians 2:5-11); Luke 2:15-21
His Name was called JESUS (Luke 2:21).
Christmas is over – but let’s not forget Jesus. He is still here. He is still with us.
He is for New Year’s Day as well as Christmas Day. He is for every day.
The New Year has begun. Let there be more than a new year. Let there be new life – the new life that Jesus brings.
We have celebrated His birth.
It is similar to the birth of any other child. It is a time for joyful thanksgiving.
It is different from the celebration of any other child. This is the special Child. This is God’s Son. He is Jesus. He is the Saviour. He brings new life to the world.
On the first Christmas Day, the announcement was made: There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
We move on from the first Christmas. We move on to today. We do not leave Jesus behind. He is with us still.
On this day, any day, every day, we hear God’s call: Let new life begin.
New Year’s Day comes around just once a year. Every day is new life day.
Every day, God is speaking to us. He speaks to us about new life.
This is much more than the traditional greeting – We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
In the Name of Jesus, we hear the Good News of new life. He has been born in the city of David.
This is Good News for us. This is Good News for today.
The New Year has begun. Let new life begin.
Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11). Let Him be born in your heart!
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love.
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love, perfect love, the greatest love of all. There is no love like the love of Jesus.
At Christmas time, we look back to His birth. We celebrate His continuing love.
On New Year’s Day, we look on to the future. We commit ourselves to loving Him who first loved us.
In the Name of Jesus, God speaks to us with a call to consecration and a promise of blessing.
* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us consecrate ourselves to Him.
‘Separate... to the Lord... Separate... from wine and strong drink’ (Numbers 6:2-3): These two thoughts are closely connected in the New Testament - ‘Do not get drunk with wine... Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). We are to be ‘holy to the Lord’ (Numbers 6:8). ‘Consecrated to the Lord’, our whole life must be controlled by one thing: ‘Do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).
* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us seek His blessing in our lives.
Motivated by a desire for God’s glory, we will enjoy God's blessing (Numbers 6:22-27). God’s blessing is not a ‘cheap’ thing, something that doesn’t matter very much.
Remember Esau (Genesis 25:29-34). He couldn’t be bothered. He couldn’t care less. God’s blessing meant nothing to him. He didn’t want God’s blessing.
What did God do? - He gave it to Jacob.
‘The Lord bless you...’ - Do you want this? Or must God find somebody else?
In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.
‘The Lord is ‘majestic’ (Psalm 8:1, 9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. This is the message of Christmas. The Saviour has been born. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. He has come near to us. He is God with us.
In the birth of Jesus, we see God’s greatness, the greatness of His love. His love makes all the difference.
* When we feel forgotten. He remembers us.
* When we feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4).
* When we are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’ (Psalm 8:2).
At the beginning of a New Year, we are reminded of God our Creator (Psalm 8:5-8).
The God of creation is the God of our salvation. From Bethlehem, the place of Christ’s birth, we look forward. We see Jesus, crucified for us. In His death, there is victory. Christ has won the victory for us. Christ has triumphed over ‘him who has the power of death.’ Christ has triumphed over ‘the devil.’ (Hebrews 2:8-9, 14).
We rejoice in Christ’s victory. We worship Him. We sing, “Majesty, worship His Majesty. Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’.
Jesus leads us on from victory to victory.
At the Cross, Christ won the victory over Satan. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ makes His victory real in our life here and now.
* ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6).
The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). In Galatians 3:13-14, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ. We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’(Church Hymnary, 83).
All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’(Mission Praise, 613).
God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).
* ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’(Philippians 1:6).
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up?
God gives us His Word of encouragement. He will bring His good work to completion.
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
We do not find our own victory. We receive His victory. The victory does not come from deep down within ourselves. It comes from high above us. It comes from Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is not our victory. It is His victory. All the power comes from Him. All the glory goes to Him.
In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’(Philippians 2:3; 1:11).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
January 1: when observed as New Year’s Day – Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6a; Matthew 25: 31-46
Let’s begin the year with worship: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name …” (Psalm 8:1).
How excellent is our Saviour – He takes away the emptiness of life without Him.
‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there is a God-shaped blank. It can only be filled by Jesus Christ.
Many people try to find true happiness without opening their heart to Jesus Christ. That’s like ‘trying to catch the wind’ (Ecclesiastes 4:16). True happiness keeps slipping through your fingers. There’s always something missing - ‘an aching void the world can never fill’ (Church Hymnary, 663).
Jesus Christ stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for your answer. He says, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...’ (Revelation 3:20). Will you invite Him into your heart? He is waiting for you to pray, ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus’.
How excellent is our Saviour – He is preparing us for a glorious future.
Our Saviour is ‘Faithful and True’. He is ‘the Word of God’. He is our ‘Lord’and ‘King’(Revelation 19:11,13,16).
We are invited to ‘come’to Him. The invitation - ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God’- is a call to come to Christ (Revelation 19:17). We come to Christ so that we might ‘reign with Him’(Revelation 20:6).
Coming to Christ is only the beginning. God is preparing us for something even better - reigning with Him. This is a great future - ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’(Revelation 21:4).
There is, however, a Word of warning for those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation - ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’; ‘Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur’(Revelation 20:15; 21:8). ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31).
How excellent is our Saviour – He gives us joy as we serve Him day-by-day.
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’(2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy.
We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’. We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’.
The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves.
Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’(Psalm 100:2).
Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God.
On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’and ‘pleasure for evermore’
(Psalm 16:11).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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First Sunday after the Epiphany (Baptism of the Lord): Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
Getting our priorities right
‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. These opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right - (a) The priority of God (Genesis 1:1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there. (b) The priority of God’s Word (Genesis 1:3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord. (c) The priority of God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2). All was ‘empty’, all was ‘darkness’, yet the ‘Spirit of God’ was at work, and transformation was set in motion. Here, we have God’s priorities, set out in the Bible’s first three verses - Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God’s Spirit, ‘hovering over’ our lives to transform them. For those who make God’s priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2). It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
God speaks, and it is done (Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 11). God is pleased with what He has done (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12). This is the pattern of God’s original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a ‘new creation’ (2 Corintinians 5:17). God speaks to us and we say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). We say, ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38). God looks on such obedience, this ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, 22-23), and He sees that it is ‘good’ (Micah 6:8). In these verses we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God's creation. There are lessons for us here. We are to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7). We are to let the Spirit's ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:39-39). Walking in the light, letting the living water flow - this is the way of fruitfulness.
Receiving strength from the Lord
‘The Lord is my Strength…The Lord is the Strength of His people’ (Psalm 28:7-8). Our personal strengthening is closely related to the strengthening of God’s people. Don’t be a ‘lone ranger’, going it alone, keeping yourself to yourself. Share your strength with others. Draw strength from them. ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another’ (Hebrews 10:24-25). Where does your strength come from? It comes from ‘the Lord’ who ‘sits enthroned as King for ever’ (Psalm 29:10). We grow strong as we listen for ‘the voice of the Lord’ (Psalm 29:3-9). Don’t let God’s voice be drowned out - ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).
Bringing sinners to the Saviour
Apollos ‘taught accurately the things concerning Jesus’. He needed to have ‘the way of God expounded to him more accurately’(Acts 18:24-26). There is always more to learn. We should never adopt a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. In ‘two years’ of ministry, ‘God did’ great things through Paul (Acts 19:10-11). Paul was moving on. His road led to ‘Rome.’ It was a road, full of blessing - ‘The Word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily’ (Acts 19:20-21). Paul was on the move. God was on the move. Wherever Paul went, there were opportunities to make Christ known. Wherever he went, people were trusting Christ. Paul was moving from place to place, bringing Christ to so many different people. People were moving ‘from death to life’ (John 5:24). This is what drove Paul on - Bringing more and more sinners to his Saviour!
Becoming fishers of men
This is a new ‘beginning.’ The prophets had spoken. Now, the Saviour has come. This is Good News. John has prepared the way. Now, he stands aside to make way for Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mark 1:1, 11). Following Jesus’ baptism, there was temptation. This was Kingdom against kingdom. Satan’s kingdom was under threat. The Kingdom of God had come. Christ triumphed over Satan. In Him, we triumph when, hearing the Gospel declaration - ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’- , we obey the Gospel command - ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:15). With the command, ‘Follow Me’, there is the promise, ‘I will make you...’ (Mark 1:17). Christ’s call is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). It is truth - a call to discipleship. It is grace - a call from Jesus. In Christ, we become ‘a new creation’(2 Corinthians 5:17). We become ‘fishers of men’ (Mark 1:17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B
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Second Sunday after the Epiphany: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
God is restoring His glory among His people.
The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel’s early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become ‘a prophet of the Lord’ through whom ‘the Word of the Lord... came to all Israel’ (1 Samuel 3:10; 1 Samuel 3:19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were ‘defeated’ by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the ‘capture’ of ‘the ark of God’: ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (1 Samuel 4:10-11, 22). We may lose ‘goods, honour, children, wife’ (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people - We must not lose this!
God is leading us on to His eternal glory.
Through Christ our Saviour, we are led ‘in the way everlasting’: ‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ (Psalm 139:24; 1 John 5:11). God’s great purpose of eternal salvation seems ‘too wonderful’ - ‘too good to be true’! ‘It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me, and yet I know that it is true...’ (Psalm 139:6; Church Hymnary, 385). God has a glorious future planned for us. We can hardly even begin to take it in: ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.’ We know that ‘no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ yet we rejoice in this: ‘God has revealed it to us by His Spirit’ (Psalm 139:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). ‘Lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24).
We glorify God when we remember that we were bought with a price.
The Lord has placed the highest value on us: ‘you were bought with a price’ (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23). Our love for Him must be stronger than any other love. Some are under pressure, at home, from an unbelieving husband or wife. You wonder whether your Christian witness is doing any good (1 Corinthians 7:16). You feel you are getting nowhere. You feel like giving up. You feel yourself being dragged away from the Lord. What does the Word of God say? - ‘Lead the life which the Lord has assigned’; ‘Remain with God’ (1 Corinthians 7:17, 24). A difficult situation at home is just one example of ‘the world’ trying to ‘squeeze us into its own mould’ (Romans 12:2). The world will keep chipping away at our faith - until there’s nothing left. ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world... He who does the will of God abides for ever’ (1 John 2:17).
We glorify God when we are transformed by the power of His grace.
Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40-42). ‘You are... You shall be...’ (John 1:42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The ‘water’ became ‘wine’ (John 2:9). This was the Lord’s doing. In Christ, we have been ‘made alive’. This is the work of God. He is ‘rich in mercy’. He loves us with a ‘great love’ (Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice (John 2:1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (John 2:13-17). There was ‘death’ in the temple. Those who were spiritually ‘dead’ acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God’s House - ‘My House shall be called a house of prayer’ (Matthew 21:13). ‘Raised from the dead’, we receive ‘new life’ (John 2:22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (23-25).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Come to the God of grace, praying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
The people of Nineveh ‘believed God’ and ‘turned from their evil ways.’ God had shown Himself to be ‘a gracious and compassionate God...’ How did Jonah react? Was he rejoicing in the Lord? No! He was complaining - ‘Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry’. Jonah was a proud Jew. He despised the Ninevites. He didn’t want them to be saved. That’s why he was ‘so quick to flee to Tarshish’ (Jonah 3:5, 10; 4:1-2). What does God’s Word say about Jonah’s attitude? - ‘You have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else.’ We must not ‘show contempt for the riches of His kindness.’ We must not say, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men.’ We must pray, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Romans 2:1, 4; Luke 18:11-14).
Come to the God of grace. Let Him be your Rock and your Salvation.
The Lord is ‘my Rock and my Salvation’ (Psalm 62:2, 6). As you read the Psalmist’s words, let your thoughts turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our ‘Rock’ - the ‘Rock’ of our salvation. Through ‘the blood of Christ’, we receive the greatest ‘blessing’ of all - salvation (1 Corinthians 10:1-4, 16). No other blessing can ever compare with the joy of knowing Christ as Saviour: ‘Your steadfast love is better than life.’ Through our great Saviour - the Lord Jesus Christ - , we are learning to ‘praise’ God. We are learning to say, with the Psalmist, ‘I will praise You as long as I live’ (Psalm 63:3-4). What a great Saviour we have. He is greater than all our songs of praise. He is ‘too marvellous for words’- ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’ (Mission Praise, 788; 2 Corinthians 9:15).
Come to the God of grace. Let Him teach you to live as a servant of Christ.
We are to ‘use the things of the world’ without becoming ‘engrossed in them’ (1 Corinthians 7:31). Becoming more worldly in our way of living is not a purely personal thing. We harm other people ‘for whom Christ died.’ They look to us for a godly example and we let them down. We ‘sin against them. We ‘sin against Christ.’ Our choices affect other people. We choose a self-centred life. We cause them to ‘fall into sin.’ We live a life of ‘love’, and they are ‘built up’in their faith (1 Corinthians 8:11-13, 1; Matthew 18:5-7, 10). How are we to live? Are we to become preoccupied with how our actions affect those who watch our every move? That could become very confusing and distracting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must live ‘not ... as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart...’ (Ephesians 6:6-7).
Come to the God of grace. He will make you a new creation and a fisher of men.
This is a new ‘beginning.’ The prophets had spoken. Now, the Saviour has come. This is Good News. John has prepared the way. Now, he stands aside to make way for Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mark 1:1, 11). Following Jesus’ baptism, there was temptation. This was Kingdom against kingdom. Satan’s kingdom was under threat. The Kingdom of God had come. Christ triumphed over Satan. In Him, we triumph when, hearing the Gospel declaration - ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’- , we obey the Gospel command - ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:15). With the command, ‘Follow Me’, there is the promise, ‘I will make you...’(17). Christ’s call is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). It is truth - a call to discipleship. It is grace - a call from Jesus. In Christ, we become ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become ‘fishers of men’ (Mark 1:17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Let us listen to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God.
Even the king is subject to God’s ‘law.’ His supreme responsibility is this: Pay careful attention to God’s Word (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Politically, he may be in an elevated position - a ‘king over’ others (Deuteronomy17:14-15). Spiritually, he must not allow ‘his heart’to be ‘lifted up above his brethren’ (Deuteronomy 17:20). There must be humble obedience to God’s Word. Priests speak to God for us. Prophets speak to us for God. We need both - ‘prayer and the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:4). In our worship, we must keep the Lord at the very centre. Anything or anyone who distracts our attention from the Lord is no help to true worship (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). ‘A prophet like Moses’ (Deuteronomy 18:15): Jesus is the ultimate prophet - to see and hear Him is to see and hear God (John 5:19; 12:49; 14:9). He preaches God’s Word. He is ‘the Word of God’ (John 1:1).
Let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks to us Good News.
‘Praise the Lord... To Him belong eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...’ (Psalm 111:1, 10; Psalm 112:1, 8). Those who ‘fear the Lord’ have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise belongs to the Lord’ can face their enemies with confidence. Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord. We know how good the Lord has been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people.’ We have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way. We ‘trust in the Lord’, confident that the ‘light’ will triumph over the ‘darkness.’ The Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalm 111:9; Psalm 112:4, 7).
Let us serve our Lord Jesus Christ. He calls us to do God’s will from the heart.
We are to ‘use the things of the world’ without becoming ‘engrossed in them’ (1 Corinthians 7:31). Becoming more worldly in our way of living is not a purely personal thing. We harm other people ‘for whom Christ died’. They look to us for a godly example and we let them down. We ‘sin against them.’ We ‘sin against Christ.’ Our choices affect other people. We choose a self-centred life. We cause them to ‘fall into sin.’ We live a life of ‘love’, and they are ‘built up’ in their faith (1 Corinthians 8:11-13, 1; Matthew 18:5-7, 10). How are we to live? Are we to become preoccupied with how our actions affect those who watch our every move? That could become very confusing and distracting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must live ‘not ... as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart...’ (Ephesians 6:6-7).
Let us trust our Lord Jesus Christ. His power is released when His people pray.
Great things were happening. God was moving in power. In all this, we could easily overlook something very important: Jesus prayed (Mark 1:35). He made time for prayer. This was not wasted time. This was time well spent. Jesus was mighty before men - the power of God was flowing freely. Jesus knew where the power comes from - He was humble before God. We long for this - ‘they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”’ (Mark 2:12). We must pray in faith, bringing people before the Lord, convinced that such prayer ‘is powerful and effective’ (Mark 2:5; James 5:16). “If my people... pray..., I will... forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14). “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me. Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need. For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead' (Mission Praise, 587).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
Wait on the Lord. Renew your strength.
‘The Lord is the everlasting God... He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak... those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength...’ (Isaiah 40:28-31). Far too often, we say, ‘I can’t’ when we really mean ‘I won’t.’ ‘I can’t’ - This is an insult to the power of God. The Lord calls us to do something special for Him. We say, ‘I can’t.’ What are we really saying? This is what we are saying - ‘Lord, I don’t believe Your promise - “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”’ Don’t say, ‘I can’t’. Don’t get so busy with other things that you fail to wait upon the Lord and renew your strength. When the Lord calls you to serve Him, say, ‘Yes, Lord, I will wait upon You. I will renew my strength. I will do Your will.’
Wait on the Lord. Receive His blessing through His Word and His Spirit.
‘The Lord builds up Jerusalem. He gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:2-3). This is much more than the building of the city of Jerusalem with bricks and mortar. This is God building up His people in their ‘most holy faith’ (Jude 20). This is God blessing His people as they gather together to worship Him. In Christ, we are ‘being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). The Lord draws us to Himself. He brings us into fellowship with His people. He calls us to worship Him: ‘Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving’. He ‘blesses’ us through ‘His Word’. He ‘blesses’ us in ‘the Spirit’: ‘He sends His Word... and the waters flow’ (Psalm 147:7, 12-13, 18; John 7:37-39).
Wait on the Lord. Receive His strength for leading sinners to the Saviour.
‘If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting’ (1 Corinthians 9:16). Paul preached the Gospel. His whole desire was to bring men and women to the Saviour (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul did not want to draw attention to himself. He didn’t preach so that his hearers would say, ‘What a good preacher Paul is’! He did not want to be ‘an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 9:12). Paul was not a ‘performer’, trying to increase his own popularity. Paul described his ministry like this: ‘I do it all for the sake of the Gospel’ (1 Corinthians 9:23). Keep your eyes on Jesus. This is very important. Don’t get so preoccupied with ‘a good preacher’ that you lose sight of the great Saviour! There is no room for ‘superstars’: ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord’- ‘The Name of Jesus is the Name above every name’ (James 4:10; Philippians 2:9-10).
Wait on the Lord. Pray for a revival. Let Him start His work in you.
Great things were happening. God was moving in power. In all this, we could easily overlook something very important: Jesus prayed (Mark 1:35). He made time for prayer. This was not wasted time. This was time well spent. Jesus was mighty before men - the power of God was flowing freely. Jesus knew where the power comes from - He was humble before God. We long for this - ‘they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”’ (Mark 2:12). We must pray in faith, bringing people before the Lord, convinced that such prayer ‘is powerful and effective’ (Mark 2:5; James 5:16). “If my people... pray..., I will... forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14). “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me. Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need. For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead' (Mission Praise, 587).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Sixth Sunday after Epiphany: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 1::40-45
Confessing our sins and receiving God’s forgiveness.
How are we to receive God’s blessing? Are we to ‘do some great thing’? Are we to prove ourselves worthy of His blessing? No! The Word of God gives this simple instruction: ‘Wash and be clean’ (2 Kings 5:13). Salvation is not something to be paid for or earned. It’s ‘the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6: 23). We don’t come to God, saying, ‘Look at me. Look at how good I am. Look at my religion. Look at my morality. You’ve got to bless me. I deserve it’. We come to Him, believing His Word - ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’- confessing our sins and trusting in His promise of forgiveness - ‘If we confess our sins, He forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong’ (1 John 1:7, 9). Forget about ‘doing some great thing’. Obey the command that really matters: ‘Wash and be clean’.
God has forgiven our sins. Let us offer our thanksgiving to Him.
‘I will exalt You, O Lord’ (Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’ (Mission Praise, 217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’ (Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’ (Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’ (Psalm 30:11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’ (Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’ (Psalm 30:12).
God has forgiven our sins. Let us share His Good News with others.
‘If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting’ (1 Corinthians 9:16). Paul preached the Gospel. His whole desire was to bring men and women to the Saviour (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul did not want to draw attention to himself. He didn’t preach so that his hearers would say, ‘What a good preacher Paul is’! He did not want to be ‘an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 9:12). Paul was not a ‘performer’, trying to increase his own popularity. Paul described his ministry like this: ‘I do it all for the sake of the Gospel’ (1 Corinthians 9:23). Keep your eyes on Jesus. This is very important. Don’t get so preoccupied with ‘a good preacher’ that you lose sight of the great Saviour! There is no room for ‘superstars’: ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord’ - ‘The Name of Jesus is the Name above every name’ (James 4:10; Philippians 2:9-10).
God has forgiven our sins. Let us pray that many will receive His forgiveness.
Great things were happening. God was moving in power. In all this, we could easily overlook something very important: Jesus prayed (Mark 1:35). He made time for prayer. This was not wasted time. This was time well spent. Jesus was mighty before men - the power of God was flowing freely. Jesus knew where the power comes from - He was humble before God. We long for this - ‘they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”’ (Mark 2:12). We must pray in faith, bringing people before the Lord, convinced that such prayer ‘is powerful and effective’ (Mark 2:5; James 5:16). “If my people... pray..., I will... forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14). “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me. Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need. For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead' (Mission Praise, 587).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany: Isaiah 43:18-25; Psalm 41; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12
Jesus Christ – Our Saviour
‘I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour... I am the Lord, apart from Me there is no saviour’ (Isaiah 43:3, 11). Isaiah’s words turn our thoughts towards Jesus our Saviour. The Name of Jesus is the Name of our salvation: ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). ‘How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear’; ‘There is a Name I love to hear... It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free; it tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea. O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth’; ‘Name of all majesty... See now what God has done, sending His only Son, Christ the beloved One, Jesus is Lord!’ (Church Hymnary, 376; Mission Praise, 672, 481).
When no one but Christ could help, love lifted me.
What do you do when everything seems to be going wrong? Do you forget about God? That’s the worst thing you can do? That’s just asking for trouble! Our problems are bad enough - with God’s help. Things can only get worse - if we turn away from the Lord. When the going gets tough, we must turn to the Lord. Share your ‘day of trouble’ with the Lord. Let Him come to you with His blessing (Psalm 41:1-3). Satan is busy, trying to draw you away from the Lord. It is only through the strength of the Lord that you will be able to say, with confident faith, ‘my enemy has not triumphed over me’ (Psalm 41:11). Look up from your problems to your Lord. Let Him fill your heart with praise - ‘Blessed be the Lord...’ (Psalm 41:13). Let this be your testimony: ‘When no one but Christ could help, Love lifted me!’ (Mission Praise, 450).
We see how much God loves us, when we look to Christ who died for us.
Times of trouble can turn out to be times of great blessing - ‘God… comforts us in all our affliction’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Whether good things or bad things are happening to you, don’t forget this: God loves you. His Word is ‘not Yes and No’- ‘Yes, I love you. No, I don’t love you’. In Christ, His Word is ‘always Yes’ (2 Corinthians 1:19). How do we know that God loves us? - ‘God showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Whatever may happen to us, nothing can change this great fact: Christ died for us. This is the great fact of God’s love. Life is not easy. There is ‘Satan’, always seeking ‘to gain the advantage over us’ (2 Corinthians 2:11). We do not stand alone in our battle against Satan. God ‘has given us His Spirit in our hearts’. He is the ‘guarantee’ of our final victory (2 Corinthians 1:22).
God loves us. He wants to bless us. Pray for His blessing. Receive His blessing.
Great things were happening. God was moving in power. In all this, we could easily overlook something very important: Jesus prayed (Mark 1:35). He made time for prayer. This was not wasted time. This was time well spent. Jesus was mighty before men - the power of God was flowing freely. Jesus knew where the power comes from - He was humble before God. We long for this - ‘they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”’ (Mark 2:12). We must pray in faith, bringing people before the Lord, convinced that such prayer ‘is powerful and effective’ (Mark 2:5; James 5:16). “If my people... pray..., I will... forgive their sin and heal their land’ (Mark 2:2 Chronicles 7:14). “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me. Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need. For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead' (Mission Praise, 587).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany: Hosea 2:14-20; Psalm 103:1-13, 22; 2 Corinthians 3:1-6; Mark 2:13-22
Salvation: Love, Power and Hope
‘Hosea’ means ‘salvation’. Married to ‘an adulterous wife’, Hosea spoke with great compassion to ‘the land’ which was ‘guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord’ (Hosea 1:2). He brought God’s Word of love to the people: ‘I will show My love to the one I called, “Not My loved one”’. He spoke to them of the life-changing power of God’s love: ‘I will say to those called, “Not My people”, and they will say, “You are My God”’ (Hosea 2:23). He brought a Word of hope to God’s people: ‘The Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God... They will come trembling to the Lord and to His blessings in the last days’ (Hosea 3:5). His words of hope point us to our Saviour, Jesus Christ - ‘In these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son’ (Hebrews 1:2).
Love: Loved by God, we learn to love Him.
‘Praise the Lord’ (Psalm 103:1-2, 20-22). Let’s praise Him for His ‘steadfast love’. He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’ (Psalm 103:8). How are we to respond to His ‘steadfast love’? Are we to say, ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’? No! We must not think like this. We’re not to say, ‘I’ll keep on sinning. God will keep on forgiving’ (Romans 6:1-2). God’s Word tells us something very different. Loved by God, we learn to love Him. When God’s ‘steadfast love’has really touched our hearts, it changes our lives. This is the great change which the Psalmist has in mind when he writes, ‘As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him... The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him’ (Psalm 103:11, 17). Let’s thank God for His love - and live to please Him!
Power: In our weakness, we are strengthened by the Spirit of the living God.
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). When everything seems to be going wrong, we need to be reminded of God’s Word: ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’ (Romans 8:37). When we feel so weak, we receive strength ‘from God’. We are strengthened by ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:5, 3). We must learn to look beyond our circumstances to our Saviour. In Him, we see ‘the surpassing glory’. As we look upon ‘the glory of the Lord’, we are ‘changed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). In life’s many hard times, may God help us to see what He is doing in our lives and not only what we think is happening to us.
Hope: Belonging to God’s Kingdom and living as a new creation.
Jesus changes people. Levi became Matthew (Mark 2:14). He became ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The change of name marked his new birth (John 3:6). To be changed by Jesus you must recognize yourself as a sinner (Mark 2:17). There is a world of difference between legal obedience - ‘old wine’- and Gospel obedience - ‘new wine’ (Mark 2:21-22). There is an eternity of difference between belonging to God’s Kingdom and remaining outside of His Kingdom (John 3:3, 5, 7). The religion of the Pharisees was legalistic. The obedience of Jesus was spiritual. Will we follow Jesus, or will we be like these ‘religious’ men who planned ‘to destroy Him’ (Mark 3:6)? It is sadly possible to participate in ‘religion’, professing faith in ‘the Son of God’, in an ‘unclean spirit’ (Mark 3:11). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, let us truly confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Ninth Sunday after the Epiphany: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9
The same readings are given for Last Sunday after the Epiphany (Transfiguration of the Lord)
The Call to Preach the Word of the Lord
‘He took up the mantle of Elijah’ (2 Kings 2:13). Elijah’s ministry had ended. Elisha’s ministry was about to begin. It was the beginning of a new era. This may have been a new ministry. It was not, however, a new message. Both men preached the Word of the Lord. Elisha continued Elijah’s work. He took up where Elijah had left off. He brought the Word of the Lord to the people. Elisha was not exactly the same as Elijah. He was Elisha - not Elijah! There was, however, continuity. The second ministry built on the work done during the first ministry. The laying of the foundations - This is what Elijah’s ministry had been all about. Now, Elisha would build on this good foundation. He would take the work of God forward. Into the future, on to the second stage - This is what Elisha’s ministry was all about.
Jesus Christ is the Word of the Lord. Let us listen to Him and speak of Him.
‘Our God comes, He does not keep silence’ (Psalm 50:3). God does not keep His distance. He comes near to us. He does not keep His silence. He speaks to us - ‘God the Lord speaks’ (Psalm 50:1). How does God come near to us? How does He speak to us? He comes near to us in Jesus Christ. He speaks to us through Jesus Christ. In John 1:1, we have this tremendous description of Jesus Christ: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. Jesus Christ is the Word. God is speaking to us through Jesus Christ. How does God speak to us through Jesus Christ? He speaks to us by drawing near to us - ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. Jesus Christ is God’s Word. He is God, speaking to us. He is God, coming near to us. He is God, ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).
Through His Word, God calls us to salvation and service.
God has called us to salvation - ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service - ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe’. We are to ‘speak’. This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).
Through His Word, God calls us to trust in Christ, our Saviour and Lord.
‘Who do you say that I am ?’: Jesus puts this question to all of us. Some believe that He is the Christ. Others do not. Some try to 'sit on the fence'. Everyone makes their response to Him. God is not deceived by outward observance of religion, when it masks an inward refusal to receive Christ as Saviour, to submit to Him as Lord. On the day of judgment, God will not be looking for respectability. He will be looking for faith (Luke 18:8). Peter confessed Christ (Mark 8:29). Then, he was overcome by Satan (Mark 8:33). He became ‘puffed up’ with pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). He forgot that faith comes from divine revelation (Matthew 16:17). We are not ‘to rebuke’ the Lord (Mark 8:32). Looking to ‘Jesus only’ (Mark 9:8; Romans 4:5), we are to live as His disciples (Mark 8:34) - not of this world, as He is not of this world (John 17:14,16; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 (or Isaiah 58:1-12); Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Let us return to the Lord our God.
‘Joel’ means ‘the Lord is God’. The Lord is our God. He is ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…’ Let us ‘return to the Lord our God’. Let us ‘return to Him with all our heart’. Let us look to Him for His ‘blessing’ (Joel 2:12-14).
Alongside God’s promise of blessing for those who return to Him, there is His Word of warning for those who take no notice of Him and pay no attention to His Word: ‘The Day of the Lord is near. It will come like destruction from the Almighty… Let all who live in the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand - a Day of darkness and gloom…’ (Joel 1:15; 2:1-2).
God wants to bless us. Let us ‘cry out’ to Him for His blessing: ‘To You, O Lord, I call’ (Joel 1:14, 19).
Jesus Christ is God’s way of salvation.
‘To the far and to the near’, God speaks His Word of ‘peace’ (Isaiah 57:19). Christ is God’s Word of ‘peace’ (Ephesians 2:13-14). Christ is for ‘the Jews’. Christ is for ‘the Gentiles’. There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. We must put our ‘faith’ in Him. Through Him, we have ‘peace with God’ (Romans 3:29-30; 5:1).
God’s Word invites us to ‘call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved’ (Isaiah 58:9; Acts 2:21). In Christ, there is true ‘joy’- ‘I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation…’ (Isaiah 58:14; 61:10).
We rejoice in Jesus Christ. He is ‘the High and Exalted One’. He has come from His ‘high and holy place’. He has become ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. He is our peace and joy, our Saviour and our God’ (Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 1:21, 23; John 20:28).
Come to Christ. Receive Him as your Saviour.
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God… Cast me not away from Thy presence… Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’ (Psalm 51:10-12).
These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. You can make them your words. David made a new beginning with God. You can make a new beginning with God.
You have sinned. You need to be forgiven. Come to Christ. He says, ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me’ (John 6:37).
You need to be ‘born again’. Receive Christ as your Saviour and be ‘born again’- ‘born of God’ (John 3:3, 7; 1:12).
You feel so weak, unable to be the person God wants you to be. Let ‘the joy of the Lord be your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.
We are to be ambassadors for Christ.
‘Reconciled’ to God through Christ, we have received ‘the ministry of reconciliation’. Saved by Him, we are to ‘work with Him’. We are ‘not to accept the grace of God in vain’ by living for ourselves. We are to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’.
We must proclaim the urgent message of salvation - ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’. We must call men and women to respond to God’s message of salvation: ‘Be reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).
If we are to be effective ‘ambassadors for Christ’, we must dedicate our lives to Him: ‘Let us cleanse ourselves… and make holiness perfect in the fear of God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Without this heartfelt commitment to godly living, we cannot really serve the Lord at all. Our wrong lives will drown out our ‘right’ words. We need true lives as well as ‘true’ words.
Let us follow Christ. Let us bring the holiness of heaven to this world.
Jesus says that we are not to be like ‘the hypocrites’ (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). The word ‘hypocrite’ means ‘play actor’. It refers to ‘putting on a performance’. This performance may be extremely religious, but God is not in it.
The hypocrites live according to ‘the letter’ of the law, but they know nothing of the power of ‘the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:6).
The hypocrites’ religious performance gets along very well without God. His presence is not sought, welcomed or treasured.
The hypocrites draw attention to themselves. They do not direct attention away from themselves to God.
There is a better way than the way of hypocrisy. It is the way of holiness. Our lives are to be centred on Christ - ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’(Galatians 2:20). We must not forget: apart from Him we can do nothing. We are to abide in Him (John 15:5) - in true holiness.
On the one side of Christ’s disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are ‘the Gentiles’ (Matthew 6:32).
The hypocrites represent religion without reality.
The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously.
We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles.
Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men.
We are to live for God’s eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (Matthew 6:19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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First Sunday in Lent: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
The Love of God
‘When you see a rainbow, remember God is love’. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (Genesis 9:13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: ‘We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross... upon the Cross we see in shining letters. ‘God is love’, He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above’. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God’s salvation: ‘I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me’. This is the greatest Story of all - ‘the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love, ... the Story of wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin’. ‘This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long’. This is ‘the Story to tell to the nations’(Church Hymnary, 258,381,132; Mission Praise, 59,744).
The Truth of God
‘Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation’ (Psalm 25:5). We can pray this prayer with confidence. God has given His promise: ‘He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way’ (Psalm 25:9). Our confidence is in the Lord. We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3). Jesus teaches us that God hides Himself from the proud and reveals Himself to the humble: ‘…Father…Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes’ (Matthew 11:25). In the life of faith, the most important thing is the right attitude - not the ‘best education’! The proud may concern themselves with impressing ‘the right people’. For the humble, there is something more important - pleasing God. His opinion is the one that really matters!
The Gospel of God
The world is preoccupied with outward appearances. As Christians, we should be more concerned with our inward attitude. ‘In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord’. Pray for His ‘attitude’- ‘a tender heart and a humble mind’ (1 Peter 3:8, 15; 1 Peter 4:1). We believe the Gospel - ‘Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’. Let’s share the Gospel - ‘Be always ready to give...a reason for the hope that is in you’. How are we to share the Gospel? - ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:18, 15). We must get the attitude right - ‘so that nothing will hinder our prayers’ (1 Peter 3:7). We need more than the ‘right’ prayers - words that sound good. We need the right attitude. The blessing will not come because our words sound good. It will only come when our attitude is right.
The Son of God
This is a new ‘beginning’. The prophets had spoken. Now, the Saviour has come. This is Good News. John has prepared the way. Now, he stands aside to make way for Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mark 1:1, 11). Following Jesus’baptism, there was temptation. This was Kingdom against kingdom. Satan’s kingdom was under threat. The Kingdom of God had come. Christ triumphed over Satan. In Him, we triumph when, hearing the Gospel declaration - ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’- , we obey the Gospel command - ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:15). With the command, ‘Follow Me’, there is the promise, ‘I will make you...’ (Mark 1:17). Christ’s call is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). It is truth - a call to discipleship. It is grace - a call from Jesus. In Christ, we become ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become ‘fishers of men’ (Mark 1:17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Second Sunday in Lent: Genesis 17:1-2, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
The Grace of God
Amazing grace - this is the marvellous theme of this chapter. Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:5). Sarai became Sarah (Genesis 17:15-16). What they were belonged to their sinful past. What they became was the work of God's grace. What a contrast there is between human sin and divine grace. We look at ourselves. We see sin, and we lose hope. We look at the God of grace, and we say, ‘Sin shall not have dominion. Grace is victorious’ (Romans 6:14). Abram and Sarai appeared to be hopeless cases. They had failed the Lord, but He did not fail them. He made them new people. They became the father and mother of nations. To those who do not deserve His love, God still renews His ‘covenant’, His promise of love (Genesis 17:2). He still says, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). In the Cross of Christ, we have the greatest ‘sign of the covenant’ (Genesis 17:11; Romans 5:8).
The Death of Christ
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; Hebrews 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25).
The Gift of God
Salvation is not a ‘reward’ to be ‘earned’. It is God’s ‘gift’ (Romans 4:4-5). Salvation comes from the Lord. ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’ (John 3:16): Without the love of God, the gift of God, the Son of God, there can be no salvation. The way of salvation does not begin with the word ‘I’. Jesus Christ is the Way. He is the Saviour. Salvation is in Him (John 14:6; Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12). Looking to ‘Jesus our Lord’, crucified and raised for our salvation, we are saved and we give ‘glory to God’ (Romans 4:20-25). We rejoice in ‘God our Saviour’- ‘He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy...’ (Titus 3:4-7). Looking away from ourselves to Christ, we learn the truth of God’s Word: ‘it is on the basis of faith that it may rest on grace’ (Romans4:16). This is Good News!
The Confession of Faith
‘Who do you say that I am ?’: Jesus puts this question to all of us. Some believe He is the Christ. Others do not. Some try to 'sit on the fence'. Everyone makes their response to Him. God is not deceived by outward observance of religion, when it masks an inward refusal to receive Christ as Saviour, to submit to Him as Lord. On the day of judgment, God will not be looking for respectability. He will be looking for faith (Luke 18:8). Peter confessed Christ (Mark 8:29). Then, he was overcome by Satan (Mark 8:33). He became ‘puffed up’ with pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). He forgot that faith comes from divine revelation (Matthew 16:17). We are not ‘to rebuke’ the Lord (32). Looking to ‘Jesus only’ (8; Romans 4:5), we are to live as His disciples (34) - not of this world, as He is not of this world (John 17:14,16; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Third Sunday in Lent: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
“Moses” cannot save! There is only one Saviour – Jesus!
God does not want to see sin in us (Exodus20:20). He wants to see Himself in us. Sin robs us of His great blessing. He wants to fill us with love (Mark 12:28-31; Galatians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Before our love for Him, there is His love for us. He is the God of redemption. He has redeemed us. We are His people. This is His doing. All the glory belongs to Him (Exodus 20:1-2). We are to live as His people. He is to have first place in our lives (Exodus 20:3). The ‘law’ is ‘holy’ and ‘good’, but it cannot make us holy and good - without ‘the new life of the Spirit’ (Romans 7:12, 6: 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:3). ‘Moses’ cannot save! There is only one Saviour - Jesus! Not under law, we yield ourselves to the God of salvation (Romans 6:13-14). Our obedience comes from faith in Christ - not legalism (Romans 1:5-6)! Our holiness comes from the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’ (Psalm 19:7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’(Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
Christ is our full salvation. Let us rejoice and be glad in Him.
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:4). He preached ‘Christ crucified’with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).
Through the transforming power of Christ’s grace, we receive new life.
Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40-42). ‘You are... You shall be...’ (John 1:42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The ‘water’ became ‘wine’ (John 1:9). This was the Lord’s doing. In Christ, we have been ‘made alive’. This is the work of God. He is ‘rich in mercy’. He loves us with a ‘great love’ (Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice (John 2:1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (John 2:13-17). There was ‘death’in the temple. Those who were spiritually ‘dead’ acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God’s House - ‘My House shall be called a house of prayer’ (Matthew 21:13). ‘Raised from the dead’, we receive ‘new life’ (John 2:22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (23-25).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fourth Sunday in Lent: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
In love, the Lord appeals to us, “Look to Me and be saved.”
In Numbers 21:5-9, there is an illustration of God’s salvation (John 3:14-15). There is sin and death (Numbers 21:5-6; Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23). Christ prays for our forgiveness (Numbers 21:7; Luke 23:34). Lifted up on the Cross, He dies that we might have eternal life. In love, He appeals to us, ‘Look to me and be saved’ (John 12:32; Isaiah 45:22). Enter, Destroy Possess (Numbers 21:21-24; Numbers 21:33-35): Let Christ enter your heart, destroying Satan’s strongholds and taking possession of your life (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5). If we are to be victorious to the ‘praise and glory and honour... of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:6-8), we must ‘go by the King’s Highway, not turning aside to the right hand or the left’ (Numbers 21:22; Numbers 20:17). For the Christian, ‘the King’s Highway is ‘the Way of Holiness’: ‘This is the way, walk in it’ (Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 30:21).
Let us give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love.
There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again - ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’ (Psalm 107:6; Psalm 107:13; Psalm 107:19; Psalm 107:28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again - ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’ (Psalm 107:8; Psalm 107:15; Psalm 107:21; Psalm 107:31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord’. Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43; Psalm 107:1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free... It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’(Church Hymnary, 415).
The Lord’s love for us inspires our love for Him.
‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’ - by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:7). When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’ (Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
Inspired by the Lord’s love for us, let us live a life of holiness, love and truth.
We say, ‘I’ll turn over a new leaf’. Christ says, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3; John 3:7). Our way of thinking begins with ‘I’. Christ’s way of salvation begins with ‘God’: ‘God so loved the world...’ (John 3:16). Begin with ‘I’ and you have sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:10-11). Begin with God and you have Good News for sinners: ‘God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Through faith in Christ, we are ‘born of the Spirit’ (John 3:6-8; John 1:12). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, love and truth. Those who are ‘born of the Spirit’ are to live a life of holiness, love and truth (1 John 4:2-3; 1 John 4:,6-7; 1 John 4:12-13; 1 John 5:2-3). ‘Come to the light’. ‘Do what is true’. ‘Obey the Son’. Let Christ increase. This is the work of the Spirit in us (John 3:20-21; John 3:36; John 3:29; John 3:34).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fifth Sunday in Lent: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12 (or Psalm 119:9-16); Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
Jesus Christ – the Way, the Truth and the Life
‘Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take’ (Jeremiah 31:21). It’s so easy to take a wrong turning. You lose your sense of direction. You get confused. You’re not sure which way to go. You are lost. You are getting more and more lost all the time. You can’t find your way back home again. You need someone who knows the way to come and be your guide. Is there someone who can get us on the right road again? Is there someone who can guide us safely home? Yes! Jesus is ‘the Way, the True Way, the Living Way’. ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. That’s what Jesus said. Without the Way, there is no going, Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living’ (John 14:6; Junior Praise, 89). Let Jesus be your Guide. Let Him be your Saviour.
Come to Christ. Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God... Cast me not away from Thy presence... Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’ (Psalm 51:10-12). These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. You can make them your words. David made a new beginning with God. You can make a new beginning with God. You have sinned. You need to be forgiven. Come to Christ. He says, ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me’ (John 6:37). You need to be ‘born again’. Receive Christ as your Saviour and be ‘born again’ - ‘born of God’ (John 3:3; John 3:7; John 1:12). You feel so weak, unable to be the person God wants you to be. Let ‘the joy of the Lord be your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.
Remember what Jesus has done for you. Recommit yourself to following Him.
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1; Psalm119:9; Psalm 119:11; Psalm 119:17). Many will choose the way of disobedience - ‘influential people sit together and slander me’. We must choose the way of obedience - ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23). Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).
When God is speaking to you, make sure that you don’t harden your heart.
‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. These words from Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 3:15, are repeated in Hebrews 4:7. Make sure that you don’t miss the point! These are words that we need to keep on hearing - again and again. None of us ever reaches a stage where we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning. Reading God’s Word can be a very uncomfortable experience: ‘God’s Word is living and active... God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for Him to see. We must answer to Him’ (Hebrews 4:12-13). This may not be the kind of thing we like to hear. It’s what we need to hear. We will only pray for ‘mercy’and ‘grace’ when we see how sinful we really are. Then - and only then - will we come to Christ for ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 5:9).
Listen to the voice of the Lord. Put Jesus at the centre of your life.
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53). The voice of ‘common sense’ s not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him. If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8). The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way! The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ n the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28; John 12:31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm / Passion): Entry into Jerusalem – Mark 11:1-11 (or John 12:12-16); Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Passion – Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47 (or Mark 15:1-39, (40-47))
Prayer: Let us rejoice in God’s wonderful love.
In Mark 11, we learn of the authority of Christ. Calling the ‘colt’ into His service, He says, with authority, ‘The Lord has need of it’ (Mark 11:3). With authority, He speaks to the fig tree (Mark 11:14) - a ‘visual aid’ of His teaching: ‘Every branch of Mine that bears no fruit, He takes away’ (John 15:2). In the temple, He speaks with authority, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer...’ (Mark 11;17). He speaks of authority in prayer: ‘whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24). The religious leaders did not understand Jesus (Mark 11:27-33). Why? - They didn’t love Him. We can experience His authority: His Word spoken to us ‘in power...’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5). We can exercise His authority: Through prayer, setting His Word free to do His mighty work (Ephesians 6: 18-20) - if we are learning to love Him!
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5). These words were spoken by Christ as, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46). For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (Psalm 31:11). His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8). God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21). In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).
Praise: Let us give thanks for God’s faithful love.
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14). Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’. Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59, 744). Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:1:6). God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’. In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’ (1 Peter 1:5). In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; Philippians 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
Preaching: Let us share the strength we receive from God’s never-ending love.
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).
Let’s keep the love of Christ at the Centre of our Prayer, Praise and Preaching.
Jesus was surrounded by enemies, ‘seeking to kill Him’ (Mark 14:1). There was also a hypocrite, preparing ‘to betray Him’ (Mark 14:10-11). What a joy it was to find a woman with such heartfelt love for Him (Mark 14:3-9). Her love for Christ must never be forgotten (Mark 14:9). There is something else which must never be forgotten - His love for us. Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), we rejoice in His love. Think little of your love for Him. Think much of His love for you. ‘Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise? He can never be forgotten throughout heaven’s eternal days' (Songs of Fellowship,168). Remember Christ, and let your remembering be filled with worship (Mark 14:25; Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16-17).
After ‘they had sung a hymn’ (Mark 14:26), Peter showed that there was a great deal of ‘self’ in him (Mark 14:29). All of us can be like this - ‘they all said the same’ (Mark 14:31). We attend Communion (Mark 14:22-24), we sing hymns (Mark 14:26) - yet still the wrong attitudes persist! We ‘enjoy’ praise, prayer, and preaching - Remember: God is concerned with the whole of life, not just the ‘spiritual’ activities! Christ looked ahead to the Cross - ‘the hour’, ‘this cup’ (Mark 14:35-36). He was far removed from an ‘enjoyable atmosphere’ within which prayer is ‘easy’. Sorely tempted, He prayed, ‘not what I will but what You will’ (Mark 14:36). This was no easy road - the ‘betrayer’ was waiting for Him (Mark 14:42). It was a lonely road - ‘they all forsook Him, and fled’ (Mark 14:50). ‘The gate is narrow, the way is hard’ (Matthew 7:14). May God help us to follow Jesus.
Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of the Blessed’. He is ‘seated at the right hand of Power’. He is ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’ (Mark 14:61-62). He is ‘the King of the Jews’: His Kingdom is greater than Herod imagined - it is ‘not of this world’ (Mark 15:2; John 18:36). Why, then, did He remain silent when false charges were brought against Him? He was bearing our sin - That is why ‘He did not open His mouth’ (Isaiah 53:4-7; 1 Peter 2:22-24; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He knew that He was going to the Cross - for us (John 10:11, 15, 17-18). Jesus did not deny us: His silence was a godly silence - ‘He bore the sin of many’, making ‘Himself an offering for sin’(Isaiah 53:12,10). Will we deny Him? Our silence is a guilty silence (Mark 14:66-71). May Christ’s Word, and His look of love, cause us to weep - and repent (Mark 14:72; Luke 22:61-62; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
Jesus did not ‘save Himself’. ‘He saved others’ (Mark 15:31). He sacrificed Himself for our salvation. His was the sacrifice. Ours is the salvation. He ‘put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9:26). Barabbas was ‘released’. Jesus was ‘crucified’ (Mark 15:15). This is the Gospel - He took my place, He died for me. He was ‘forsaken’by God (Mark 15:34). We are reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21). We rejoice that Christ ignored the mocking call from ‘the chief priests’and ‘scribes’: ‘come down now from the Cross’ (Mark 15:32). He paid the full price of our salvation. For us now, there is full salvation. His suffering was complete: ‘It is finished’(John 19:30) was not a whimper of defeat. It was the declaration of victory. All that was needed - He has done for us. Now, He invites us to receive salvation: ‘Come; for all is now ready’ (Luke 14:17).
Dead and buried (Mark 15:44-46) - ‘The End’? No! There is more. An ‘Appendix’? No! A whole new beginning - For Jesus, for us! He is ‘the first fruits’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). The full glory is still to come (1 Corinthians 15:24). He has risen (Mark 16:6). ‘At His coming, those who belong to Christ’ will be raised - with Him and by Him - to everlasting life (1 Corinthians 15:23). This is the glory of the resurrection. It is not simply a thing of the past. It is our glorious future - we ‘will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:52). There is a Gospel to be preached - the Gospel of salvation (Mark 16:15-16). May God help us to preach the Gospel ‘everywhere’ - This will involve all of us, not just a few of us! May He give us the joy of seeing Him at work, confirming the message by the signs that attend it (Mark 16:20).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Monday in Holy Week: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11
Jesus Christ is God’s beloved Son - the Saviour sent to us by the God of love.
‘Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:15-21).
These words turn our thoughts towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
At His baptism, we hear the voice of the Father - ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ At His baptism, we see ‘the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on Him’ (Matthew 3:16-17).
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Word of prophecy: ‘All mankind shall see the Saviour sent from God’ (Luke 3:6).
After His resurrection, we hear Jesus Himself speaking. He says, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...’ (Matthew 28:18-20).
Let us bring Christ to the nations. Let us serve the Lord in the power of the Spirit.
Never take God’s love for granted. Let us be deeply appreciative of His love.
Read about God’s ‘steadfast love’ and rejoice in Him: ‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens...How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! ...O continue Your steadfast love to those who know You...’ (Psalm 36:5, 7, 10).
Rejoicing in the Lord’s ‘steadfast love’ is quite different from taking His love for granted.
We dare not say, “God loves me. I can do what I like.”
We must not become like the wicked - ‘there is no fear of God before his eyes’ (Psalm 36:1).
Where there is true rejoicing in God’s ‘steadfast love’, there will also be ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10).
A real appreciation of God’s ‘steadfast love’ brings with it a real awareness of our own sinfulness.
Knowing how much God loves us leads us to pray, ‘Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away’ (Psalm 36:11).
Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His wonderful redemption.
God gave His promise - ‘I will make a new covenant’ (Hebrews 8:8-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God has fulfilled His promise. There is now a ‘new covenant in Jesus’blood’ (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
The old covenant cannot even begin to compare with the new covenant. It is only a ‘shadow.’
The new covenant is the real thing. It is ‘much more excellent’. It is ‘a better covenant’ (Hebrews 8:5-6),
The old covenant is ‘outdated’ (Hebrews 8:13). It has seen its day. Now, it’s past its ‘sell by date’!
We look at the old covenant and we say, ‘There must be more than this’.
There is more - ‘much more’.
Through ‘the blood of Christ’, ‘our hearts and lives’have been ‘cleansed’. Now, we can begin ‘to serve the living God’ (Hebrews 9:14).
‘What a wonderful redemption!’- ‘eternal redemption’ (Mission Praise, 765; Hebrews 9:12)!
Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His victory over Satan.
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6).
There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
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The Bible readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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Tuesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
Knowing Christ and making Him known
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’ (Isaiah 49:26).
We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’.
‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves.
We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’ (Mission Praise, 385).
‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).
Keeping Christ at the centre in joyful worship and courageous witness
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2).
We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it!
He is not preoccupied with his own problems. He calls on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4).
How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3).
Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).
With our faith centred on Christ crucified, let us give all the glory to God.
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4).
He preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2).
This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’(Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).
Keep Christ at the centre: concern for the poor grounded in devotion to Christ
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32).
Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
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The Bible Readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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Wednesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32
Waiting on the Lord, witnessing for Him and winning others for Him
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).
Strengthened in worship, we are equipped for witness.
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2). We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it! Rather than being preoccupied with his own problems, he is calling on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4). How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3). Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).
Learning from others, looking to Jesus
We read about many people who trusted the Lord. Their faith was real. It changed their lives. As you read of so many people who lived ‘by faith’, let God’s Word challenge you. Bring your own weak faith to Him and ask Him to give you a stronger faith: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). We learn from so many different people. We read about their faith. We are inspired by their faith. We do not, however, make too much of them. We must always be ‘looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2). We must learn the lesson of the transfiguration. We look at Moses. We look at Elijah. We learn from them. There comes a point where they - together with all God’s faithful people - must step aside, leaving us to look up and see ‘Jesus only’ (Mark 9:2-8).
Looking beyond our difficult times to Christ’s glorious future
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (John 13:21-30). He would be denied by Peter (John 13:36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (John 13:31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to ‘love one another’: ‘By this all men shall know that they are His disciples’ (John 13:34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (John 14:6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (John 14:9). Now, He is working in and through us (John 14:12-14). He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’(Church Hymnary, 195).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A.
The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.
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Thursday in Holy Week: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17
Christ died for us. Let us live for Him.
Here, we focus attention on two verses which emphasize the importance of being saved by the Lord and going on to live for Him: ‘when I see the blood, I will pass over you... you must eat unleavened bread’ (Exodus 12:13, 20).
In verse 13, we are directed beyond the Passover to Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins (John 1:29; 1 John1:7).
In verse 20, we have the call to holy living.
In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-9, Paul uses ‘leaven’ as a symbol of ‘sin’, which holds us back from ‘running a good race’.
We are to live as a new creation, who feast on ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. Forgiveness of sins and holy living belong together. We are not to rejoice in God’s forgiveness and then gloss over His call to holy living: ‘justified by faith’, we are to ‘walk in newness of life’ (Romans 5:1; 6:4).
God loves us. Let us love one another.
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). We take note of what Paul says about the way we are to come to the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
What’s this all about? Is it about the whole thing looking good - impressive?
Paul gives us something to think about in verse 22 - ‘Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?’.
In Paul’s questions, we hear an echo of the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 1:12-20; Amos 5:21-24).
We rejoice in John 3:16 - ‘God so loved the world…’. Let’s not forget 1 John 3:16-18 - ‘let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in trust’.
Jesus says, ‘…first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’(Matthew 5:23-24). Don’t just think about it. Act on it (James1:22-25; 2:14-17)!
Our love for God is to be a lifelong love.
‘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’ (Psalm 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’ (Church Hymnary, 450).
Let the love of God change the way you live.
The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. ‘For fear of the Pharisees’, many remained silent, ‘loving the praise of men more than the praise of God’(John 12:42-43).
Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (John 12:46).
If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ.
Do not only read God’s Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (John 12:50).
The ‘hour’of Jesus’suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (John 13:1-3). It is the ‘hour’of His love.
We are ‘washed’ in His precious blood (John 13:8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14).
What God has done for us comes before what we ought to do for others.
Jesus is our Saviour before He is our ‘Example’ (John 13:14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (John 13:17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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Good Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25 (or Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9); John 18:1-19:42
Were we there when they crucified our Lord? – Yes. He died for our sins.
In this remarkable prophecy, we see Jesus Christ, crucified for us - ‘the Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ - and risen from the dead - ‘After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life’ (Isaiah 53:6, 11).
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ (Mission Praise, 745). We might put this question to Isaiah. In one sense, he wasn’t there. He lived long before the time of Christ. In another sense, he was there. God opened his eyes. God gave him a glimpse of what was going to happen in the future.
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ In one sense, we weren’t there. These things happened long before we were even born. In another sense, we were there. It was our sins which Christ took with Him to the Cross. It was our sins which He left behind Him when He rose from the dead (Romans 4:25).
Jesus Christ – forsaken by God and pierced for our transgressions
Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 22:7-8, 18; Matthew 27:39 ,43, 35).
We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’ (Psalm 22:1, 16).
Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ (Isaiah 53:6).
When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46).
Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’ (John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9).
Looking back to Christ’s crucifixion, looking forward to His return
We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). We are to live as those who are awaiting the Day of the Lord’s return (Hebrews 10:25).
We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us.
Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in Hebrews 9:28 - ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’.
We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’(Galatians 2:20).
We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us - His body broken for us and His blood shed for us.
We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Remember - and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’(Revelation 22:20).
As we remember our Lord Jesus Christ, we see how sinful we really are and we pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (Hebrews 4:15-16). It is through His grace and mercy that we are able to look forward to ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:9).
“It is finished”. The work of redemption is completed. Jesus is the risen Lord.
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (John 18:1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (John 18:12-14, 19-24).
Jesus is ‘drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him’- He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (John 18:11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Jesus’death was not only ‘expedient’. It was ‘necessary’- for our salvation (John 18:14; Luke 24:26).
Alongside the story of Jesus there is the story of Peter (John 18:15-18, 25-27). Jesus’death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (John 21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38, 41).
‘Barabbas was a robber’. He was released (John 18:39-40). There was ‘no crime’in Jesus. He was ‘crucified’ (John 18:38; 19:4, 6, 16).
Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die.
Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born...’ (John 18:36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross.
As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12, 6).
‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’- on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’(Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
To come to the words, ‘It is finished’ is not to reach the end of the story.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42). This was not the end of His story.
He was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the |Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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Saturday in Holy Week: Job 14:1-14 (or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24); Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 (or John 19:38-42)
Out of darkness into light - “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
When you don’t really know what you’re talking about, it’s a case of the less said the better.
That’s how Job feels about his ‘friends’- ‘Oh that would you keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!’(Job 13:5).
They are no help to him. What does he do next? He takes his problem to the Lord. Nothing seems clear to Job. He seems to be bogged down in his own suffering.
There is, however, a glimmer of light. A question comes into his mind - ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ (Job 14:14).
Later on, Job gives the answer of faith: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives...Even after my skin has been stripped off my body, I will see God in my own flesh’ (Job 19:25).
‘Christ has been raised from the dead...Death is swallowed up in victory...Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 54, 57).
Out of darkness into light – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”
There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction...’ (Lamentations 3:1-3).
In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’.
When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us.
We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’.
It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong.
We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives.
We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:22-26).
Out of darkness into light – the “spacious place” of God’s salvation
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5). These words were spoken by Christ as, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (Psalm 31:11). His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21).
In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).
Out of darkness and into light – Create in me, a clean heart, O God.
As we consider Christ who suffered for us, let us pray that we may have His ‘attitude.’ Let us commit ourslves to doing the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
The Gospel was preached even to those who are now dead (1 Peter 4:6). As we read those words, let us commit ourselves to our God-given task of preaching the Gospel to those who are living.
We believe the Gospel - ‘Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’. Let’s share the Gospel - ‘Be always ready to give...a reason for the hope that is in you.’
How are we to share the Gospel? - ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:18, 15). We must get the attitude right - ‘so that nothing will hinder our prayers’ (1 Peter 3:7). We need more than the ‘right’ prayers - words that sound good. We need the right attitude. The blessing will not come because our words sound good. It will only come when our attitude is right.
Our obedience to God’s will, in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is to be grounded our prayer. Our preaching and prayer are to be grounded in praise.
In all the service we offer to God, there is to be the offering of worship: ‘To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever’ (1 Peter 4:11; 5:11).
We will not learn to serve God unless we are learning to worship Him.
There is a ‘form of religion’ which ‘denies the power’ of God - ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’ (2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 15:8). They go through the motions - but their hearts are not in it!
We must pray that God will deliver us from this kind of thing: ‘O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin set free; A heart that always feels Thy blood, so freely shed for me’ (Church Hymnary, 85).
‘Religion’ is about respectability. Salvation is about renewal: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).
Out of darkness and into light – It was impossible for death to hold Christ.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64). As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’(64). The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them! Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24). He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!
Out of darkness into light – Love has the victory for ever.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42).
Was this the end of His story? - No! There was more to come – the resurrection. His story did not end there - ‘Jesus had to rise from the dead’ (John 20:9).
On the Cross, Jesus had said, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’ - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father.
The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
We read of Jesus’ death. We read of His burial – but His story does not end there!
This was a time of darkness: Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Saviour.
It was also the time of waiting: Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.
Soon, the time of triumph would come: Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
The story of Jesus Christ does not end with the darkness of His burial. Beyond the darkness, there is the light of His resurrection: He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives for ever with His saints to reign.
For our salvation, Jesus died ‘and was raised to life’(Romans 4:25). The light shines brightly. It is the light of God’s love.
We hear the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection: He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! (Mission Praise, 453).
We hear of the triumph of God’s love: Love has the victory for ever!
Inspired by the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection and the triumph of God’s love, let us respond with the worship of our hearts: Who can see Your greatest gift and fail to worship You? (Mission Praise, 86).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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Easter Vigil: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13; Psalm 46; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16; Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21; Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6; Psalm 19; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Psalms 42 and 43; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 143; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Psalm 98; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Matthew 28:1-10
In the beginning, there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. These opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right - (a) The priority of God (Genesis 1:1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there. (b) The priority of God’s Word (Genesis 1:3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord. (c) The priority of God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2). All was ‘empty’, all was ‘darkness’, yet the ‘Spirit of God’ was at work, and transformation was set in motion. Here, we have God’s priorities, set out in the Bible’s first three verses - Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God’s Spirit, ‘hovering over’ our lives to transform them. For those who make God’s priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2). It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
God speaks, and it is done (Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 11). God is pleased with what He has done (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12). This is the pattern of God’s original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God speaks to us and we say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). We say, ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38). God looks on such obedience, this ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, 22-23), and He sees that it is ‘good’ (Micah 6:8). In these verses we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God's creation. There are lessons for us here. We are to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7). We are to let the Spirit's ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:39-39). Walking in the light, letting the living water flow - this is the way of fruitfulness.
The Bible’s opening chapter is a great hymn of praise, emphasizing that all things have been created for the glory of God (Revelation 4:11). Nothing can be permitted to distract our attention from the Lord. He alone is worthy of worship. The creation of the ‘lights’ makes no reference to the sun and the moon. These were worshipped by neighbouring peoples. They are not gods. They are simply ‘lights’. Our worship is to be given to God alone. The waters teemed with living creatures. The land produced living creatures. Here, we have a picture of life. There is life where the living water of the Spirit is flowing freely among God’s people (Ezekiel 47:5-9). This water brings life to the land (Ezekiel 47:12). Moving with the flow of God’s Spirit, we are to pray that ‘the water of life’ will flow freely ‘for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).
We now come to the creation of humanity, male and female. Our creation is described in a distinctive way - created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are different from the rest of creation. We have been given dominion over ‘all the earth’ and ‘every living creature’ (Genesis 1:26, 28). We are different from God. He is the Creator. We are His creation. Created in God’s image, we have been created by Him and for Him. Though we have sinned (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23), now - in Jesus Christ - we have begun to live as a new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1) and that ‘all things were created by Him and for Him’ (Colossians 1:16). This is the Saviour who is at work in us, enabling us to live as a new creation! Creation has been ‘completed’ (2:1). Salvation will be completed (Philippians 1:6)!
In the end, there will be love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘His love endures for ever’. This is the great message contained in every single verse of this Psalm. It’s a message worth repeating - over and over again! God’s love is an everlasting love - ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love is an unfailing love - ‘My unfailing love for you will not be shaken’ (Isaiah 54:10). Let us ‘give thanks’ to God for His love (Psalm 1-3, 26). In His love, the Lord has provided for us ‘an everlasting salvation’. His ‘salvation will last for ever’ (Isaiah 45:17; 51:6). We must not be like those who refuse to love the Lord - ‘Pharaoh... great kings... mighty kings ...’ (Psalm 136:15, 17-20). Those who reject God’s love will not receive ‘eternal life’. Their future will be very different - the ‘raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’ (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 10:26-27).
When you see a rainbow, remember there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we pick up on the words of Genesis 7:16 - ‘the Lord closed the door behind them’. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation - The ark had only one door. Jesus is ‘the Door’ which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation - All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation - Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape...?’(Hebrews 2:3).
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (Genesis 8:13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’. God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (Genesis 8:15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (Genesis 8:17; John 15:16). We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
‘When you see a rainbow, remember God is love’. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (Genesis 9:13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: ‘We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross... upon the Cross we see in shining letters. ‘God is love’, He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above’. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God’s salvation: ‘I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me’. This is the greatest Story of all - ‘the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,... the Story of wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin’. ‘This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long’. This is ‘the Story to tell to the nations’ (Church Hymnary, 258, 381, 132; Mission Praise, 59, 744).
Be still and know that there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).
In Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world (Genesis 21:22-34) and his relationship with the Lord (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - ‘God is with you in all that you do’ (Genesis 21:22). We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God. In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (Genesis 22:8). In Genesis 22:14, we read, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided’. On Calvary’s hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).
After the renewal of God’s promise (Genesis 22:15-18), Abraham went to Beersheba (Genesis 22:19). He returned to the place where he had ‘called...on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (21:33). This is a good ‘place’ to be, the ‘place’ of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God. The death of Sarah took place in God's time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. We see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.
Our hope of eternal glory comes from love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.
In the redemption of Israel, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God had redeemed His people. He was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (Exodus 14:13-14). There is judgment as well as salvation (Exodus 14:30). Looking to neither the ‘right’ nor the ‘left’, we must look to the Lord (Exodus 14:21-22). Rejoicing in ‘the great work’ He has done, our faith ‘in the Lord’ grows strong (Exodus 14:31).
God has given us a song to sing. We have a song to sing. It is a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people; a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption; and a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption. This is not only a ‘song of God’s people’. It is also the song of Moses, a personal song. This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart. Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship: (i) He praises the God of grace - ‘my strength... my song... my salvation’ (Exodus 15:2). (ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (Exodus 15:1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds (Exodus 15:6, 11). (iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (Exodus 15:13) - and glory - the reigning God (Exodus 15:18) - , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28). Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.
In the prophet’s words, we hear the Word of love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found...’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11). We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts...’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy...’ (Isaiah 55:12). Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...’ (Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time...’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).
‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’ (Isaiah 12:1-2). May this be our personal faith – this is what the Lord means to me – and our public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12: 4-5).
Be wise. Open your heart to love, eternal love, the love of God.
Hoping for ‘good luck’, some people expect good things to happen to them - all the time! God says, ‘Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times’. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 8:6-8). Wisdom is not only for ‘kings and rulers, princes and nobles’. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (Proverbs 8:15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (Proverbs 8:13, 35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (Proverbs 8:32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than ‘silver, gold and jewels’ (Proverbs 8:10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Proverbs 11:30). Don’t keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
In Proverbs 9:5, there is a Gospel invitation: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed’. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). ‘This sounds so old-fashioned’- so the world tells us. ‘The fear of the Lord’- This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! - It is a lack of obedience. When we do not ‘honour’ God, we are ‘without sense’. ‘Claiming to be wise’, we show that we are ‘fools’. If we are wise, we will keep ‘going straight on the way’, looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from ‘the depths of hell’ to the heights of heaven (Proverbs 8:13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2, 6).
In creation and Scripture, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’ (7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’ (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
Through Christ, God looks upon us with love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘I will look on you with favour’ (Ezekiel 36:9). Through Christ our Saviour, God looks upon us with favour. Here are some words which will help you to rejoice in the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which is ‘greater than all my sin’, the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which ‘reaches me’. ‘Let me introduce you to a friend called Grace. Doesn’t care about your past or your many mistakes. He’ll cover your sins in a warm embrace. Let me introduce to a friend called Grace’. ‘His grace reaches lower than your worst mistake and His love will run further than you can run away’. ‘He believes in lost causes when common sense would just give up. He believes in lost causes and changes people with His love. There’s nobody too far gone, no one beyond His reach. He believes in lost causes ‘cause He believed in me’. Let Jesus be your Joy!
May your soul be lifted up by love, eternal love, the love of God.
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).
When the Spirit breathes upon us, we receive love, eternal love, the love of God.
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... 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, 274, 241).
On the Lord’s pathway of victory, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Psalmist prays, ‘Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord’ (Psalm 143:9). He is not concerned only about his own welfare. He is concerned about the glory of God: ‘For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life’ (Psalm 143:11). How does God lead us in victory? How is He glorified in our lives? He brings to us the teaching of His Word - ‘Let the morning bring me Word of Your unfailing love’ (Psalm 143:8). He gives to us the strength of His Spirit - ‘May Your good Spirit lead me in good paths’ (Psalm 143:10). Through His Word and Spirit, God shows us His ‘unfailing love’. He enables us to say, ‘You are my God’, ‘I have put my trust in You’ and ‘I am Your servant’. He ‘shows us the way we should go’. He ‘teaches us to do His will’. He gives us victory over our ‘enemies’ (8, 10, 12).
In the story of God’s salvation, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
In Zephaniah 3, we have a story of sin - Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ - and a story of salvation - ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy... The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:1-2, 14-17). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness - ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’ (Mission Praise, 573).
Let us worship God: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).
Living as a new creation: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). (b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it. This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11). (c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’. ‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
At the Cross of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).
In the resurrection of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’- His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (Matthew 28:5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact - Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (Matthew 28:19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ’s resurrection - , there is worship (Matthew 28:9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (Matthew 28:17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (Matthew 28:10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). Run and tell - with great joy (Matthew 28:8)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
The same readings (with the exception of the Gospel Reading) are suggested for Year A and Year C.
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Easter Day: Acts 10:34-43 (or Isaiah 25:6-9); Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (or Acts 10:34-43); John 20:1-18 (or Mark 16:1-8)
God’s Love, God’s Son, God’s Command, God’s Purpose
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; Acts 11:1, 18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (Acts 10:44; Acts 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’should be preached to ‘everyone’ (Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save... Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’ (Mission Praise, 178).
Worship: Receiving God’s Love, Exalting God’s Son
‘O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name... You have done marvellous things’ (Isaiah 25:1). We remember what God has done for us. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who died for us. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who rose again for us. We look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to the Day when ‘He will swallow up death for ever’. On that Day, ‘the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces’. On that Day, we will look back and say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us’. On that Day, we will ‘rejoice and be glad in His salvation’ (Isaiah 25:8-9). Here and now, let us learn to ‘trust in the Lord’. We can trust in Him ‘for ever’. He is ‘the everlasting Rock’- ‘the Rock of our salvation’ (Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 95:1).
Witness: Obeying God’s Command, Fulfilling God’s Purpose
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14). Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’. Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59, 744). Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.
In Our Worship, Let’s Be Resurrection People Living In Resurrection Power.
Here, we learn of Christ’s resurrection: the fact - ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’ - and the meaning - ‘the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). We look back to His resurrection. We ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8). We look forward to our own resurrection. We will be ‘raised’- ‘imperishable… in glory… in power… a spiritual body’ (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Looking back to His resurrection and looking forward to our own resurrection, we are to live, here and now, in ‘the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10). We believe the fact of the resurrection. We live in the power of the resurrection. We rejoice in the hope of the resurrection. With ‘resurrection’ faith in the ‘resurrection’ God, let us live the ‘resurrection’ life as a ‘resurrection’ people!
In Our Witness, Let’s Pray That God Will Be At Work In Resurrection Power.
Dead and buried (Mark 15:44-46) - ‘The End’? No! There is more. An ‘Appendix’? No! A whole new beginning - For Jesus, for us! He is ‘the first fruits’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). The full glory is still to come (1 Corinthians 15:24). He has risen (Mark 16:6). ‘At His coming, those who belong to Christ’ will be raised - with Him and by Him - to everlasting life (1 Corinthians 15:23). This is the glory of the resurrection. It is not simply a thing of the past. It is our glorious future - we ‘will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:52). There is a Gospel to be preached - the Gospel of salvation (Mark 16:15-16). May God help us to preach the Gospel ‘everywhere’ - This will involve all of us, not just a few of us! May He give us the joy of seeing Him at work, confirming the message by the signs that attend it (Mark 16:20).
In Our Worship and Witness, Let’s Proclaim The Triumph Of Christ’s Victory.
‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph. At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption. In one sense, ‘it is finished’ - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9). To come to the words, ‘It is finished’ is not to reach the end of the story. Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42). Still, this was not the end of the story. Something else had to happen - ‘Jesus had to rise from the dead’ (20:9). For our salvation, Jesus died ‘and was raised to life’ (Romans 4:25).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133 (or Isaiah 65:17-25); Psalm 3; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
They gathered together for prayer. It was the start of something great.
Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’...’ (Acts 4:31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God...’ (Psalm 139:23-24).
Let us gather together for worship. Let us look to God for His blessing.
God sends ‘His blessing’ when His people gather together for worship: ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1, 3). Many people like to think of themselves as ‘believers’, yet they show no interest in worshipping together with God’s people. What does God’s Word say about this? - ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...’ (Hebrews 10:25). ‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the House of the Lord’ (Psalm 133:1; Psalm 134:1). Some people never miss a Sunday morning service - but they always miss the Sunday evening services! They are missing out on so much of God’s blessing. ‘May the Lord... bless you...’ on Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings (Psalm 134:2)!
As we worship, let us sing to the Lord with joyful hearts.
What a contrast there is between those who belong to Christ - ‘My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts’- and those who have refused to come to Christ for salvation - ‘You will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit’ (Isaiah 65:14)! God is preparing a great future ‘for those who love Him’ - ‘I will create a new heaven and a new earth’. He is calling us away from our sins - ‘Past things will not be remembered. They will not come to mind’. He is calling us to His ‘holy mountain’. How can we enter into our full enjoyment of God’s eternal salvation? God’s Word tells us: ‘I will pay attention to those who are humble and sorry for their sins and who tremble at My Word’ (Isaiah 65:17, 25; Isaiah 66:2; 1 Corinthians 2:9). Make sure that you belong to Christ. Put your faith in Him (John 3:18, 36).
As we worship, we are changed by the Lord.
This Psalm begins with the human situation - ‘O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him”’' (Psalm 3:1-2). It ends with the divine provision - ‘From the Lord comes deliverance’ (Psalm 3:8). How does the Psalmist rise above his deeply distressing circumstances? He takes his problem to the Lord. The Psalm’s opening words, ‘O Lord’, indicate the way toward its triumphant conclusion. Why is the Psalmist not overwhelmed by depression? - He is looking to the Lord. This is not a case of ‘positive thinking’ on the part of David. This is deliverance from the Lord. There is no simple ‘psychological’ explanation for David’s change of mood. He is delivered by the Lord. He is raised from his depressive mood by the Lord, ‘my Glorious One, who lifts up my head’ (Psalm 3:3). What He’s done for others, He can do for you!
As we worship, we receive God’s blessing. Let’s share His blessing withg others.
‘Jesus Christ’ died ‘for our sins’. This is Good News. It is not to be kept to ourselves - He died ‘for the sins of the whole world’. We have ‘fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ’. ‘We have fellowship with one another’. These blessings are not to be kept to ourselves. We must share the Good News - ‘the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’. We must seek to bring others into ‘fellowship’- not only ‘with us’ but, ‘with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 1:3, 7). We are called to a life of obedience - ‘he who does the will of God lives for ever’. This obedience comes from our experience of God’s love. ‘The love of the Father’ leads to ‘love for the Father’: ‘We love’ God ‘because He first loved us’ (1 John 2:15-17; 1 John 4:19). Let’s love the Lord - and do His will.
As we share God’s blessing, let us pray that others will receive Christ as Saviour.
Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2, 18, 20, 25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13, 28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13, 15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18). (b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (John 20:19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (John 20:25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4 (or Isaiah 6:1-9a); Psalm 40:1-5; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
The Gospel is the power of God for salvation.
Laid daily at the gate of the temple, the ‘man lame from birth’ had seen plenty of ‘ordinary’ days (Acts 3:2). This was no ‘ordinary’ day. This was a day for ‘walking, and leaping, and praising God’ (Acts 3:9). Jesus Christ can do for us what ‘silver and gold’ cannot do (Acts 3:6). He is ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’ (Romans 1:16). From the healing of the lame man came a great opportunity for Peter to preach the Gospel to ‘the people’ (Acts 3:10-12). Peter gave all the glory to God. Peter and John had not performed this miracle by their ‘own power or piety’ (Acts 3:12). This was the work of God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’, the God who raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:13-16). This is the God who calls us to return to Him. ‘Turn’to Him. He will forgive your sins. He will send ‘times of refreshing’ (Acts 3:19).
Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to our prayer for salvation.
There is a great message of the Gospel here. By ourselves, we are sinners, turning God’s glory to shame, loving delusions and seeking false gods (Psalm 4:2). By grace, God has done something about this - ‘the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself’ (Psalm 4:3). When we pray, ‘Answer me’ (Psalm 4:1), we have this confidence: ‘the Lord will hear when I call to Him’ (Psalm 4:3). The Lord hears the sinner’s prayer, ‘Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer’ (Psalm 4:1). Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to this prayer. Christ brings relief (salvation). This salvation arises from the mercy of God. In Christ, we have a ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ which the wotld can neither give nor take away (Psalm 4:7-8). When the seeking sinner comes with question, ‘Who can show us any good?’ (Psalm 4:6), the Gospel Answer is always the same - Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Your guilt is taken away and your sin forgiven.
God reveals His holiness: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts’ (Isaiah 6:3). In His holiness, we see our own sinfulness: ‘I am a man of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5). God is perfectly holy: ‘Your eyes are too pure to look on evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13). When we look at ourselves in the light of God’s perfect holiness, we see the truth concerning ourselves: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). There is no room for excuses. We must confess our sin. We must pray for God’s forgiveness: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). To those who come to Him with a true confession of sin, God speaks His Word of forgiveness: ‘your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven’ (Isaiah 6:7). The Lord has saved us. Let us serve Him. Let us pray, ‘Here am I! Send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Let us share the Good News of His forgiveness.
Saved by the Lord, we are called to a life of worship and witness.
We have been saved by the Lord: ‘He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my feet secure’ (Psalm 40:2). He calls us to a life of worship and witness. We are to worship Him with ‘a new song...a song of praise to our God’ (Psalm 40:3). We are to be His witnesses, sharing with others the Good News of His salvation: ‘I have not hid Thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation...’ (Psalm 40:10). God has given out His call to worship and witness. May our response be like the Psalmist’s: ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God.’ Let us worship the Lord - ‘Great is the Lord.’ Let us be His witnesses - ‘I have told the glad news of deliverance.’ Let us pray for the Lord’s help: ‘let Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness ever preserve me!’ (Psalm 40:8, 16, 9, 11).
Do you believe in Christ? Live the life. Be a believer – in deed!
Through faith in Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God’, we receive ‘eternal life’ (1 John 2:22-25; John 20:31). Our enjoyment of eternal life has already begun - ‘we are God’s children now’. Our full enjoyment of eternal life is still to come: ‘It does not yet appear what we shall be...’. We have begun to experience Christ’s victory: ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil’. We look forward to our full enjoyment of His victory: ‘When He appears, we shall be like Him...’ (1 John 3:2, 8). Some will try to ‘deceive’ us. We must keep our eyes on Christ - ‘He laid down His life for us’. We have received His ‘love’. We must show His love - ‘Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:7, 16, 18). Do you believe in Christ? Live the life. Be a believer - in deed’!
Listen to the voice of your Saviour. Let His Word fill you with great joy.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’ (Luke 24:32). He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’ (Luke 24:47-48). Before we can preach, we must listen to Him. Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’ (Luke 24:39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’ (John 20:25). Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be clothed with power from on high. Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy’. With all this going on in your lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:48-53)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23 (or Zechariah 10); Psalm 80:1-7; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
Jesus Christ – the Name of our Salvation
Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’...’ (Acts 4:31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God...’ (Psalm 139:23-24).
Jesus Christ – the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd
Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25). For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6).
Jesus Christ – our Strength
We read the words of the prophet Zechariah and our thoughts turn to Jesus Christ, our Saviour. In Him, we have God’s fulfilment of the promises given by God through the prophet Zechariah – “I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph … I will strengthen them in the Lord …” (Zechariah 10:6, 12).
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
‘Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved’ (Psalm 80:3). This prayer for salvation is repeated with a growing sense of God’s greatness - ‘O God Almighty’ (Psalm 80:7), ‘O Lord God Almighty’ (Psalm 80:19). To those who are asking the question of salvation - ‘What must I do to be saved?’ - , God gives His answer - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:30-31). What does the Lord say to those who look to Christ for salvation? - ‘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). Let us worship Him: ‘Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer’ (Ephesians 1:3).
Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ. Receive His love. Share His love.
We must keep our eyes on Christ - ‘He laid down His life for us’. We have received His ‘love’. We must show His love - ‘Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:7, 16, 18). Do you believe in Christ? Live the life. Be a believer - in deed’! ‘God is greater than our hearts’. When you are deeply aware of your sinfulness, remember - God loves you. God’s Word is brutally honest - about us: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ God’s Word is wonderfully encouraging - about His love for us. He ‘knows everything’ about us - and He still loves us: ‘God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (1 John 3:20; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 5:8). What a great Saviour we have. He is ‘without sin’ - yet He is the Friend of sinners. He ‘receives sinners’. He ‘came into the world to save sinners’ (Hebrews 4:15; Luke 15:2; 1 Timothy 1:15). Whenever we start getting too full of ourselves, too full of our own importance, we must remember: ‘He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19) - before we ever thought of loving Him!
Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated.
The Christian life is not easy. The devil ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’ (John 10:10). Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying ‘to stone’ Jesus (Johm 10:31). ‘Again’, they failed (John 10:39). They could not take Jesus’life. ‘His hour had not yet come’ (John 10:18; John 7:30; John 8:20). When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (John 10:28-29). Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’. Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31 (or Exodus 19:1-6); Psalm 118:19-25; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
Searching the Scriptures, Finding the Saviour
Make sure that it’s real! Simon the magician was impressed by the ‘signs and great miracles’, but his ‘heart’was ‘not right before God’ (Acts 8:13, 19). The Ethiopian’s conversion was real. Searching the Scriptures, he found the Saviour (Acts 8:30-35). From the Ethiopian’s conversion, we learn of Jesus’promise: ‘Seek and you will find’. From Simon’s tragedy, we hear Jesus’warning: ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter the kingdom of heaven...’ (Matthew 7:7, 21-23). What is God saying to us from these two very different stories? - ‘Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure’ (2 Peter 1:10). ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Lord, and know my thoughts I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me, Cleanse me from every sin and set me free’ (Mission Praise. 587).
Jesus Christ – the Saviour for every nation and generation
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9).
Let the Gospel reach you. Let the Gospel change you.
Before law, there is Gospel - what God has done for us (Exodus 19:4). We are to obey in the Spirit of grace, as those who have been redeemed by His mercy (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9-10). God’s Word is not only for the leader. It is for the whole people of God (Exodus 19:3, 7, 9, 11). God speaks to us concerning possession, consecration and reverence. Possession - We are His 'own possession' (Exodus 19:5). In love, He has claimed us for Himself. We belong to Him. Consecration - God is holy. We are to be holy (Exodus 19:10, 14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Reverence - Don’t rush into God’s presence, presuming on His blessing. We must not take God’s blessing for granted. That would be arrogance (Exodus 19:21-22). We must come to Him with this humble confidence: God will bless those who truly call upon Him (2 Chronicles 7:14-16). May God help us to say, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Exodus 19:8).
May Jesus Christ be your Strength, your Song and your Saviour.
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14). Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’. Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59, 744). Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.
Let Christ’s love for you inspire your love for Him.
What a great Saviour we have. He is ‘without sin’- yet He is the Friend of sinners. He ‘receives sinners’. He ‘came into the world to save sinners’(Hebrews 4:15; Luke 15:2; 1 Timothy 1:15). Whenever we start getting too full of ourselves, too full of our own importance, we must remember: ‘He first loved us’ (4:19) - before we ever thought of loving Him!
Abiding in Christ: God’s way of fruitfulness
Once Jesus Christ has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (John 15:4). Jesus says to us, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. ‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’ (John 14:26). Christ’s ‘words’ abide in us (John 15:7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (John 15:5, 15) - ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace...’ (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (John 15:21). He gives us His peace (John 15:27). He gives us His joy (John 15:11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’ be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’ (John 15:12, 16-17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98 (or Genesis 35:9-15); Psalm 101; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
God’s Love, God’s Son, God’s Command, God’s Purpose
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; 11:1, 18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’should be preached to ‘everyone’(Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save... Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise, 128). ‘Go forth and tell!’(Mission Praise, 178).
God is holy. God is love. Let’s worship Him with joy.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalm 99:5, 9; Psalm 98:4, 6; Psalm 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! ... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalm 100:5; Psalm 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’. Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).
We cannot expect to be fruitful witnesses, if we are not faithful worshippers.
‘God appeared to Jacob again ... and blessed him’ (Genesis 35:9). The Lord’s blessing does not come only once. Again and again, He blesses His people, leading us on to a closer walk with Him. God knows what we have been - ‘Your name is Jacob’ (Genesis 35:10). He knows how often we have failed Him, yet still, He loves us. Still, He holds out before us a new and better future - ‘Israel shall be your name’ (Genesis 35:10). God is inviting us to enter into a future of fruitfulness (Genesis 35:11): ‘I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that you fruit should abide’ (John 15:16). Special mention is made of ‘the place where God had spoken with him’- ‘Bethel’ (the house of God) (Genesis 35:15). We cannot expect to be fruitful witnesses if we are not faithful worshippers. Listen for God’s Word. Take His Word with you - and share it with others.
Let’s worship the Lord. Let’s walk with Him.
‘I will sing of Your love... I will walk with integrity of heart...’ (Psalm 101:1-2). These words were written many centuries ago. ‘Things are very different now’- so we’re told! Worshipping the Lord and walking with Him: Are these things out-of-date now? Are they to be forgotten? So many people have no time for the Lord. They feel that they can do without Him. They refuse to worship Him. They do not walk with Him. In our ever-changing world, there is something we must never forget: The Lord is ‘enthroned for ever’. His ‘Name endures to all generations’. In all the changes of life, the Lord ‘remains the same’. His ‘years go on through all generations’. His ‘years will never end’ (Psalm 102:12, 24, 27). These words were ‘written for a future generation’. They were written for us. We must not forget to ‘praise the Lord’ (Psalm 102:18)!
Looking to Christ, let’s walk in the way of victory.
What a great blessing we receive through faith in Christ - ‘Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God’ (1 John 5:1). Our life as God’s children is not a life of tranquility. We face conflict, real conflict - a battle. In this spiritual warfare, we have God’s promise of victory. In 1 John 5:5, we have a question: ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?’. The answer is contained in the question. Our victory is in Christ. We are not victorious because our faith is so strong that we couldn’t possibly fail. Many times, we fail. We take our eyes off Christ - and we are defeated. What are we to do? - when temptations seem to be so many and so powerful. When you feel so weak, let Christ be your Strength. ‘With Christ within, the fight we’ll win’.
Abiding in Christ, let’s walk with Him on the pathway of fruitfulness.
Once Christ has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (4). Jesus says to us, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’(5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. ‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’(26). Christ’s ‘words’abide in us (7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (15:5,15) - ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace...’(Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (21). He gives us His peace (27). He gives us His joy (11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’ (15:12,16-17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Ascension of the Lord: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or 93 or Daniel 7:9-14; Psalm 24:7-10; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
Jesus is taken up into heaven. The Holy Spirit is given to us.
We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’ would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified.’
Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up... into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’ (Acts 1:11, 8).
He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’.
He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14).
They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
Jesus is taken up into heaven. May His Name be exalted in all the earth.
‘Be still, and know that I am God ... Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalms 46:10; 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise.
We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’.
We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12).
The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalms 46:10; 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’ (Mission Praise, 142).
‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever... The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...’ (Psalms 92:8; 93:1-2).
The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’.
‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’ - This is the truth concerning the Lord.
‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth.
We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’.
This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’.
‘From all eternity’, the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’ (Psalms 97:9; 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).
Jesus is taken up into heaven. He will come again with power and great glory.
‘There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven... His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed’ (Daniel 7:13-14).
These words point us to Christ’s description of His Second Coming, the Coming of His Kingdom: ‘They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30).
In Revelation 1:7, we have another echo of Daniel’s ‘vision’: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’. ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending... Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the power and glory, claim the Kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!’(Church Hymnary, 316).
Jesus is taken up into heaven. In Him, we will dwell in God’s house for ever.
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord, ...the God of our salvation’ (Psalm 24:5).
There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?’: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’.
No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ - no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)!
How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’ (Psalm 24:7, 9).
How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power?
Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
Jesus is taken up into heaven. Saved by Him, let us live for Him.
Raised from the dead, Jesus Christ now sits at God’s right in the heavenly places. He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:20:21).
His Name is the Name of our salvation. Through Him, we rejoice in God’s wonderful grace: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Saved by the Lord, we are to live for Him.
God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’- by God.
Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7).
When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’ (Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
Jesus is taken up into heaven. Let us preach Him to all nations.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’ (Luke 24:32).
He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’ (Luke 24:47-48).
Before we can preach, we must listen to Him.
Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’ (Luke 24:39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’ (John 20:25).
Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high. Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy’.
With all this going on in our lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:48-53)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B..
The same readings are suggested for Year A.
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Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:15- 17, 21-26; Psalm 1 (or Jeremiah 10:1-10a); Psalm 108; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19
We need the Holy Spirit.
We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified’. Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up... into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’ (Acts 1:11, 8). He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’. He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
We need the Holy Scriptures.
The first Psalm contrasts two ways - the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow. To whet your appetite for the Psalms, here are some early lessons: stability in the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2); service for the Lord (Psalm 2:11); salvation of the Lord (Psalm 3:8); sanctification from the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5); singing to the Lord (Psalm 8:4); strength in the Lord (Psalm 9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’ (Psalm 1-2). With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?
We need to worship the holy God.
‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King’ (Jeremiah 10:10). Can there ever be anything more important than worshipping the Lord? We know the answer as soon as we ask the question! Very often, our lives give a very different answer. We have taken our eyes off the Lord. We have forgotten that He is the true and living God. We sing the words, ‘O Lord, Thou art my God and King... Each day I rise, I will Thee bless...’- but they have a hollow ring about them! Here’s a prayer to help you to make a real commitment of your life to the Lord: ‘Teach me to live, day by day, in Your presence, Lord... Teach me to praise, day by day, in Your Spirit, Lord... Teach me to love, day by day, in Your power, Lord... Teach me to give, day by day, from my wealth, O Lord...’ (Church Hymnary, 346; Mission Praise, 627).
The holy God leads us in the way of holiness.
‘With God we shall gain the victory. He will trample down our enemies’ (Psalm 108:13). In ourselves, there is only defeat. We are no match for ‘our enemies’ - the world, the flesh and the devil. We are surrounded by the world - ‘The world is ever near. I see the sights that dazzle. The tempting sounds I hear’. We live with the constant problem of the flesh - ‘the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will’(Church Hymnary, 434). Behind the world and the flesh, there is an even stronger enemy - the devil: ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against... the spiritual forces of evil...’ (Ephesians 6:12). Our situation seems to be utterly hopeless. How can we possibly win the victory? The simple truth is: We cannot. There is, however, a deeper truth: God is with us - and ‘with God we shall win the victory’!
We walk in the way of holiness when we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, our holy Saviour.
What a great blessing we receive through faith in Christ - ‘Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God’ (1John 5:1). Our life as God’s children is not a life of tranquility. We face conflict, real conflict - a battle. In this spiritual warfare, we have God’s promise of victory. In 1 John 5:5, we have a question: ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?’. The answer is contained in the question. Our victory is in Christ. We are not victorious because our faith is so strong that we couldn’t possibly fail. Many times, we fail. We take our eyes off Christ - and we are defeated. What are we to do? - when temptations seem to be so many and so powerful. When you feel so weak, let Christ be your Strength. ‘With Christ within, the fight we’ll win’.
As we walk in the way of holiness, we are supported by the powerful prayers of our holy Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (John 17:20). The story of the Cross (John 17:1-5), the story of the first disciples (John 17:6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ’s death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today’s world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - ‘that they may be one’ (John 17:11). He prays the same prayer for us (John 17:20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, ‘the one who chose to be lost’ (John 17:12). If we are to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit’, we must take account of ‘the Judas factor’ - ‘take notice of those who create dissensions... avoid them’ (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Day of Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21 (or Ezekiel 37:1-14); Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27 (or Acts 2:1-21); John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ.
‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). ‘In Jerusalem’, on ‘the day of Pentecost’ there are ‘Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:1, 5). They are ‘amazed’at what they hear - ‘we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God’ (Acts 2:7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!’ (Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’, the apostles pave the way for Peter’s bold proclamation: ‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:36). Empowered ‘by the Holy Spirit’, this message - ‘Jesus is Lord’- is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (Acts 2:41-47).
The Holy Spirit breathes new life into the Church of God.
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... 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, 274, 241).
The Holy Spirit leads us into a life of worship.
‘I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 104:33). Do you feel like giving up? Other things are becoming more important to you. Worshipping the Lord is being pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes are creeping 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 the Lord has gone! Little-by-little, you are drifting away from the Lord. It’s time 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 the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!
The Holy Spirit leads us on to heavenly and eternal glory.
Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).
The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of victory.
Jesus was ‘persecuted’. We will be ‘persecuted’ - ‘all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted’ (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, ‘the Spirit of truth’ directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (John 15:26; 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus’words: ‘In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ - This is our faith’ (1 John 5:4-5).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Trinity Sunday (First Sunday after Pentecost): Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
The Lord has saved us. Let us serve Him.
God reveals His holiness: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts’ (Isaiah 6:3). In His holiness, we see our own sinfulness: ‘I am a man of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5). God is perfectly holy: ‘Your eyes are too pure to look on evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13). When we look at ourselves in the light of God’s perfect holiness, we see the truth concerning ourselves: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). There is no room for excuses. We must confess our sin. We must pray for God’s forgiveness: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). To those who come to Him with a true confession of sin, God speaks His Word of forgiveness: ‘your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven’ (Isaiah 6:7). The Lord has saved us. Let us serve Him. Let us pray, ‘Here am I! Send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Let us share the Good News of His forgiveness.
Called to serve the Lord, we receive strength from Him.
‘The Lord is my Strength…The Lord is the Strength of His people’ (Psalm 28:7-8). Our personal strengthening is closely related to the strengthening of God’s people. Don’t be a ‘lone ranger’, going it alone, keeping yourself to yourself. Share your strength with others. Draw strength from them. ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another’ (Hebrews 10:24-25). Where does your strength come from? It comes from ‘the Lord’ who ‘sits enthroned as King for ever’ (Psalm 29:10). We grow strong as we listen for ‘the voice of the Lord’ (Psalm 29:3-9). Don’t let God’s voice be drowned out - ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).
Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory.
Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’ or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).
Those who are born of the Spirit are to live as life of holiness, love and truth.
Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’(John 8:12). This brought an immediate reaction from the ‘Pharisees’: ‘Your testimony is not true’(John 8:13). They were ‘disguised as angels of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). They ‘loved darkness rather than light’ (John 3:19). Their ‘darkness’ was exposed by ‘the Light of the world’. We say, ‘I’ll turn over a new leaf’. Christ says, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3, 7). Our way of thinking begins with ‘I’. Christ’s way of salvation begins with ‘God’: ‘God so loved the world...’ (John 3:16). Begin with ‘I’and you have sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:10-11). Begin with God and you have Good News for sinners: ‘God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8). Through faith in Christ, we are ‘born of the Spirit’ (John 3:6-8; John 1:12). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, love and truth. Those who are ‘born of the Spirit’ are to live a life of holiness, love and truth (1 John 4:2-3, 6-7, 12-13; 1 John 5:2-3). The life begins when we come to Jesus - the light of the world.
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Second Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (or Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Psalm 81:1-10; 2 Corinthians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6
God loves us. He comes to us, calling us to come to Him.
The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel’s early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become ‘a prophet of the Lord’ through whom ‘the Word of the Lord... came to all Israel’ (1 Samuel 3:10, 19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were ‘defeated’by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the ‘capture’ of ‘the ark of God’: ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (1 Samuel 4:10-11, 22). We may lose ‘goods, honour, children, wife’ (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people - We must not lose this!
God loves us. He leads us in the way everlasting.
Through Christ our Saviour, we are led ‘in the way everlasting’: ‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ (Psalm 139:24; 1 John 5:11). God’s great purpose of eternal salvation seems ‘too wonderful’ - ‘too good to be true’! ‘It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me, and yet I know that it is true...’ (Psalm 139:6; Church Hymnary, 385). God has a glorious future planned for us. We can hardly even begin to take it in: ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.’ We know that ‘no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ yet we rejoice in this: ‘God has revealed it to us by His Spirit’ (Psalm 139:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). ‘Lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24).
God loves us. His love for us inspires our love for Him.
Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: ‘I am the Lord your God’who brought you... out of the house of bondage’ (Deuteronomy 5:6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (Deuteronomy 5:27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him - more!
God loves us. He calls us to worship Him with joy.
God calls us to worship Him with joy - ‘Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!’ (Psalm 81:1). He has blessed us with His salvation - ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’ He will continue to bless us, as we keep on looking to Him for blessing - ‘Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it’ (Psalm 81:10). God wants to bless us. He wants us to seek His blessing - ‘O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in My ways! ... I would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you’ (Psalm 81:13, 16). Far too often, we can’t be bothered with God and are not really interested in seeking His blessing - ‘My people did not listen to My voice; Israel would have none of me’ (Psalm 81:11). ‘You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).
God loves us. He has called us to salvation. He has called us to service.
God has called us to salvation - ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service - ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe.’ We are to ‘speak.’ This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).
God loves. He makes us a new creation in Christ.
Jesus changes people. Levi became Matthew (Mark 2:14). He became ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The change of name marked his new birth (John 3:6). To be changed by Jesus you must recognize yourself as a sinner (17). There is a world of difference between legal obedience - ‘old wine’ - and Gospel obedience - ‘new wine’ (Mark2:21-22). There is an eternity of difference between belonging to God’s Kingdom and remaining outside of His Kingdom (John 3:3, 5, 7). The religion of the Pharisees was legalistic. The obedience of Jesus was spiritual. Will we follow Jesus, or will we be like these ‘religious’men who planned ‘to destroy Him’ (Mark 3:6)? It is sadly possible to participate in ‘religion’, professing faith in ‘the Son of God’, in an ‘unclean spirit’ (Mark 3:11). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, let us truly confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Third Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15); Psalm 138 (or Genesis 3:8-15); Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35
Confessing our sin, we look to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
Once we were innocent. Now we are guilty. The story of Adam and Eve is repeated over and over again. This is our story as well as Adam and Eve’s story. Even in the face of sin, we see something else. We see the God of love, seeking to restore the fallen to Himself. In His words, ‘Where are you?’, we catch an early glimpse of the Gospel of salvation: ‘the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10). Adam and Eve had lost their way. Now, God was looking for them to bring them back to Himself. In the question, ‘Where are you?’, there is the searching question, ‘What have you done?’, but there is also the passionate appeal, ‘Will you not return to me?’. This is the call of mercy: ‘Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, “O sinner, come home”’ (Sacred Songs & Solos, 414). Our loving Father is waiting patiently to welcome the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20).
Having chosen the way of sin, we are ‘naked’ and ashamed (Genesis 3:10). The Gospel teaches us that ‘there’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin.’ We can be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. We can bring the ‘filthy rags’ of ‘our righteous acts’ (Isaiah 64:6) to God, and we can exchange them for the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Putting our trust in Christ, we need not be ashamed in God’s presence (Romans 10:11). There must be no ‘passing the buck’ - the man blaming the woman, the woman blaming the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). We are to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness comes to us through the Cross where the suffering Saviour becomes the victorious Victor and the subtle serpent became the defeated devil. This is the message of Genesis 3:15: through the Cross, God has provided for us a full salvation!
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’ - ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.’ It is ‘for evermore’ - ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’ ‘Praise the Lord! ... Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).
Confessing our sin, we pray that God will deliver us from evil and renew our strength.
Israel’s demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (1 Samuel 8:5, 20). Having ‘rejected’ the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They ‘chose for themselves’ (1 Samuel 8:7, 18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (1 Samuel 8:22, 18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (1 Samuel 9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul’s reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: ‘I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly’ (1 Samuel 26:21). ‘He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul’s reign. God had greater things in store for Israel - but not until Saul’s reign was over!
Everyone was so happy - ‘Long live the king! (1 Samuel 10:24). Everything seemed to be so promising - ‘The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul’ (1 Samuel 11:6). God’s people were victorious (1 Samuel 11:11). God’s people ‘rejoiced greatly’ (1 Samuel 11:15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse - ‘You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you’ (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: ‘Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word... When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away... The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful’ (Mark 4:15, 17, 19). Pray - ‘Deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:13).
‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:4). It is not easy to keep on worshipping the Lord when so many show no interest in worshipping Him. What are we to do when our faith seems so weak and we are on the verge of giving up? ‘Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you’. What will we find when we come to the Lord, looking to Him for strength? ‘He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through’. God gives us strength - ‘You answered me when I called to You. With Your strength, You strengthened me’ (Psalm 138:3). ‘To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown. Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down. He who is our Saviour, our strength will renew. Look ever to Jesus. He will carry you through’ (Church Hymnary, 482).
Forgiven and strengthened by the Lord, let’s serve Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The conflict intensifies. The ‘twelve’ are ‘sent... to cast out demons’ (Mark 3:14-15). Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed (Mark 3:22). Jesus warns against ‘an eternal sin’ - blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30). With the offer of forgiveness - ‘the blood of Jesus... cleanses us from all sin’ - , there is the call to ‘confess our sins’ (1 John 1:7, 9). ‘If we say we have no sin’ (1 John 1:8, 10) and no need of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we resist the Holy Spirit who seeks to convict us of our sin and lead us to the Saviour (John 16:8-9, 14). Are you anxious about ‘an unpardonable sin’? Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Saviour. Take your sin to Jesus, and let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’ (1 John 4:17). Do you think you cannot be forgiven ? God’s thoughts are ‘higher’: ‘Return to the Lord... He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:6-9).
God has called us to salvation - ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service - ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe.’ We are to ‘speak.’ This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20 (or Ezekiel 17:22-24); Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13), 14-17; Mark 4:26-34
Don’t settle for second best when you can have God’s very best.
‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded’(1 Samuel 16:4). Real obedience comes from ‘the heart’. It is more than just ‘keeping up appearances’(1 Samuel 16:7). ‘The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart’ - This is something we must never forget!’. ‘It’s the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need’(Songs of Fellowship, 256) - This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in verses 13-14: ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David... the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul’. David exerted a good influence upon Saul (1 Samuel 16:23). Sadly, however, Saul’s best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ‘a man after God’s own heart’(1 Samuel 16:13-14). Don’t settle for second best when you can have God’s very best!
Jesus Christ is God’s very best.
‘We boast of the Name of the Lord our God...Through the steadfast love of the Most High’we ‘shall not be moved’(Psalm 20:7; Psalm 21:7). We do not trust in things that ‘collapse and fall’. We build on ‘the Rock’(Psalm 20:8; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalm 18:1-3; Psalm 62:5-7). We ‘rejoice’ in our God. He has made us ‘most blessed for ever’(Psalm 21:1, 6; Ephesians 1:3). Think of Jesus Christ your Saviour. He is absolutely trustworthy. He is completely dependable. His love is an ‘unfailing love’(Psalm 21:7). In Him, there is salvation. In Him, there is joy. With His strong and powerful love, He has saved us. He has given us ‘a new song’to sing, ‘a song of praise to our God’(Psalm 40:1-3). Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise and worship: ‘Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength,! We will sing and praise Thy power’(Psalm 21:13).
Looking forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ
In Ezekiel 17:22-24, we have a prophecy which looks forward to the coming of the Messiah, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This prophecy ends with God’s promise: ‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it’. God has fulfilled His promise. He has sent His Son to be our Saviour (Matthew 1:22-23). We now await the fulfilment of prophecy concerning Christ’s Return: ‘I will come again’; ‘This same Jesus... will come back’; ‘The Lord Himself will come down from heaven’. He says, “I am coming soon’. We say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’(John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonoians 4:16; Revelation 22:20).
Lifting our hearts to the Lord in worship
‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever... The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...’(Psalm 92:8; Psalm 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’- This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’(Psalm 97:9; Psalm 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).
Let there be less of self and more of Christ.
‘Your boasting is not good’- May we never become so taken up with ourselves that we forget Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us: ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us’, ‘you were washed... sanctified... justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’( 1 Corinthians 5:6-7; 1 Corinthians 6:11). There were problems among God’s people - ‘sexual immorality’, ‘lawsuits’(1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:7). In all of this, Christ was being forgotten. There are no depths to which we cannot sink when we take our eyes off Christ. There are no heights to which we will not be raised as we look away from ourselves to Him. Christ is able to lift from the guttermost and ‘save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him’(Hebrews 7:25). Let it be more of Christ and less of self!
Looking to the Lord to send His blessing
We preach the Word. God gives the growth (Mark 4:26-29; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). A small child can count the seeds in an apple. Only God knows how many apples there are in a single seed! God’s Word is a ‘seed’ which bears much fruit (Mark 4:30-32; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Parables whet the appetite - for more! They were given to people ‘as they were able to hear it’ - ‘a starter’(Mark 4:33-34)! May we be ‘visual aids’ to whet people’s appetite - for God!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49; Psalm 9:9-20 (or 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16); Psalm 133 (or Job 38:1-11); Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
The enemy is defeated. We have the victory in Christ.
David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about ‘God’and the ‘gods’(1 Samuel 17:43, 46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul - unbelief -and the attitude of David - faith (1 Samuel 17:33, 37). Unbelief is all around us. Don’t be pulled into it. Don’t forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (1 Samuel 17:37). Put off the armour provided by men. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’(1 Samuel 17:38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are ‘strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man’(Psalm 121:2; Psalm 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).
‘Loved’ by ‘all Israel and Judah’(1 Samuel 18:16, 28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land - Saul (1 Samuel 18:29). Saul was full of envy (1 Samuel 18:7-8), suspicion (1 Samuel 18:9) and violence (1 Samuel 18:10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (1 Samuel 17:33, 50), and he didn’t like it! David had more success with the women (1 Samuel 18:7), and Saul wasn’t happy about this! The women shouldn’t have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn’t have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord - not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! ‘Saul was David’s enemy continually’(1 Samuel 18:29). His real argument was with God. ‘The Lord was with David’(1 Samuel 18:14, 28). This didn’t please Saul - ‘Why am I not getting all this blessing? I’m the king!’. If anyone says, I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar... he who loves God should love his brother also’(1 John 4:20-21).
‘I will give thanks to the Lord...’(Psalm 9:1-2). The enemy is defeated (Psalm 9:3-6). ‘The Lord sits enthroned for ever’(Psalm 9:7). ‘The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’(Psalm 9:9). What an encouraging Psalm this is: We have the victory in Christ. Nevertheless, it is not easy when we face determined opposition from the enemies of Christ and His Gospel: ‘Behold what I suffer from those that hate me’(Psalm 9:13). In this situation, we must call upon the Lord: ‘Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail’(Psalm 9:19). Though the conflict is raging all around, we must - taking our stand in Christ - declare God’s praises and rejoice in His salvation (Psalm 9:14). ‘The Lord dwells in Zion’(Psalm 9:11): ‘Blest inhabitants of Zion, Washed in the Redeemer’s blood’, may we always say, ‘Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name’(Church Hymnary, 421).
As we gather together for worship, let us give thanks to the Lord and let us ask Him to strengthen our faith in Him.
God sends ‘His blessing’ when His people gather together for worship: ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!’(Psalm 133:1, 3). Many people like to think of themselves as ‘believers’, yet they show no interest in worshipping together with God’s people. What does God’s Word say about this? - ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...’(Hebrews 10:25). ‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the House of the Lord’(Psalm 133:1; Psalm 134:1). Some people never miss a Sunday morning service - but they always miss the Sunday evening services! They are missing out on so much of God’s blessing. ‘May the Lord... bless you...’on Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings (Psalm 134:2)!
There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again - ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’(Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again - ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’(Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord’. Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43, 1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free... It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’(Church Hymnary, 415).
Jesus was sleeping because He was tired - not because He didn't care (Mark 4:38)! He does care. Everything was under control. Faith was being tested. Fear and faith are opposites (Mark 4:40). ‘Awe’(Mark 4:41) is very different from unbelieving fear. Awe leads to worship. Fear destroys faith.
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130 (or Lamentations 3:23-33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43
By grace, we shall stand.
‘How are the mighty fallen!’(2 Samuel 1:19,25,27). The tragedy of Saul was there for all to see. He had made a right mess of things! What are we to think when we read of this tragic figure? He started out so well. He ended so badly. There were high hopes - but it all came to nothing. Do we not see ourselves in Saul? - This could happen to me, if I’m not careful. The danger signs are there. Satan is at hand. He is ready to sweep in. He will sweep the feet away from us, if we don’t watch out. We are very weak, but the Lord is ‘able to keep us from falling’(Jude 24-25). These are things we must never forget - our own weakness and the strength of the Lord. Disaster threatens. Tragedy looms. Jesus draws near. He speaks His Word - ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness’(2 Corinthians 12:9). By grace, we shall stand!
In the Lord, we have full redemption.
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’(Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’(Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’(Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’and ‘forgiveness’(Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’we have ‘full redemption’(Psam 130:7). It is for ‘now’ - ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’ - ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’. ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’(Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).
How can we refuse to be changed by God's love?
There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction...’(Lamentations 3:1-3). In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’. When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us. We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’. It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong. We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives. We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’(Lamentations 3:22-26).
In our ‘grief’, we must not forget the ‘compassion’ of God (Lamentations 3:32). He understands us. He cares for us. How do we know that God loves us? ‘Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8). This is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us. How can we doubt God’s love for us when we think of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross for us as our Saviour? When we think of God’s love for us, we must remember that He calls us to love Him. We are not to take God’s love for granted - ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’. We are to appreciate God’s love - ‘God loves me. I will love Him’. God loves us. Christ died for us. How can we say, ‘I’ll do what I like’? How can we refuse to be changed by His love? ‘Let us examine our ways and turn back to the Lord. Let us open our hearts to God’(Lamentations 3:40-41).
"O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever."
‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise,217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift."
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’(2 Corinthians 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’(2 Corinthians 8:7). How are we to excel in everything? We must ‘give ourselves to the Lord’(2 Corinthians 8:5). Everything else flows from this. We are to ‘give ourselves in devoted service to others’(2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 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 (2 Corinthians 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’(2 Corinthians 8:7; John 1:16).
How are we to be ‘cheerful’ in giving ourselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:7)? How are we to be confident that ‘God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance’(2 Corinthians 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…’(2 Corinthians 8:9). We look at Him and we say, in our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(2 Corinthians 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’!
"Do not fear, only believe."
The story begins with Jairus (Mark 5:21-24). Then, there is an ‘interruption’ - which brought healing to a woman (Mark 5:25-34). The woman had nowhere else to go (Mark 5:25-26). She came to Jesus (Mark 5:27). She was healed - not because she touched His garment (many others were brushing against Him), but because she had ‘faith’(Mark 5:28, 31, 34). Jesus brought her out into the open - so that she might confessHim (Mark 5:30, 32-33). The new birth can take place in very quiet circumstances - by faith in Christ. Jesus wants us to ‘come out’ - to confess Him. Back to Jairus’daughter - People thought there was no hope. Jesus said, ‘Do not fear, only believe’(Mark 5:35-36).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary - Year B.
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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48:1-14 (or Ezekiel 2:1-5); Psalm 123:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
As we worship God, we receive wisdom and strength.
‘Inquire of the Lord’. ‘Do as the Lord commands’. Keep on believing that there will be a breakthrough - from the Lord (2 Samuel 5:19, 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 army, at the bidding of the Lord - The Spirit won’t be hindered by division in the perfect work that Jesus has begun’(2 Samuel 5:24; John 3:8; Mission Praise, 274).
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised’(Psalm 48:1). We worship God in the place of worship - ‘Within Your Temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love’. Our worship must not end there. We are to play our part in seeing that the praise of the Lord ‘reaches to the ends of the earth’. We are to ‘be glad’in the Lord. We are to ‘rejoice’ in Him (Psalm 48:9-11). We must not keep this joy to ourselves. The Lord is ‘the joy of all the earth’. We must share His joy. We are to ‘tell the next generation’. How will they know if we do not tell them? Many are slow to come and worship the Lord. We must not be slow to witness for Him. Let’s remember God’s promise - ‘My Word...will not return to Me empty, but will...achieve the purpose for which I sent it’- and let’s say - ‘Here am I. Send me!’(Isaiah 55:11; Isaiah 6:8).
‘The Spirit came into me... Do not be afraid of them or their words’(Ezekiel 2:2,6). Through the Spirit, we receive wisdom - ‘We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand what God has freely given us’- and strength - ‘God strengthens us with power through His Spirit in our inner being’(1 Corinthians 2::12; Ephesians 3:16). ‘Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart... Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word... Be Thou my Battleshield, sword for the fight’(Church Hymnary, 87).
As we worship God, we receive mercy and grace.
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’(Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’(Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’(Psalm 123:3). We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’(Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’(Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalm 123:2; Psalm 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’(Psalm 122:6).
‘My grace is sufficient for you’(2 Corinthians 12:9). These are tremendous words! Believe them. Apply them to yourself. Let the strength of the Lord come to you as you reflect on these great words. God is speaking His Word to you. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever difficulties you are facing, God’s Word is still the same: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. Do you think God will let you down? Don’t believe it - not even for a moment! It is a lie of the devil. It’s ‘as old as the hills’. Way back in Genesis 3:1, Satan was spreading doubt: ‘Did God say?’. God says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. Satan comes along and says ‘Surely you don’t believe that!’. ‘When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, By the living Word of God I shall prevail’(Redemption Hymnal, 261). Did God say? - Yes! He did say!
Not everyone believes. We can limit the power of Christ among us - by our unbelief (Mark 6:5-6)! We can, however, be called, sent and given authority... (Mark 6:7) - Never forget: The power and glory belongs to God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24 (or Amos 7:7-15); Psalm 85:8-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29
Worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in truth
‘When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart’(2 Samuel 6:16). 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’(2 Samuel 6:21). 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 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)
Receiving blessing from the Lord
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’(Psalm 24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’(Psalm 24:7,9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’(Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
Hearing the Word of the Lord
‘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). Amos was a faithful preacher of God’s Word - but 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 God was 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 for revival
We are to pray for revival - ‘Restore us again, O God our Saviour... Will You not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?’(Psalm 85:4,6). We are to pray that God will ‘grant us His salvation’. We are to pray that ‘His saving presence will remain in our land’. We must pray that ‘His glory may dwell in our land’(Psalm 85:7,9). We are to pray for real listening - ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord - ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing - ‘He will speak peace to His people’(Psalm 85:8). Prayer for revival does not begin as a prayer for others. It begins with ourselves: ‘O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival - start the work in me’. It begins with this prayer: “Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine’(Mission Praise, 587).
Living a holy life
‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’(Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’ - by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:7). When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’(Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’(Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’(Ephesians 1:6).
Looking beyond the preacher to the Saviour
They were great men of God - ‘John the baptiser... Elijah... the prophets of old’(Mark 6:14-15). None of them can compare with the Lord Jesus Christ. These men directed attention to the Lord (1 Kings 18:36-39; Isaiah 52: 13-53:12; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Of Christ alone, we say, ‘There is salvation in no one else...’(Acts 4:12). Christ saves - and satisfies: We feed on Him and we are ‘satisfied’(Mark 6:42). Apart from Him, the human search ends in this: ‘I can't get no satisfaction’. In Him, there is satisfaction - He is the Saviour. Saved, satisfied and sharing - this is what we are to be. To His disciples, He still says, 'You give them something...' (Mark 6:37). We say, ‘We don’t have enough’. He says, ‘I am more than enough’(2 Corinthians 3:5). Many are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. We must not fail them. We must ‘teach them many things’(Mark 6:34).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37 (or Jeremiah 23:1-6); Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Disciplined by the Lord, let us remember to sing of His great love for us.
David was king. God was looking on the next king, Solomon. Knowing the kind of man Solomon would become, God speaks of chastening: ‘When he does wrong, I will chasten him’. This chastening is an expression of God’s ‘steadfast love’: ‘Those whom I love, I rebuke and chasten’. How do we respond to God’s chastening? Don’t be like ‘Saul’. He was ‘put away from’being king because of his continual disobedience. ‘Be zealous and repent’. When you are being chastened, don’t forget the love of God: ‘The Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives’. Why does God chasten His children? - ‘He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness’. Beyond the ‘pain’ of ‘discipline’, there is ‘the peaceful fruit of righteousness’(2 Samuel 7:14-15; Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-11).
‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’(Psalm 89:1). Many years have passed since these words were written by the Psalmist. Many generations have come and gone since Jesus Christ came to our world. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time. There is something which must never change. The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever’. He is to be praised ‘through all generations’. We must look back and remember. Jesus Christ was crucified for us. Jesus Christ has risen for us. This is the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever...’
God is calling us to be faithful. He leads us in the way of faithfulness.
‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’(Jeremiah 23:1). We are not to be like the false ‘prophets’: ‘They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord’. What were the false ‘prophets’ saying? - ‘They keep saying to those who despise Me, “The Lord says: You will have peace”. To all those who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, they say, “No harm will come to you”’(Jeremiah 23:16-17). God is calling us to be faithful. It will not be easy. Often, we will be tempted to ‘take the easy way out’. We will feel the pull of the world: ‘Just be the same as everybody else’. This may seem to be the ‘easy’ option. There is something else we must remember: It is also ‘the broad road that leads to destruction’. Let us follow Christ on ‘the narrow road which leads to life’(Matthew 7:13-14).
Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’(Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25). For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 23:6).
We are led in the way of faithfulness as we build our lives upon “Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 2:20).
Saved by Christ and satisfied by Him, let us stand for Him when the storm is raging.
Christ saves - and satisfies: We feed on Him and we are ‘satisfied’(Mark 6:42). Apart from Him, the human search ends in this: ‘I can't get no satisfaction’. In Him, there is satisfaction - He is the Saviour. Saved, satisfied and sharing - this is what we are to be. To His disciples, He still says, 'You give them something...' (Mark 6:37). We say, ‘We don’t have enough’. He says, ‘I am more than enough’(2 Corinthians 3:5). Many are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. We must not fail them. We must ‘teach them many things’(Mark 6:34). The storm is raging: ‘they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them’(Mark 6:48). Jesus draws near, and there is peace: ‘the wind ceased’(Mark 6:51). Another ‘storm’ continues to rage: ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders...?’(Mark 7:5). How did Jesus respond to this ‘storm’ of criticism? - He exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the tradition of men more important than the Word of God (Mark 7:7-9,13). He invited ‘the people’ to come ‘to Him’, to ‘hear’, to ‘understand’. His Word was addressed to ‘all’ of them (Mark 7:14). Jesus emphasizes this point: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’(1 Samuel 16:7). The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Which will it be? - ‘Their hearts were hardened’(Mark 6:52) or ‘Loving the Lord your God with all your heart’(Mark 12:30).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14 (or 2 Kings 4:42-44); Psalm 145:10-18; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
Doing the will of the Lord
‘May the Lord do what seems good to Him’ (2 Samuel 10:12). This is the attitude we ought to have. This is the ideal: ‘Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven’; ‘Not as I will, but as You will’ (Matthew 6:10; 26:39). Often, we do not live up to the ideal - ‘the thing that David had done displeased the Lord’ (2 Samuel11:27). Throughout life, there are choices between our own will and the will of the Lord. Sometimes, we make wrong choices. We choose our own way rather than the Lord’s way. Throughout life, God is speaking to us. He is trying to get our attention. He wants it to be less of self and more of Him. He is leading us to say from the heart, ‘As for God, His way is perfect’ (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30). May we have this testimony: ‘I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God’ (Psalm 18:21).
Seeking the blessing of the Lord
Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us. This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’- In Him, we ‘rejoice’ (Psalm 14:7). God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’ (Psalm 15:5). We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation...would come...’ (Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us. Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1). ‘Fear the Lord’ - ‘and give Him glory’ (Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7). We are to ‘act wisely’ - ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’ (14:2, 4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’ (Psalm 15:1)? - ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...’ (Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).
Making a new beginning with the Lord
The situation seemed hopeless - ‘The child was lying dead on his bed’ (2 Kings 4:32). What did Elisha do? - He ‘prayed to the Lord’ (2 Kings 4:33). What are we to do when everything seems hopeless? Pray: ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation… Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4,6). When we are at our lowest ebb, God is waiting to hear from us. Our prayer may not be eloquent - but it must come from the heart! Perhaps, we can hardly put our prayer into words. God looks beyond our inadequate words. He looks into our hearts. If, in our hearts, we are saying to Him, ‘Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience’, He will hear and He will answer (Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 51:12). You can make a new beginning with God - right now!
Worshipping the Lord
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3). The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration.’ We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.’ We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises.’ Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom.’ There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8, 13, 21).
Receiving strength from the Lord
By the grace of God we are called to salvation - ‘saved through faith’ - , sanctification - ‘for good works’ - , and service - ‘according to the gift of God’s grace… by the working of His power’, we are enabled ‘to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:7-8). When we consider all this, we say in our hearts, ‘To God be the glory’! (Ephesians 3:21). We are ‘strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being’so that we might live as those who are saved, sanctified and serving. Even when we are deeply conscious of our own great weakness, we draw encouragement from this: God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’ (Ephesians 3:16, 20). We grow in grace as we share in fellowship - ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3).
Trusting in the Lord
‘Search the Scriptures’- and make sure you ‘come to Christ and receive life’ (John 5:39-40). From Jesus’ miracles - the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-13) and His walking on water (John 6:16-21) - we learn about faith in Christ. Jesus is more than a ‘prophet’. He is ‘the Bread of God... which comes down from heaven’ (John 6:14; John 5:33). He is not merely a human ‘king.’ He is the divine King - ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’(15; Revelation 17:14). When the storms of life are raging, Jesus says, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’ (20). He assures us of His final victory - ‘they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them’ (Revelation 17:14). ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?... We have an anchor that keeps the soul... Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love’ (Church Hymnary, 412).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-12 (or Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15); Psalm 78:23-29; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35
Forgiven by the Lord
We read about David, the sinner - ‘the thing that David had done displeased the Lord’(2 Samuel 11:27). We learn much about God’s dealings with sinners. In 2 Samuel 12:7, there is conviction of sin - ‘You are the man’. In 2 Samuel 12:13, we have confession of sin - ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ - and forgiveness of sin - ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.’ In 2 Samuel 12:20, there is the restoration of the sinner - ‘washed... anointed… changed… he went into the house of the Lord, and worshipped’. Throughout life, there are choices between our own will and the will of the Lord. Sometimes, we make wrong choices. We choose our own way rather than the Lord’s way. Throughout life, God is speaking to us. He is trying to get our attention. He wants it to be less of self and more of Him. He is leading us to say from the heart, ‘As for God, His way is perfect’(2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30). May we have this testimony: ‘I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God’(Psalm 18:21).
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God... Cast me not away from Thy presence... Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’(Psalm 51:10-12). These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. You can make them your words. David made a new beginning with God. You can make a new beginning with God. You have sinned. You need to be forgiven. Come to Christ. He says, ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me’(John 6:37). You need to be ‘born again’. Receive Christ as your Saviour and be ‘born again’ - ‘born of God’(John 3:3,7; 1:12). You feel so weak, unable to be the person God wants you to be. Let ‘the joy of the Lord be your strength’(Nehemiah 8:10). Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.
Feeding on the Lord
God allows His people to suffer difficulties. Why? - To strengthen our faith (Exodus 15:25; Exodus16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2,16; 1 Peter 1:6-7). He chastens us, to teach us repentance (Revelation 3:19). Don't forget God’s love. He is faithful: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us’. He shows us His glory (Exodus 16:7). He assures us that He is God (Exodus 16:12). He provides us with ‘daily bread’(Exodus 16:4). Yesterday’s ‘bread’is insufficient for today’s challenges (Exodus 16:19-20). ‘Morning by morning’, the ‘bread’is to be gathered (Exodus 16:21; Lamentations 3:22-23). Jesus is the Living Bread (John 6:32-35,48-51). Feed on Him each day. Don’t invite spiritual starvation by missing days. If you miss some days, don’t let it continue. Remember: ‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak’! ‘How long has it been since you talked with the Lord?’Too long? It is time to pray and feed on Jesus!
‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’(Psalm 78:19). We are living in a spiritual wilderness. We wonder, ‘Can God continue to bless us in this wilderness?’. How does God’s Word answer our question? - ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’. In the ‘wilderness’, there are many ‘enemies’. There is also the ‘table’. At the ‘table’, God blesses us - ‘You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows’(Psalm 23:5). We are in the ‘wilderness’, surrounded by many ‘enemies’. What are we to do? - We must come to the ‘table’ - the Lord’s Table. We must come to Christ. We must drink from ‘the cup of salvation’(Psalm 116:7). Come to the Saviour. Look to Him for His blessing. He will not disappoint you. You will be ‘anointed with the oil of gladness’. His blessing will be poured upon you ‘like precious oil’(Psalm 45:7; Psalm 133:2).
Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies - ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571).
Growing in the Lord
By the grace of God we are called to salvation - ‘saved through faith’ - , sanctification - ‘for good works’ - , and service - ‘according to the gift of God’s grace… by the working of His power’, we are enabled ‘to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ’(Ephesians 2:8-10; Ephesians 3:7-8). When we consider all this, we say in our hearts, ‘To God be the glory’! (Ephesians 3:21). We are ‘strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being’so that we might live as those who are saved, sanctified and serving. Even when we are deeply conscious of our own great weakness, we draw encouragement from this: God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’(Ephesians3:16: Ephesians 3:20). We grow in grace as we share in fellowship - ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit’(Ephesians 4:3).
God wants us to ‘grow up in every way into Christ’(Ephesians 4:15). We are to ‘walk in love’(Ephesians 5:2), a life which is ‘pleasing to the Lord’(Ephesians 5:10). It is so easy for us to settle for something less than God’s very best. We settle down into a state of spiritual complacency. What does God have to say about this? - ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’(Ephesians 4:30). He gives us His wake-up call: ‘Awake, O sleeper…’(Ephesians 5:14). God says to us, ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength… Shake yourself from the dust, arise’(Isaiah 52:1-2). Have you become ‘lukewarm’? - ‘Be zealous and repent’. Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him’(Revelation 3:16; Revelation 3:19-20). What will you say to Him? - ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’.
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130 (or 1 Kings 19:4-8); Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51
Jesus Christ has died for us. In Him, we have ‘full redemption.’
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 that he should live on for ever and not see decay’(Psalm 49:7-9). The ransom for a life is costly. No payment is ever enough. 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).
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’(Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’(Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’(Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’(Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’(Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’ - ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’ - ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’. ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’(131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).
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.
Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’(Psalm 34:1). We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’(Psalm 34:3). We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’(Psalm 34:8). We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’(Psalm 34:11). We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’(Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).
Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us. He is our Living Bread.
God wants us to ‘grow up in every way into Christ’(Ephesisns 4:15). We are to ‘walk in love’(Ephesians 5:2), a life which is ‘pleasing to the Lord’(Ephesians 5:10). It is so easy for us to settle for something less than God’s very best. We settle down into a state of spiritual complacency. What does God have to say about this? - ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’(Ephesians 4:30). He gives us His wake-up call: ‘Awake, O sleeper…’(Ephesians 5:5:14). God says to us, ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength… Shake yourself from the dust, arise’(Isaiah 52:1-2). Have you become ‘lukewarm’? - ‘Be zealous and repent’. Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him’(Revelation 3:16, 19-20). What will you say to Him? - ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies - ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common lectionary – Year B.
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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111 (or Proverbs 9:1-6); Psalm 34:9-14; Ephesisans 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord.
‘Praise the Lord... To Him belong eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...’(Psalm 111:1, 10; Psalm 112:1, 8). Those who ‘fear the Lord’ have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise belongs to the Lord’ can face their enemies with confidence. Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord. We know how good the Lord has been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people’. We have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’ any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way. We ‘trust in the Lord’, confident that the ‘light ‘will triumph over the ‘darkness’. The Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalm 111:9; Psalm 112:4, 7).
Remove the obstacles. Receive the blessing.
God’s purpose does not stand still. It moves forward. This was a new beginning for God’s people. Solomon was not to do his own thing. He was to do God’s will: ‘Keep the charge of the Lord your God’(1 Kings 2:3). He was to serve God’s purpose: ‘that the Lord may establish His Word’(1 Kings 2:4). There are to be no comparisons between one man and another. God’s servants are not to be in competition with one another. Some may have been looking back to the past - ‘How will we manage without David? God had already moved on from there. He was pressing on to the future - ‘If your sons…’(1 Kings 2:4). God’s blessing would not come easily. There were obstacles to be removed (1 Kings 2:13-46). If ‘the Word of Christ’ is to ‘dwell in us richly’, we must ‘put to death what is earthly in us’(Colossians 3:5, 16). God will not bless us if we do not obey Him.
Solomon was a complicated man. We wonder what was most important to him - his alliances with the world or his allegiance to the Lord, ‘building his own house’or ‘building the House of the Lord’(1 Kings 3:1-3)? In 1 Kings 3:9-13, we learn that Solomon prized wisdom more than riches. In 1 Kings 3:14, Solomon is reminded that he must keep on loving the Lord: ‘If you will walk in My ways…’. We look at Solomon. We see ourselves. We claim to love the Lord. The world has a ‘fatal attraction’ for us. In each of us, there is conflict, a lifelong conflict between ‘the desires of the flesh’ and ‘the desires of the Spirit’. We are faced with a choice. Will it be love for the Lord or love for the world? Don’t ‘abandon your first love’(Galatians 5:17; 1 John 2:15; Revelation 2:4). Make it simple: Jesus comes first!
A Gospel invitation
There is, in Proverbs 9:5, a Gospel invitation: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.’ We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’(Proverbs 9:10). ‘This sounds so old-fashioned’ - so the world tells us. ‘The fear of the Lord’ - This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! - It is a lack of obedience. When we do not ‘honour’ God, we are ‘without sense’. ‘Claiming to be wise’, we show that we are ‘fools’. If we are wise, we will keep ‘going straight on the way’, looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from ‘the depths of hell’ to the heights of heaven (Proverbs 9:13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2,6).
Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies - ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571).
Spiritual maturity – “Be filled with the Spirit
Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant.’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’(Psalm 34:1). We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’(Psalm 34:3). We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’(Psalm 34:8). We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’(Psalm 34:11). We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’(Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).
‘Be very careful how you live’(Ephesians 5:16). This is for all of us - in every situation of life. How are we to live? We are to ‘be filled with the Spirit’. We are to have ‘reverence for Christ’. We are to live ‘as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart’. We are to ‘be strong in the Lord’. We are to ‘pray at all times in the Spirit’. We are to ‘to love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying’(Ephesians 5:18, 21; Ephesians 6:6, 10, 18, 24). Careful living emerges from true spirituality. It is not a matter of rules and regulations. It is a matter of love for Jesus. We’re not to be like the Pharisees: ‘On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy’, ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’(Matthew 23:28; Mark 7:6). Take care - because you love Jesus!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84 (or Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18); Psalm 34:15-22: Ephesians 6:10-20: John 6:56-69
Come to the House of God, and pray that His glory will fill His House.
We read about ‘the silver’ and ‘the gold’. We are called to choose between the life of fruitful service - ‘gold, silver, precious stones’ - and the unfruitful life - ‘wood, hay, straw’(1 Kings 7:51; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). We read of ‘the ark of the covenant of the Lord’ being ‘brought to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the House, in the most holy place. We are told that the glory of the Lord filled the House of the Lord’(1 Kings 8:6, 11). The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord whenever the Word of God is honoured by the people of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord when Christ is given the place of highest honour among the people of God. Do you want to experience God’s glory? Honour His Word. Love His Son - the Lord Jesus Christ.
The person who leads us in worship, the place where we worship or the God whom we worship - Which is the most important? We know what our answer should be. No person or place is more important than the Lord. Often, we take our eyes off the Lord. Solomon directs our attention to the Lord. Leading ‘all the assembly of Israel’ in worship, he says, ‘Blessed be the Lord’(1 Kings 8:14-15). The glory does not belong to Solomon. It belongs to the Lord. In his prayer, Solomon contrasts the place where we worship with the God whom we worship: ‘Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee; how much less this House which I have built!’(1 Kings 8:27). We must think big thoughts about God. He is ‘the God of Israel’(1 Kings 8:15, 17, 20, 23, 25-26). He is more than that. He is our God. He loves all nations (Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 49:6; Acts 13:47; John 3:16).
Come to the House of God, and make your commitment: “We will serve the Lord.”
‘How I love Your Temple, Almighty Lord! How I want to be there! I long to be in the Lord’s Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God’(Psalm 84:1-2). This is much more than paying lip-service to the Lord. This is real. Worshipping the Lord meant everything to the Psalmist: ‘I long for You, O God. I thirst for You, the living God; when can I go and worship in Your presence’(Psalm 42:1-2). He found great joy in worshipping the Lord: ‘Let Your light and Your truth guide me... to the place where You dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight...’(Psalm 43:4). He worshipped God with his whole heart: ‘O God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You... my soul is thirsty for You’(Psalm 63:1). This is real worship, joyful worship, heartfelt worship. May God help us to worship Him like that!
Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (Joshua 24:15, 29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (Joshua 24:16-18, 21, 24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision - a definite, public commitment to the Lord (Joshua 24:24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua’s preaching. What God has done for Israel (Joshua 24:2-13) is followed by ‘Therefore...’(Joshua 24:14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, ‘Do I really mean it’(Joshua 19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: ‘Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness’(Joshua 24:14). Make your own commitment to the Lord. Give your testimony - ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. Pray that others will also say, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him (Joshua 24:15, 24). Let us ‘serve the Lord all the days’ of our life (Joshua 24:31).
‘Be very careful how you live’(Ephesians 5:16). This is for all of us - in every situation of life. How are we to live? We are to ‘be filled with the Spirit’. We are to have ‘reverence for Christ’. We are to live ‘as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart’. We are to ‘be strong in the Lord’. We are to ‘pray at all times in the Spirit’. We are to ‘to love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying’(Ephesians 5:18, 21; Ephesians 6:6, 10, 18, 24). Careful living emerges from true spirituality. It is not a matter of rules and regulations. It is a matter of love for Jesus. We’re not to be like the Pharisees: ‘On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy’, ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’(Matthew 23:28; Mark 7:6). Take care - because you love Jesus!
We feed on Jesus, the Living Bread. Let us invite others to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies - ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571). Jesus’ words are ‘spirit and life’. They are ‘the words of eternal life’(John 6:63, 68). While others - including Judas Iscariot - were drawing back from following Jesus, Peter confessed his faith in Jesus: ‘You are the Holy One of God’(John 6:66-71).
Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’(Psalm 34:1). We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’(Psalm 34:3). We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’(Psalm 34:8). We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’(Psalm 34:11). We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’(Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Song of Songs 2:8-13; Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9 (or Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9); Psalm 15; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Christ comes to us in love. He calls us to come to Him.
Christ comes to us in love: ‘The Voice of my Beloved! Look! Here He comes...’(Song of Solomon 2:8). He calls us to come to Him: ‘My Beloved speaks and says to me, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away”’(Song of Solomon 2:10). He calls us to belong to Him: ‘My Beloved is mine and I am His’(Song of Solomon 2:16). Let us come to Jesus and experience His love: ‘Jesus, how lovely You are! You are so gentle, so pure and kind...’. Let us come to Jesus and give Him our love: ‘Jesus, I love You, love You more and more each day; Jesus, I love You, Your gentle touch renews my heart. It’s really no wonder why no other love can satisfy; Jesus, I love You, You’ve won this heart of mine!’. Let us come to Jesus and receive His joy: ‘Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart’(Mission Praise, 361, 363, 362).
Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. Let us worship Him. Let us obey Him.
Jesus Christ is ‘the most excellent of men’(Psalm 45:2). He is more than that. He is God. In Psalm 45:6, we read these words - ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever’. We read them again in Hebrews 1:8. They are the words which God the Father speaks to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does the Word of God describe Jesus Christ? - ‘He is your Lord’. How are we to respond to Him? - We are to approach Him with ‘reverence’. We are to ‘honour’ Him. We are to ‘bow down’ and ‘worship’ Him. We are to ‘obey’ Him (Psalm 45:11). Think of the ‘Good News’ of our Lord Jesus Christ - ‘the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me’. Let your heart overflow with praise to the Lord Jesus Chist - What a wonderful Saviour He is (Psalm 45:1; Galatians 2:20)! Let us celebrate His Name in this generation. Let Him be praised for ever and ever’(Psalm 45:17).
We have been redeemed by the Lord. We are called to obey the Lord.
The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God - not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would ‘not go over the Jordan’. As God’s man. he was to prepare the people for their task: ‘you shall go over and take possession of that good land’(Deuteronomy 4:22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage ‘by a mighty hand and outstretched arm’(Deuteronomy 4:34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: ‘Obey His laws and commands’(Deuteronomy 4:40). The Lord our God is ‘a merciful God’(Deuteronomy 4:31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be ‘no other besides Him’(Deuteronomy 4:35). Flee to Christ for refuge (Deuteronomy 4:42-43), and live each day with ‘the attitude of gratitude’.
God is the Sure Foundation for our lives. Let us build our lives on Him.
Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us. This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’ - In Him, we ‘rejoice’(Psalm 14:7). God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’(Psalm 15:5). We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation...would come...’(Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us. Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’(Psalm 14:1). ‘Fear the Lord’ - ‘and give Him glory’(Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7). We are to ‘act wisely’ - ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’(Psalm 14:2, 4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’(Psalm 15:1)? - ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...’(Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).
Even in our most difficult times, let us pray, ‘Lord, what are You teaching me in this?’
Even the most difficult times can have a godly effect on us - when we ask God for wisdom: ‘Lord, what are You teaching me in this?’(James 1:2-5). Humanly speaking, we may be ‘in humble circumstances’. Spiritually speaking, we are in a ‘high position’(James 1:9). Our position is to become even higher - ‘the crown of life’(James 1:12). Before that happens, there will be many temptations (James 1:13-15). We can face these temptations with confidence in the God of faithfulness and His ‘Word of truth’(James 1:16-18). God’s ‘Word’ is ‘planted in us’so that we may become ‘doers of the Word, and not hearers only’(James 1:21-22). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’ - ‘like water off a duck’s back’. Let there be His controlling - ‘a tight rein on the tongue’, caring - looking after the needy, and cleansing - ‘unstained from the world’(James 1:26-27).
Christ invites us to come to Him, to hear His Word with understanding and to love God with our whole heart.
‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders...?’(Mark 7:5). How did Jesus respond to this ‘storm’ of criticism? - He exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the tradition of men more important than the Word of God (Mark 7:7-9, 13). He invited ‘the people’ to come ‘to Him’, to ‘hear’, to ‘understand’. His Word was addressed to ‘all’ of them (Mark 7:14). Jesus emphasizes this point: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’(1 Samuel 16:7). The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Which will it be? - ‘Their hearts were hardened’(Mark 6:52) or ‘Loving the Lord your God with all your heart’(Mark 12:30).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125 (or Isaiah 35:4-7a); Psalm 146; James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17; Mark 7:24-37
God’s Word is for you. Read God’s Word today.
‘So that your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you today, even you’(Proverbs 22:19). Many people say, ‘It’s not for me’. They know that others have been greatly blessed through reading God’s Word. Still, they do not take the trouble to read God’s Word for themselves. They can’t be bothered. Receiving God’s blessing doesn’t really matter that much to them. Don’t miss out on God’s blessing. God’s Word is for ‘you’. It’s not just for somebody else. It’s for you - ‘even you’. Some people say, ‘I’ll read God’s Word tomorrow’. When ‘tomorrow’ comes around, they’re still saying the same thing - ‘I’ll read God’s Word tomorrow’! Sadly, their ‘tomorrow’ never comes. They never get round to reading God’s Word. They’re missing out on so much. Don’t say, ‘I’ll leave it till tomorrow’. Read God’s Word ‘today’.
Be wise. Build your life on Jesus Christ.
‘Those who trust in the Lord... cannot be moved...’. When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the’foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’(Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’(1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10, 411). ‘Christ died for our sins... He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Saved by the Lord, let us live for Him.
What blessings are given to those who draw near to God - ‘Your God... will come and save you’(Isaiah 35:4). The Good News of Christ comes to us as a call to faith - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31). We have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot remain the same. We are called to live a new life. We must travel on the Lord’s ‘highway’ - ‘the Way of Holiness’(Isaiah 35:8). This is ‘the Way’ which leads to ‘everlasting joy’(Isaiah 35:10). This ‘Way’ is so different from the world’s way. The world has no time for those who seek to live a holy life. This is what Jesus says about the world’s way of life: ‘the gate is wide and the way is wide that leads to destruction’(Matthew 7:13). Whatever the world may say, we must never forget this: ‘Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord’(Hebrews 12:14).
Praising the Lord our God – it’s a lifelong commitment.
‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 146:2). Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’(Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’(Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).
The Gospel turns the world’s values upside-down. God must come first – every time.
The Gospel turns the world’s values upside down - the ‘poor in the world’ are ‘rich in faith’(James 2:5). We are to live according to the Gospel. We are not to be controlled by the world’s way of thinking. If we ‘show favouritism’, we place ourselves in a dangerous position - ‘judgment without mercy’. Even where there is the threat of judgment, there is the promise of mercy - ‘mercy triumphs over judgment’(James 2:9, 13). God is calling us back from the brink. He is saying, ‘It’s not too late’. Even at ‘the eleventh hour’, God is calling us to receive His mercy (Matthew 20:6-9). He wants to change us. He wants us to put Him first. For Abraham and Rahab, God came first - not Abraham’s son, not Rahab’s country (James 2:20-26; Genesis 22:12; Joshua 2:9). Don’t let anyone or anything come before Him. He must come first - every time.
First things first – a real faith and a real desire for God’s blessing
It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs (Mark 7:27). Is this a ‘refusal?’ We must remember that the Gospel is for all - Jews and Gentiles (John 3:16). Here, we see the love of Jesus. In love, He says, ‘Show me that your faith is real’. First things ‘first’: Do you really want to be blessed by the Lord ? Or, are you content with ‘going through the motions’of religious ritual? Is God's Word going in one ear and out the other (deaf)? Are you ashamed of the Lord (dumb)? Jesus ‘makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak’(Mark 7:37). Jesus feeds those who are hungry - for Him. To those who say, “‘Yes, Lord, even the crumbs’, so long as it comes from You”, Jesus gives much - and we are ‘satisfied’(Mark 7:28; Mark 8:8). Don’t settle for ‘the leaven of the Pharisees’(Mark 8:15) - second best (by a long way!) - when you can have Jesus, the very best! ‘Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus’(Mark 8:22-26; Mission Praise, 545).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19 (or Isaiah 50:4-9a); Psalm 116:1-9; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38
Filled with the Holy Spirit, let us speak the Word of God with boldness.
The reading from Proverbs begins with the words, ‘Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares’(Proverbs 1:20) and ends with the words, ‘whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm’(Proverbs 1:33). The Gospel is not to be kept to ourselves. Christ is to be proclaimed. Why is it so important that we tell others about our Saviour, Jesus Christ? - It is because He offers salvation to all who come to Him: ‘Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved’(Romans 10:13). Later on, in Proverbs, we read. ‘he who wins souls is wise’(Proverbs 11:30). Those who are wise will pray for a greater fulfilment of the Lord’s promise: ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses ...’(Acts 1:8). Filled with the Holy Spirit, we will speak the Word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).
The written Word of God – Scripture – leads us to the living Word of God – our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’(Psalm 19:7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’(Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
Let us wait on the Lord, witness for Him and win others for Him.
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’(Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’(1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’(Psalm 40:1-3).
Let God’s strong love reach you in your weakness. Let Him give you His strength.
‘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’(Psalm 117:2). When we 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’(Church Hymnary, 450).
Let there be no more hurtful words and a lot more helpful words.
So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. so much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on’ (James 3:5; Mission Praise, 348). Use your words with wisdom - ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’(James 3:17-18). Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way (James 4:2). Be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another...Who are you to judge your neighbour?’(James 4:11-12). May God deliver us from hypocrisy - ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’(James 3:10). May He give us ‘more grace’- to be ‘humble’and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (James 4:6-7).
Where does our faith come from? It comes from divine revelation.
‘Who do you say that I am ?’: Jesus puts this question to all of us. Some believe He is the Christ. Others do not. Some try to 'sit on the fence'. Everyone makes their response to Him. God is not deceived by outward observance of religion, when it masks an inward refusal to receive Christ as Saviour, to submit to Him as Lord. On the day of judgment, God will not be looking for respectability. He will be looking for faith (Luke 18:8). Peter confessed Christ (Mark 8:29). Then, he was overcome by Satan (Mark 8:33). He became ‘puffed up’ with pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). He forgot that faith comes from divine revelation (Matthew 16:17). We are not ‘to rebuke’the Lord (Mark 8:32). Looking to ‘Jesus only’(Mark 9:8; Romans 4:5), we are to live as His disciples (Mark 8:34) - not of this world, as He is not of this world (John 17:14, 16; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1:1-6 (or Jeremiah 11:18-20); Psalm 54:1-7; James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37
The one treasure that lasts for ever – the treasure of salvation.
‘A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies... Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’(Proverbs 31:10, 30). We are to seek ‘treasures in heaven’ rather than ‘treasures on earth’(Matthew 6:19-21). The riches of this world will not last for ever: ‘All your riches and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered... “Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”’ There is one treasure which lasts forever - the treasure of salvation. Let us praise our Saviour: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and power and glory belong to our God’(Revelation 18:14-17; 19:1).
Great blessings for those who “delight in the law of the Lord”
The first Psalm contrasts two ways - the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow in the next few Psalms - stability in the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2); service for the Lord (Psalm 2:11); salvation of the Lord (Psalm 3:8); sanctification from the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5); singing to the Lord (Psalm 8:4); strength in the Lord (Psalm 9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’(Psalm 1:1-2). With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?
“Now” – the time for obedience to God’s Word.
God speaks His Word to us. He calls us to obedience. He says to us, ‘Obey My voice’. Sadly, however, the story of our life is often summed up in the words: ‘They did not listen or pay attention. They did not obey’(Jeremiah 11:7-8). God’s Word is not just ‘something to think about. When God calls us to obedience, we’re not to say, ‘I’ll think about that later’. ‘Now’ is the time for obedience to God’s Word: ‘Obey now the voice of the Lord’(Jeremiah 38:20). We must not put this off until tomorrow. God is looking for our obedience today: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’(Hebrews 4:7). To those who were deeply involved in religious ritual - ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices’ - , God said this, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’(1 Samuel 15:22). Obedience involves our whole life - not just ‘never missing a service’!
Don’t try to run away from your problems. Take them to the Lord.
The Psalmist had problems - ‘Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life - men with no regard for God’(Psalm 54:3). There was, however, something else troubling him. Someone else was causing him problems - ‘my close friend, with whom I enjoyed sweet fellowship, as we worshipped together at the House of God’(Psalm 55:13-14). He felt like running away from it all - ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest - I would flee far away and stay in the desert... I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm’(Psalm 55:6-8). This is what he felt like doing. He had almost forgotten - ‘God is my Helper’(Psalm 54:4). With God, he faced and overcame his problems: ‘I will call upon God; and the Lord will save me’. ‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you’(Psalm 55:16, 22).
Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way.
So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. so much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’ can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on’ (James 3:5; Mission Praise, 348). Use your words with wisdom - ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’(James 3:17-18). Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way (James 4:2). Be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another...Who are you to judge your neighbour?’(James 4:11-12). May God deliver us from hypocrisy - ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’(James 3:10). May He give us ‘more grace’ - to be ‘humble’ and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (James 4:6-7).
Less self-confidence and more confidence in God – This is what we need.
‘Our God is able’(Daniel 3:17). Do we believe this? There is no doubt about God’s power. What about our faith? We come to Jesus, saying, ‘If you can’. Jesus turns things around: ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’(Mark 9:22-23). This is not so much an appeal for positive thinking. It is a call to prayer (Mark 9:29). Less self-confidence and more confidence in God - This is what we need. God’s greatness is more important than our ‘greatness’(Mark 9:33-35). Are there things that you don’t understand? Don’t be afraid to ask (Mark 9:32). You may even learn from those who ‘don’t belong to our group’(Mark 9:38-40). They don’t belong to our group? So what? Do they belong to Christ? That’s what matters. ‘It is better’(Mark 9:43, 45, 47) to be Christ’s - than anything else! May our faith, though ‘tested by fire’, grow strong - to God’s glory (Mark 9:49-50; 1 Peter 1: 6-7).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22; Psalm 124 (or Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
We rejoice in Christ. He was crucified for us. He has risen for us.
Esther spoke up for God’s people - ‘spare my people’(Esther 7:3). She spoke out against the enemy of God’s people - ‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!’(Esther 7:6). The tables were turned on the enemy of the Lord’s people - ‘they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai’(Esther 7:10). He was replaced by the Lord’s servant - ‘the king took off the signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai’(Esther 8:2). Instead of the gallows, Mordecai received ‘royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a purple robe of fine linen’(Esther 8:15)! For God’s people, this was ‘a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour’(Esther 8:16). Let’s look beyond Mordecai to Christ. Rejoice! He was crucified for us. He is now exalted to the highest place (Philippians 2:8-9).
Among God’s people, there was much ‘feasting and joy’. They gave thanks to the Lord - ‘their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration’(Esther 9:17-22). They gave thanks to God for Mordecai - ‘he sought the welfare of his people, he worked for the good of his people’. They rejoiced because of ‘the greatness and high honour of Mordecai, to which the king had raised him’(Esther 10:2-3). We have even more to celebrate. We gather at the Lord’s Table. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We rejoice in Jesus Christ our Saviour. He ‘gave His life as a ransom for many’. His body was broken for us. His blood was shed for us. ‘Redeemed with His precious blood’, we rejoice in Christ - ‘crucified’ and ‘risen’ for us (Mark 10:45; Mark 14:22-24; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Through Christ, we have received mercy. In Christ, we have the victory.
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’(Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’(Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’(Psalm 123:3). We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’(Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’(Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalm 123:2; Psalm 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’(Psalm 122:6).
Standing in Christ’s strength, we resist the devil. Defeated by Christ, the devil flees from us.
‘The people complained in the hearing of the Lord’(Numbers 11:1) - Remember: All our words are spoken ‘in the hearing of the Lord’! There was ‘a rabble among them’(Numbers 11:4): What problems there are when such people are mingling with God’s people! What are we to do when this happens? - Pray for God’s help (Numbers 11:10-15). God will not disappoint us - He gives people who will ‘take their stand with us’(Numbers 11:16), the Spirit who rests on God’s people (Numbers 11:25), the Word, ‘strong meat’ to sustain our spiritual strength (Numbers 11:31-32; Hebrews 5:12-14). The lure of the world, the pull of the flesh - ‘the rabble’ wanted to go back to ‘Egypt’(Numbers 11:4-6): This is the attack of the devil. Standing in Christ’s strength alone, we ‘resist the devil’. Defeated by Christ, Satan can do nothing but ‘flee from us’(Philippians 4:13; James 4:7; 1 John 3:8).
God is speaking to us. He speaks to us of Jesus Christ. He calls us to come to Christ.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1,14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’(Psalm 19:7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’(Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
God helps us to speak His Word. Let’s pray that sinners will be saved.
Don’t worry about ‘what will happen tomorrow’. It’s in the Lord’s hands (James 4:14-15). We must not lose sight of ‘the purpose of the Lord’. We must remember that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’(James 5:11). We look forward to ‘the Lord’s Coming’ as the great Day of our salvation (James 5:7-8). We must not, however, forget God’s words of warning: ‘The Judge is standing at the door’. God speaks to us concerning ‘the misery that is coming upon you’. What is He saying to us here? - He is warning us: Be careful how you live - Don’t trust in riches. ‘Don’t grumble against each other’(James 5:1-3,9). The warning and the promise belong together. Those who are facing judgment can be brought to the Saviour. May God help us to speak His Word - the warning as well as the promise - , always praying that sinners will be saved (James 5:16,19-20).
A call to prayer
‘Our God is able’(Daniel 3:17). Do we believe this? There is no doubt about God’s power. What about our faith? We come to Jesus, saying, ‘If you can’. Jesus turns things around: ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’(Mark 9:22-23). This is not so much an appeal for positive thinking. It is a call to prayer (Mark 9:29). Less self-confidence and more confidence in God - This is what we need. God’s greatness is more important than our ‘greatness’(Mark 9:33-35). Are there things that you don’t understand? Don’t be afraid to ask (Mark 9:32). You may even learn from those who ‘don’t belong to our group’(Mark 9:38-40). They don’t belong to our group? So what? Do they belong to Christ? That’s what matters. ‘It is better’(Mark 9:43,45,47) to be Christ’s - than anything else! May our faith, though ‘tested by fire’, grow strong - to God’s glory (Mark 9:49-50; 1 Peter 1: 6-7).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26 (or Genesis 2:18-24); Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:17-31
Satan is very busy. Remember – God is in control.
Satan is very busy - ‘going to and fro on the earth...walking up and down on it’. Why is Satan ‘roaming through the earth’? - ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’(Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8). If, like Job, you ‘fear God and turn away from evil’, Satan will make you his target. He will do all that he can to make you stop worshipping God and start cursing Him (Job 1:1, 11). Satan is very powerful - but he can only do what God allows him to do (Job 1:12; 2:6). There is a greater Power than the power of Satan - ‘the Power of God’. When you face Satan’s onslaughts, remember - God is in control. His Power is at work in us to keep us in the way of faith, the way which brings ‘praise and glory and honour’to Him (1 Peter 1:3-7).
God’s love inspires our loyalty to Him.
God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’(Psalm 26:3). Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12). Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’us (Psalm 26:4-5, 9-10; Psalm 27:2-3, 6, 11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’(Psalm 27:4). What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’(Psalm 27:14). Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear… I will be confident’(Psalm 27:1, 3).
Created in God’s image, let’s glorify Him.
We come here to the creation of woman. Her creation is bound up with the creation of man. She is created from man’s ‘rib’ (Genesis 2:21-22). The ‘rib’ is taken from his side, emphasizing that man and woman are to be together, side-by-side, not one in front of the other. The ‘rib’, rather than the head or the feet, emphasizes this togetherness rather than any superiority-inferiority relationship. The ‘rib’ is close to the heart. Woman is close to the heart of man. Both are close to the heart of God. The contrast between humanity and the animals is again clear. Among the animals, there was ‘no suitable helper’ for the man (Genesis 2:20). The animals had been ‘formed out of the ground’ (Genesis 2:19). Humanity has come from ‘the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). Like the animals, we come from ‘the dust of the ground’, but there is more: the Breath of God, created in His image to glorify Him!
To God, we pray, “Glorify Your Name in all the earth.”
The Lord is ‘majestic’(Psalm 8:1, 9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He show us His greatness, the greatness of His love. We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4). We are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’(Psalm 8:2). We look beyond our creation (Psalm 8:5-8) to our salvation - ‘we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone...that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil’(Hebrews 2:8-9, 14). This is ‘Majesty’ - ‘Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’. The Name of the Lord is majestic ‘in all the earth’(Psalm 8:1, 9). To God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we pray, ‘Glorify Your Name in all the earth’ (Mission Praise. 454,142).
Let’s worship our Lord Jesus Christ. He is great in heavenly glory. He is great in saving grace.
From the heights of heaven and the depths of suffering, ‘God... has spoken to us by His Son’(Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is God’s ‘Word’ to us. He is ‘the Word’ who came from heaven: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. He is ‘the Word’who came to earth: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...’(John 1:1-14). In heaven, He is worshipped by angels: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him’(Hebrews 1:6). On earth, ‘He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9). We see the greatness of Christ in both His heavenly glory and His saving grace. None can compare with Him. He is our Lord. He is our Saviour. We consider all that He has done for us - ‘the nail marks in His hands...’ - and we worship Him - ‘my Lord and my God’(John 20:19-20, 24-28).
As we give ourselves to God, let’s remember this: He has given more. He gave His Son for us.
The Pharisees came to Jesus - ‘to test Him’(Mark 10:2). They asked Him about divorce (Mark 10:2). He spoke to them about marriage (Mark 10:6-9). We need to be positive, well grounded in the basic principles of God’s Word. When the thorny problems come - as they surely will - we will face them with maturity, and not as ‘children, tossed to fro and and carried about with every wind of doctrine’(Ephesians 4:14). Jesus loved the little children (Mark 10:13-16). Do we? Some say ‘No’to the love of Jesus (Mark 10:21-22). Say ‘Yes’ to Him. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is God’s doing, not ours (Mark 10:26-27). Don’t let ‘self’ take the place of Christ: ‘we have left everything...’(Mark 10:28). Don’t say, ‘I have given so much to God, done so much for Him, given up so much for Him’. God has given you more! God has done more for you! God has given up more for you! "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15 (or Amos 5:6-7, 10-15); Psalm 90:12-17; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31
When you’re suffering, remember that God loves you.
Job’s ‘friends’ assume that Job is being punished by God. They are unaware that someone else is behind Job’s suffering - Satan! Job isn’t sure what to make of it all. Is God punishing him after all? Deep down in his heart, he knows that God loves him. Job asks the question - ‘Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power?’. He answers his own question - ‘No; He would give heed to me’(Job 23:6). Job knows that God is a God of great power. He knows something else about God. He is a God of great love. He is not ‘all power and no love’. ‘God is love’(1 John 4:8). What really lies behind Job’s suffering? - ‘The devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’. The time will come when God will say to Satan, ‘Enough! No more!’(Revelation 12:12; 20:10)!
Satan is working overtime! He is filling Job with fear. In his state of deep depression, Job says, “God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; for I am hemmed in by darkness, and thick darkness covers my face’(Job 23:16-17). Where do these thoughts come from? Do they come from the Lord? No! They come from Satan! This is not ‘the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom’(Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7). It is a very different kind of fear, a fear which comes from Satan. How are we to overcome this fear? When depression threatens to overwhelm us, what are we to do? Look to the Lord. He ‘has not given us a spirit of fear’. He has given us His ‘Spirit of power and love’. He gives us ‘a sound mind’. Look to the Lord. Let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’(2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18).
When you’re suffering, remember that Christ died for you.
Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 7-8,18; Matthew 27:39,43,35). We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’(Psalm 22:1,16). Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’(Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’(Isaiah 53:6). When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46). Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’(John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
When you’re suffering, remember God’s Word of love: “Seek the Lord and live.”
‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil...’(Amos 5:6,14). Those who truly seek the Lord are to live a godly life. God sees right through hypocritical religion. He 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). God is 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). God speaks to us 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 5:12,15).
When you’re suffering, remember God’s Word of love: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’(Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’. Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).
When, in your suffering, you hear God’s voice, do not harden your heart.
‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. These words from Hebrews 3:7,15, are repeated in Hebrews 4:7. Make sure that you don’t miss the point! These are words that we need to keep on hearing - again and again. None of us ever reaches a stage where we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning. Reading God’s Word can be a very uncomfortable experience: ‘God’s Word is living and active... God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for Him to see. We must answer to Him’(Hebrews 4:12-13). This may not be the kind of thing we like to hear. It’s what we need to hear. We will only pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ when we see how sinful we really are. Then - and only then - will we come to Christ for ‘eternal salvation’(Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 5:9).
When your suffering seems unbearable, remember this - God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.
The Pharisees came to Jesus - ‘to test Him’(Mark 10:2). They asked Him about divorce (Mark 10:2). He spoke to them about marriage (Mark 10:6-9). We need to be positive, well grounded in the basic principles of God’s Word. When the thorny problems come - as they surely will - we will face them with maturity, and not as ‘children, tossed to fro and and carried about with every wind of doctrine’(Ephesians 4:14). Jesus loved the little children (Mark 10:13-16). Do we? Some say ‘No’ to the love of Jesus (Mark 10:21-22). Say ‘Yes’to Him. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is God’s doing, not ours (Mark 10:26-27). Don’t let ‘self’ take the place of Christ: ‘we have left everything...’(Mark 10:28). Don’t say, ‘I have given so much to God, done so much for Him, given up so much for Him’. God has given you more! God has done more for you! God has given up more for you! God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son … (John 3:16).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B
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Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost: Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c (or Isaiah 53:4-12); Psalm 91:9-16; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45
Why? Why? Why? Even when we don’t understand, we can still say, ‘My help comes from the Lord.’
The Lord has listened long enough! He’s listened to a lot of ‘empty-headed words’. He has listened to a long, heated debate. There’s been a lot of heat and not much light. Everything seems to be as clear as mud (Job 38:2). Now, it’s His time for speaking! What does God have to say? He invites Job to look at the bigger picture. Being preoccupied with our own problems doesn’t really solve anything. ‘Why has this happened to me? Why did it not turn out that way? Why this? Why that?’- We go round in circles, thinking about these kind of questions. We don’t have all the answers. There are plenty of things we don’t understand. Even when we don’t understand what’s happening, we can still say, ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’(Psalm 121:1-2).
Are you drifting away from the Lord? It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time for an ‘all my life’ commitment to the Lord.
‘I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 104:33). Do you feel like giving up? Other things are becoming more important to you. Worshipping the Lord is being pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes are creeping 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 the Lord has gone! Little-by-little, you are drifting away from the Lord. It’s time 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 the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ Yes. We were there. It was our sins which He took with Him to the Cross.
In this remarkable prophecy,.we see Jesus Christ, crucified for us - ‘the Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ - and risen from the dead - ‘After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life’(Isaiah 53:6, 11). ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’(Mission Praise, 745). We might put this question to Isaiah. In one sense, he wasn’t there. He lived long before the time of Christ. In another sense, he was there. God opened his eyes. God gave him a glimpse of what was going to happen in the future. ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’. In one sense, we weren’t there. These things happened long before we were even born. In another sense, we were there. It was our sins which Christ took with Him to the Cross. It was our sins which He left behind Him when He rose from the dead (Romans 4:25).
In Christ, we have the victory –‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
‘Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter’(Psalm 91:3). God has given us His warning. We must ‘be alert’- ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. He also gives us His promise - ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. How are we to resist the devil? - We are to ‘resist him, standing firm in the faith’(1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7). We must not try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are. We must resist him in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have the victory - ‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’(1 Corinthians 15:57). Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Let’s never forget this: Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one’(Matthew 6:13).
None of us ever reaches a stage when we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning.
‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. These words from Hebrews 3:7, 15, are repeated in Hebrews 4:7. Make sure that you don’t miss the point! These are words that we need to keep on hearing - again and again. None of us ever reaches a stage when we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning. Reading God’s Word can be a very uncomfortable experience: ‘God’s Word is living and active... God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for Him to see. We must answer to Him’(Hebrews 4:12-13). This may not be the kind of thing we like to hear. It’s what we need to hear. We will only pray for ‘mercy’and ‘grace’ when we see how sinful we really are. Then - and only then - will we come to Christ for ‘eternal salvation’(Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 5:9).
Never think, ‘Glory for me.’ Always think, ‘Glory to God.’ ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Jesus was ‘going up to Jerusalem’ - to the Cross (Mark 10:32). He came to die, ‘to give His life as a ransom for many’(Mark 10:45). The death of Christ lies at the very heart of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 1:23 1 John 1:7, 2:2 Hebrews 2:9). Don’t think, ‘Glory for me’(Mark 10:37). Think, ‘Glory to God’(Mark 10:43-44): ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’(Galatians 6:14). Bartimaeus cried out to the Lord for mercy (Mark 10:47). ‘How embarrassing’, some people thought - ‘how undignified’(Mark 10:48). When God is at work, some people don't like it! They like everything to be dignified - dull and dead! When God is at work, people get converted. This may not please the 'critics', but it pleases God - and that’s what matters. Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard - and answered.
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost: Job 42:1-6. 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) (or Jeremiah 31:7-9); Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
A happy ending – “salvation ready to be revealed at the last time … when Jesus Christ is revealed”
After so much suffering - a happy ending! Job has been brought closer to God (Job 42:5-6). His ‘friends’ have been forgiven by the Lord (Job 42:7-9). Everybody is happy about the way things have turned out for Job (Job 42:10-11). Is there always a happy ending? In this earthly life, we will never reach a stage where there will be no more problems and everything will be just fine. For God’s people, ‘redeemed with the precious blood of Christ’, there will be a happy ending - but not until ‘the last time’! For now, we must face many ‘trials’. Beyond our ‘little while’of suffering there is a happy ending - ‘salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’. We must pray that our ‘faith, more precious than gold, will be proved genuine and will result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’(1 Peter 1:3-7,18-19).
Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, “I will bless the Lord at all times.”
Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’(Psalm 34:1). We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’(Psalm 34:3). We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’(Psalm 34:8). We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’(Psalm 34:11). We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’(Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).
We have wandered off into the far country. Even there, we hear the voice of God’s love. He is calling us home again.
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’(Jeremiah 31:3). 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’. 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).
Building on Jesus Christ, the solid Rock, we are filled with true and lasting joy.
‘Those who trust in the Lord... cannot be moved...’. When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’(Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’is the ‘sure Foundation’upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’(1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10,411). ‘Christ died for our sins... He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Let Jesus be your great Saviour. Comne to Him and receive His great salvation.
‘See how great He is!’(Hebrews 7:4). These words refer to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-3; Genesis 14:18-20). Melchizedek has ‘neither beginning of days nor end of life’. He ‘continues a priest for ever’. He ‘resembles the Son of God’. He is ‘like the Son of God’ (Hebrews 7:3). Let your thoughts move from Melchizedek to the Lord Jesus Christ - ‘See how great He is’! Jesus Christ is ‘the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 21:6; 22:13). ‘Jesus lives for ever’and ‘has a permanent priesthood’ (Hebrews 7:24). He is our great Saviour: ‘He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25). We look beyond Melchizedek. We look to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We look to Him and we say, ‘There’s no greater Name than Jesus, Name of Him who came to save us’ (Mission Praise, 684). Let Jesus be your great Saviour. Come to Him and receive His great salvation.
Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard – and answered.
Jesus was ‘going up to Jerusalem’- to the Cross (Mark 10:32). He came to die, ‘to give His life as a ransom for many’(Mark 10:45). The death of Christ lies at the very heart of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 1:23 1 John 1:7, 2:2 Hebrews 2:9). Don’t think, ‘Glory for me’(Mark 10:37). Think, ‘Glory to God’ (Mark 10:43-44): ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’(Galatians 6:14). Bartimaeus cried out to the Lord for mercy (Mark 10:47). ‘How embarrassing’, some people thought - ‘how undignified’ (Mark 10:48). When God is at work, some people don't like it! They like everything to be dignified - dull and dead! When God is at work, people get converted. This may not please the 'critics', but it pleases God - and that’s what matters. Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard - and answered.
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146 (or Deuteronomy 6:1-9); Psalm 119:1-8; Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34
Let us follow Jesus all the days of our life..
"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1:16-17). As we read these words, may we hear the voice of Jesus calling us to follow Him - “"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."” (John 6::67-69). Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’(Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’(Mission Praise, 272).
Let us praise God all the days of our life.
‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 146:2). Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’(Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’(Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).
Let us obey the Lord all the days of our life.
‘Hear’ and ‘do’ (Deuteronomy 6:1-3; James 1:22-25). Teach the children well so that the blessing of God may be ‘prolonged’ among us (Deuteronomy 6:7, 2). Our promised land - heaven (John 14:1-3) - is far better than Israel’s promised land. Through faith in Christ, we have received ‘eternal life’ (John 5:24; 6:40). The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1). Many will choose the way of disobedience. We must choose the way of obedience.
Let us love the Lord all the days of our life.
In our obedience to God, there is to be the fear of the Lord and love for the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:2, 5). Fear and love: the two belong together. God is holy - fear Him. God is love - love Him. This is for every generation: ‘you and your son and your son’s son’(Deuteronomy 6:2). ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’(Deuteronomy 6:5). Our ‘first’priority is love for God (Mark 12:29-30). Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour’ (Mark 12:31). Love for our neighbour is not, however, ‘the be-all and end-all’ of our life. There is more. We must not forget God. Jesus is ‘Lord’(Mark 12:35-37). Let it be: Jesus is my Lord.
All the days of our life, we have Jesus as our Saviour. He’s never out of date. He gives us His eternal redemption.
God gave His promise - ‘I will make a new covenant’(Hebrews 8:8-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34). God has fulfilled His promise. There is now a ‘new covenant in Jesus’ blood’ (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). The old covenant cannot even begin to compare with the new covenant. It is only a ‘shadow’. The new covenant is the real thing. It is ‘much more excellent’. It is ‘a better covenant’(Hebrews 8:5-6), The old covenant is ‘outdated’(Hebrews 8:13). It’s seen its day. Now, it’s past its ‘sell by date’! We look at the old covenant and we say, ‘There must be more than this’. There is more - ‘much more’. Through ‘the blood of Christ’, ‘our hearts and lives’ have been ‘cleansed’. Now, we can begin ‘to serve the living God’ (Hebrews 9:14). ‘What a wonderful redemption!’- ‘eternal redemption’(Mission Praise, 765; 9:12)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Ruth 3:1-5: 4:13-17; Psalm 127 (or 1 Kings 17:8-16); Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
No more filthy rags. Christ has clothed us with His garments of salvation.
Ruth was covered by the ‘garment’ of Boaz, her ‘kinsman-redeemer’ (Ruth 3:9). Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He has become one of us. He shares our ‘flesh and blood’, our ‘humanity’. Through His ‘suffering’and ‘death’, we are brought to ‘glory’ (Hebrews 2:10-11,14-15). In Him, we ‘rejoice’: ‘He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness’(Isaiah 61:10). ‘Our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. Bring your ‘robes’ to Christ and let them be ‘washed’, ‘made white in the blood of the Lamb’ (Isaiah 64:6; Revelation 7:14). A ‘Moabitess’, Ruth was brought into the house of Israel (Ruth 4:10-11). In Christ, Jew and Gentile become one (Ephesians 2:11-18). Ruth played her part in leading us to Christ (Ruth 4:13-17; Matthew 1:1,5-6). May God help us to lead people to Christ.
No more falling apart. Christ is the solid Rock on which we build.
‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. (Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’ (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10,411). ‘Christ died for our sins... He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”
Things were getting desperate: ‘Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him’ (1 Kings 16:33). What did God do about this? How did He respond to this situation? God sent His prophet, a man who would stand up for God against Ahab. ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’ (Isaiah 59:19). Where did Elijah come from? He came from God! All we know about Elijah’s early life is expressed in the words: ‘Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead’. There is something else we know about him. He was a man of God. He was a man with a message, a man who spoke in the Name of the Lord the God of Israel’ (1 Kings 17:1). Things happened when Elijah was around. This was the Spirit of God at work - in power!
Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who remains faithful for ever.
‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 146:2). Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’ (Psalm 146:5-6).
Thank the Lord for what He has done for you. Thank Him for what He will do for you.
We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us. Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in Hebrews 9:28 - ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’. We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20). We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us - His body broken for us and His blood shed for us. We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Remember - and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’(Revelation 22:20). As we remember Jesus Christ, crucified for us, let us pray that we will look beyond the bread and the wine. Let us pray that we will see Jesus and love Him. We are not to be like the scribes – they had all the external trappings of religion - and nothing else (Mark 12;38-40)! We are to be like the ‘poor widow’ - she had very little, yet she had everything that really matters: she loved the Lord (Mark 12:41-44)!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 1:4-20; 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (or Daniel 12:1-3); Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25; Mark 13:1-8
Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord.
Hannah ‘wept’. Hannah ‘was no longer sad’(1 Samuel 1:7, 18). What made the difference? No child had been born. She had not even conceived. These things did not happen until later (1 Samuel 1:21). Why was there such a change in Hannah? She believed. God’s Word had been spoken (1 Samuel 1:17). Hannah believed His Word. She rejoiced in Him. Jesus emphasized the importance of praying with faith (Mark 11:24). We are to ‘ask in faith’, to pray ‘the prayer of faith’(James 1:6; 5:15). We are also to pray ‘according to His will’ (1 John 5:14-15). God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He ‘gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
May our attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: ‘There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God’ (1 Samuel 2:2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord’ (1 Samuel 2:1). May the Lord help us to be ‘His faithful ones’ who walk with Him (1 Samuel 2:9).
Choose Christ and be glad.
We read of two very different futures - ‘everlasting life’ and ‘everlasting contempt’ (Daniel 12:2). We receive ‘eternal life’ through ‘believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’. Through faith in Him, we ‘know that we have eternal life’. God gives us His promise: ‘He who has the Son has life’. To those who ‘overcome’, through ‘believing that Jesus is the Son of God’, God gives this promise: ‘I will never blot his name out of the Book of Life’. Alongside His promise, there is His warning: ‘He who does not have the Son of God does not have life’. To those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation, God gives this warning: ‘If anyone’s name was not written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’ (John 20:31; 1 John 5:5,11-13; Revelation 3:5; 20:15). May the warning lead us to the promise: ‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.
Let us press on to victory in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are ‘wars and rumours of wars’ (Mark 13:7). We must learn to look beyond all of this: ‘This day - the noise of battle’: Look beyond all that to ‘the victor’s song’ (Church Hymnary, 481). In human conflict, there is so much of self - ‘We are the people’. When Christ returns, nothing will matter but this: ‘When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there’(Mission Praise,759). We hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars’. Do we say, ‘This is part of our history. It’s always been this way’? We must remember: Preaching Christ's Gospel is far more important than ‘defending’ our ways (Mark 13:10)! Let us seek the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ as we proclaim the glorious message of His eternal victory – His enemies will be made a footstool for His feet (Hebrews 10:13).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Twenty Seventh (Last) Sunday after Pentecost (Reign of Christ the King): 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18) (or Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
“By grace you have been saved …”
By birth, David was ‘the son of Jesse’. By grace, he was ‘the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Samuel 23:1). What we are in ourselves is nothing compared with what we can become through the grace of God! Look at David. Listen to what he says, ‘The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, His Word is upon my tongue’ (2 Samuel 23:2). What had David done to deserve this? What was so special about him? Nothing - This was the work of God, the work of divine grace. In ourselves, we are ‘godless’, good for nothing, ‘like thorns that are thrown away’ (2 Samuel 23:6). In ourselves, we are not ‘mighty men’ (2 Samuel 23:8-9). How can we be changed? - ‘The Lord wrought a great victory’ (2 Samuel 23:10, 12). Which of us can be described as ‘a valiant man… a doer of great deeds’ (2 Samuel 23:20) - apart from the grace of God? ‘By grace you have been saved…’ (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Let’s give to God the praise of our lives as well as the praise of our lips.
‘Let us go to the Lord’s House; let us worship before His throne’ (Psalm 132:7). God is calling us to worship Him. We are to gather together as His worshipping people. As we gather for worship, we remember that ‘the Lord is King’. We do not only give Him the praise of our lips. We give Him the praise of our lives. We do not only sing to Him. We live for Him. We come ‘before His throne’ with this prayer, ‘Take my heart - it is Thine own; It shall be Thy royal throne’. God hears and answers our prayer. He gives us His strength. We rise to His 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’ (Church Hymnary, 36, 462, 477). The service of worship comes to an end. Let our service of living begin - and never end!
Looking forward to the Coming of Christ the King.
‘There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven... His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed’ (Daniel 7:13-14). These words point us to Christ’s description of His Second Coming, the Coming of His Kingdom: ‘They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30). In Revelation 1:7, we have another echo of Daniel’s ‘vision’: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’. ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending... Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the power and glory, claim the Kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!’(Church Hymnary, 316).
The Lord is exalted. Let us exalt Him in our worship.
“The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...”(Psalm 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’ - This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’ (Psalm 97:9; 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).
Christ is coming with the clouds. We must get ready for Him.
‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Revelation 1:1) comes from Christ and speaks of Christ. He loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:5). We rejoice in Him. Christ is ‘coming with the clouds’ (Revelation 1:7). We must get ready for Him. ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ calls for our response. It is not ‘for information only’. We are to ‘pay attention to what is written in it’. We are to ‘take it to heart’. We are to ‘do what it says’ (Revelation 1:3). Christ reveals Himself to us. Is it for our benefit only? Is it just to make us ‘feel good’? No! We are to share with others what the Lord is teaching us. Christ said to John, ‘Write what you see’ (Revelation 1:19). Don’t keep it to yourself. Share Christ. Tell others about Him. Tell them what the Lord has done for you. Speak His words of love: ‘Come...and learn from Me’ (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus Christ is the King of kings. He is the King of love, who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die. Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born...’ (John 18:36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross. As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12, 6).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – Christian Unity: Jeremiah 33:6-9; Psalm 102:13-22; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 17:11b-23
In Christ, we have every spiritual blessing.
‘I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against Me... Then this city will bring Me renown, joy, praise, and honour before all nations on earth...’ (Jeremiah 33:7-9). What great blessing lay ahead of God’s people! God was pointing His people to the place of blessing: Jesus Christ - ‘the righteous Branch from David’s line’ (Jeremiah 33:15-16). ‘In Christ’, we have ‘every spiritual blessing’: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 2:9). God has so much blessing to give to us. Come to Him and receive His blessing: ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you; I will show you wonderful and marvellous things that you know nothing about’ (Jeremiah 33:3).
In all the changes of life, the Lord remains the same. His Name endures to all generations
The Psalms were written many centuries ago. ‘Things are very different now’- so we’re told! Worshipping the Lord and walking with Him: Are these things out-of-date now? Are they to be forgotten? So many people have no time for the Lord. They feel that they can do without Him. They refuse to worship Him. They do not walk with Him. In our ever-changing world, there is something we must never forget: The Lord is ‘enthroned for ever’. His ‘Name endures to all generations’. In all the changes of life, the Lord ‘remains the same’. His ‘years go on through all generations’. His ‘years will never end’ (Psalm 102:12, 24, 27). These words were ‘written for a future generation’. They were written for us. We must not forget to ‘praise the Lord’ (Psalm 102:18)!
May God help us to grow in grace as we share in fellowship – eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (John 17:20). The story of the Cross (John 17:1-5), the story of the first disciples (John 17:6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ’s death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today’s world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - ‘that they may be one’ (John 17:11). He prays the same prayer for us (John 17:20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, ‘the one who chose to be lost’ (John 17:12). If we are to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit’, we must take account of ‘the Judas factor’ - ‘take notice of those who create dissensions... avoid them’ (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18). May God help us to grow in grace as we share in fellowship - ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – Presentation of the Lord: 1 Samuel 2:1-11; Psalm 29; Galatians 4:1-7; Luke 2:22-40
Receiving the Spirit of God
‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5).). We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’ (Church Hymnary, 83). All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’ (Mission Praise, 613). God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
Strengthened by the Spirit of God
Where does your strength come from? It comes from ‘the Lord’ who ‘sits enthroned as King for ever’ (Psalm 29:10). We grow strong as we listen for ‘the voice of the Lord’ (Psalm 29:29:3-9). Don’t let God’s voice be drowned out - ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). Let your attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: ‘There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God’ (1 Samuel 2:2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord’ (1 Samuel 2:1). May the Lord help us to be ‘His faithful ones’ who walk with Him (1 Samuel 2:9).
Walking in the Spirit of God
Jesus ‘fulfilled all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). His circumcision and presentation to the Lord was ‘according to the law of Moses’ (Luke 2:21-24; Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus’ obedience was always more than mere conformity to ‘the written code’. He was walking ‘in the Spirit’. He was filled with ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3,6). His obedience came ‘from the heart’ and His ‘praise’ came ‘not from men but from God’ (Romans 6:17; Romans 2:29). What joy there was for Simeon and Anna! This was ‘salvation’, ‘redemption’ (Luke 2:30, 38). Strengthened by God’s salvation, let’s walk in the Spirit.
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Comon Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – Harvest Festival: Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Psalm 67; Acts 14:13-17; John 6:24-35
God gave Israel the land. He gives us the Kingdom. It’s a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed.
The ‘wilderness’ was a place of ‘testing’. God was ‘disciplining’ His people. He was teaching them to ‘walk in His ways’ (Deuteronomy 8:2, 5-6). In the ‘wilderness’, we must remember this: ‘man does not live by bread alone... man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord’ (Deuteronomy 8:3). Everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord - His warnings as well as His promises! He speaks to us in warnings: ‘Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God...’ (Deuteronomy 8:11). He speaks to us in promises: ‘the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land’ (Deuteronomy 8:7). God gave Israel the land. He gives us ‘the Kingdom’ (Luke 12:32). As earthly kingdoms rise and fall, ‘the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed’ (Daniel 2:44).
“May God be gracious to us and bless us.” May He give us this testimony, “God has blessed us.”
We come to worship God. He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’. He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’ (Psalm 67:1, 6-7). In our worship, God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us. He invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives. We read God’s Word. We hear His Word. This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us. He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’ (Psalm 67:4, 7).
When we receive blessing from the Lord, let’s remember to give thanks to Him.
When God is working powerfully through His servants, there is always the tendency to attach too much importance to the servants. We must resist this temptation. The glory belongs to God alone. We must never forget: ‘We too are only men, human like you’ (Acts 14:15). God has called us to ‘bring Good News’ to sinners, the Good News of salvation (Acts 14:15). As we proclaim this Good News - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ - , we must never forget this: We are ‘unworthy servants’ (Luke 17:10), ‘the worst of sinners’(1 Timothy 1:15-16;). Look beyond the preacher, the evangelist, the teacher of God’s Word. Look to the Saviour. Give all the glory to Him. He is the Gospel. He is our salvation. He is the living Word. The Gospel is preached. There is blessing. We say, ‘This blessing has come from the Lord’ – He has not left Himself without testimony ... He has shown kindness ... He provides ... He fills you hearts with joy (Acts 13:17).
We receive blessing from Jesus when we feed on Him.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’ (John 6:35). Whatever difficulties we may face, we must remember this: the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ (Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’ (Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’ (Church Hymnary, 571).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – Springtime: Song of Songs 2:8-13; Psalm 104:1, 10-24; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; John 12:20-26
The springtime of our salvation comes to us through Christ’s going down into the darkness of cucifixion for us.
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way! The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
In the springtime of our salvation, we know that we are loved by Christ and we are learning to love Him.
Christ comes to us in love: ‘The Voice of my Beloved! Look! Here He comes...’ (Song of Songs 2:8). He calls us to come to Him: ‘My Beloved speaks and says to me, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away”’ (Song of Songs 2:10). He calls us to belong to Him: ‘My Beloved is mine and I am His’ (Song of Songs 2:16). Let us come to Jesus and experience His love: ‘Jesus, how lovely You are! You are so gentle, so pure and kind...’. Let us come to Jesus and give Him our love: ‘Jesus, I love You, love You more and more each day; Jesus, I love You, Your gentle touch renews my heart. It’s really no wonder why no other love can satisfy; Jesus, I love You, You’ve won this heart of mine!’. Let us come to Jesus and receive His joy: ‘Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart’ (Mission Praise, 361,363,362).
May the springtime of our salvation be the beginning of a lifelong commitment to worshipping the Lord.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 104:1). “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 104:33). Do you feel like giving up? Other things are becoming more important to you. Worshipping the Lord is being pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes are creeping 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 the Lord has gone! Little-by-little, you are drifting away from the Lord. It’s time 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 the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!
Giving thanks to God for His indescribable gift, let’s maintain the joy of the springtime of our salvation.
How are we to be ‘cheerful’ in giving ourselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 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…’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). We look at Him and we say, in our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 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’!
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – Michaelmas (September 29): Daniel 10:4-11:2; Psalm 91; Revelation 12:7-12a; Mark 13:21-27
Our great weakness, God’s great strength
Daniel came to God in great weakness - ‘I am helpless... My strength is gone...’ (Daniel 10:16-17). From the Lord, Daniel received great strength - ‘The One who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength... When He spoke to me, I was strengthened...’. Daniel’s strength came from the love of God and the peace of God. God assured Daniel of His love for him. He called Daniel a ‘man greatly beloved’. God spoke His Word of peace to Daniel: ‘Peace be with you’. As God revealed His love and peace to him, Daniel came to realize that there was no need to be afraid. He could ‘be strong’in the Lord (Daniel 10:18-19). When we are weak, let us come to God and receive His strength - ‘His grace is sufficient for us. His strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Resist the devil in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is able to deliver us from the evil one.
‘Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter’ (Psalm 91:3). God has given us His warning. We must ‘be alert’ - ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. He also gives us His promise - ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. How are we to resist the devil? - We are to ‘resist him, standing firm in the faith’ (1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7). We must not try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are. We must resist him in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have the victory - ‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Let’s never forget this: Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one’ (Matthew 6:13).
Christ has won the victory for us. Let us claim His victory by faith.
In Genesis 3:1, we read of ‘the serpent’. Here he is again - ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’. He is a powerful enemy. He ‘leads the whole world astray’. He is a determined enemy. ‘Day and night’, he is busy, accusing God’s children. He is a defeated enemy. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...’. This is not only Christ’s victory over Satan. This is our victory in Christ, the victory Christ has won for us. Why is Satan so busy? It’s because ‘he knows his time is short’ (Revelation 12:9-12). How are we to take our stand against Satan? Christ has won the victory for us. Let us claim His victory by faith.
Let us look beyond our many battles. Let us look on to the victor’s song.
We are not to be a people whose ‘faith’ is locked in the past! We are to be a people of hope. We look to the future. We ‘see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory’ (Mark 13:26). When Christ returns, only one thing will matter: ‘he who endures to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:13). ‘This day - the noise of battle’: Look beyond all that to ‘the victor’s song’ (Church Hymnary,481). When Christ returns, nothing will matter but this: ‘When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there’(Mission Praise,759).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – All Saints (November 1): Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44
Looking forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ
‘O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name... You have done marvellous things’(Isaiah 25:1). We remember what God has done for us. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who died for us. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who rose again for us. We look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to the Day when ‘He will swallow up death for ever’. On that Day, ‘the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces’. On that Day, we will look back and say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us’. On that Day, we will ‘rejoice and be glad in His salvation’(Isaiah 25:8-9). Here and now, let us learn to ‘trust in the Lord’. We can trust in Him ‘for ever’. He is ‘the everlasting Rock’ - ‘the Rock of our salvation’(Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 95:1).
Looking forward to our glorious destiny
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’(Psalm 24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’(Psalm 24:7, 9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’(Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
Looking forward to the great supper of God
Our Saviour is ‘Faithful and True’. He is ‘the Word of God’. He is our ‘Lord’and ‘King’(Revelation 19:11, 13, 16). We are invited to ‘come’to Him. The invitation - ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God’- is a call to come to Christ (Revelation 19:17). We come to Christ so that we might ‘reign with Him’(Revelation 20:6). Coming to Christ is only the beginning. God is preparing us for something even better - reigning with Him. This is a great future - ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’(Revelation 21:4). There is, however, a Word of warning for those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation - ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’; ‘Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur’(Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:8). ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31).
Looking forward to eternal life
Everything is moving on towards Christ’s death and resurrection. On His way to the Cross, Jesus performs a mighty miracle - the raising of Lazarus (John 11:43-44) - which points unmistakably to an even greater miracle - His own resurrection (Acts 2:24). Accompanying this miracle - the raising of Lazarus - , we have Jesus’great declaration concerning Himself: ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’(John 11:25). His words are immediately followed by the question: ‘Do you believe this?’(John 11:26). This question is put to each of us. Jesus waits for the answer of faith: ‘Yes, Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...’(John 11:27). This is ‘for the glory of God’- receiving new life from ‘the Son of God...’(John 11:4).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – Remembrance Day: Deuteronomy 4:9-14; Psalm 46; Romans 8:31-35; John 15:9-17
The Lord has saved us. We are to serve Him.
The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God - not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would ‘not go over the Jordan’. As God’s man. he was to prepare the people for their task: ‘you shall go over and take possession of that good land’(Deuteronomy 4:22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage ‘by a mighty hand and outstretched arm’(Deuteronomy 4:34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: ‘Obey His laws and commands’(Deuteronomy 4:40). The Lord our God is ‘a merciful God’(Deuteronomy 4:31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be ‘no other besides Him’(Deuteronomy 4:35). Flee to Christ for refuge (Deuteronomy 4:42-43), and live each day with ‘the attitude of gratitude’.
We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy.
‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’(Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’(Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’(Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’(Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).
Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, let us press on to glory.
Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’ or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’(Romans 8:5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’(Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’(Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).
We are called to a life of obedience. We are called to a life of fruitfulness.
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His ‘commandments’, keeping His ‘Word’(John 14:21, 23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (John 14:23). Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (John 15:4). Jesus says to us, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’(John 15:5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. ‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’(John 14: 26). Christ’s ‘words’ abide in us (John 15:7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (John 15:5, 15) - ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace...’(Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (John 14:21). He gives us His peace (John 14:27). He gives us His joy (John 15:11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’ be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’(John 15:12, 16-17).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – St Andrew’s Day: Isaiah 49:1-12; Psalm 40:1-11; Philemon 3-11; John 1:35-42
Go into all the world and preach the Good News.
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’. We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’(Isaiah 49:26). ‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’ - This is not something to keep to oursleves. We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!”. Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’(Mission Praise, 385). ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’(Mark 16:15).
Let us worship the Lord. Let us be his witnesses.
We have been saved by the Lord: ‘He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my feet secure’(Psalm 40:2). He calls us to a life of worship and witness. We are to worship Him with ‘a new song...a song of praise to our God’(Psalm 40:3). We are to be His witnesses, sharing with others the Good News of His salvation: ‘I have not hid Thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation...’(Psalm 40:10). God has given out His call to worship and witness. May our response be like the Psalmist’s: ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God’. Let us worship the Lord - ‘Great is the Lord’. Let us be His witnesses - ‘I have told the glad news of deliverance’. Let us pray for the Lord’s help: ‘let Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness ever preserve me!’(Psalm 40:8, 16, 9, 11).
Do you feel useful? You can become useful.
‘He was useless... now he has become useful’(Philemon 11). This is the story of Onesimus (the name means ‘useful’). A runaway ‘slave’, he became ‘a beloved brother... in the Lord’(Philemon 16). It appears that Onesimus had stolen from his master, Philemon (Philemon 18-19). He landed up in prison - and there, he was converted! This is what Paul is telling us when he speaks of ‘Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment’(Philemon 10). Why did God allow Paul, His faithful servant, to land up in prison - for the sake of the Gospel? Part of the reason was Onesimus. God wanted Paul to meet Onesimus. Paul was to lead Onesimus to Christ. Sometimes, our difficult circumstances may feel like a prison sentence. You want to get out, but you can’t - until God has fulfilled His purpose: the ‘useless’ becomes ‘useful’ - in the service of God.
Jesus looks beyond what we are. He sees what we can become – through His grace and power.
Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40-42). ‘You are... You shall be...’(John 1:42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The ‘water’ became ‘wine’(John 2:9). This was the Lord’s doing. In Christ, we have been ‘made alive’. This is the work of God. He is ‘rich in mercy’. He loves us with a ‘great love’(Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice (John 2:1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (John 2:13-17). There was ‘death’ in the temple. Those who were spiritually ‘dead’ acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God’s House - ‘My House shall be called a house of prayer’(Matthew 21:13). ‘Raised from the dead’, we receive ‘new life’(John 2:22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (John 2:23-25).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.
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Special Days – Dedication / Anniversary: 2 Chronicles 6:12-21; Psalm 84; Romans 12; John 4:19-26
Look for God’s blessing in the pulpit. Look for God’s blessing in the pews.
Without the blessing of God, our worship is empty. We must look for God’s blessing in the place of worship. What we must pray for is this: ‘the glory of the Lord filled the House of God’(2 Chronicles 5:14). We must look for God’s blessing in the pulpit, praying that the preachers of God’s Word will be ‘clothed with salvation’. We must look for God’s blessing in the pews, praying that all of God’s people will ‘rejoice in His goodness’(2 Chronicles 6:41). Where does the blessing come from? - It comes from this: God is ‘good’ and ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’(2 Chronicles 5:13). All of our praying for the Church can be summed up in this prayer: ‘O Lord God... Remember Your steadfast love...’(2 Chronicles 6:42). More than anything else, we must pray for this: ‘God’s love... poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit...’(Romans 5:5).
‘How I love Your Temple, Almighty Lord! How I want to be there! I long to be in the Lord’s Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God’(Psalm 84:1-2). This is much more than paying lip-service to the Lord. This is real. Worshipping the Lord meant everything to the Psalmist: ‘I long for You, O God. I thirst for You, the living God; when can I go and worship in Your presence’(Psalm 42:1-2). He found great joy in worshipping the Lord: ‘Let Your light and Your truth guide me... to the place where You dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight...’(Psalm 43:4). He worshipped God with his whole heart: ‘O God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You... my soul is thirsty for You’(Psalm 63:1). This is real worship, joyful worship, heartfelt worship. May God help us to worship Him like that!
Practical Christian living - living the life of love
What can our ‘sacrifice’ be in the light of Christ’s greater Sacrifice of Himself for us? It can only be ‘our reasonable service’, our ‘spiritual worship’. His love calls for our response, the response of love: ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands (and shall have) my soul, my life, my all’(Romans 12:1; Church Hymnary, 254). Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. ‘Love is a many splendoured thing’(Romans 12:9-21). Let love direct our thinking, speaking and living - His love, love for God, love for people (Romans 13:8-10). Let your prayer be, ‘More love, more power, more of You in my life. And I will worship You with all my heart,... mind,... strength’(Songs of Fellowship, 392). Worship the Lord - and be changed by His love!
Jesus’ ministry of love
Jesus brings the Samaritan woman out of her bondage to sin and into the joy of His salvation. Jesus comes to the woman in love. His love overcomes cultural divisions. His love breaks down cultural barriers (John 4:9). This is not simply the story of one woman. It is the story of ‘many Samaritans’ coming to faith in Christ (John 4:39). There are two ‘stages’ in their coming to faith. First, they ’believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony’(John 4:39). Second, ‘they believed because of His Word’(John 4:41). The Samaritans came to trust Jesus as ‘the Saviour of the world’(John 4:42). The woman said that ‘salvation is of the Jews’(John 4:22). It is also ‘to the Greek’(Romans 1:16). The Gospel is for all. Pray that the human word will be empowered by the divine Word (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13).
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The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year B.